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Positive Thinking vs. Healthy Coping in chronic illness

What is the difference between positive thinking and healthy coping?

“Keep thinking positively!”

“Keep your chin up!”

“Stay strong!”

These are very common cliche responses we hear from society as individuals with ongoing health difficulties. They aren’t incorrect responses, but when those responding seem to believe this is truly how we handle the horrible pain/illness, terrifying future of further health concerns, and crushing regular losses which all come with long-term illness, then encouraging “positive thinking” alone can have quite a negative fallout.

For example, if one is in severe pain (meaning pain worse than a fracture or pain worse than childbirth, but constant, daily, and indefinite) after years, with treatments only failing, and close friends continue to say, “stay positive” as their only source of inspiration, will those words be uplifting over time? No, the attempt at encouragement over time will add to your feelings of isolation, making you feel increasingly deflated, rather than the intention of making you feel more positive, optimistic, and empowered.

Would you say, “suck it up” to a friend who is grieving over the loss of a parent? I certainly hope not. Essentially, this is the idea surrounding “positive thinking.” The concept that the more we “suck it up,” the better off we will be, and the stronger we are.

PS, Our bodies work exactly the opposite of this construct.

The more we avoid pain, the more we distract ourselves from our true emotions (not negative emotions, but real emotions), the more likely our bodies are to feel the stress fallout and rage against us. One with a chronic disease would do well to minimize stress; we know this from immense research (and I can tell you this from my own personal research on chronic pain and chronic illness!).

Minimizing stress is not equal to avoiding difficult emotions or distracting from pain. We have to face our pain and emotions, recognize them, meet them, and accompany them through our lives. They won’t allow us to abandon them, and we know that trying to do so only causes added difficulty down the road.

In Positive Thinking, saying “sure, I’m doing fine” may make others more comfortable temporarily, but it is not necessarily “healthy” for you or for the relationship. Positive Thinking encourages us to become more closed off, in turn others also allow more distance to grow until the relationship diminishes. They realize everything is far from “fine” but both take part in a ritual of pretending everything is wonderful because it’s far more comfortable than confronting the reality.

“Healthy coping… differs from the popular notion of “positive thinking.” It implies the capacity to tolerate and express concerns and emotions not just the ability to put anxieties aside. Being able to discuss the anxieties, uncertainties and fears, losses and sadness that usually accompany severe illness is generally helpful, despite the pressure commonly exerted by family and friends for the patient to always “keep a positive out-look.”25 “Positive thinking” may represent an attempt to avoid confronting the distress of chronic illness, and doctors who care for these patients and their families are not immune to such patterns of coping.”  Quote from a study in -Emotional Demensions of Chronic Disease

So often during the course of chronic disease, we have to make choices between the temporary comfort of others, and protecting our own welfare. Regularly, our bodies make that decision for us and force us to miss out. Especially then, healthy coping is paramount! It helps us re-gain some footing again. The openness in healthy coping encourages sharing, allowing others around you to understand where you are, what happened in the situation, how they might play a role in being there for you, and how you can be there for them. It lets others know you aren’t too fragile to listen to them and what they are going through, either. Most likely, those around you are feeling helpless, and would like to be there for you, but don’t know how- or how to ask. Being specific in our needs can help us find our own voice, and being more open also can help others who care about us join in on our “support team.”

Fair warning, most will not know how to respond appropriately, but you may be surprised who is game to see how they can be there for you in big or small ways. In being more open, you may also find that your example sets off a chain reaction in others to become more open with you in how they are doing as well. Healthy coping is so much more contagious than positive thinking, because it encourages support, connection, and community!

Isn’t positive thinking the same as optimism? No. Optimism has more to do with responsibility, letting go of guilt, and looking to the past, present and future without seeing yourself as a burden. I recommend reading the book, Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman.

