Happy Halloween!

Halloween on a Monday sucked when we were kids, but it’s actually kind of perfect for us twentysomethings! We got to celebrate all weekend long and still get to hand out candy tonight. I can’t wait.

I wasn’t planning on going out this weekend, but literally a few hours before a party I realized I was feeling well enough to spend an hour or two out dancing with friends. The only problem was I hadn’t gotten a costume! So I decided to make one out of what I had in my closet.

A few options were an Olympic athlete, anything 80s (that’s always an easy costume to grab!), a black cat, or reusing last year’s costume. Then I remembered I had a pair of Taylor Swift’s 1989 sunglasses from going to her concert last year. Umm, heck yes. Halloween is a day you’re supposed to be whatever you want to be, and I love Taylor. It would be really fun to be her for like, a week. I don’t think I could handle that much fame and pressure for longer than that.

Anyway, here’s what I ended coming up with:

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You can’t see the rest of my costume, but I wore a skater skirt and crop top similar to what Taylor wears for her songs Welcome to New York and New Romantics on her tour, along with one of her signature bomber jackets and sunglasses. Paired with red lips and a little bit of a cat eye and it was done. So easy!

But guys. I realized my costume was so much better at the end of the evening as I was taking my makeup off… I should have gone as crazy Blank Space Taylor! All I would have to do is sloppily throw on some eye makeup, then partially remove and smudge it. Maybe I’ll do this next year; I have the perfect leopard dress to pair it with.

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Here’s the video for those  of you who have never seen it (But let’s be real; Taylor is awesome, so odds are you’re like me and have seen this over and over again).

 

My little Macy is dressed up to celebrate Halloween today too. She’s a bumble bee and can’t wait to greet kids at the door later!

 

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I hope y’all have a great day, and feel free to let me know if you’re dressing up this year and what your costume is in the comments!

 

9 Months Without Sleep

3:46 AM. The harshly lit number blinded me from the iPhone sitting on my bedside table.

Another nightmare about the Army. I don’t want to think about it; I don’t want to worry anymore. I hate that someone I love is overseas and isn’t ever really safe.

My eyes water. I’m not sure if it’s from the bright light or my heart hurting. It doesn’t matter; I power through both and pick my phone up and begin to scroll. Anything to take my mind off worrying. There’s no way I can sleep after something shaking me up so much.

Instagram.

The last photo I posted was one of us. Missing my soldier. #deployedlove #ldr #ArmyStrong

My finger slips onto the first hashtag. I didn’t mean to click it, but now that I have I can’t stop scrolling. Tears start rolling down my cheek. There are thousands of couples reuniting with loved ones. Thousands more are just beginning their deployment journey. I’m not sure who my heart goes out to more — the people who just started the deployment or the people who are several months into it. The first couples are lucky because they have seen each other so recently, but they have a lot longer to go until they see one another again. The beginning of a deployment is really awful, sure, but the middle months are almost the worst. Time goes by slowly, and it gets to the point where it feels like forever ago you last held your loved one, but it also seems like it will take a lifetime to see them again. Both are hard. Deployments are a hard beast to fight.

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This was my favorite post on Instagram, and they had a video that made me SO happy. Check out @sadiebreann on Instagram to watch their beautiful reunion!

I close the Instagram app before I can think about it any longer.

Facebook. 

Puppies, like. Girls’ night out, like. Tiramisu, like.

It suddenly occurs to me that it’s insanely creepy to be “liking” photos at four in the morning. After all, my Facebook friends don’t know that I am at home trying to think of anything but him right now.

There’s a photo of a girl I vaguely know. She is sad because her boyfriend is out of town for the weekend. My face feels warm, and eyes fill once again.

I remember when I was in a previous long distance relationship and felt frustrated when friends would complain about not seeing their SO for a few weeks. That always tugged at my heart a bit, but talk about a new perspective with the military. I want to simultaneously tell the girl how lucky she is to have a boyfriend with a normal job and how short a weekend really is. I immediately feel guilty for minimizing this girl’s post. I don’t know what’s going on in her life; I don’t have any right to be judgmental.

Facebook isn’t helping either. I am clearly projecting my own feelings onto everyone except the puppies.

