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Middle-Grade Books Featuring Protagonists with Mental Health Struggles

Mental health is a difficult topic even for adults, so it can be hard to explain to middle-age kids. However, there are a few middle-grade books that have very relatable protagonists who struggle with mental health:

1.”Better With Butter” by Victoria Piontek
A girl with anxiety disorder finds an unlikely friend—and emotional support animal —in the form of an adorable fainting goat. Twelve-year-old Marvel is afraid of absolutely everything—amusement park rides, food poisoning, earthquakes, and that big island of plastic floating through the ocean. She also obsesses about smaller worries like making friends, getting called on by the teacher, and walking home alone. Her parents and the school therapist call her worries an anxiety disorder, but Marvel calls them armor. If something can happen, it will. She needs to be prepared. But when Marvel stumbles on a group of older kids teasing a baby goat that has mysteriously shown up on the soccer field, she momentarily forgets to be afraid and rescues the frightened animal. Only Butter isn't any old goat. She's a fainting goat. When Butter feels panic, she freezes up and falls over. Marvel knows exactly how Butter feels and precisely what Butter needs—her. Soon, Butter and Marvel are going everywhere together, and Butter thrives under Marvel's support. Butter also helps Marvel. Everything is easier for her with Butter by her side. But just when Marvel starts to imagine a life in which she can manage her anxiety, instead of letting it control her, Butter's owner shows up to claim her. Will Marvel find a way to keep her friend? Or will she revert back to the anxious, lonely person she used to be?

2.”Kissing Doorknobs” by Terry Spencer Hesser
During her preschool years, Tara Sullivan lived in terror that something bad would happen to her mother while they were apart. In grade school, she panicked during the practice fire drills. Then, at the age of 11, it happened. Tara heard the phrase that changed her: “Step on a crack, break your mother's back.” Before Tara knew it, she was counting every crack in the sidewalk. Over time, Tara's "quirks" grew and arranging her meals on plates, nonstop prayer rituals, until she developed a new ritual wherin she kissed her fingers and touched doorknobs....

3. “OCDaniel” by Wesley King
Daniel is the back-up punter for the Erie Hills Elephants. Which really means he’s the water boy. He spends football practice perfectly arranging water cups—and hoping no one notices. Actually, he spends most of his time hoping no one notices his strange habits—he calls them Zaps: avoiding writing the number four, for example, or flipping a light switch on and off dozens of times over. He hopes no one notices that he’s crazy, especially his best friend Max, and Raya, the prettiest girl in school. His life gets weirder when another girl at school, who is unkindly nicknamed Psycho Sara, notices him for the first time. She doesn’t just notice him: she seems to peer through him. Then Daniel gets a note: “I need your help,” it says, signed, Fellow Star Child—whatever that means. And suddenly Daniel, a total no one at school, is swept up in a mystery that might change everything for him. With great voice and grand adventure, this book is about feeling different and finding those who understand.

4. “The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl” by Stacey McAnulty
Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning. She doesn't remember it, but it changed her life forever. The zap gave her genius-level math skills, and ever since, Lucy has been homeschooled. Now, at 12 years old, she's technically ready for college. She just has to pass 1 more test—middle school! Lucy’s grandma insists: Go to middle school for 1 year. Make 1 friend. Join 1 activity. And read 1 book (that's not a math textbook!). Lucy's not sure what a girl who does calculus homework for fun can possibly learn in 7th grade. She has everything she needs at home, where nobody can make fun of her rigid routines or her superpowered brain. The equation of Lucy's life has already been solved. Unless there's been a miscalculation?

5. “Counting By 7s” by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life...until now. Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief.

