Just over a month ago now I was diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), a debilitating chronic illness which changed my life when it began in January this year. My autonomic nervous system, which should regulate everything controlled automatically/without awareness i.e breathing, heart rate, temperature control etc, is failing to properly adjust my heart rate when my body is upright, meaning the oxygen supply to my brain is severely restricted. To find out how I was diagnosed check out my post on the Tilt Table Test.
As well as all of the physical symptoms the condition causes such as chronic fatigue, migraines, dizziness, fainting, insomnia and many more, it also causes anxiety. I have suffered with anxiety before when I was at university but not to this extent. I get stressed about the really small things now and worry uncontrollably about anything and everything. It’s particularly bad at night when I’m exhausted from the day, and it spirals for hours. For example, I often panic about what people think of me…Am I a bad friend? Or I panic about what this illness will mean for my future… Will I ever get better? Will I always be in a wheelchair? Etc. In the morning I am much more rational and I can reflect on my thoughts from the previous night, but it’s difficult to rationalise when the anxiety strikes.
Although I have also begun more conventional treatment for POTS – I have just started taking a medication designed to lower heart rate – I am also a firm believer in non-pharmacological methods of healing – see my post on dealing with the psychological affects of living with chronic pain. I believe mindfulness meditation is a great way to aid of recovery. I have been using mindfulness regularly since I saw a pain psychologist last summer, but not as intensely as I’ve have been in the last few months since I’ve been poorly when I’ve been using it daily.
Mindfulness meditation has provided me with a much needed coping mechanism for my anxiety, as well as giving my body the opportunity to rest and recharge. It’s helped me to not focus on up the unhelpful thoughts and let them overwhelm me, but to let them pass by. It has taught me to be less judgemental of myself, and that my thoughts are a stream of consciousness automatically triggered in our brain, and should be considered thus, not as a collection of facts.
I just want to share a couple of useful mindfulness resources so you can have a go yourself I really hope you find them useful!
I would highly recommend Andrew Johnson’s Power Nap/Deep Sleep tracks that you can download from the App Store. Lots of my spoonie sisters recommend Andrew Johnson, that’s where I heard about him. His voice is the most soothing voice I have ever heard! Even more so than the legend that is David Attenborough! I use this deep relaxation and visualisation track every night before I go to sleep without fail. It really helps me to relax and focus on the present moment, which stops my thoughts spiralling. I look forward to switching it on when I go to bed at night!
Headspace is also an app that I LOVE. It’s meditation made simple. It’s great for beginners as it actually teaches you how to use mindfulness meditation. I signed up for free to the 10 day free trial called the Take Ten programme, which offers ten guided meditations lasting ten minutes. Andy, the co-founder and speaker used to be a Buddhist monk so he really knows his stuff! It’s a really modern app with really quirky animations and by session 3 I was hooked.
In the future, when I am a little stronger and not so housebound, I would love to do a course on mindfullness to learn more about it and to be able to use it to the best of my ability.