I close the app and then my eyes. I hope to drift back to sleep, but know it’s not in the cards for me yet. I can’t stop thinking about him. I wonder how long 4 months feels. I have been on the planet for 25 years now and can’t figure out what sixteen weeks feels like. I’ve done sixteen weeks 77 times, but the time frame suddenly feels so foreign. I can’t do 4 more months, I whimper to myself.

One thing I’ve learned to do when I feel helpless is list my options. Even if they suck, you almost always have some sort of choice in life.

Option 1: Break up with him. Nope, that’s definitely not what I want to do. This is hard, but I am more than halfway done and I think he’s incredibly special.

Option 2: Stick it out. That’s the option I’m going to choose.

I don’t feel any better, even though I had hoped that I would by tricking myself into thinking I was more in control of a tough situation than I actually am.

The darkness feels claustrophobic. I blind myself with my phone once again and click the big red YouTube logo. Cheery videos slowly fade into the darkness as the white noise begins to blend with my thoughts.

I finally drift back to sleep… 4:55 AM.

The Best Kind Of Love

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” -Galatians 5:22

This is a great checklist of qualities to think of when looking for a significant other. They’re more important than the way a person looks, more important than how much money someone makes, and more important than social status. These qualities make up beautiful character.


 LOVE

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The ability to LOVE is one of the most obvious qualities you want in a partner. We can dig deeper into this one, though. It is also important to find someone who loves you in a way you feel loved by them. We each have our own love language, and although you don’t need to match up with your partner, you do need to understand how to make them feel loved, just as they need to understand the best way to love you.

Watching the ways your SO loves others is also a beautiful way to see deep into their soul. Seeing them love people deeply is an indication that the love they have for you, too, is true and won’t fade over time. The Bible calls us to love our neighbors, whether or not we agree with them. In fact, 1 Peter 4: 8 says that “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.” Above anything else in this world we are called to love people the way Jesus loves us. This is one of the most beautiful things in the Bible, and I can’t even imagine what our world would be like if we all tried to do this.


JOY

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Being joyful isn’t the same as being happy. As I have mentioned before, I think it’s unrealistic to have a goal to always be happy. If you are a joyful person, you may still be sad sometimes, and even if you are an optimist you don’t always see the bright side in difficult situations. If you take that to the extreme it could be considered delusional.

If you have JOY in your life, though, your heart knows that God is taking care of you, and that you can face the hardships that come your way. Every relationship will have its own trials, and you want someone beside you who can still see the beauty in the world even when it’s pouring down rain.


PEACE

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PEACE in a human is an underrated quality. Peace and patience go hand in hand in many ways, as a peaceful person takes time to think before they speak. Having peace also allows someone to weigh the options before making a decision, and you have ultimate peace when you are able to sit back and trust God with the things you can’t control in your life. This is easily the biggest thing I struggle with in my own life, and a fruit of the spirit I work towards obtaining a little bit of every day.


 PATIENCE

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I think patience is listed right after peace for a reason. Having patience means someone is slow to anger and takes time to think before they speak. They will be kind to others, even when their little human emotion called “frustration” kicks in, and will follow Jesus’ lead of loving others, even when it is difficult to.

PATIENCE is beautiful in a relationship because it allows a couple to grow together. Instead of just taking over a task their partner is having difficulties understanding, they teach them how to do it. Not only does this show your partner how to take care of themselves, but it is also creating a growing experience together. Learning to grow in a relationship is such an important thing, and I strongly believe in being with someone who makes you the very best version of yourself.


 KINDNESS

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Did you notice how “kindness” was incorporated into patience? I think there is great significance to the way this verse was written in the Bible. Each fruit of the spirit gives you a little preview for what’s to come.

KINDNESS is one of my favorite character traits. Being kind is a different thing than just being a nice person. When someone is kind, they don’t expect anything in return. Kindness can be incredibly hard because we are called to be kind to everyone we meet. This includes people who don’t like us, it includes people who have wronged us, and even includes hateful people. Being kind to someone who is not even nice to you can be a really hard thing, and maybe even impossible without prayer and help from God, but being kind to someone who “doesn’t deserve it” is a way to truly change the world.