Healthy Coping differs from Positive Thinking in that healthy coping requires us to lean into our feelings- both physically and mentally. Checking in with ourselves periodically, and then making minor adjustments to our lives to course correct for better balance. This may mean you need more rest, more exercise, more time with friends, another visit to a doctor, see a psychologist, open up to a good friend, eat differently, spend more time focused on your spiritual life, take better care of yourself, etc. Chronic illness requires us to make these adjustments frequently instead of thinking everything is going to work itself out until the ignored symptoms or stress build up. Healthy Coping may be the more deliberate, mindful path, but it is the path of self care instead of conveying a false smile.

To start making these adjustments, we can ask, “How are you?” instead of “Are you ok?” A yes or no question forces us to choose only negative or positive, however, healthy coping encourages others to share and touch base with one another and ourselves- this is how support and compassion are built. We don’t have to choose sides in healthy coping. Try not to think of your days as being good or bad, black or white, suffering or overcoming, but instead- working to find balance every day, always learning from your body and those around you, and doing the best you can now, in this moment.

 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1070773/

 

 

 

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10 insights on life: Awareness through ME

Today, May 12th is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/SEID) and Fibromyalgia World Awareness Day. This blogger @ Tips for ME discusses the mysteries of ME/CFS. Particularly interesting to me is the “Canary” or sensitivities aspect, which after 5 years, my doctors still haven’t been able to understand why I can hardly tolerate my own voice, sounds, lights, or smells. Chemical sensitivities alone can be such a confining aspect of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME for so many CFS/ME sufferers.

Thank you for checking out a few of these enlightening ME/CFS facts, life wisdom, and helping raise awareness today!

Tips for ME

This ’10 insights’ #May12BlogBomb post is a perspective from the awareness of having ME, looking outwards at the world through the lens of ME. I believe that people with ME (pwme) have useful observations to contribute to society, perhaps a little akin to Old Testament minor prophets. This can be compared to the voices of other marginalised people groups, such as the queer community, the Equal Rights Movement and feminism. Each marginalised group gains different insights on life, related to their specific barriers to inclusion.

Table of Contents

Background Information

1) Dignity is Vital

2) Anything Can Happen at Any Time

3) Listen to Canaries

4) A Rose by a Different Name Does Smell Sweeter

5) The Authority on Your Body is You

6) Access to Health Requires Self-Reliance

7) Very Little Knowledge is Truly Known

8) Learn your Limits and Take a Step Back

9) Money Enables Quality of Life

View original post 5,017 more words

Is it Still working for you?

I’m a pretty tough customer in physical therapy. But, the other day my physical therapist said something very poignant that gave me pause. I’d like to share it with you.

He said, because I’ve had chronic illness for so long, I’ve adopted so many coping strategies to help me through. So many techniques and methods I call my own to get me from one day to the next. (And here he is teaching this old dog new tricks.) However, he was right when he asked me, “Is all of this still working for you?”

Is it still working for you

You start collecting techniques from the very first moment you hear the word, “permanent” or “chronic.” Our doctors don’t help as quickly as our own shifts and wriggles take effect. Soon enough, you’ve built a pattern for yourself that is keeping you going. Over so many years, and multiple conditions, you better believe I have some modalities and some definite patterns! Are they still working for me?

Could they be holding me back?

Adaptation is paramount with chronic illness. You have to be able to rebuild in order to find purpose again, to find yourself again amid your ever-changing body. But as your body changes, does the structure that you built change with it?

For instance, if all you were once able to do is use the computer or your smart phone, maybe you grew a strong online network which gave you purpose. You could have done nothing instead, but you were brave and reached out to others online. It was incredible how much your work online distracted from your illness and impacted your life and the lives of others! It may have even saved your life. But as your body changes, you realize you can do more tactile work like crafting. Is spending as much time on the computer still working for you? Or, could it even be holding you back from moving more?

I have to go over so many of the coping tools I use- all of the amazing methods which have helped me to this point and ask this question. It’s spring after all; time for a spring cleaning of sorts. Is it STILL working? It may have saved my life last year, but will it take me to my next goal this year?

Dear Body, I’m breaking up with you

There are many things you can forgive your body for, but there are moments, relationships, days in life you miss which you will never get back, unforgettable, unforgivable events you are denied in the face of disability. My body is broken, and she continues to break my heart.

