Monday, September 30, 2013

Open Letter Challenge

As I have mentioned, one of the ways I cope with being sick every day is to look for things I can do rather than focus on what I can't. Writing is one of these things for me.  So for this reason, I am participating in Josh Irby's Open Letter Challenge.  The following letter is my response to An Open Letter to You from the Rest of the World.

Hello World!

Thanks for the letter. It was nice to hear from you and know you are still thinking of me. I think of you often.

So, you are wondering what my role will be, and how I am going to make my piece fit snugly into the empty hole of our global puzzle?  That’s a fair question; I am wondering the same thing myself.

You know I have always been a dreamer: chasing goals and waiting for the greatness that was most assuredly lurking around the corner.  I ignored the cynics who said I was naïve or gullible and who said eventually your harsh, cold-hearted reality would take a scalpel to my idealism.

Somehow, slowly, yet before I had the chance to blink and recognize what was happening, you were leaving me with open wounds and scars.  Were the so-called cynics right? Were they actually cynics as I had hastily judged them to be, or were they merely realists trying to warn me?  After all, I had now witnessed and experienced first-hand the death, destruction, illness and hopelessness you seemed to manufacture.

But, no, after careful contemplation, I have concluded they were cynics.  Each life, each human experience is a carefully constructed conglomeration of successes and failures, battles and victories.  It has to be.  Without the paradoxes of life, beauty, compassion and everyday miracles can’t be realized.  These things, however, are the true realities of you, World; the authentic effects you are offering us with a strained, outstretched arm, waiting for us to make the next move.

There are still a few shadows clouding my vision, and I can’t see far enough ahead to tell you where my path is headed.  My eyes are opened wide, and my ears are listening intently, so I don’t miss where I am being called to lead or follow.

While I can’t offer you a resolute answer as to what my ultimate role will be, I can offer you this:  I promise to never stop searching and to not allow the obstacles to derail my journey.  My eyes will remain fixed on hope, and I will keep the faith.  Most importantly, I offer you my love: my love of self, my love of others and my love of God. I will encourage rather than compete. I will lift up rather than tear down. I will magnify the good rather than embellish the darkness.

I hope you will cherish these gifts I whole-heartedly give and will find them enough for now.

With Love and Gratitude,


Friday, September 13, 2013

The Alternative To Asking "Why Me?"

Bleary eyed and barely yet aware, I was coming out of an unexpected nap yesterday with sounds of the "Katie" show playing from the TV in the background.  Katie Couric was doing a show about Aimee Copeland, who after an accident over a year ago underwent multiple amputations.  I suddenly heard something that quickly yanked me back into consciousness.  Aimee's mother was discussing the inevitable question of "why did this happen to Aimee and not one of her friends", and she said Aimee's response to this question was, "I’m glad it happened to me. I know I can deal with this better than they could."

Why did this jolt me so quickly out of my sleep?  Because I have said that same thing before! As much as I wish I didn't have dysautonomia, I would rather be the one dealing with it because I know I can.  Hearing someone else have the same connection to their life-given challenge was oddly comforting.  While I can't begin to understand what Aimee has gone through, I felt a strong connection to her listening to her speak.  While our struggles have been different over the past year, it seems we are both fighting through with the same philosophies.
Image from

So, why me? Why you?

Because you can handle it. You have the strength and perseverance necessary; God made sure of that. I truly believe you can find or create good out of your struggles and challenges.

When it comes to finding purpose, keep in mind your intended purpose through these sufferings won't always equate to world-renowned acts or achievements. If they do, great! But no matter how small or grand the ripples of good you set in motion, they will always be extraordinary and for a beneficial purpose.  You may not always know the effect you make on the world around you, but be certain you are making an effect.

The challenge I leave you with: Next time you feel the "Why me?" question trying to burrow its way into your thoughts, see if you can find a way to turn it into "I'm glad it's me!"

Monday, September 9, 2013

I Choose To... Focus On The Positive!

Today kicks off National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week. The theme this year is "I choose to... (fill in the blank)". While no one with an invisible or chronic illness has chosen that challenge, we all still have the power to make certain choices for ourselves.  Today, I choose to focus on the positive.

If you ask anyone who has a chronic or long-term illness, it is probably very easy for them to list the ways their condition has limited them and what it has taken from them.  There are countless ways POTS has affected my life in negative ways, but it is more important and helpful for me to focus on the positive things POTS has given me.

As I was thinking through what POTS has given me, I ran across this blog post by Michael Hyatt.  The questions he suggests asking amidst adversity are great.  They are all worth ruminating on and may help you find a more positive perspective.

10 things I have gained from being sick:

1. Greater compassion: Hands down I have never felt more compassion towards others going through illness or other difficulties than I do now.  There is an empathy and solidarity formed by first-hand experience.

2. Capacity to appreciate the ordinary: The simple things, even the ordinary or perhaps mundane parts of life, have so much more meaning to me.  I never used to think much about taking a shower every day, sitting up in a chair or moving through my day without giving a second thought to what my heart was doing with each movement I made.  But now, these are things I appreciate when I am blessed with them.

