Strong (adj.)

Today I would like to dissect what it means to be “strong.”

This has been a word used to describe me by so many people since I graduated college, got POTS, and went through a number of difficult trials, but it still feels kind of funny when I hear someone throw this adjective next to my name.

Dictionary.com defines strong as,

“Mentally powerful or vigorous,”

but it doesn’t offer any tips on how to be strong or what kind of trials make you strong.

I was made strong. I didn’t choose to be strong and I am in no way admirably resilient. Before getting sick I was used to a fairly comfortable life, and never in a million years thought of myself as tough or someone who would face trials well.

Almost 4 years later, though, and here I am. I had a choice to make when I got sick. I could take what the doctors said, admit defeat, and recognize that my life would never be the same, or I could fight for the best life I could possibly have. I quickly chose the latter. This involves keeping an open and optimistic mindset, being incredibly dilligent with my doctors appointments, physical therapy, and diet, and finally — learning how to rest.

When I first got my diagnoses I asked through tears whether I’d ever get better. The nurse laughed and told me I wouldn’t and my mind immediately went into a dark abyss, thinking about a long life of dizzy spells, fainting, and feeling miserable. I was incredibly lucky to have my incredibly encouraging mother with me, who followed me to the parking lot and said the nurse didn’t know what she was talking about. She said I needed to take each day as it came to me, and think positive thoughts. To this day I believe this is one reason I am slowly getting better and have been able to make peace with my new life.

I’ve had POTS for three-and-a-half years now and haven’t had a week off from going to visit some sort of doctor. I typically have 2 physical therapy appointments and either acupuncture or a massage to work on managing my chronic pain, as well as regular visits to my cardiologist, neurologist, and endocrinologist. I go to the gym 5 days a week — even when I am feeling awful — because the worst possible thing for a POTSie to do is get deconditioned. This involves a short 30 minute recumbent bike ride, as I could easily faint if I am in an upright position. I get B12 shots every other week since I am deficient in it and B12 seems to be a link to chronic pain. Then I have to take a lot of time to rest so that my body can settle down a bit. I get worn out incredibly easy, and a trip to the grocery store turns into a long ordeal because of the recovery time afterward.

Lots of POTS patient develop adult allergies, so I can’t eat many of my favorite foods anymore. I have given up nightshade vegetables (Potatoes are my favorite food and I miss French fries dearly!), gluten (Now I am the butt of so many jokes), and I really limit my dairy and sugar intake. I don’t drink coffee at all, partly because I can’t have caffeine, and partly because I just can’t have coffee, period, and I don’t drink alcohol at all anymore. The coffee is definitely a million times more difficult.

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Lastly, I have had to learn to listen to my body and rest. This is such a hard thing for me to do, as my mind is incredibly active. Anyone who knew me before I got sick knows I love to work and play, so sleeping and rest were never really a big part of my vocabulary. I joke to my friends that I’m just catching up on all the time I missed in my life before, but it really is a difficult thing for me to wrap my mind around. I always have a million and one things I want to do and write about, however my body isn’t very kind to me. Writing hurts after ten minutes, and the dictation software I have used is grueling. I can’t sit at a desk chair very long without having a lot of pain in my shoulders, and some days I can’t stand without feeling dizzy. Sometimes all I can do is rest, and I’ve learned that it’s okay to spend time listening to podcasts and watching HGTV when I really can’t do anything else. Yes, I would much rather be working and making a living for myself. I wish I could live in New York and write for a magazine, I wish I could have a paycheck to save for a new car or fun wardrobe, but that’s just not in the cards for me right now. Right now it’s my job to focus on getting better, keep taking care of myself, and trust that God will make something beautiful out of my struggle. 

The best advice I could possibly give anyone going through something tough is to take each day as it comes to you. Worrying about things in the future that you cannot control won’t help you change them, and looking back on the past won’t make your present any more satisfying. I know what it’s like to feel helpless and I know what it’s like to feel like life isn’t fair. The greatest feeling when your world is crumbling in on you is when you finally learn to give your problems to God and let Him take care of the things that are outside your control.