This is how those of us with chronic diseases struggle so deeply to have “self love.” Trapped inside bodies that attack us, and hearts which shoulder the guilt of our loved one’s pain from the hurt our illnesses have caused- child, love thyself. Love your abuser. Forgive the one which harms those you love the most. Forgive, forgive, forgive….

Body, you have taken my choices from me all of my adult life. Body, you are the abusive relationship I have never been able to flee. Body, you have stolen my health, my career, fun, freedom… my dreams. No permission was granted to you, yet you take all you touch. You are a jealous, volatile disease, and you only care about your own needs. I have suffered abuse and trauma at the hands of doctors on your account, though, you still batter me without compassion. I’ve been abandoned and made to feel worthless, INVISIBLE because of you body; I’ve had enough of your games!

Body, I break up with you. Sorry, not sorry.

I tear you from my soul and leave you. I will still care for you, because I am obligated. I am bound to you in ways I cannot choose, but I will no longer adore you. I will not call you my own. We are committed to one another, but I turn my back to you, body. From here on out, you will be “Body” and I will go forward being Me. 

This is my self love. This is my self compassion. This is my choice.

I rage against your victimization. Your assault on my essence is over. I choose to make my life despite you, in spite of you! 

I choose, I choose, I choose.

My flesh and bone surrenders, but my spirit rises up! Your reign, your emotional and psychological torture is over. Call it dissociation, call it compartmentalizing, call it what you will- it IS a detachment, and it is necessary.

I sign the papers and I box up your things. You can live in the basement and I will now and forevermore preside upstairs, in charge of THIS HOUSE.

Sign here X  _________________

Please support Rare Disease Day on February 29th. www.rarediseaseday.us

A Peace Premonition

God has not given us a spirit of fear...2 Timothy 1:7 "No Fear Campaign 2015" article on God's COMMANDING us not to fear and to have courage in our lives. #courage #nofear #Christian #verses #Bible #fear #inspiration #anxiety #OCD #Spoonie #abodyofhope abodyofhope.wordpress.com

Just over one year ago, I wrote a post which I now believe may have been a premonition. On one of the last days of 2015 I wrote No Fear Campaign, 2015 and I have thought back to that post as well as revisited it so many times throughout this past year.

I was fueled with courage at the beginning of the year, but I had no idea why I would need it. And then the bottom dropped out of my life and I REQUIRED that courage more than ever. I suffered so much loss this year, I made a huge transition, fought a difficult battle, saw several new doctors, visited the hospital, started physical therapy, home care, and have been exposing myself to many new faces, new experiences, and could never have imagined any of this just one year ago. It’s true that this year, I’ve been in constant crisis management. But it’s also true that I’ve been managing my own crisis. That might seem like a given, but illness doesn’t always allow us that luxury.

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Last year, the messages to be courageous seemed to jump out everywhere: Have no fear, do not fear, I am with you, be not afraid. If God wants you to hear a message, you will see it constantly whether it is on Facebook or Twitter or television or out of your home or in your Bible- if you feel like there is something that keeps popping up in front of you repeatedly, that message is JUST FOR YOU! Truth finds you. You can try to ignore it, but if God wants a message in front of you, He will repeat it and confirm it. It’s not a coincidence. And I am so thankful I grasped the message to have courage when I did. It truly saved my life this year and courage continues to change how I move forward.

Things are so hard now, SO HARD. But I’m planning to beat fear once again, and go to my sister’s wedding… in 7 days. This is possibly one of the scariest things I have ever attempted. And yes, I am afraid. As it comes closer, all of those I CAN’T thoughts are terrifying at times.

These posters were made around the end of last year. Around the same time that I wrote No Fear Campaign, I wrote a few other, fearless-themed posts. In one piece, I said: “The strength comes for the step you need it, not days or months ahead.” That is what I am counting on for this wedding adventure. And it helps give me peace that God will strengthen me and my body to do what needs to be done when the time comes, for my sister, and for me.

Whatever trials wait for you tomorrow, and paralyze your heart with worry today, I hope you feel comforted remembering you can call on that added strength and courage at the moment you need it. You aren’t walking your path alone.