GOODNESS

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GOODNESS” does not mean you are without sin. It is interesting because the third definition of “goodness” includes the word “kindness.” One of the definitions that really stood out for this fruit of the spirit, though, was “virtue.” When you have virtue, you are listening to your moral compass, not only in your words, but also in your thoughts and actions. This does in no way mean you are exempt from sin — we all sin every single day, whether it’s a nasty little thought we have about someone else or it is a physical, more obvious sin.

Being with someone who has character is such an important thing. Realizing that watching pornography isn’t healthy or beneficial for your relationship and can ruin real intimacy, or that stealing from others –even a store — is wrong can help you stay accountable with your partner. We all have our own definitions of what we believe is right and wrong, but for me the Bible is a pretty good handbook. Find someone who has a similar value system to your own and learn to grow from each other and push one another to be better people. You will both surely slip up, as doing the wrong thing is often very tempting and gives us immediate pleasure, but if you have a common mindset you won’t have the same arguments over and over again, rather you can fight the “wrongs” together.


FAITHFULNESS

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FAITHFULNESS is the building block we build our relationships upon. If we are not faithful to our significant other, there is not a solid foundation in our relationship, period. Being faithful to someone doesn’t just mean not cheating them, but it also means staying by their side when things get tough and having their back. Trust is what you get in a relationship that has complete faithfulness.


GENTLENESS

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I think gentleness in a human is often overlooked. The most gentle people I know aren’t always soft spoken, but the act of GENTLENESS itself is often a quieter one. Being gentle means having a heart that wants to listen to others and learn how to be more empathetic towards them. It is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, and loving them regardless of their sins. Gentleness goes hand in hand with patience and kindness, as it is a beautiful mix of the two qualities. When you are gentle to your fellow mankind, you are loving and understanding of them, even if you disagree with their perspective.


SELF-CONTROL

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Self-control wraps up all of the fruits into a pretty little gift basket. To exhibit any of these traits one must have a great amount of self-control.

Eve gives us a wonderful example of giving into our desires, even when we absolutely know they are harmful. Apples (presumably) are beautiful fruits; I don’t blame her for wanting to try one! Our actions have consequences, though, and one thing I’ve learned from growing up and sinning so much throughout the years is that God’s rules aren’t meant to hurt us — they’re set in place to protect us. Some of the rules protect our hearts, and others protect our bodies. If we all listened to each and every one of God’s rules, the world would be a perfect place. That’s not meant for us right now, though. We are sinful and selfish in our own ways, and all we can really do is try our best and ask ourselves what Jesus would do. We will slip up, but knowing there is Someone who loves us unconditionally no matter how sinful we are is truly the definition of love.

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None of these are easy qualities to obtain, which is why they aren’t common, run of the mill character traits. The fruits of the spirit take work, prayer, conscious effort, and the holy spirit to actually come into play in the real world. No matter how hard you work, you will never master all of these traits. In fact, even if you honed in on just one of the fruits of the spirit you wouldn’t come close to living a perfect life.

Whether you have a significant other or not, these are amazing ways to love your fellow humans. The fruits of the spirit should be used with strangers, with friends, with family, and even when loving yourself.

 “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” -Galatians 5:24-26

 

Fifteen Fun Facts

Our little Single in The Suburbs family has grown quite a bit lately, so I thought I would do a fun little list to help introduce myself to all of our new readers (Thank you, Kalika, for inspiring me to narrow my number down to 15!).

Without further ado, here are 15 fun facts about me:

  1. I love all things Thomas Rhett. I love his music, his Instagram feed, and his relationship with his life Lauren. I think they’re adorable and despite it being hard to judge from social media, I do think they seem like really genuine people.
  2. Writing is literally one of my favorite activities. Sometimes I would rather write than go out with friends on the weekend (But I’ll usually take someone up on an offer to hang out if I’m free).
  3. Every time I cash a check I go shopping to find someone I love a little present. Giving gifts is probably my biggest love language, which can be tough since I don’t have a “real job.”
  4. Sometimes I play a game with myself to see how many grumpy-looking strangers I can get to smile back at me.
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    This is what I think I look like…

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    This is probably closer to reality.

