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.

Check Yourself, Mate.

Whoo boy am I furious. I don’t actually remember the last time I have said something like that. When was the last time I was furious? I honestly don’t even know.

So let me set the scene.

There’s a guy in the area I’ve been going out with for awhile now.* I went over to play chess with him (Seriously, what is my life? I am beginning to accept the “nerd” label my dates have bestowed upon me) and we got to revisiting some about what our relationship looks like. After telling me things like he liked that I was a wholesome and sweet girl and that he wasn’t sure he could still just be friends, I reiterated I didn’t want to date, but would respect whatever he wanted to do from that point forward. He admitted that I have been very open about my intentions and that he appreciated the honesty, but that his feelings had changed.

We then started talking more about why we work better as friends anyway, his main reason being that we don’t have a lot in common when it comes to activities — fair enough — that, in my opinion, is a great reason to not want to date someone. You need to be able to enjoy going out with one another and bonding over activities.

What he said next, though, completely caught me off guard. This is the way the conversation went:

“Well, I don’t want to sound like a douche…”

“What is it?” I asked.

“Well, I don’t want to be a jerk…”

I sat silently waiting for an explanation, as I wasn’t sure what he could be thinking.

“But maybe we should just put everything on hold until you’re better…”

I was floored.

Was he talking about my POTS? My chronic illness that he has known about for months now?  I sat on my armchair, looking at him as he casually reclined on the couch.

After processing everything he had just said, I realized that was exactly what he was talking about.

Oh. My. Gosh. You sure meant it when you said you would sound like a douche!

Honestly, I totally get it if someone doesn’t want to date me because of POTS. I do believe we all have our own flaws we bring to a relationship, but mine is more confusing than most, and I will never fault someone for wanting something simpler.

But here’s why I think this statement is unbelievably jerky.

He essentially thinks I should work my ass off and shed blood, sweat, and tears (All literally) until I am all better, and then when that day comes this guy — who left me — can have me in all of my fixed glory? Hell no. 

I stared at him blankly until I could come up with the right response to what he just said. I chose my words carefully, as I knew at this point I just wanted to leave and we had absolutely nothing to figure out.

“Okay. That makes this decision really easy now,” I said. “We’re all done here, and I’m going to get going.”

I grabbed my shoes as he said, “I think you’re really mad right now. I think I made you mad.” No shit, Sherlock.

I gathered my things in silence as I marched to the door, knowing fully I would not be coming back.

I honestly didn’t know how to react in a situation like that, but I felt like Beyonce and Taylor were cheering me on as I grabbed my things and left. I can do better than a guy who is going to tell me I’m not good enough for him right now and have the nerve to ask me to come back again later once I’m all fixed. It felt really good standing up for myself and realizing just how much I have grown. It also didn’t hurt that I had smoked him in chess in the very last game we would ever play together. 😉

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Do you agree or disagree with my opinion of what this gentleman said to me? Feel free to let me know in the comments!

*Please don’t make assumptions of who it is, as I am dating around right now.

 

Kiss & Tell

One really hilarious thing about having POTS while navigating the dating world is just the way my body reacts to things.

POTS is an autonomic nervous system disorder, meaning it effects basically everything in my body that is supposed to be an “automatic response.” For example, my body temperature is really skewy. I’ve always been pretty cold-natured, but this is to a whole new level. I found out recently, though, that having POTS just makes dating even more interesting.

I had just told a date all about my condition and after he listened closely, he leaned over to kiss me. It was a really sweet first kiss, as I felt like I had just really opened up to him, but after it was over he pulled back and had a devilish grin on his face.

I cocked my head as I looked at him inquisitively.

“I really got you hot and bothered, huh?” He asked slyly.

It took me a few seconds, but then everything clicked and I began to giggle. POTS is such a dead giveaway in situations like this! My hands were sweaty and my heart was still racing. My heart always flutters when I stand up or sit down, but it also does when I feel any sort of emotional charge — apparently kissing included. He could totally feel my pulse going a million beats per minute as I leaned up against him to continue chatting.

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Check out @muradosmann on Instagram for more great photos!

So far I’ve found guys don’t mind holding my sweaty hands or that they’re always freezing cold. POTS showcases such obvious imperfections, but I kind of love that there are people who don’t even look at those as negative things and just accept me the way I am.

Today’s lesson: You can have the best poker face in the world, but if you have an autonomic nervous system disorder you don’t stand a chance keeping your cool in the game of love.

