Headspacer Stories

July 10, 2014

Headspacer Stories

Every month we feature a story from one of our users about their mindfulness practice. In this blog, Kate Libby describes how mindfulness has helped her deal with the upheaval of being diagnosed with a debilitating illness, and to accept it as part of who she is.

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Four months ago, I was diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), a debilitating illness which has turned my life upside down. My autonomic nervous system, which should regulate everything not controlled by my conscious mind, is failing to properly adjust my blood pressure or heart rate when my body is upright, meaning the oxygen supply to my brain is severely restricted.

The condition has taken a huge physical toll, leaving me exhausted, affecting my sight and hearing, as well making me confused and disorientated. It has also been difficult to manage emotionally, to overcome the fear of the unknown and accept what is happening to me. There is no known cause of POTS, and, worse, there is no cure. Some patients will make a recovery over time, but this can take many months or even years.

Although I have also begun more conventional treatment for POTS (read: I take a small mountain of pills every day), a consultant neurologist suggested mindfulness meditation could be key to my recovery. Meditation has provided me with a desperately needed coping mechanism, as well as giving my body space to rest and re-engage the heart in its usual rhythm, instead of the erratic racing heart rate I have been experiencing.

Prior to falling ill I was, admittedly, rather prone to overthinking and worrying about things I now realise I could have simply let go. Mindfulness has demonstrated to me the importance of taking a step back from my waterfall of thoughts, instead of allowing them to overwhelm me. I have found the ability to realise my fear, yet neither run from it or be engulfed by it, has been unequivocally important in dealing with POTS.

Mindfulness has also taught me to be present; awake and aware in the here and now. Upon getting my diagnosis I scoured the internet for information on my illness, against doctors orders and my better judgement, and was horrified by the tales of doom and gloom that I found. I began to project my fear across my future, believing I would never travel or forge a successful career, be well enough to have a family or lead a normal life. This is not what I've been told by my neurologist. My fear simply ran away with me and I forgot that thoughts are not facts, and that I cannot predict the future.

Meditation coaxed me back into the present, and instead now I focus on my endlessly supportive family and friends, and the fact that my health has indeed begun to improve. The truth in this moment is that I am getting better, and well or not, I have plenty of reasons to be happy. Meditation has given a perimeter to illness. Don't get me wrong, I still have bad days; but I am learning to accept my altered body and state of mind, and POTS is now a part of who I am, instead of my new identity.

Kate Libby

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Do you have an experience you’d like to share that stems from your Headspace practice? If so, please email us a brief summary of what you'd like to write about to social@headspace.com

Don’t forget, you can also visit our community forum to exchange meditation tips with other Headspacers, and our FAQs section is also a great resource to check out too.

5 Comments on this article:

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1

meditator-5f13a037fe

July 11, 2014

I'm not sure this is the right venue for submissions regarding the various stages of Headspace meditation, but wanted to share something I've been trying lately that helps with breath counts. (I'm in the Smart Series). It has to do with introducing the sense of "touch" to breathing; finding and focusing on tactile experiences in lieu of counting. So, for example, I started noticing as I breath a slight friction of my shirt against my skin and just focusing on that. Or, I notice the sense of coolness in my nose are air passes through my nose with each breath. I find this really helps the focus on breath pass very smoothly with a minimum of "thinking", such as is involved in counting breaths. Doug

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Cait72

July 14, 2014

I have muscular dystrophy and can relate totally to Kate's experience. I have a tendency to fear the future because my illness is progressive and let me thoughts run way but meditation has allowed me to step back and be grateful for the here and now. the things I have rather than the things I don't.
Ps really happy that your health is improving. I've found. on the bad days (more based on fearful thoughts with me) a dose of headspace makes all the difference.
Cat.

4

jpbanddlb

July 16, 2014

I know exactly how you feel. I have struggled w/2 autoimmune illnesses: Sjogren's syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis. It's very easy to become depressed and even despondent at times, but since I found Headspace a year ago it has helped me tremendously! From learning to cope w/pain, help w/sleep, focus at work, and improve my relationships. I could never again go w/o my Headspace and I am forever thankful!

1

Shiv99

July 23, 2014

Thank you Kate. It took me at least 5 years to come to terms with Sjogren's Syndrome and accept that the image I had held of who I was physically was altered. It is also incurable but with acceptance has come improvement. I had not realised until relatively recently how much energy I was devoting to searching for cures and worrying about the future. Now, I accept where I am today and through mindfulness am so much more content and appreciative of the life I have.
Siobhan

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wales12

August 7, 2014

Thank you Kate...