6. “Finding Perfect” by Elly Swartz
To Molly Nathans, perfect is:
• The number four
• The tip of a newly sharpened number two pencil
• A crisp, white pad of paper
• Her neatly aligned glass animal figurines
What’s not perfect is Molly’s mother leaving the family to take a faraway job with the promise to return in one year. Molly knows that promises are often broken, so she hatches a plan to bring her mother home: Win the Lakeville Middle School Slam Poetry Contest. The winner is honored at a fancy banquet with table cloths. Molly’s sure her mother would never miss that. Right…? But as time goes on, writing and reciting slam poetry become harder. Actually, everything becomes harder as new habits appear, and counting, cleaning, and organizing are not enough to keep Molly’s world from spinning out of control.

7. “Give And Take” by Elly Swartz
Twelve-year-old Maggie knows her new baby sister who smells like powder isn’t her sister for keeps. Izzie is a foster baby awaiting adoption. So in a day or a week, she’ll go to her forever family and all that sweetness will be gone. Except for those things Maggie’s secretly saving in the cardboard boxes in her closet and under her bed. Baby socks, binkies, and a button from Bud the Bear. Rocks, sticks, and candy wrappers. Maggie holds on tight. To her things. Her pet turtle. Her memories of Nana. And her friends. But when Maggie has to say goodbye to Izzie, and her friend gets bumped from their all-girl trapshooting squad to make room for a boy, Maggie’s hoarding grows far beyond her control and she needs to find the courage to let go.

📚 Happy reading! ❤️‍🩹

#themightyreaders #MentalHealth #Anxiety #GeneralizedAnxietyDisorder #ObsessiveCompulsiveDisorder #HoardingDisorder

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I'm new here!

Hi, my name is Looking4help777. I'm undiagnosed and can't figure out what's wrong. About a month ago I started having symptoms. Skin flushing, fainting, stomach and gastric issues, blurry vision, dry eyes and mouth. These attacks come out of nowhere. And I'll suddenly go cold flush all over, I don't always faint but sometimes. I also have a rash. Test after test and nothing. My heart is ok, no clots, no artery disease. But something is not right. I can't get any answers. I'm in and out of the hospital. Cam someone please help me.


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A Year In…

As a recently diagnosed person with Sjögren’s Syndrome, Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disorder, Hydradenitis Suppurativa, POTS, and Ehlers Danlos syndrome, I am coping and learning.