  5. Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday. Actually, it’s probably even my favorite day of the year despite hating the cold weather February brings. I’ve always loved it, even when I was super-single, because I feel like it’s a day you can kind of go crazy in writing cards and giving gifts — my two favorite things. Oh, and it’s a good excuse to eat a ton of chocolate — not that I need a specific day to tell me to do so.
  6. If I could be friends with any celebrity I would hands-down choose Selena Gomez. I think she’s beautiful, talented, and a great role model even with the mistakes she’s made… And I feel like we have a lot in common — especially now that she’s been diagnosed with a chronic illness as well.
  7. I don’t feel comfortable eating things when I know they’ve been genetically modified. Sadly I think the majority of packaged things you’d get at the grocery store — and even fruits and veggies — are GMOs, but I am hoping we’ll eventually follow  Europe’s lead and ban them. It just doesn’t seem healthy, and ever since I got sick without knowing why I wonder what in the environment could have caused my sudden illness.
  8. I don’t like cats, and they don’t like me. Just because I’m not a fan, though (Would you like things that scratch and bite you nonstop?!), doesn’t mean I don’t want the best for them. Growing up we rescued 2 cats from the street, and I think every animal deserves a loving home.

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  9. I get really embarrassed when I have to order things at restaurants or Starbucks because I hate being high maintenance, but I developed several allergies as an adult — apparently that’s a typical thing for POTS. Who would have known?!
  10. That being said, my order at Starbucks is a grande salted caramel hot chocolate made with soy milk and with half the amount of syrup. And if they ask, I can’t say no to whipped cream!
  11. This shouldn’t be a big surprise to anyone, but I absolutely love letter writing. I keep all the cards and letters friends give me, and still have every love note I’ve been written. Along with gift giving, I show my love for others through words on paper.

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  12. The thing that impresses me most about people is the ability to be kind to others — especially when it’s a really hard thing to do.
  13. I do most of my shopping online because I often get too tired to go to a bunch of stores at the mall. I just signed up for Ipsy, and am stoked to get my first box next month. I’ll be writing a review on it later, but if you want to join me feel free to sign up under my account. My next venture is going for the Fab Fit Fun box, but I don’t want to splurge that much on myself all at once. Subscription boxes are just so darn fun since you are essentially paying other people to buy you a present!
  14. If I could be good at one thing I would choose being musically gifted. I would love to have a great singing voice, as singing is one of my favorite things to do! Sadly I don’t have that gift, so unless we’re crazy-close you’ll probably never hear me sing.
  15. Instagram is my favorite social media site. I love that you can share your life with strangers and that you can share a story with a fun photo. I’ve actually made a few friends on the site who have been a huge support system for me, too, which is awesome!

Mapping Out My Life

Woody Allen once said,

“If you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans.”

Whoo boy have I learned my lesson from planning out so many aspects of my own life. I can literally give you hundreds of examples where I’ve planned something out “perfectly” and my dreams get completely wrecked.

One of my favorite things to write about is dating — big surprise — so we’ll go with one of those first. As soon as my ex and I broke up I was excited at the realization that I would eventually find someone to date who wasn’t thousands of miles away… But only after I had been single for at least a year or two and had my fair share of dating around!

That’s when life decided to concoct a perfect plan to completely ruin my plan.

“Ha!! Joke’s on you, Krista; not only are you going to meet someone great far too soon, but he’s going to move away twice as far as your last boyfriend and we’ll spice things up and make the distance be in your way for 10 months — effectively lasting more than twice as long as you and your SO ever did before.”

Life, you are one cruel mofo and not nearly as funny as you think. I believe you’re the only one laughing at your terrible jokes.

Anyway, the great thing about life not going your way is that you often still have options. I had a choice to make: Either break things off with someone I felt was a great fit for me, keep dating around and see whether or not we’d pick back up again when he got back, or be in an exclusive long distance relationship again. I quickly realized I really wanted to see how things would work out with this gentleman, as I’ve never felt the way about anyone the way I did him. I still don’t know how our story is going to end — or whether or not it will — but this is a risk I completely want to take.

Possibly an even crazier example is getting sick with POTS. I would have never in a million years thought something like that would happen to me, but it did and I’ve been able to handle it and still find reasons to be joyful. Something I think about sometimes, too, is that if I had never gotten sick I don’t know if my ex and I would have ever broken up. That’s a terrifying thought, as we were not suited for one another and would have had a really tough future together. He and I had completely different priorities and life goals; dating someone who is more similar to you in this regard is so much easier. Feeling like I’m with someone who will absolutely drop anything to take care of me — both emotionally and physically with my illness — is absolutely priceless.