~Peace be with you~

“Freedom lies in being bold.”
Robert Frost

Spoonie Mario, Level up!

Spoonie Mario Brothers

I hope you are leveling up today despite the evil critters coming to get you and attacking your body. Don’t you wish there were some extra mushrooms or flowers around in the chronic illness game?

10,000 Spoons, if Only… Why The Chronically Ill Love Spoons

Gift Ideas for people with Dysautonomia, POTS, and CFS

POTS gift ideas

If you know someone with POTS, EDS, Gastroparesis, or Hypotension, Orthostatic Intolerance, fainting disorders, bowl disruption, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or a thyroid disorder, I’ve got you covered with these gift suggestions! *Starred items were created by disabled entrepreneurs. 


 

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People with Autonomic Dysfunction and stomach disorders tend to have very dry skin. Personally, I also have extra sensitive skin because I hit the genetic jackpot. A deep moisturizing product with collagen or an anti-aging night mask helps soak into that dehydrated skin and would be a great gift. Try Mary Kay’s Extra Emollient Night Cream at only $14, which has been a top seller for decades. My mother used it from the time I was a little girl and she has always had beautiful skin. My sister and I love it, so it’s one of those heirloom cosmetics. I’m passing it on to you! Or like Keihl’s Deep Moisturizing Balm ($26.50) which has been plumping up faces since the 70’s. Both are classics.


 

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Medical Alert Italian Charm Bracelet GadowJewely8 Ebay

I’ve been scouting medical alert bracelets for about a year now, and these are my top favorites. These medical ID Italian charm bracelets are available on Ebay for between $20-$30, and individual links are sold in a variety of conditions for $5-$10 each. Links can be custom-made if you want to add a new medication, and links can be removed easily to fit if you lose weight. I also love the idea that you can mix your POTS charm next to a sparkly skull charm to suit your personality and keep it fun.

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USB Woven Alert Bracelet

The new trend is USB bracelets and they’re very cool because, if you are like me (and many with the above disorders) and have complex medical issues that require more explanation than a straight-up name on a tag, this is what you need if you’re unconscious, in a hospital setting, and cannot advocate for yourself. I like this woven usb bracelet from A Delightful Gift as you can have it made in your condition’s awareness colors for $29.95. Good for the guys, too!

This adorable Medical ID Bracelet from My ID Square combines the charm of traditional ID charm bracelets with modern technology. The QR code can store your scannable data, while you can add your medical ID charms onto the bracelet. I like the instant access of the ID charms for an EMT situation, plus the addition of the data tag allows for access to your information. The shop has wide variety of bracelet styles and charms. One problem, now I can’t decide which ID bracelet I want!


 

One thing I learned when I entered the POTS world from the Chronic Pain community is that POTSies have the lockdown on technology! Since you can get a quick-read blood pressure cuff at any drug store, I’m going to try and kick it up a notch. This wristband from Withings reads heartrate, blood pressure, and blood oxygen level, along with tracking steps, distance, calories burned and has a sleep companion which all syncs with your mobile. It comes in Dysautonomia blue as well as black; price range on Amazon, $93-$250. If this works as well as the company claims, that is one heck of a Dysautonomiac invention!

I learned Biofeedback 11 years ago to help me manage pain, stress and sleep. Four years ago, when all the crazy Dysautonomia and POTS symptoms undid my body, I started whipping out my Biofeedback techniques like my life depended on it (well, it has). Learning to have better control over typically automatic responses like breathing, heart rate, blood flow, circulation, and blood pressure are very challenging, but can be so helpful in conditions affecting the heart, nervous system, or in conditions which interrupt sleep.

This amazing Biofeedback and Neurofeedback smart phone app was made by a little known group you might know called THE US DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE! The app can monitor respiratory rate, skin responses, temperature changes, as well as brain waves. Check out more about this FREE app here at Neurogadget.com which includes links to purchase the biosensor devices for your smart phone. Good job, America!