My journey started in May of 2022, when I complained to my PCP that my dermatologist kept telling me that my hives were a problem for my allergist, but my allergist kept claiming they didn’t do anything with those, to talk to dermatology.
She asked about any other symptoms, knowing I already had a history of ADHD, anxiety, PCOS, uterine fibroids, endometriosis and GERD. She asked about pain and I told her I always have some pain, but it’s never anything major and never consistently placed in my body. She asked about headaches and migraines, energy levels, dizziness, fatigue, about stomach issues and my bowel and bladder frequencies. She asked about my family history. She decided to run a multitude of labs including a THS, CBC, CMP, and ANA. When the ANA came back positive, she said we’d found an answer. Well, not the final answer, but we’d found a direction. So off to the rheumatologist I went.
After one very dismissive rheumatologist 3 months later, I found another rheumatologist 2 hours away that was recommended by a friend. This doctor accepted the tests that were previously ran by my PCP, added more tests to my list including another ANA and AVISE testing. This was how we determined what I had.
Originally thought to be lupus, (It’s never lupus!- House) they found Sjögren’s Syndrome primary, with UCTD in there as well. The UCTD could eventually become LUPUS, but I didn’t meet the full markers for a lupus diagnosis. With this diagnosis, I did the base line eye exams and began taking Plaquenil. While taking this, I still experienced pain, motility issues, and other things but after 6 months, I could definitely feel a significant reduction in my pain, fatigue, and brain fog. This alleviated a significant portion of my pain, which in turn reduced my anxiety and depression. On top of this, I also read about joint health and increased my Vitamin D intake (which had always been low without a supplement) and added Glucosamine, Turmeric, Ginger and Black Pepper supplements to help with any nutritional deficiencies. Since I have continued to decline every time my body encounters a virus, I have increased my water intake, reduced my caffeine and sugar intake, and made some major lifestyle changes.
Among my lifestyle changes, I have been advised by my rheumatologist to avoid the Sun. I’m naturally fair skinned so I already wore sunscreen but he told me that this goes beyond that. To cover my skin, wear a hat, sunglasses, and try to avoid being out in direct sunlight as much as possible. I have also learned that my excessive sweating is not just me being out of shape, but that my body fails to properly regulate my body temperature. It is a part of my disautonomia. Getting that diagnosis led to a cardiology work up, which indicates my life long fainting issues are POTS and nuerocardiogenic syncope, not “low blood sugar” as I’d always been told. I am currently awaiting an echo stress test to determine the cause of my exercise intolerance which has kept me out of the gym for 2 years. Basically, when my heart rate gets above 100 I start to sweat profusely. At 130, I get dizzy and lightheaded. At 140-150, I begin to see spots and my vision blurs and I have to sit down before I faint. I used to go to the gym and do the BodyPump, Zumba and cardio kickboxing classes 3-4 times a week, but I haven’t been able to make it through a whole class in 2 years. (Thanks COVID!)
I’m March of 2023, I finally decided to go back to the dermatologist (albeit a different company than before) to have them help me with my skin issues like cystic acne and spots that just wouldn’t heal under my arms and around my breasts. After doing more research and talking with an RN whose sister has HS, the dermatologist and I agreed that I do in fact have HS, not just cystic acne. We treated with a round of antibiotics and steroids, which made a difference temporarily. The other option she recommended is for Humira, but that is a much stronger treatment option. We decided to go the easy route currently, since Humira is not covered by my insurance.
Upon getting yet another virus in July, I became even more pained, resulting in my near trip to the emergency room due to 8 out 10 pain that I could not pinpoint in my body. My PCP thankfully worked me in, and gave me a steroid and antibiotic shot in office, plus sent me in a medrol pack and augmentin to help. She said if my pain didn’t reduce by the next day, to go to the emergency room. She ran more labs, which showed my calcium was high, so she sent me in for a thyroid echocardiogram which should no abnormalities. My doctors have all suspected thyroid issues for years, but I’m always within normal range, but on the low end.
We managed to get my pain under control, but I still have wounds that won’t heal, pain I can’t explain and more fatigue. I’m currently going to physical therapy because at that July appointment, she diagnosed me with EDS. Physical therapy helped me get my pain under control and I no longer wake up in pain. I’ve learned a lot of new exercises that do not stress my heart but strengthen my core, and loosen my muscles without stretching my joints. I’ve learned how to adjust my posture and added a seat cushion to my car, since that is where I am most of the day. I’ve learned why I just want to lay down when I’m hurting or feeling exhausted. My blood pressure is struggling to regulate itself, and I feel faint and lightheaded upon standing or while standing for too long.
I’ve also learned why my depression gets so bad. Who knew inflammation can cause severe, mind altering depression? I’ve struggled for years with intrusive thoughts but I knew I wasn’t typically depressed because I never considered suicide. I simply could tell my brain wasn’t working right, but I had no clue why.
Ugh, this has been a rambling mess, but it’s the simplest way to explain everything that has changed about me this year. And it’s a lot. I know I’m nowhere near through learning, but I hope to find the right answers. I’m reading about diet and looking for a job that still pays well but allows me to avoid the Sun, so maybe something WFH? Who knows what I’ll look like or life will be like next year, but I’m thankful for the answers I have and the answers to come. If you relate to any of these, please feel free to comment. It’s nice to know you’re not alone in all this.
#EhlersDanlosSyndrome #SjogrensSyndrome #UndifferentiatedConnectiveTissueDisease #HidradenitisSuppurativa #POTS #Dysautonomia #NeurocardiogenicSyncope

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My little mascot…

Last night I really struggled to get some sleep. On Friday, while walking from a shop to a taxi, I lifted my left leg to take a step and I felt a twinge in my lower back. Then, when I went to lift my right leg to do the same, I nearly crumpled to the floor as an intense cramp went through the entire of my lower back. I managed to hobble my way to the taxi and got myself home.

