Have you ever put up with a less-than-savory situation simply to avoid being alone? Especially to avoid being alone with a chronic illness? Sometimes I look back on my last relationship and have to wonder if I was just plain lonely or if I had simply lost my marbles as a result of POTS. Guess I can blame that toxic relationship on a chronic impairment of blood flow to my brain.
I started my journey with POTS as a single senior in college. After a few months of being sick and still without a diagnosis, I finally gave in and went out with a very persistent guy from work. The first date went fine, and to my surprise temporarily took my mind off my tachycardia for a change. Before I knew it, a couple dates had turned into a relationship. Truth be told I wasn't ever really sure I wanted a relationship or could even handle one on top of being sick. I knew my health wasn't up to par and it was hard for me to have a "normal" life where one can spontaneously go out on exciting dates all the time. But I informed him of my health problems up front and for awhile it didn't seem to be an issue. Well, at least not for him. I would push myself to the brink of exhaustion simply to appear normal.
He knew I couldn't do anything too athletic; although we did play tennis a couple times and he complained when I had to take quick breaks. Not the most patient guy. And dealing with POTS takes patience. Heck, I was proud of myself just for being able to play tennis at all (keep in mind this was during my pre-compression stocking days, so playing tennis together in the heat really was quite a feat). However, we went on this way for quite awhile. Him wanting to do things, pushing me to do more things, and me being pleasantly surprised by how much I was able to do (sometimes). But there were times when pushing myself only made me that much sicker.
I went through a couple periods where my POTS worsened, and during those times he complained more and more, and I felt like more and more of a burden and a hindrance to him. He suffered from untreated attention deficit disorder (his doctor thought possible bi-polar disorder as well) and liked to remain active. He did not like taking the meds because he said they made his heart race. I know the feeling, so I tried to be patient when he abandoned me to play poker on a regular basis. That was his way of staying active, he insisted. After all, "poker is a sport. They show it on ESPN." Really, I think it was more of a way for him to self-medicate than to stay active.
Although I had explained my illness to him in great detail and he listened and asked questions, not to mention he had seen me at my worst several times, he never fully understood it. On numerous occasions he tried to compare his ravaging gambling addiction to my having POTS. Of course, that comparison angered me greatly considering POTS is a physiological problem while gambling is a psychological one. POTS and gambling are like apples and oranges as far as I'm concerned. No actually, more like apples and airplanes. They are so different the two illnesses shouldn't even be compared...yes I do agree with the notion that addiction is an illness, but at least it's one that there is actually tangible treatment available for. I am sure his ridiculous comparison was either a cop-out and a way to justify spending days on end at the casino, or a subliminal cry for help since it suggests that he had lost control of his addiction just as I had lost control of my own body. Either way, his habit contributed to my neglect, my stress load, my worries, and ultimately, the decline of our relationship. The sad thing is, in the end his addiction and his anger problem were what tore us apart. Not my faulty autonomic nervous system like I had once worried. Although my condition was not conducive to living in an unhealthy relationship, someday I believe I could benefit from a healthy one. But for now, I am content to be dancing alone. To get to know myself again and be comfortable without anyone but myself.
For more information on dating with POTS, please check out my friend Shannon's video called 'Dating With A Chronic Illness:' http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTJ3x9erVBU