 

I can’t say enough about compression socks. And now, they are finally cute! You can even find printed compression leggings. They help us keep the “blood pooling” or edema to a minimum by encouraging circulation. Compression stockings displace blood from the lower extremities and squeeze it into the upper body where we are desperately lacking. It also lowers vascular issues in the legs and helps prevent strokes. This is one pair of socks that earn their keep! Check more cute compression socks links here on my last gift guide for people with Chronic Pain.


 

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Gourmet Salt Sampler

If you know someone with Dysautonomia, POTS, or Hypotension, then you know we are a little obsessed with our salt intake to raise our blood pressure. For the holidays, turn your loved one into a connoisseur of specialty salts by allowing them to sample 6 different types of sea salts from around the world. Purchase through Amazon, made by The Spice Lab, for only $29.95. They arrive in a wooden stand, nestled in a kraft gift box. Or, spice up your loved one’s pallet with specialty seasoned salts. SaltWorks.com creates 5 unique salt blends like Merlot salt and black truffle salt in their Fusion Flavored Salt Sampler, $26.95. Mmmm, pardon my drool!


 

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Fellow Dysautonomia fighter and advocate, Suzanne Stewart makes fabulous custom awareness jewelry to your desire. A portion of her earnings go to help chronic illness organizations because her rapidly beating, pace-maker equipped heart is also full and generous! Take a look at her website, *Support in Jewerly, and order something pretty for the chronic diva in your life.


Dr. Lam, a leading expert on Dysautonomia, has developed Tai Chi for Rehabilitation, $24.95. I first learned about Tai Chi for Dysautonomia from POTS and chronic pain blogger, Elle and the Auto Gnome who attributes Dr. Lam’s Tai Chi in part for her improvement. The DVD’s can be adapted to a sitting position or even (as I’m learning) a flat position, thanks to my cardiac rehab therapist. [If you give a gift of “healing” to a friend with a chronic illness, it’s best to include it in addition to her main gift. Otherwise, it may send a negative message to us that we aren’t doing enough for our health in your eyes.]


Artist, Sarah Allegra has developed this magical *2016 Calendar with Red Bubble, depicting her favorite images. Sarah Allegra is not only a provoking photographer, she also suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME/SEID which always influences her art. She is an activist, raising awareness through her blog, Mythic Pictures, as well as through her expressive images which speak volumes. If your loved one has severe fatigue associated with her disorder, often artwork can say so much more than words.


 

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“It’s like 10,000 Knives when all you need is a Spoon” *Awareness Tee’s on Zazzle.com

Other awesome gift ideas include: a nice juicer/blender $30-$200, electric toothbrush $5-$200, Funny original Awareness tops $20-$30 on Zazzle and Cafepress, Whole Foods gift card, Amazon gift card, vitamin shop gift card, massage gift certificate, electrolyte drink drops, or ear plugs.

As you are shopping for your friend, consider that she has to lay down A LOT due to chronic daily fatigue and because of many other symptoms causing falling or potentially fainting when she tries to get up and around. Anything cozy, things she can do laying down, and compact items she can keep near her bedside are all ways to play the chronic shopping game. Thank you for playing! Most of all, your solid presence in your loved one’s life is already a win as far as they are concerned. Just so you know, you are the best! Thank you for visiting,

Happy Holidays!


 

Gift Ideas for chronic illness

Find out what my gift-giving NO NO’s are when shopping for your chronically ill/ disabled loved one here.

 

 

My War with Gravity #POTSproblems

My War with Gravity #POTSproblems #POTS #Dysautonomia #Spoonie | It's not an Invisible Illness after you're passed out on the floor

This time last year, I published my first and only post detailing life with POTS and my recovery process, My Toothbrush, My Trophy. One hour after hitting the publish button: BOOM,  I was back in the hospital for more POTS shenanigans. It felt like some kind of blog jinx! October is POTS Awareness month, and last year my body threw a parade in honor of it.