I’ve been using heat pads and an anti-inflammatory gel and it’s given very little relief, but I persevered. Then, last night at around midnight I had a POTS episode whilst I was on my way to the bathroom before bed. I fainted and hit the floor hard, according to my mum. I’m just glad I wasn’t conscious when I hit the floor because I can only imagine the pain I would’ve felt.

After the episode, I really struggled to get up, get to the bathroom and get to bed. But I managed it. I took extra painkillers but I just could not get comfortable. I tried lying on my side with a pillow between my knees, I tried lying on my back with a cushion under the curve of my spine. Nothing was working. Eventually, I gave up and pulled out my laptop to do some more notes on my novel.

As usual, Loki was sticking to my side. Like he normally does when I’m unwell or in pain. He came up for lots of cuddles and fusses. Until he settled behind my fan, and slowly crawled up until his head was peeking at me from behind the screen. He looked so cute, I had to take a photo. My little mascot. Somehow… He always makes me feel better. And I feel like he really does love me back.

Anyway, I spent the night just tapping away on my laptop, listening to quiet music while I made my notes and tweaks. I just wanted to show you all how much of a good boy he is. Don’t worry - he was given lots of treats and belly rubs.

#chronicillnesswarrior #ChronicPain #POTS #AutonomicDysfunction #EhlersDanlosSyndrome #EDS #PosturalOrthostaticTachycardiaSyndrome #Jointpain #Fainting #BackPain #cramps #Pain #InterstitialCystitis #BPD #NAFLD #LiverDisease #FattyLiverDisease #Diabetes #Migraines #Cats #Animals #TherapyPet #TherapyAnimal #therapycat

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Medical PTSD and ME

Journal entry:

From very early on, I was a pretty sick kid, until I was diagnosed with anxiety. From then on in my medical journey, almost everything has always come back to being explained as anxiety or just a symptom of anxiety. Most of my symptoms haven't even been explored because of this and it makes it hard for me to feel heard and believed. I also don't feel comforted by the words of a doctor who doesn't order any tests to see if it could be anything else.

I once asked my doctor, back in Florida, if there was anything else the symptoms could be other than anxiety and all she said was, "we can't test for anxiety." I don't feel like that was what I was asking but I left it at that. I stopped going to that practice after multiple bad experiences... During my time there, I had an infection ignored until it got so bad they finally put me on antibiotics after the second visit, I was called a drug addict and threatened to take off my .5mg of Xanax I had been on for years for my panic attacks (and subsequently was banned from them). Why did they think I was an addict? I simply asked to refill my order... the doctor said they'd run tests first to make sure I wasn't abusing them... .5mg.. that's such a low dose and I wasn't asking to renew my prescription early or anything. I sometimes even refilled late if I didn't need them as much that month... To be fair though, I now haven't had any Xanax for a couple of years and I still have panic attacks but I've learned to manage without them by living less of a life. Sometimes I wish I had something I could take when I experience them, but I always make it through. Maybe they were a bit of a crutch. That's just not the way to learn you're using them wrong if that's the case. I may have needed to be better educated, but not accused of being an addict.

Thinking back, I remember being practically scolded as a kid for being sick and needing to go to the doctor. Doctors are expensive and my brother and I both had medical issues. I think my mom was just at her wits' end with the bills and my dad would just say "you're fine" and that I was overexaggerating... and I probably was as a kid. Especially seeing as my dad was a medic in the military, if I wasn't missing a limb, I was probably fine. As a kid, I just didn't have the life experience to not be scared when I'd get dizzy or sick. I now know I can get dizzy every day and push through the work week. I now know I can fall... hit my head on multiple occasions.. and be told by EMTs to just sleep it off (literally happened recently). Part of me is angry that I've had to go through those experiences practically ignored... and another part of me sees how resilient the human body really is. I guess I can see why doctors don't think much is a big deal. I just wish I didn't find these not-so-big deals terrifying.