Dealing With Depression

This post is from about a year ago, and I finally feel like I want to share it with you all. Depression isn’t something that you can see when you look at a person. I started carrying this weight towards the beginning of the end of my last relationship and as soon as my ex and I broke up I snapped out of it.

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This picture breaks my heart, as it was taken at one of the darkest points in my life, but I look so happy in it. It’s one of the most “liked” pictures on my Facebook, and shows that you really don’t always know what someone might be going through.

Depression can be a chemical imbalance in your brain, but it can also be related to crummy circumstances in your life. I feel like we don’t hear about that side as often, and I want anyone who is in a situation like mine was to know that life can and will get better.

Since the breakup I have felt like myself again. I have normal feelings, I have been happy, I have been content, and I can feel again.

I know not all of you can relate to this, but I always feel like I want to help the ones who can realize that they are absolutely not alone. I know it feels like you are, but I promise you are not alone. I will gladly be there for each and every one of you who needs someone to lean on and although I can’t get rid of the problem for you, I’m more than happy to fight with you to get your life back.

Without further ado, here is something I wrote in December 2014 right in the middle of everything:

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I never thought I would hear this about myself, but I was just diagnosed with depression.

This is a very tough pill to swallow because I have always tried my best to remain positive even in the most trying situations. First, I would like to say that I realize this is NOT MY FAULT.  So please, if you are suffering with this too, realize that nothing is wrong with you. You are not broken and you are not less of a person because of this. Depression does not define me and it does not decide who I am as a person.

I’ve had a lot to deal with the past two years. My life has been turned completely upside down and to be honest I am surprised that I didn’t have to battle this even sooner. It really just became a problem that escalated quickly in the last few months.

I’ve said to friends that although I have sometimes felt frustrated about things since getting POTS, I haven’t been depressed. I’ve told them that I feel lucky that I haven’t had to deal with that throughout my chronic illness, and that I was fairly certain that kind of thing wouldn’t happen to me. But here I am.

Depression can happen to absolutely anyone. It doesn’t mean you are weak, and it doesn’t mean that you are going to be depressing to be around. I will write more about that another day, though.

I’ve never felt as alone as I have the past couple months. Sometimes I feel like I am in a fog or just dreaming. Life feels like it is just going through the motions of daily activities that need to be done, and I don’t feel motivated to pursue my passions. I have moments of happiness, but it isn’t the way it used to be. I sometimes feel completely numb, and I sometimes just feel the most extreme kind of sad and helpless that a person can feel.

The lack of motivation might be the worst part. I can sit at home and watch TV, but I don’t really care about what’s on. I actually hate watching TV — it bores me — but I don’t want to do anything else. I have trouble feeling present.

It’s hard getting up and doing things, but I make myself because in the back of my mind I know that I want to live my life to it’s fullest. I know that deep down the normal Krista is cheering me on and pushing me to make a better life for myself, even though I don’t necessarily feel like it.

Depression is by far the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with in my life. I feel so broken, but I know that am going to come out of this even stronger than I was before. Deep down I am a fighter, and I won’t stop until I find myself again.

I just want you to know that if you are dealing with anything like this, you are not alone. I still consider myself one of the most joyful people that I know, and I will not give up until I find that girl again.

This is the first post I’ve truly felt uncomfortable sharing. I’ve gone back and forth for weeks on whether I wanted to share such an intimate and personal aspect of my life with, well, everyone.*

I think it was important to share, though. I know not everyone is as lucky as I am to have so many people supporting them through life, and I don’t ever want any of you to feel alone in dealing with something like this. If you ever want someone to talk to I would love to be that person. We are never truly alone, and I promise things can and will get better. I’m confident that this is just going to be another chapter in my life that I’ll be able to use to glorify God one day. I’m just not really sure how yet.
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*I was going to share this on Facebook about a year ago, but never did. Then when I felt better about things, I didn’t want people getting the wrong idea about who I am today and whether or not I was still depressed. I can tell you that I am in a completely different place in my life now and although I still have my chronic illness to deal with, I feel like Krista again.

In Sickness And In Health

Although I’m not an expert on many things, I would say having a chronic illness is a subject I’m pretty well versed on now. I’ve been both single and in a long-term relationship with a CI, which isn’t a super-common thing for someone in their twenties.

We never know what the future holds and sadly there is a lot of pain in this world. I could have never in a million years imagined getting a chronic illness at 22 years old, but here I am. It’s still so weird for me to think about. You don’t ever think things like this will happen to you.

