Wednesday, November 20, 2013

But You Don't Look Sick...

I have an illness.  One of those invisible illnesses that make people look at you strangely and say, "But you don't look sick."  One of those that make your coworkers doubtingly roll their eyes after you leave sick from work again, that make your siblings call you a drama queen.  I have what is either called neurocardiogenic syncope (NCS) or postural orthopedic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) - the symptoms and cause are generally the same.  Basically, blood pools in my extremities, and where most people's bodies just pump more blood to their head to make up for it, mine does not; instead, my blood pressure drops alarmingly quickly and my heart slows down. This causes intense bouts of nausea, sweat, dizziness, et cetera.  I don't know how to describe it other than that it feels like you are coming down with the worst flu ever, the feeling you have right before you puke.  And that feeling, for me, can last five minutes.  Or it can last five hours.

And it comes back the next day.

And the next.

Various medications reduce the occurrence of these episodes, but they happen quite a bit more often than most people know.  The episodes tend to end in me fainting or vomiting (sometimes both), and the dizziness tends to continue for much of the day.  Various triggers can cause an episode, and the ones I've run into are:  hot showers, hot days in general, not eating enough, eating too much, not drinking enough, some physical activities, alcohol, caffeine, taking new medications or taking medications at different times of the day, and stress.  As you can see, it's super fun!

Because it is important to have a sense of humor about shitty things, here are some episodes I've had that, in retrospect, make me laugh my ass off.

*When Jared and I first started dating, I went over to his house on a super hot day...and I really had to pee.  He gave me a hug, and I guess he squeezed a little too hard - I lost my breath and passed out...and I peed all over his dining room floor while I was out.  I woke up to a pale-faced Jared, cell phone in one hand and paper towels in the other.  Part of the reason I wanted to marry him is because he loved me enough to clean up my urine on one of our first dates.  :)  What a stud.

*I worked at Target for approximately three months one summer.  I was cashiering on, again, a super hot day, and suddenly, I felt just so sick.  I went to try to sit down on a bench (in the middle of ringing someone up, mind you), but I didn't quite make it.  I woke up on a stretcher with around seven faces floating above me, some screaming "Code blue, lane 19!!" into their walkies.  They didn't believe me when I was like, "Uhh, guys.  It's fine.  This happens a lot.  Just give me a bottle of water and a sandwich."  After that day, I was assigned solely to fitting room duty, in which I sat in a chair all day in a remote corner of the store.

*Jared and I were in a Sears one day (episodes tend to come on while shopping in a mall, for some reason), and I started to feel sick and dizzy.  Not wanting to pass out in front of people, we headed for the bathroom.  As I cracked the door of the ladies' room, I heard some loud vomit noises coming from within (because of course someone was puking in there.  Of course.)  Jared escorted me into the men's room, and as he wet a paper towel for my forehead, he said, "Okay, now, do NOT sit on the floor in here, it is SO disgusting," but my whole body had already hit the cool, sticky, tile of the Sears' men's bathroom.  "Oh, God, you're LAYING on this floor.  Oh God," my germ-obsessed husband freaked out.  And then a mustached man walks in.  Looks at us.  "She has a heart condition," Jared offered quietly.  The man replies, "Well, I don't care.  I'm gonna take a piss anyway."  And then Jared and I sit awkwardly in silence listening to the sounds of the guy's urine splashing the urinal.

Oh, God, I could go on and on listing them, but there's too many, and honestly, some are pretty gross.  Even grosser than cleaning up pee and laying on a trashy department store's bathroom floor.

I am grateful my illness is so mild and non-life threatening...but I do wish there was more awareness about diseases no one can see.  Just because I may not look like a sick person doesn't mean I am faking an illness or making it up.  For reference, you can check with that mustached guy from Sears - I'm sure he remembers me :)



  1. OMG, thanks for the laugh!! That first date definitely proved you found a gem! ;) All kidding aside, though, I suffer from a similar type of illness (I don't look sick either) and can totally empathize with you. I have M.E. (myalgic encephalomyelitis) and it sucks. Anyway, thanks for sharing! :)

  2. This illness sounds absolutely awful. I know what it's like to get dizzy and nausea spells, but it's horrible that they come on when you're out and about with no warning signs. Your husband sure is a good guy! Your stories are funny to look back on I'm sure, but I can't imagine going through that in a public place. When I get very sick I can't even leave the house, or the furthest I get is the hospital. It's never fun.