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Today’s lesson: Life may not always go the way you hope it does. You may never get your dream job, meet the person you’re supposed to spend the rest of your life with when you want to, and the people you think are going to be in your future might not stick around. People are made to adapt, though, and through God all things are possible (Philippians 4:13). Hang in there and realize that although things might be down for you one day, a blessing is likely right around the corner.

Keep On Keeping On

Sigh, one of the most difficult things about having a chronic illness is all the new things you develop. My illness started with POTS, but has expanded into an array of new symptoms and syndromes. The most recent thing we are looking at is whether or not I have nerve damage. I’m actually really quite nervous about this, as I thought I was in the clear since I had some skin biopsies last December that came back negative.

Now I have to go get some new tests done, though, and am praying hard that the numbness and tingling is merely a lack of circulation (or something less) and won’t cause any lasting damage. It’s always scary being presented with the idea that something new — something foreign to you — might be wrong. The best thing I’ve learned, though, is that Google and online forums are not my friend. It’s kind of similar to the way people joke about Web MD; every person’s illness presents itself so differently that it doesn’t help to look at the terrible things someone else may have. Instead, I’ve learned to focus on myself and try to remain positive while getting as many answers as I can.

In the meantime, I would so appreciate prayers from y’all that none of the new pain I have been feeling will be anything lasting. I would appreciate prayers for healing, and for finding the right doctors to help treat me. Thank you for being such an amazing support system for me! ❤

My Biggest Insecurity

Ooh, juicy Krista gossip! Things like insecurities are so interesting to other people because they’re often very private things. You usually don’t know what other people in a crowded room are worried about because you’re too focused on your own things.

My biggest insecurity is weird. When I was younger I would have answered something purely physical. These are still very valid insecurities, but thankfully I have been able to get past beating myself up for my imperfections.

Today, though, I have something new in my life — my health.

For the most part this isn’t a crippling insecurity; it’s something I only notice on rare occasions, but the more I branch out, the more it hits me that I am different now. When it comes to dating or making new friends it’s still so weird introducing myself and explaining that I have an autonomic nervous system disorder, which is why I am (insert whatever odd action I am doing to keep myself feeling well). POTS is an invisible illness, which means people can’t tell I’m sick from just looking at me, but if anyone decides to spend even a short amount of their day with me they’ll find that I do things that clearly set myself apart from the average twentysomething.

The thing I’ve been afraid about most in my dating life is that I’ll keep whoever is with me from doing fun, normal activities. I can’t travel super-easily, I don’t drink, and I sometimes have to take several days to muster up enough energy to just go out to dinner with friends. My full-time job is “getting better,” which involves going to a million different appointments every week, regular trips to the gym, resting a lot, and taking a class for my Masters to keep me sane. I try to be positive about things for the most part, but I do sometimes get worn out and frustrated with the very slow progress (Or sometimes taking a step or two in the wrong direction).

I’m not used to missing out on things I want to do. I still feel disappointed when I realize I can’t do things like go to the WMZQ fest at the last minute or when I have to watch my friends go surfing while I sit and sunbathe on the beach. If I’ve had this illness for three and a half years now and am still not used to everything I have to miss out on, how am I going to find someone who is okay with missing out on so many of the great things that life has to offer when his body works just fine and he can still enjoy the activities that I miss so much?

It breaks my heart that my mind works this way, but I’ve slowly learned that the people who are in my life don’t love me because of the activities we do together — they love me for my mind and for my heart. The people who are close to me know that I am a kind, caring, and thoughtful person, and the many different character traits that I do have to offer in a relationship. I’m a good friend, I often put other people before myself, I am genuine, and I love others deeply. These are the qualities that really matter in a relationship anyway; POTS is just something that happens to come along with the whole “Krista package” now.

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Today’s lesson: Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves of our strengths, rather than honing in on the things we don’t have. The past three years I’ve realized that we don’t give other humans enough credit. There have been plenty of people who still want to be my friend or date me, despite the laundry list of things I can’t do anymore. People often do look at your heart above all else, and it has been so beautiful learning that our souls mean so much more than the physical bodies we have been given.

