summertime gratitude

Friday, August 14, 2015

In the early summer, I found myself standing in the middle of a weedy, tick-infested Christmas tree field, weeping with gratitude that I had the capacity and opportunity to spend hours with those trimming shears with sweat pouring down my back. 

I've written here before about Grave's Disease and the permanent hypothyroid condition caused by the treatment. Last year, I wrote about anxiety and some of the physical reasons behind that. This summer brought me a new recognition of my previous fragility and a new thankfulness for a well-functioning body. After I was diagnosed with a new chronic illness last year and treated for those symptoms, I felt better than I have in years. I could accomplish things, even manual labor things, without the effort that it took before. I could spend time outdoors, OUTDOORS, in the heat of summer without negative consequences. It really felt magical.

The diagnosis I received last summer is for an autonomic disorder called POTS. The autonomic nervous system, according to Wikipedia, influences the function of internal organs. It's a control system that works unconsciously and regulates bodily functions like heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, urination, and more. POTS is a syndrome that, at its most basic level, means that my heart and my brain don't communicate as they should. There are a multitude of symptoms associated with POTS, including extreme fatigue, low blood pressure, high heart rates, fainting, digestive issues, heart palpitations, heat intolerance, exercise intolerance, and on and on. I'm on a low dose of a steroid which, combined with a high salt and high fluid diet, has been managing my symptoms swimmingly for the past year.

Until the past few weeks. When I started having several near-fainting episodes, overwhelming fatigue, extreme heart palpitations, and more. But time stops for no man, or syndrome as it may be, so I continued to plow my way through the most stressful month we've had in a very long time, compounded by multiple broken bones in the family, a huge family reunion, and some complicating personal and familial issues. Stress brings an increase in symptoms in this particular disorder anyway, so this became a really, really hard month. 

So it's back to basics until we figure out if it's transient or if I need to switch meds or something else. Yoga every day. Walks, even when I get short of breath just climbing the stairs. Hot tea. Hot tea. Hot tea. And so many naps. When my children speak of the end of this summer, I'm confident they'll talk only about the hours I spent in bed in the afternoon. Or maybe they'll just think about how many hours of video games and movies they consumed while I was resting. Guilt stacks on shame (because there's very little more humiliating than nearly passing out in the eye dr office during a routine test), and I'm once again brought to my knees in humility and dependence.

Even though it's a different kind of gratitude, I am as grateful at the end of this summer as I was at the beginning. I am grateful that I have access to medicine to make my life bearable. I am grateful that I have a health care practitioner that doesn't resort to dulling symptoms with psychiatric drugs but looks for the underlying causes. I am grateful that my children are mostly old enough to care for themselves while I take a necessary nap. I wish that the medicine was working well, and I could work out in the heat like I did at the beginning of the summer, but that's how where I am today. Today, I'm just grateful to sit down when I get too lightheaded. I'm grateful for salty tortilla chips, for tall glasses of cold water, for my essential oil diffuser, and for school starting soon. Practicing gratitude might not come easily when things get rough, but from my perspective, it's a deep inhale in a world where, quite literally, my breath too often comes shallow. It's life.

Where can you find gratitude today? Look for the small things, whether it's triscuit spread with cream cheese or the smile from your littlest. Counting gifts reminds us of who we are and whose we are. It's a direct connection to the things and the One that matters. You won't regret it.

photo credit: Route 91 nr Hatfield via photopin (license)
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