As I struggle to cope with the new reality of COVID-19, I can’t help but feel an odd sense of deja-vu. The anxiety, the uncertainty, the loss — they all feel strangely familiar. I remember a time not too long ago when I was also stuck inside, unable to plan, consumed by the fear of an invisible illness. It was a chapter of my life called POTS, a chapter that defined my college years and changed my entire life trajectory.
Just one month into journalism school at Rutgers University, I was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), an autonomic nervous system disorder that turned my world upside down with debilitating symptoms ranging from near-fainting spells to extreme dizziness, fatigue, gastrointestinal pain, insomnia…and the list goes on. Practically overnight, I transformed from a fully-functioning, energetic high-achiever to a barely-functioning shell of my former self. Looking back, it’s a complete miracle I managed to get through each day, let alone succeed in school. Here are just a few reasons I’m reminded of POTS during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Grocery shopping was a risky outing. I never knew how long I would last before the dizziness and fatigue would overtake me.
Planning for the future was nearly impossible. I had no idea how I’d feel the next month, let alone the next day.
Staying inside became a new way of life. Even small outings (like going to class or a restaurant) felt like running a marathon.
And here we are in 2020, stuck inside with no idea how long the pandemic will last or what the future will hold. There is one small difference between my personal story and the global story unfolding today. I have the gift of hindsight. And you know what they say: Hindsight is 20/20. I can now see why I had to get sick and how each step of the journey brought me to where I am today.
And now, my friends, I’d like to share that story with you.
Let’s start at the very beginning. As a scared, sick 18-year-old, I travelled alone from doctor to doctor desperately searching for answers. I started with conventional medicine — besides, that’s all I knew. But none of it worked: not the array of off-label pills given to POTS patients to control symptoms, not the high-salt diet to increase blood volume, not the…