Hello, Goodbye… Um, Sorry For Being Awkward.

Oh. My. Gosh. I am literally the most awkward person in the world.

My best friend and I went out to dinner this past weekend and since I somehow hit the jackpot and landed a bestie who happens to be a makeup artist and insanely gifted at doing hair, she got us all dolled up for a night out in DC — which actually just involves dinner and lots of dessert. It had been a long week, so I was excited about having a fun girl’s night.

Everything started out great. We parked in my favorite garage with a really crazy attendant who sings and dances aggressively toward your car, then tries to make conversation until you finally drive into a parking space. He’s my favorite because he’s incredibly goofy and never fails to make me smile. And the parking happens to only be $4, so you really can’t beat it!

Anyway, we got to our destination and Audrey held the door open as I walked into the dark, swanky restaurant… And I immediately saw someone I had met on Tinder close to a year ago!  He was standing across the room, and my immediate reaction was to stand like a deer caught in the headlights.

After I stared him down for a good 15 seconds, he looked up. I don’t think he recognized me right away, so he kind of cocked his head as if he was thinking, “hey crazy, do I know you?”

“OH, HEY!” I yelled from across the room.

Literally right after I screamed my greeting, my mind started working and I decided it would be less awkward if we just didn’t say anything to each other since we hadn’t talked in such a long time and since he probably wouldn’t even recognize me. This was when things got really uncomfortable. For whatever reason I felt like he wouldn’t have known the “Hey” was for him, and that I could just go about my own business without acknowledging my awkward salutation. I stared a hole into the ground until I felt both his and Audrey’s inquisitive eyes on me wondering what my spastic behavior was all about.

WHAT THE HELL, POTS?! Krista. You already said “hello.” Why do you think you can just take that back and play the “We don’t know each other” card now? THINK A LITTLE, GIRL! 

“Krista?” he asked cautiously, as if I might go completely insane if he was mistaken. After all, he had never seen a human behave quite like this before. It was fascinating — the kind of interpersonal interaction that should be studied. He didn’t know what a girl like this could be capable of, as she was clearly exhibiting psychotic behavior.

“Oh, heyyyyy,” I blushed. Darn it, Krista! I thought to myself. You aren’t wearing an invisibility cloak; he can clearly see that you were the one who shouted hello! “I didn’t recognize you…” I trailed off. There was no coming back from this.

We chatted for a second or two and Audrey finally stepped in and introduced herself, glancing over to make sure I had regained at least part of my sanity as she gracefully ended the conversation. In hindsight I have no idea why I behaved so strangely. There wasn’t any bad blood with this kid; I guess it had just been awhile since I saw anyone from my online dating days and it just caught me off guard. Ever since I got POTS I haven’t been the best at thinking on my feet, and I kind of wear my feelings on my sleeve without meaning to. Luckily the rest of the night went pretty smoothly, and the parking garage attendant ended up making me feel better when we left because he is just so happy to be his goofy self. If he can be silly and not care about what others think about him, I should be able to, too!

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Today’s lesson: Just don’t pull a Krista like this. Ever. I am not someone who typically ignores people when I recognize them, and now I know why — I am clearly not good at it.

My Shade Of Blue

I have a disability.

Growing up I never would have thought I would hear those words come from my lips. I was always an exceptionally healthy individual; I exercised very regularly, ate well, and excelled academically.

Even in the very worst points of my illness I wasn’t able to comprehend that this word is attached to me now. I don’t have a normal life anymore, and I do need a lot of help with tasks that most people my age wouldn’t even think twice about because they are so mundane. I have to tell myself this over and over again to understand that asking a friend to carry a “heavy” water bottle will not make their arms hurt for days after or that having someone drive 30 minutes to see me isn’t going to bring them any sort of physical pain like driving more than 15 minutes down the road does for me. This is a difficult concept to grasp after living the way I have been for three years now.

When I first got POTS it came with an electric blue handicapped parking pass. This was to accompany me everywhere. I took it to my doctor appointments and to the gym — the only two places I could muster up enough energy to go to when I first fell ill. I was determined to get better, and although I wasn’t able to go out with friends, I would force myself to go on these necessary trips with the hope of having a normal life again one day.

