‘The doctors said, ‘Good luck. There is no cure.’ I didn’t think I was going to make it. My siblings were scared for me.’

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“My life began in a loving home, overflowing with health and happiness. But this perfect life came crashing down one day when I was 15 years old. Suddenly and inexplicably I felt light-headed and nauseous. Whenever I stood or sat up I felt faint. It was debilitating and persistent. I missed days, weeks, and months of school. The diagnosis? Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS). This means when I was upright my heart raced and blood pressure dropped. My blood pooled in my feet, creating a lack of oxygen to my brain. I had hypovolemia (low blood volume) even with all the extra fluids and electrolytes I consumed. No matter how much I slept, I was tired; no matter how tired I was, I could not sleep. The exhaustion and anxiety were painful and disabling. The doctors gave me various pills to try and said good luck. ‘There is no cause or cure’ the doctors would say. The cardiologist told me I would possibly ‘grow out of it’ in three to five years if I did not respond to the medication.

Young girl with POTS smiles in photo booth picture with two friends
Courtesy of Kiki Elin

‘Why did my life turn completely upside-down?’ I asked God. Through doctor’s visits and disappointments I tried to focus on my blessings and look forward to the occasional good day. As I learned to live with the illness I struggled to attend school. My peers ‘faked sick’ to get out of class, and I ‘faked healthy’ to attend school and socialize. But, my friends grew up without me, acquiring driver’s licenses, boyfriends, and college degrees. As my symptoms worsened, so did my social isolation.

I developed social anxiety. Every social outing I felt like vomiting in the parking lot. My jaw clenched up just thinking about speaking to someone. I wanted to cry all the way home and this happened every single time I went out. I remember going to one class at a community college. My mom would drive me there and my nausea grew the closer we got to the college. I would sit in the back of the class with a place to put my feet up. I avoided communication as much as possible. I felt so relieved when class was over and I’d quickly get in the car hoping no one would notice my mom still picked me, a 20 year-old adult, up from school. I was embarrassed of my condition and ashamed of my anxiety. I would not tell anyone about it. My blatant awareness of the anxiety’s irrationality had no effect on the anxiety’s intensity. I wished for my old healthy self, socializing with friends and not having a care in the world.

Teen with POTS sits in limo with friends who are all wearing dresses
Courtesy of Kiki Elin

I felt alone. I was like a zombie, with a decaying body and a dying soul. But then a tiny spark of hope ignited inside of me. I had an overwhelming feeling I was going to get better! It was scary and exciting. I felt God was calling me to be healed. I did not know how or when I would be healed, but I still held onto this hope for a renewed life!

Teen with POTS sits in chair with IV bag beside her
Courtesy of Kiki Elin

After six years of illness I was diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease. Finally an explanation for my symptoms and POTS! I began treatments targeting Lyme and gradually regained some of my health. One helpful treatment was vitamin and mineral IV therapy to strengthen my immune system. As my symptoms lessened, things started looking up! It took about two years until I started feeling somewhat better. Once I was feeling a little improved it was now time to face my fear of social events. I was terrified and excited to make new friends. I pushed myself to go to the college youth group at my church every week. It took years to re-learn my social skills. Overcoming social anxiety and making friends while living with a chronic illness was one of the hardest things I have ever done. But I was slowly coming back to life. God was keeping His healing promise for me!

Young woman with POTS disease stands on beach at sunset

All of a sudden I experienced setbacks. Lyme is a complicated disease involving co-infections and biofilms. When one symptom went away a new one raged my body. Digestive issues caused my weight to drop dangerously low. My protruding skeleton produced fears of dying. I did not think I was going to make it so I made sure to spend time with each of my siblings and their families. They were so supportive even though they were scared for me.It is always the darkest just before dawn because right when all seemed lost light and healing broke through! By the grace of God my treatment started working! Over the next few months I gained weight and health. I came back to life: restored and symptom-free!

The chronic illness gave me greater love for others. I learned a person’s value is not found in achievements but in humanness. You are worthy of love because you are a human! I feel blessed with a new life of abundant health, joy, and peace! I am convinced our blessings are not meant for ourselves instead I believe we are blessed so we can go out and bless others. I am forever changed and chronically healed!

Young woman with POTS stands outside smiling wearing shirt that says, "taking it one spoonful at a time"
Courtesy of Kiki Elin

My new life’s mission is to raise awareness, advocacy, and hope for chronic illness disabilities. I feel God calling me to inspire and help others who are facing impossible situations. I created an Instagram account @chronicallyhealed and a website chronicallyhealed.com to reach out to others with chronic illnesses. The response has been overwhelming! I receive messages telling me how I have given others hope and these messages are worth more than gold to me. It helps me to know people are rooting for me and want me to succeed as a model, writer, and speaker to bring hope to others! It is possible to overcome Lyme disease, thrive after brokenness, and bloom from the darkest of places!”

Young woman with POTS sits at outside table smiling in chair
Courtesy of Kiki Elin

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kiki Elin of Arizona. Follow her on Instagram here.  Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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