I used to be an athlete. I played on a travel basketball team and swam swim team during the summer. I enjoyed hiking with my family to see waterfalls or bike riding on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. I loved water sports, and learned to slalom ski when I was eight. My mom called me Amazing Mer.
At age 11, things began to change. My shoulders began dislocating during swim practice and my scapulas began winging. It was very painful, and my parents took me to see an orthopedic who could not figure out why these things were happening. When basketball season started, I began having pain in my knees and I was having trouble turning my neck. Long story short, I was diagnosed by a geneticist 6 months later with a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS).
The next summer, I developed new symptoms. I began to get dizzy when I stood up, developed headaches and began experiencing chronic fatigue. Within months, I was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS).
My illnesses are invisible, but they have changed my life. At this time, there aren't any cures, but I can manage my symptoms. I've learned how to conserve my energy to get through my days and to deal with painful joints and headaches. My hobbies have changed. The new me likes to find recipes and cook healthy dinners or bake cookies for friends. I also love listening to music and creating new playlists, and I enjoy creating videos of vacations or other fun things I've done with family and friends. The great thing is, my mom still calls me Amazing Mer!
The bonus of being chronically ill is the people you meet. Others with chronic illnesses have taught me how to be stronger and have made me more compassionate. Those that are willing to help by giving their encouragement, time and support have shown me the person I want to be. I'm thankful to be able to give back - to others newly diagnosed, and to some of the charities who have and continue to touch my life.