For me, the thing about POTS is that I didn’t know there was an illness I couldn’t fight my way through. With chronic pain, I had forced my body into submission for so many years- all of my adult life in fact. Whether I needed to utilize walking aids, medications, treatments, or therapies, my crippling pain hadn’t kept me from working, going to school, or being there for my husband and family. So, when my autonomic nervous system kicked it (and it really crapped out on me), I was (and still am) shocked that my willpower has not been enough to overcome.

Last October, the ER doctors thought I was having a heart attack because my chest pains were so intense, like electric jolts piercing my heart. I had experienced chest pains, palpitations, and a racing heart (tachycardia) regularly for years with the onset of POTS, however nothing as intense as the pain that began that morning. The ER had never heard of Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome or Dysautonomia before (go figure). They didn’t know what my other conditions were either (of course) but I wasn’t as concerned about those at the time. We explained how once upright, my blood pressure drops and heart races, and my autonomic nervous system shuts down. “Oh, almost everyone has that,” the ER doctor said under his breath, chuckling. “Well doctor, everyone doesn’t almost pass out every time they try to sit or stand up,” I whispered through my head pain, angry that he would assume I am confined to lie flat in a bed for years shrouded with earplugs, a headset, and an eye mask- all over a little dizziness upon standing. (Sure, everyone has that). Keep in mind, this is tucked into a tiny dimmed closet-size room in the ER, as my hypersensitivity to light and sound exacerbates my ongoing migraine disorder too much to be around noise. I lucked out with a sweet nurse who knew what RSD was, and she was the only reason I was given special accommodations. They did multiple tests at the hospital, then through the week, I had several rounds of tests at my Cardiologist’s office. You know, the usual fun…

Verdict? They couldn’t find any reason for my heart to experience the additional pain. That was excellent news. POTS is a nervous system condition which effects the way the heart behaves; it isn’t a cardiac condition effecting the way the body behaves. No heart condition- score!

Conclusion: Since they couldn’t find any cause for the pain and onset of increased symptoms, the next 5 months thereafter were out of the doctor’s hands. (Thanks doc!) My fatigue and brain fog were unwavering. Just trying to move my fingers across the keyboard, holding my phone to text, or forming complete thoughts enough to compile a short blog post became so trying…so overwhelming…so frustrating… my short-lived recovery progress had taken a step in the wrong direction. For the first 2 years after the POTS began, I was in stasis mode. Pancake body, syrup brain. I was so ill and no one knew how to help me. After the spinal procedures in 2011 which threw my body into this tangle of illness, I was basically a lump of pain and un-moving frustrated flesh. Having finally made my first bit of progress last year, working so hard to use the restroom on my own and do some of my own personal hygiene from bed, falling backward again was not in my recovery plan! By last Christmas, I became depressed that my body was no longer moving forward and I was still stuck in the same bed going on 4 years after all of the doctors, hospitals, medications and hard work. (If you follow my blog, my posts reflected my disposition.)

Many with autonomic nervous system dysfunction (dysautonomia) carry on normally, dealing with bouts of dizziness or feeling lightheaded periodically. About a quarter of those with POTS are too disabled to work a job. And a small percentage have symptoms which are so severe, they are confined to a bed and may be hospitalized regularly. I fall into the last category, though I haven’t been hospitalized for a whole year- take that chronic illness!  (Let’s not count the times I’ve ignored my doctor’s recommendations to go to the ER). A very large number of those with POTS are teen girls. Awareness and treatment options are lacking for the estimated 70 million individuals living with Dysautonomia worldwide. [Dysautonomia International] Conditions like EDS, Fibromyalgia, CRPS/RSD, heart attack, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME/SEID, Chiari Malformation, stroke, Intracranial Hypertension, Traumatic Brain Injury, Spinal Cord Injury and Parkinson’s can cause Dysautonomia and POTS. To find out if you or a loved one have POTS, see a cardiologist for a “tilt table test” and cardiac monitoring.