My mother lovingly called my handicapped pass my “VIP pass,” but my brain couldn’t comprehend that this was something that was okay for me to use. I was so used to being able to do everything by myself and having an independent lifestyle that when my working body was torn away from me I didn’t know how to react. I felt guilty using the pass, but when I didn’t I would often feel too dizzy to walk to the back of the parking lot and someone would have to come pick me up. I had moments when I had to lie down in the middle of the parking lot so I wouldn’t pass out on the hard concrete and get sent to the hospital again because of a cracked head or something. I remember my heart freaking out on me so many times while I was merely trying to decide on something like whether I wanted to try vanilla or plain almond milk. I would lie down in the middle of the grocery aisle and put my feet on a low shelf to get the blood flowing back to my brain (Hence, the “postural” part of POTS). The girl who was literally passing out from just standing up felt like she couldn’t label herself as disabled.

A lot of this had to do with my chronic optimism and hopefulness that I would one day be better. The other half, though, had to do with the way I thought about disability. The handicapped pass says it all with the picture of a wheelchair as the symbol for the disabled. I do not look like someone who has a physical disability. I look like an average run of the mill girl you’d see on a college campus or studying at Starbucks. If anything I actually look like an athlete, as I am tall, thin, and wear my sneakers almost everywhere I go (They’re a lot easier on my knees than any of the cute boots or heels I loved wearing just a few years ago). I do not look sick. You absolutely cannot see my pain; even doctors have to feel different parts of my body or rely on complicated tests to see that I’m not just an average twentysomething.

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I’m always surprised when people tell me they’re “glad I’m feeling better” when they see pictures from photoshoots or nights out with my friends. A picture might be worth a thousand words, but without the context behind the photo it’s impossible to get an accurate story. The story behind this photo that my friend Audrey took would be about how blessed I felt to have a “good day.” It would include that I had a hard time turning my neck for some of the photos, and trying to overlook the sharp pain in my arms and shoulders so that I could have a fun day with my best friend. Despite some pain and difficulties, this is an overall happy photo for me to look back at.

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This photo tells a different story. It was taken two years ago by my cousin Kristin. A bunch of my relatives were visiting for Thanksgiving and since Kristin is a photographer, we decided to take a few family photos outside. I was freezing and wore a giant puffy coat until we got to the bridge across the street from my house. My head was spinning, so after a few shots I shivered all the way home where I promptly went to my room to take a nap in hopes of sleeping off some of my POTS symptoms. I didn’t get to help make the dessert — one of my favorite Thanksgiving activities — and I missed out on a lot of quality family time because I wasn’t feeling well enough to sit around and visit with everyone. I stayed in my room much of the visit, sleeping or watching Netflix, as there wasn’t a comfortable place for me to sit in the living room with my family. Even sitting up can be exhausting with POTS, as the blood rushes away from my brain and makes me dizzy.

I still don’t think of myself as being very different than anyone else. I have been sick for so long now part of me feels like my life has always been like this. I don’t really remember what it’s like being able to go to a store by myself without planning where I can get water with electrolytes, as I cannot carry my own water bottle for more than a few minutes at a time. Sometimes I feel like the rest of my life was a beautiful dream; I remember so many of the good parts of not being sick that I almost glorify regular life now. I think back to being able to go clubbing with friends and feeling carefree rushing around the streets of New York City. I remember how amazing running felt and miss the burning in my lungs from training out in the cold, crisp fall weather.

I remember how life was before I got sick and sometimes wish I could go back and fully enjoy the time I had. I wasted so much time worrying about the future and my plans that I didn’t even realize that whether or not I like it, I might not be in control of my own life — at least to an extent. I can’t work, and I act like going to doctor appointments as often as a full time job is a normal thing. All of my college dreams were shattered the day I got sick. I still do dream of being better one day and being able to write for a living. I want to be independent again one day, and I would love to be able to train for even just a 5K.

You can’t see my disability, but it’s there every minute of every day. Having POTS has been a great lesson to me that just because someone looks healthy or looks happy doesn’t mean that they are. Looks can be deceiving. You never really know a person until you hear their story.