Through this crazy journey life is taking me on I’ve realized the enormous difference of someone staying with you through an illness and someone supporting you. Guys, you have no idea how big this is.

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Real life with someone is very different than the glamour and attempted perfection on a wedding day. (This was from a bridal photoshoot I did a few years ago)

When someone stays with you just to be around, you feel alone. You feel like a burden, and it’s not going to help you get any better.

But when someone is there because they want to be and because they are able to put your needs above their own for a period of time, you have a significant other who is giving a genuine and selfless love — and, in turn, you can be there in their time of need.

This, to me, is one of the most beautiful things a person can offer, and it’s something that can’t be faked. Sickness still isn’t easy, but life is a heck of a lot more wonderful when you have someone who will support you when you need a shoulder to lean on. On the other hand, it’s an amazing feeling loving someone enough to want to be able to take away their pain, no matter what that may be. I’ve felt very strongly about a few people that way in my life, and it’s a very genuine and incredible feeling that I can only attribute to the selfless love I am hoping you all get from a partner.

Today’s lesson: There are amazing people in this world who will love you through your trials, whatever they may be. Don’t settle for someone who will just stay. Wait for the person who will hold your hand and be with you every step of the way, no matter where life takes you both.

A Little About Me

I have been surprised at how many new people are following my blog, so I thought I needed to introduce myself a little better so y’all can get to know the person behind these goofy stories.

I had a really normal and comfortable life all the way through college. I grew up in the suburbs outside of Washington DC and have a wonderful family and great friends.

August 2012 was a really weird year for me, though. I ended up getting diagnosed with something called POTS, and have collected a few new diagnoses since then (Because apparently once you get one weird thing several others must follow). A lot of my symptoms have significantly improved, but one that remains is chronic widespread pain. POTS is an invisible illness, so I look normal even if I feel terrible. Now that I’m not passing out or needing to lie down in the middle of the grocery store, you would never know that anything was wrong with me unless I told you.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have only had one serious relationship so far. I started dating my best friend my sophomore year of college, then did the long distance thing for two years after graduating. The distance wasn’t the reason we broke up; I don’t believe that can be the ultimate reason a couple ends things. I won’t give specifics to respect the privacy of all who are involved.

I am a Christian and my faith is important to me. I am definitely still growing, and my relationship with God has been all over the place since I got sick. I do strongly believe He is going to make my story into something that will ultimately glorify Him, though.

My sense of humor has always been something that helps me get through rough times in my life, and I really value that in all of my relationships. Not everyone gets me, but the people who do seem to appreciate it.

I’m maybe about 65% basic. I love Taylor Swift, own a North Face jacket, Instagram pictures of my Starbucks orders, and often wear leggings as pants. To counteract my basicness, I am a big fan of Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Seinfeld.

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These are a few of my favorite things.

Writing this post was a lot like filling out a dating profile. I was definitely all over the place, but I feel like I’ve covered a decent amount about myself for now. You’ll learn a lot more about me through the stories I tell than these little bullets, but I just thought it would be a fun little post.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my posts and send me messages! I’ve had a lot of fun with this so far and look forward to seeing what 2016 has in store for us.

Happy New Year!

New Years Eve is has been strange for me a few years now. It’s always been one of my favorite holidays, as I love making resolutions and having a fresh start.

Many of you know that I was diagnosed with a chronic illness about 3 years ago now, but I’ll write a little bit more about that another day for those of you who don’t know my story.

I’ve learned that NYE is actually a really hard time for young twentysomethings with chronic illnesses. Most of our friends are out drinking and celebrating, while it’s not always quite so simple for us spoonies. There is a lot of planning ahead for a night out in the town, and even if we get out there can be other complications.

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It’s really difficult sometimes feeling like my life is so vastly different from my friends, and although it’s a lot less frequent, I still get frustrated that I can’t have a “normal” life.

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to focus more on what I can do.

It’s hard each year seeing health resolutions that are not met, but this year I am going to make resolutions I can actually control. Instead of saying that by next year I am going to be without chronic pain, I am resolving to be more diligent about my exercises and going to the gym. Instead of saying that I want to be able to move to a crazy city by myself next year, I am going to make the resolution to write more and be creative about making adventures for myself around here until I can venture off on my own.

Making more realistic resolutions is going to be rewarding and I am excited that they require daily work that I will do every week to get closer to my ultimate goal of getting better.