Symptomatically, POTS is compared to Congestive Heart Failure, COPD, and massive blood loss. I’ve learned that everyone with Dysautonomia experiences it a little differently, but the most prominent symptoms for me have been low blood pressure, fatigue, confusion, trouble concentrating (brain fog), extreme hypersensitivity to sound and light, brain fog, head pain, trouble breathing, syncope/pre-syncope (fainting or almost fainting), vertigo, brain fog, muscle shaking, weakness, trouble digesting and absorbing food (gastroparesis), bladder dysfunction, chest pain, heart palpitations, brain fog, weak pulse laying down, heart racing when upright, orthostatic intolerance, brain fog, and temperature change intolerance…did I remember brain fog?

POTS Awareness MEMES

It took 2 years for me to get properly diagnosed with POTS and Dysautonomia because pain management doctors and primary care doctors don’t know what it is, what the symptoms are, or how to treat it. Just yesterday, my pain management doctor tried to argue that I developed it from “laying around too much” when the immediate onset was actually damage to my spinal cord. For individuals with POTS, the opposite is true. Pushing yourself to do more than your body allows can send your blood pressure plummeting for weeks or months putting you into an almost comatose state, can cause fevers, flu-like symptoms, severe fatigue, wide-spread physical pain, swelling or “blood pooling”, and a long list of intensified symptoms (see all Dysautonomia symptoms here). Last October, for instance, I believe my trip to the ER and subsequent 5 month puddle-of-me was the result of pushing myself to climb a flight of stairs.

My war with Gravity #POTS #Dysautonomia awareness

Thankfully, this past spring, my body let up enough to allow me back on my journey toward recovery. (Que happy music.) I’m currently doing home physical therapy from bed with a knowledgeable cardiac rehab therapist, I have new goals for my life, and when I am faced with my body’s set-backs, I’ll try not to allow my frustrations to defeat me.

My war with Gravity #POTS #Dysautonomia awareness

I am POTS but what’s ME?

This CFS/ME blogger and advocate at TipsforME.wordpress.com is writing about 2 colliding conditions which are rarely explored: the intersection between ME and POTS. Her questions and discoveries are so engaging and intelligent. I am excited that someone is finally writing about this, and I hope more awareness will come to light on 2 very similar conditions which need attention!

I am POTS but what’s ME?

I’m sitting at the computer typing this wearing sports compression leggings and a sports’ heart rate monitor, when the most strenuous activity of my day is likely to be a sitting shower (at which point the sports equipment will come off!).

Topics touched on in this post: POTS vs ME symptoms; heart rate monitoring and exercise; exercise for POTS; post-exertional malaise; adrenal fatigue and POTS; diet and nutrition.

Background: I’ve had ME 17 years but I’ve recently acquired an additional PoTS diagnosis effectively backdated 17 years. I’m trying to get to the bottom of which is which in terms of symptoms and management.

This is a post which is more about asking for tips from you than offering tips (although you may be able to infer some tips from what I’m already doing). Please comment on the end of this post, rather than Twitter or Facebook, and then other readers can see your tips too.

I’m feeling a little stuck and confused. My confusion stems partly from the blurred boundaries between POTS and ME/SEID (see Am I PoTS or is it Just MEfor background on this). Since writing that post I have had a formal Tilt Table Test diagnosis of POTS, but confusingly the SEID renaming process now includes a Tilt Table Test as part of the diagnosis (not as part of a diagnosis of exclusion, so notsaying that you have POTS instead of SEID/ME because your heart rate increased when tilted). This leaves me a little confused both in terms of illness identity and practical advice. Is PoTS just part of ME for a subgroup and therefore ME strategies apply?

Symptoms

Currently my symptoms are more obviously POTS than ME (if it is possible to separate out the two). My most stressful symptom is concrete legs which I seem to be getting more frequently again, despite being on beta blockers. This means that I can’t leave the house by myself and sometimes I get stuck within the house (halfway up the stairs is the worst). I even get this from sitting upright. My understanding is that this is caused byblood pooling in my lower legs meaning there isn’t enough blood flow to my thighs, I can still move my calves and can sometimes do a little shuffle. It definitely helps to know what causes this. Previously I was told it was ME fatigue related which didn’t really fit and led to unnecessary extra bed rest (more on that in a future post on symptom based pacing).

