My Journey with POTS: Part 1

POTS: A History

Chapter 1. Common symptoms become Not so common

I was born  in suburb of Dallas.

I was born two weeks early and my only complication was having Jaundice. Jaundice is very common among babies. It meant that my liver was not fully developed and my skin had a yellowish tint. So I received daily blood tests for 17 days and was treated under a lamp to speed up the process. I came home after one day of observation and everything was completely fine.

I became big sister to Heath when I was three, and to Aaron when I was five. I also had a dog-named Keifer. I started Kindergarten at age 4. I was just a normal kid, living it up in the heart of suburbia, until age six.

Abdominal Pain

I never had recurring ear infections or nose bleeds and passed with flying colors at wellness checks. Then, at age six, I began to have intense stomach pain that would drop me to the floor. I had stabbing pain in my abdomen. I do not have a high pain tolerance but nevertheless, I was in pain.

By age seven, I moved from suburban TX to rural AR. It was quite an adjustment from affluent suburban Plano to a rural farming area with the closest mall being over two hours away. However, I adjusted very well and had the most excellent third grade teacher, Mrs. Poole. I joined the Girl Scout troop and joined my first sport team. I played softball in fourth grade. I was absolutely terrible but I made a lot of friends. I have always been a lover of all things pink and girly so I stuck to cheer and dance throughout middle school.

The abdominal pain was episodic and we couldn’t identify the triggers.

Over the next couple of years we tried the following;

  1. started me on Miralax to see if it was constipation pain
  2. milk of magnesia
  3. removed dairy from my diet to see if I was lactose intolerant
  4. heating pad for pain
  5. food diary
  6. diary of when an episode happened and possible causes
  7. ruled out appendix

By the time I was in fifth grade, the pain was coming quite frequently and we had no answers. So I went to the children’s hospital at age 10 and underwent a procedure that took pictures of my stomach and small intestine. Everything turned out normal, and the only thing they saw was a back up of fecal material.

At this point, my parents gave me Miralax on occasion to see if it helped. It didn’t so I just quit complaining because even the doctors said nothing was wrong. I have continued to have severe abdominal pain for many years with out a known reason or cause.

Carsickness: Headaches and Nausea

Beginning around age 10 I noticed that every time I would ride in the car I would get an instant headache and carsickness. I would become nauseous but never vomited. It happened every time I was in the car regardless if my brothers were riding as well.

My parents and brothers thought that I was just saying I had a headache to get them to be quiet during car rides. About this time I gained limited front seat rights and it reduced the headaches by a little.

However, since carsickness and associated headaches and nausea is common, it was passed off as normal. As a precaution the air conditioning was always turned up and my parents tried to keep the peace and quiet. But with two younger brothers, it is a struggle. It became so bad that we could never travel on curvy roads without feeling miserable. Sadly, we lived in rural Arkansas so avoiding hills and curves was nearly impossible.

Temperature Intolerance: 

For as long as I can remember, I was always cold. My dad is a heater, and Mom always got cold easily as well. I always used lots of blankets and had to bring a jacket to restaurants and movie theaters or I would freeze. My hands and feet were always freezing. We never thought of it as something serious because mom experienced the same symptoms.  I noticed that it got worse with my sweating.

Excessive Sweating: Just hormones or something more?

I was on the sixth grade cheerleading team. Puberty was beginning to rear its ugly head. I developed leg hair and wore my first bra. That is when the sweating began. At first it was just normal sweating and everybody was learning to use deodorant. Boys lost their cooties, and we were “in love” with the latest Disney channel hottie! Things were as normal as they can be for hormone raging pre-teen girls.

Once seventh grade began, I had smooth legs but I noticed that I would sweat even when I was just sitting in class. It was one thing to be sweaty at dance practice, but in history class?? Not so sure about that. I began to always carry a hoodie to class and I stopped wearing my “cute” clothes because I feared getting sweat stains. I told my parents, and they brushed it off as just a normal thing and all teens have it. After 3 months we began to try different deodorants. I tried every kind of clinical strength available OTC and tried to eliminate the fabrics that caused more sweat.

As a 13 year-old self-proclaimed “fashionista”, it was horrible to have to reduce my choices of clothing, in order to try and protect against sweat. So naturally, social events were becoming disastrous. And at 13, nothing can be worse than feeling left out and not fitting in. I couldn’t even raise my hand in class, and as a straight-A student, that was a problem! I began to do Internet research and Yahoo Answers became my best friend. I found a condition called Hyperhidrosis. It was over-active sweating of the underarms, hands, and feet. People suffered for many years of social neglect and the burden of having to change their shirt every few hours. It matched everything that I was going through. I began to wear black shirts because it didn’t show and I couldn’t wear long sleeves unless it was a hoodie so that the stains wouldn’t show. Even short-sleeved t-shirts became a problem.

It didn’t matter if it was hot, cold, or a perfect 70 degrees; I was always sweating. Any slight temperature change in classroom-to-classroom rotation would always send me into the shivers.

At the end 7th grade, my mom took me to get my blood levels tested for hyperthyroidism. We received mixed results. One time it was a little high and the second completely normal. My GP suggested we try Certain-Dri a deodorant that I apply at night to help dry up the glands. I made me severely itchy and it burned so much that I couldn’t stand it.

So once again, I quit complaining because it was another normal symptom with no found cause. I reverted to stocking up on different deodorants and trying to trick my body by changing it every three days.

Menarche: PMS pains back with vengeance

Towards the end of seventh grade I also began menstruating. I was 5ft 6in and just hit 100lbs at Thanksgiving. I ate like a teenage boy but I was still very thin. Every time I got my period, the abdominal pains were worse. But now the pain I have had for years became masked under PMS cramps. I rarely missed school in 8th grade, but definitely felt worse during my period. The sweating and abdominal pain came in waves but it was still very prevalent.

At this point I had the following symptoms:

  1. Abdominal pain
  2. Frequent carsickness- instant headaches and nausea
  3. Excessive sweating
  4. Pre-menstrual issues (all previous symptoms intensified during that week)
  5. Heavy flow
  6. Low weight

I completed 8th grade in  AR and I moved to southern IN that summer. I was sad to leave my friends, but extremely excited about a new school and making new friends.

The move was great for me, especially since IN is flat so no more curves and hills!

More to come soon!

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