14. Strongman and Mental Strength with Dysautonomia – Andrea Graham
On this week’s podcast, I enjoyed talking with Andrea Graham, a Strongman athlete, homeschooling mom of two children, and dysautonomia warrior. Like Patricia Stott and Jennifer Harmon, Andrea manages a trifecta of comorbid conditions—POTS, MCAS, and EDS. For Andrea, the condition that is most challenging to manage is POTS.
Andrea has been sick for 15 years now, since she was 18 years old. In college, she was active and working as a personal trainer when she passed out one day in front of Walmart. She was diagnosed with a form of dysautonomia called neurocardiogenic syncope (NCS). While her NCS came in flares, she was able to manage it with blood pressure medication. Years later, when she became pregnant with her first child, her symptoms were greatly exacerbated, and she was diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS).
On our podcast, Andrea speaks about the poignant realization of “waking up one day and realizing that you’re sick for the rest of your life.” She shares that her life doesn’t look like the life she’d dreamed of for herself, but she endures. She credits mental strength for her perseverance.
After her POTS symptoms manifested, Andrea struggled to get out of bed, let alone workout. She shares that she came to an important realization: “Nothing’s going to change until I try every single thing I can possibly try.” She began methodically working through a list of interventions, searching for what worked for her body.
Exercise was on the list of things to try. With a rowing machine lent by a POTSie she’d met through a local support group, Andrea got to work, first exercising in the commercial breaks. Then, she got a membership to a local gym, where she appreciated the safety net of having trainers able to spot her as she progressed. Now, she’s gearing up for another year of Strongman competitions.
Andrea has a passion for Strongman—the struggle, the variety of lifts, and the competitions themselves. She shares that becoming physically stronger also increases her mental strength, allowing her to deal with flares.
Badasses will appreciate hearing Andrea’s determination, as well as the frustration of needing to start over again following every flare and/or hospitalization.
Links from our discussion:
- Andrea’s Instagram
- Disabled Girls Who Lift – Instagram, Podcast
- Dallas/CHOPS Exercise Protocol for POTS Patients
To contact us about the podcast or your own Badassery, email firstname.lastname@example.org. And, for your daily dose of Badass athletes who are redefining what it means to be chronically ill, follow @chronicallybadassclub on Instagram and Facebook.
Podcast music by: Caleb Ritchie