Standing up I’m getting the belt-tightening-around-my-chest sensation, which might be more worrying if I hadn’t recently had lots of cardio tests. I’m also getting more dizziness standing again, although strictly speaking this is maybe low blood pressure rather than tachycardia related. By the way, when is low blood pressure dangerous? The other day my home monitor gave readings around 84 over 49, with related symptoms. I spent the day in bed, drank loads and ate salty things.What would you do in this scenario?

I had stopped wearing my heart rate monitor because my readings had become boringly low with the beta blockers, and it is a little uncomfortable to wear, but I wore it again yesterday to check. Although I’m not getting the previous bizarrely high readings I do frequently go over 100bpm standing while on Bisoprolol to slow my heart rate(technically still POTS because resting is more than 30bpm lower).

The two conditions have such similar symptoms that if it wasn’t for my sometimes odd viral symptoms I would think that CFS/ME was a misdiagnosis (afterall I was diagnosed with a diagnosis of exclusion method and they didn’t test for POTS at the time).  I don’t really think it’s a misdiagnosis but part of me suspects that my non-POTS-ME may be relatively mild underneath all this POTS stuff and therefore I’m wondering if I should concentrate on POTS based advice.

Exercise and Heart Rate

Exercise is the main point of confusion. Although POTS is another condition where exercise makes you feel pants, it does seem to also be an important way to get better if done right. The crucial factors seems to be to start off lying down and strengthen calf muscles. I have got to the point that I can do this recumbent ME-specific yoga most days if I don’t have a shower:

Read More… http://wp.me/p4uiV8-fb

“A Lonely Life” by Mary Jane Gonzales

I’m honored to share this from poet, writer, author Mary Jane Gonzales’s new blog: MyInvisibleLife.net

Once upon a time, in my real life, I had lots and lots of friends. Despite being handicapped, life was full. Even when handicaps grew to the point of disabilities and everything was more of a challenge, there was still an abundance of events to attend and activities to do.

But over the years, an alternate life set in. And, strange as it seems, there were levels leading up to that point. Starting off normal, becoming handicapped, becoming disabled, becoming homebound, then becoming bedbound. Though I’m very grateful this alternate life occurred over time, rather than all at once, the fact remains it takes a lot of adjusting. And, in that journey, you’re very much alone. No-one is walking in your shoes – and, even those walking alongside you, who likewise grieve your loss, cannot relate to what you experience. And, sadly, the not understanding often leads to abandonment. Not that it’s intentional, but we live in a microwave society that expects quick results. They can’t comprehend (or tolerate) unresolved issues. Chronic pain or lingering illness is unfathomable to most; and would be to us if we weren’t living it. And loss of health is not the only reason for them (or us) to retreat.

Other reasons could be depression that accompanies chronic illness, maybe making us less positive, not seeing the glass half full as much as we had before. Or us not calling them as much as before because there’s nothing new or good to report. Unfortunately, that can be translated to them as a loss of interest. And them not calling us anymore feels like rejection or abandonment. So, for me and countless others, the new reality is lacking someone to visit us or someone to call for a favor. Instead, there’s a host of virtual friends who truly understand what you’re going through and may become treasured friends. Yet, the loss of longtime friendships is painful and the loss of visitors is lonely. I know that everyone’s at a different place in life, and some may not be here yet, just as I was not here yet.

But, though it’s taken much time for me to get to this point, I have arrived! Thankfully, I’m very blessed in so many ways. I have my family, my faith and a couple of friends who, though not nearby, love and support me. I keep myself busy with various projects and enjoy life as much as possible considering the circumstance. I can’t deny that an invisible life is a lonely life. Lonely being a relative term, you could be at the beginning stage where you can no longer work and are no longer in the mainstream of life. Or, you could be acclimated to being at home and still be receiving visitors.

Whatever point each of us is at, we need to be able to entertain or occupy ourselves, rather than expecting others to meet that need. So much is learned from chronic illness, with self-discovery being one of them. Though I would not have chosen this life of illness, neither could I have known that good could come from it. Despite the hardship or trauma of disease, in the end, I suspect that most of us have been made better by what we’ve been through.

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