Today’s lesson: If I can be strong, you can too. I’ve always thought I am an incredibly average person in most regards, which should offer an incredible amount of encouragement to anyone reading this. If I can do, so can you.

18 thoughts on “Strong (adj.)

  1. I can’t believe the nurse laughed at you for asking such a simple, yet incredibly important question.How horrible! And how lucky you were to have your mother by your side to remind you of the power of positivity. It certainly seems like that comment made a lasting impression on you!

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      1. Right?! It really makes me mad for the people who still have to go to that cardiologist and maybe don’t have the same hope I felt after my appointment. It really was a devastating comment, even though I’m sure she thought nothing of it.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Right?! I have met a lot of people who aren’t really kind enough to be in the medical field, but are. On the other hand, though, there are so many incredible people who are helpful and really encouraging. I just think doctors and nurses need to have a certain kind of bedside manner to be working with chronically ill people.

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  2. The thing I admire the most about you is your outlook. You are one of the most positive human beings I have ever come across. There are so many people that would have shut down. Your positive attitude and willingness to never give up is what makes you so strong.

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    1. Thanks so much Elizabeth, you are so sweet and encouraging. ❤ I definitely am not always positive and have had a lot of rough patches, but it's a lot easier to be optimistic than it is to give up on life. I appreciate your support and kind words! ❤

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  3. Wow 😖 firstly I’d like to say that that nurse is a bitch.. yes I said it 😐 That’s no way of treating someone who just learnt a bad news. I sometimes wonder where the compassion of some people have gone to 😒 Secondly, I love this post, so sad but pure, I like that. Thirdly, if I could like it thousands of times I would 😜 And finally I would like to reblog this. Thanks in advance 😊

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    1. Yeah, I do think it should be more important for medical professionals to learn how to deal with their patients. Some are so incredibly wonderful and it makes all the difference! And thank you so much for your encouraging words and support. You are more than welcome to reblog! 🙂 ❤ Have a wonderful day!

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  4. You’re wise well beyond your years, and a blessing to more people than you’ll ever know. God is close to those who are suffering, and you’re glorifying Him every day through your beautiful words and the way you encourage everyone who crosses your path. –maybe that nurse could take a lesson from you! 😉

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    1. You are the sweetest person ever, Katie!! You are always so encouraging and uplifting. I so appreciate your kind words; they always give me hope and a boost when I need it. Thank you for being one of the best people in the world. ❤

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  5. Strong is what happens when you face life head-on and deal with the difficulties with grace and a sense of humor. You’re doing both , so hang in there. Soon you will not only be strong but “tough as nails”! By the way, did you know Tom Brady & Giselle don’t eat or drink any of the listed items either. They must be on to something with their diet. Hope it works for you too.

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    1. Thank you so much, Maura, you are so kind and supportive. I really appreciate your words of wisdom and I hope that’s the case! 🙂 And I actually saw a huge list of their diet recently and sent it to Robert telling him how similar Tom and I are…. Except I could not give up sugar; I love chocolate far too much!

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  6. Strength is a strange word. I wouldn’t consider myself strong even though I struggle constantly with anxiety and depression. Some days are really good and others I just hate myself. For many years I picked up a defiant streak due to outside influences. It’s weird trying to use that same defiant streak against yourself. But here I am, just one more day above the roses.

    Oh, and thanks for the follow! See you around.

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    1. I’m so sorry to hear about your struggle. I dealt with depression a couple of years ago and it’s SO difficult. You are strong for getting up every day, even if that’s all you can do sometimes. I’ll definitely keep you in my prayers, and I’m always around if you need someone to talk to. Hugs! ❤

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      1. Thanks. I was coping with it before it was even diagnosed. After grad school it hit hard. I have pretty strong mechanism built up to deal with it. My writing has been a healthy, productive release.

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  7. I think you’re amazing and absolutely right! I have experienced similar feelings due to different circumstances. You couldn’t have given any better advice. Trials are never something we enjoy. They are difficult, unbearable, and heartbreaking. In the end though, they better us. The ability to see that will carry anyone through any trial, I believe.

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