3. Better understanding of anatomy, biology and how my body works: I have always been more into words, language and writing than math and science.  When you are faced with a syndrome that encompasses so many internal systems and symptoms, you have no choice but to become an expert on how it all works and fits together.  I now enjoy the new things I will learn and the connections I will make during my appointments with my ND, which are as much about treatment as they are about education.  Having a better understanding in these areas also allows me to have more intelligent, productive conversations with medical providers.

4. More time with my family: When you can't work and have to move back in with your parents at the age of 30, it can feel like your life is going backwards.  However, I have really liked being able to spend more time with my family.  It has been especially great to be closer to my baby nephew and see him on a regular basis.  There is nothing more uplifting for the spirit than an innocent, sweet baby.

5. Deeper faith: Ultimately your spiritual journey is what this life is all about. My faith in God has become much deeper and stronger since becoming ill. This is something I would never trade away.

6. Ability to connect with wonderful people around the world: There are a few things in life that I consider universal -- smiles, laughter and suffering.  There are people all around the world who are struggling with chronic illnesses just like me.  Through online support groups, blogs and social media, I have been blessed to connect with some amazing and inspiring people from all over.

7. More time to read and write: Since I am not spending all my time working and socializing, I might as well spend more time doing two things I love.

8. Greater commitment to nutrition and health: Nothing will make you care more about your health than losing it. I always considered myself fairly health conscious, but now I am discovering nutrition and health in a more holistic way. Wellness means so much more to me now, and I will fight to regain it and keep it throughout my life.

9. Relinquishing the need to control: There is no time you are less in control than when battling with your health. You don't get to choose your symptoms or good and bad days. I have always been a planner and goal-seeker.  While these are inherently good attributes, I was not always good at dealing with things I couldn't control. Being ill has demanded that I learn to let go and accept life as it comes. As a result, I have actually unlocked a greater strength than "being in control" ever afforded me.

10. Learning to trust my gut: Not only have I learned to listen to and trust my gut with regard to my health and daily needs, I have also learned to trust my gut in interpersonal situations. If I feel like there is someone I should reach out to, or something I should say to encourage, support or comfort someone, I no longer shy away from it or fear it might not be welcome. I accept that nudge as a sign that I am meant to act on my instincts.

What do you choose today?  What have you gained from struggles in your life? Please share in the comments below.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Coping with Chronic Illness

Today's blog post will be short and sweet.

I wrote an article for the health and wellness site, MindBodyGreen, which ran last Friday.  If you are struggling with coping, check out 7 Ways To Cope With Chronic Illness.

I also encourage you to peruse the other articles on the site.  There is a lot of great reading material.

Have a beautiful day everyone!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Soak It Up: The Benefits of Epsom Salt

Every day I soak my feet in Epsom salt. Epsom salt is a naturally occurring mineral compound also known as magnesium sulfate.  Right there in the name you can see that it contains two of the primary electrolytes: magnesium and sulfate. Epsom salt can be used as a soaking agent or can be ingested as a saline solution.  One note of caution, however, as I mentioned in the previous post, taking Epsom salt internally (or any source of magnesium internally) can have a laxative effect. You do not run this risk when you use it for soaking.

The most well-known benefit of Epsom salt is to ease sore, achey joints and muscles. In addition, the magnesium in the Epsom salt can alleviate muscle spasms. Basically, the Epsom salt will provide the same benefits gained from both magnesium and sulfate.  We covered magnesium in the last post, but what about sulfate?  Sulfates help form proteins in the joints and intestines and aid in detoxification.

I find soaking in Epsom salt really helpful and a low-cost therapy.  I don't suffer from muscle spasms as often, and it is a relaxing way to ease tension and aches at the end of the day. I definitely notice if I miss a day or two.

Admittedly a poor photo, but this gives an
idea of what I use to soak my feet.

How to Use Epsom Salt for Soaking

To use it for soaking in the bathtub, dissolve two cups of Epsom salt in hot water.  I know for most POTSies a hot bath is a no-go thanks to heat intolerance and vasodilation.  You can either wait for the water to cool down or just soak your feet, which is what I do.

To use it for a foot soak, I dissolve one cup of Epsom salt in hot water.  Instead of using the bathtub, I use a smaller plastic tub that is the perfect size for feet.  This way I can sit comfortably on the couch while I soak rather than teetering precariously on the edge of the bath.

Whichever way you choose, make sure to soak for at least 12 - 15 minutes. Also, if you want to get fancy or add an aromatherapeutic effect, you can put essential oils into the water. Epsom salt can be drying, so I would suggest using moisturizer afterwards.

Another option if you have a sore muscle that you want to target specifically, dissolve a cup of Epsom salt in a sink of hot water, soak a towel in the water and use the towel as a hot compress.

Have you tried using Epsom salt?  What benefits did you experience?  Let us know in the comments below.