I have an A-Positive blood type, a reformed Type-A personality, and now, a case of POTS. Sound familiar? I find it interesting that a lot of the literature on POTS indicates that many sufferers were typically overachieving, Type-A personalities driven to succeed. Isn't it ironic that some of the most ambitious and intelligent young people are struck with this debilitating illness that inhibits the ability to achieve certain goals--specifically the career-oriented ones? Sure, we can still be successful and productive individuals, but many of us perhaps not in the same profession we had planned.
As a former television producer and host, I oftentimes struggled to remember my lines during my "stand-ups" and my delivery would get worse and worse the longer I stood there in front of the camera. This phenomenon happened to me quite frequently before my diagnosis. My cameraman jokingly alleged that he thought I was coming down with Alzheimer's Disease, and I'll admit for a long time I actually wondered if he was right. I was not only embarrassed by my poor delivery of lines, I was also secretly scared that I may have quite literally been losing my mind. One day it was too cold to shoot my intro outdoors, so we opted to film it inside instead where I happened to be sitting down, and that time, I nailed my intro on the first take. After that shoot, he insisted on filming everything while I was sitting. Interestingly, this was still before I even knew I had POTS. Turns out my cameraman was actually on to something. He had absolutely no medical knowledge whatsoever and yet for him it was plain to see that I did not perform well standing up.
I now recognize that was all just a case of bad brain fog and inadequate bloodflow to the brain; something that I struggle with on a daily basis whenever I attempt standing tasks. And I of course modify my actions appropriately. I try to do all my important decision-making while sitting with my feet elevated or laying down. I also try to perform all cerebral work (reading, writing, paying bills) while lounging around in bed. That is definitely not how I would have set out to accomplish my most important tasks in the past, but it is my new reality. If a rude stranger like the one who left the note on my car were to see how I go about accomplishing my daily tasks they would surely accuse me of being lazy because that is how it must look as I lounge around with poor posture, my feet awkwardly sprawled all over furniture. But I have discovered that in order to be as productive as I can, I need to listen to my body and pretty much do what it tells me to or I will pay the price later. So I do my work from the couch or even from bed if I want to maintain some semblance of intelligence.
Why is it that many POTS victims had/have Type-A personalities? Does operating on overdrive for so long render our autonomic nervous systems more susceptible to malfunctioning? Or does living in a state of chronic stress simply weaken our bodily defenses, thus inviting potent viruses and leaving us vulnerable to irreparable traumas? In my case, prior to POTS I was a healthy, involved-in-everything individual who thrived on stress to accomplish my goals. I suffered from severe menstrual cramps one day each month and dealt with the occasional cold or ear infection, but most of the time I was able to easily power through a minor illness and continue my full life with minimal interruption. Senior year of college I developed infected wisdom teeth and after their removal my body was never the same. The severe car accident I endured three weeks later didn't help my body's recovery process either. So a virus, a surgery, and a trauma all may have contributed to my POTS. Perhaps my body was already enduring too much stress as a busy, driven college student and it simply couldn't handle all the physical trauma suddenly being thrown its way in less than one month's time. In a sense, my system couldn't cope. It felt like my body was thrown into shock and it signaled me of its distress with a racing heart, extreme insomnia and overwhelming fatigue. I will always resent my former primary care doctor who didn't bother to listen to me or my heart and immediately wrote me a prescription for Zoloft. Had I remained under her care I may not even be alive today. Too many doctors rely on a generic "anxiety" or "depression" diagnosis without bothering to thoroughly evaluate a patient's symptoms before dispensing pills.
This week, I am going to visit her office and leave an article for her, along with a polite handwritten note explaining that she may have been too quick to diagnose me with anxiety three years ago. I would also love to take her a copy of DINET's informative "Changes" documentary but unfortunately I doubt she would take the time to watch it. So I am going to include my favorite article on POTS instead. It provides a comprehensive overview of the syndrome without going into lengthy detail, so I am hoping she will take the time to at least glance through it.