October is the month of Dysautonomia Awareness. Dysautonomia is a term many have never heard of. It is a term used to describe several different medical conditions that are caused by the dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system. Within the category of dysautonomia is a medical condition known as Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome.

Like other conditions under dysautonomia, the autonomic nervous system does not work properly, making daily functions many take for granted difficult. Many people who have a form of dysautonomia struggle with their bodies not being able to properly complete daily functions such as kidney function, temperature control, blood pressure, heart rate, digestion and dilation of the pupils.

For a person without dysautonomia, these functions happen without having to consciously think about it. However, for someone with dysautonomia, these daily functions are most likely what is often on their minds.

Personally, I was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome in the middle of my junior year of high school, three years ago, at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. This syndrome has been life-altering in that I had to finish my junior and senior years of high school from home, and now I attend college online due to my physical inability to attend classes on campus.

Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome comes with some of its own unique symptoms. Daily I struggle with dizziness, presyncope, palpitations, brain fog, extreme fatigue, chest pain, anxiety about what my body will do next, visual problems, gut problems, irregular body temperature, poor sleep, and pooling of blood in my hands and feet.

Over the past years, I have strived to spread awareness about Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and dysautonomia in general. I have created a pamphlet explaining more about my medical condition and have also increased awareness through social media and word of mouth. Many people do not know that Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome is actually a common syndrome, just rarely properly diagnosed.

At this time, there is no cure for Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, but doctors are slowly starting to help patients treat their symptoms. Only recently has there been a push for researchers to start looking for ways to help POTS patients return to their daily lives.

While awareness is beginning to spread, I hope to further contribute to the spread of awareness here in Sheridan. Teal is the official color of Dysautonomia Awareness, so throughout October, break out your teal and show support for all of those chronic illness warriors out there.

Sierra Needles is a sophomore student at Sheridan College and was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome as a junior in high school.