There is always a positive

Samantha Higgins

Let me start with saying that I am usually a very positive person. I aim to find the positive things in every situation. When I first got sick in high school and had to miss an entire semester, I focused on how lucky I was that I got to spend so much time with my family and that I grew stronger and more independent.

sammi higgins bw

When I had to miss seasons of color guard, the one thing that meant the most to me, I took the time to make sure that my teammates knew I was their biggest supporter, regardless of what I was going through. I focused on how lucky I was that I had all of those friends from school, chorus, band, guard and that all the families that were looking out for me and checking in on me. I tried my best to stay positive and never let it get the best of me. That’s not to say that I didn’t have bad days—we all do—but when I got my diagnosis, after almost a year of being sick, I thought the struggle was over. I was wrong; it was just beginning.

Learning to live with a chronic illness is difficult. Making the necessary changes is hard; the medications, the lifestyles changes, the dietary adjustments, knowing that you want to do something but it is in your best interest to go to bed so you can function the next day feeling is all hard. I make the most of it; I adjust and I keep a smile on my face. It takes time, but soon what was once so abnormal is an everyday routine. For me, it works, and I am grateful for my experience. I like to joke that I got sick because I have such a big mouth and I never stop talking; I believe everything happens for a reason and the reason for me is to raise awareness.

I have Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. It is not rare; it is just rarely diagnosed and rarely talked about. I have been able to adjust so well that, luckily enough, I was able to spend an entire semester abroad last year, I am active on campus and I get pretty good grades. And I am grateful for that.

My experience has made me strong; I have learned more about myself, about others, about understanding the journeys of other people who struggle with invisible illness. I started this semester and one of my goals was to make sure I did something for Spring Break.

Last year I was in London, Paris, and Athens. There was no way I was going to spend this year sitting in my room doing nothing; I love my friends and family but I wanted to experience something. So I decided I was going to participate in Alternative Spring Break. I was thrilled because I love volunteering, helping and experiencing new things. I was looking forward to it, but unfortunately life with chronic illness is unpredictable and instead my Spring Break had to be turned into an appointment with a new doctor and a week at home trying a new medication. I was angry, depressed and just overall upset. I’ve had some amazing opportunities, but I’ve also missed out on a lot and this was just something else to add to the list of things that my illness had taken away from me—can’t be positive  all the time.

My Spring Break consisted of horrible side effects from this new medication. Sure, it did its job, but it also made me worse. It cut my energy in half, made me weak and made it hard to focus. I distracted myself by seeing my friends and spending time with my family. But I still wish I had been able to participate in Alternative Spring Break, and I still compared it to the amazing break I had last year. I complained about the side effects, but I still smiled and I tried to stay positive. And I will always strive to.

I hope everyone had an amazing Spring Break, whether home, traveling somewhere warm, volunteering their time, or just relaxing somewhere. While mine wasn’t ideal, I had my friends, family, my dog, and I caught up on some sleep—there are always positives!