Maria: A little bit of hope at the end of a very hot week!
I was diagnosed with PoTS about 3 years ago after fainting for the first time in my life in November 2013. In the couple of years that followed I felt exhausted and dizzy and fainting was making me increasingly anxious. I was lucky in many ways: I was relatively quickly diagnosed and had a local GP with knowledge of the condition, my friends and family were always there for me, my colleagues were very supportive, I responded fairly well to medication and I did not have extreme symptoms.
Nevertheless, as many people who suffer from PoTS, I am a woman of child-bearing age in a loving, long-term relationship. The wake up call that I could be a risk to a young child if I fainted, whilst pregnant, or through dropping a child in my arms or leaving them essentially alone was a devastating thought. The prognosis that PoTS is considered a life long condition was truly upsetting but I wanted to do anything I could to make the condition more manageable.
After a couple of years of increasing medication with no real improvement in symptoms I was very keen to look at my health and fitness. PoTS can be an endless cycle where you can't exercise because of fear of fainting or extreme fatigue leading you to further deconditioning worsening the symptoms of PoTS. I knew I needed to break this cycle. It was making me miserable. I had always been very active but between work commitments and symptoms of my condition I had slowly become unfit and unhealthy. My body had become deconditioned.
With a friend I took up the Couch to 5K challenge, restarted climbing, tried out some exercise videos and eventually ventured into a gym for the first time in my life. Recumbent exercises were so important in building fitness initially. Slowly but surely my fitness was built up and I thought more carefully about what I ate. I also learnt to prioritise my well being over other commitments; I now know all to well my health has got to come first. Gradually as I improved my overall health my symptoms improved and I was able to decrease my medication.
As my confidence and fitness improved, I was able to really push my fitness and by Christmas 2017 I felt the fittest I had since I was a teenager. Now, over 3 years after my initial diagnosis I suffer from very few symptoms and take no medication. I am over the moon to share that I am 7 months pregnant and have coped with a week that would have crippled the non-pregnant me in the past. Yes, it has left me exhausted, but I have stayed standing and smiling. This is more than I could have hoped for at points in the past few years.
I am not saying I have a miracle answer for PoTS. I know I am very lucky and for some people with PoTS the ability to improve health and fitness in the way I have is an impossibility. I also know that this wouldn't work for everyone and there is nothing to say that I won't relapse in the future. My symptoms may have improved by chance but my gut says that a combination of exercise, healthy eating and putting my well-being first are a significant factor in my recovery and if this can help just one other person to improve their symptoms I believe it is worth telling my story of PoTS.
I know from experience that this week of warm weather, will have been such a hard week for so many PoTS suffers out there. The exhaustion, nausea, dizziness and weakness would make the strongest person want to give up. This week just getting through is a massive achievement. I hope in a week that I'm sure will have been pretty desperate for some of you my little story gives something positive to hold onto.