So, today I turn 39. I keep hearing, “One more year and you are over the hill.” In some ways, I am pretty sure I rolled over that hill already. Last night at 7:00 I asked Trey if he would please go to store and buy me a puzzle. I wanted to do a puzzle for my birthday while eating my cashew ice cream and cookie dough. Yep, you read that right. I am an eighty year old trapped in a thirty-nine year old body. Now of course if I were not sick with POTS, we would be going somewhere fun today, but I am thankful to be able to be home and enjoy my birthday.
Last year this time my husband and I were on our way to Charleston for a getaway just the two of us. The plan was to attend his college reunion from the Citadel. We did make it to the reunion and then POTS hit me like a ton of bricks. As I have said before, I developed POTS during pregnancy eight years ago, but I was able to function at a semi high level. We knew that I was sick, but just didn’t know exactly what I had. I could drive, take my children places, go on dates with my husband…all the normal daily activities. I would get tired very quickly and I didn’t have the stamina to do all the things I desired, but I was functioning well. But, during my husband’s reunion everything changed. I lost all control of my body and spent the next six weeks completely clueless as to what the next step should be. I ended up in the ER numerous times, but never got answers. Finally, I was admitted to the hospital where they ran a plethora of tests and after eight days they concluded I definitely had POTS. Then they transferred me to Duke where I stayed ten more days stabilizing enough to go home.
Since it has been a year now, I wanted to share things I have learned because of having POTS. Even though POTS is cruel and relentless at times, there have been beautiful moments as well.
- POTS has taught me the importance of time. Once it is gone, you cannot get it back. When you have no physical limitations, it’s easy to fill your calendar with “stuff”. Some things important and some things that are completely irrelevant in the grand scheme of life. POTS gave me no option but to choose what I would spend the limited amount of energy I have on. My choices in the matter are simply, what are my priorities and will I use my limited resources on those priorities or waste them on useless time-consuming activities? So POTS handed our family a gift. We prioritized and eliminated the junk. Often people purge their physical belongings, but doing that and not doing the same with your time and schedule will lead you to mediocre results.
- POTS taught me that I am not in control. I can put whatever I choose on my calendar, but ultimately I don’t have the power to make everything happen. I actually had a false sense of control before POTS because I am a planner. I worked hard to get thing done within our family and beyond. But ultimately, having the realization that I truly control so little actually gave me a sense of freedom I have never experienced before. So, POTS handed me another gift…the gift of letting things go.
- POTS has made me incredibly aware of my natural tendencies in dealing with stress. With POTS, good or bad stress causes a reaction within your body because your body cannot tolerate a lot of stimulation. It like a car that over heats. I realized there are two types of people in the world. First, there are those who are butter. They can let things roll off their back and move on from situations quickly. They handle every day stressors in life with a greater ease, because everything doesn’t stick to them. Second, there are those like myself who are velcro. Circumstances and situations stick to us. At the end of the day if our velcro could be seen by the naked eye, we would see patches of velcro all over our bodies. Some of the pieces are over worries, doubts or fears. Some pieces may be simple encounters we had with others where we continue to over process and just cannot let it go. I admit, I am velcro. POTS has gifted me again by not allowing me to carry all that velcro around because it only makes me sicker. Thus, each evening I take my day to the Lord in prayer. I ask Him to help me remove those pieces of velcro that are not mine to carry. And by doing so, it makes each morning fresh and new. It’s something that has become a daily habit for me and I can thank POTS for pushing me to the very end of myself.
- Finally, POTS has taught me my heavenly Father walks with my EVERY step of this journey! He does not lag behind or wander away. No, He prepares the path before me. I am not free from POTS, but I have found a deeper freedom in POTS than I have ever found in my lifetime. A freedom that only God can give to us because POTS is physically a prison. And I think the stark contrast of physical prison with spiritual freedom can only make sense by the grace of mercy of Jesus. It makes no sense any other way! I would be ecstatic to be POTS free and I will continue to believe I will have that until my dying breath. But, I also would say this year has been a beautiful display of His love, hope, and peace in the midst of the storm. There is no other explanation for the hope that is deeply rooted inside me. God has given me the greatest gift this year and that is His presence in my life. So, again I can thank POTS for highlighting my human limitations because in doing so I have seen the power and strength of Jesus Christ within like never before.
So today on my birthday I give thanks to God for His amazing ability to turn our pain into purpose, suffering into compassion and love for others, fear into deep hope, all while covering us with His grace and unfailing love. I don’t really thank POTS. POTS is merely the circumstance that brought me to this place. Whatever circumstance you may be facing today, know that He can turn your trials into a deeper intimacy with Him. Now, I must go and party like a boss…and start my puzzle. The best is yet to come!!! Never give up!
“True to Your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure…Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.” Psalm 23