Recently, and I mean this week, I had my medical PTSD triggered. I fainted this past Saturday and hit my head. I was so scared because this just keeps happening and I feel like I have no answers. I just want to know what I can do differently, whether it be medication or a better diet, to keep them from happening again. I'm already working on a better diet and had been when it happened... I do understand, now anyway, that it could be something so simple. And yet, until talking to some girlfriends of mine and then getting a nutritionist, I didn't know this. One of my doctors should have explored my diet sooner, in my opinion.

A couple of months ago... I took my partner in to see our doctor and I went with him into the appointment. It was almost a night and day difference in how I've been treated, it felt like. He went in due to "being tired" and having a harder time getting and keeping... you know, a boner. So, the doctor went over all kinds of things it could be, asked about his diet and mood and etc. Not only did he get a full blood panel workup (he had several vials of blood taken), but our doctor explained what he could eat for a better diet to give him more energy and he put him on depression medication.. all in one visit. I was so surprised.

So, I thought that when I called my doctor to tell him about another fainting spell and discuss with him what my nutritionist had relayed to me, he would know what tests to order. Instead, he said "I need to know exactly which tests to order... I can't just go ordering a bunch of tests, you're insurance won't cover it." I cried. PTSD overload. Fear turned into anger and I said to my doctor "you need to step up your game, you should know what kind of tests to order." His response was "you have to be more polite." I just broke down and cried uncontrollably at this point. He then huffed and said "fine" he would put in an order for all of the tests. By then, I was too triggered to go get them done.

I didn't sleep for 48 hours, I had flashbacks to being in the hospital and became irrationally afraid after lack of sleep of being hospitalized again. That was my PTSD hitting a crisis point.

Thankfully, after talking to my psychiatrist as well as getting some other stressors off of my plate, I was finally able to sleep and my mood and PTSD recalibrated themselves. It didn't help that one of my cats was and is sick and I had to take her to the vet and then I didn't have a good couple's therapy appointment all in the same 48 hour period.

I'm so so tired.

#PTSDSupportAndRecovery #PTSD #MedicalPtsd

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Dear Chronic Pain,

Part 1 of 2 I remember when you first reared your ugly head in my life. You were gentle at first: a twinge in my lower back, a kink in my neck, a sore wrist from writing. You were there, just peeking around the corner, over the counter, from under the covers, only just enough for me to catch glimpses of you. And then, you would go away, like you had never been here at all, and I wouldn’t see you again for a while.

And all of a sudden, you were always there, and it got harder and harder to ignore you. You went from being the voice that whispers at me in the middle of the night to the father figure screaming an inch away from my face, forcing me to notice you. It started to become difficult to get out of bed in the morning; going to school and work felt like climbing Mount Everest. I started to hate you, because you would never go away.

You became the constant ache in my spine, the shooting pains in my hips, the locking wrists three words into whatever I’m working on, the jabbing pain in my collarbones that came so sporadically. You became the inability to stand in one place for any period of time without aching, and I started to realize you weren’t going to leave; I really started to hate you then. I prayed every night to a god I didn’t even believe in that you would go away, but nearly every morning, I woke up, and you were still there. And on the mornings you weren’t, you always seemed to wait until the opportune moment to make another entrance, and remind me that I was no longer in control.

By the time I graduated high school, I still had no idea what you were – all I knew was that I was in pain, and that it was near-constant. I pushed myself to go to college, work a full time job, and continue doing all the activities I was doing before, but you kept making it harder and harder. At my college graduation ceremony, I smiled for the camera and walked across the stage with confidence, and no one would know that you were there. Your icy hands gripped my ankles, making it hard to stand in my shoes, and your hot breath shot up my back, threatening to falter my smile: you didn’t.

I started to wake up tired; eight, nine, even twelve hours of sleep just never seemed to be enough, so I slept less. It didn’t make sense to waste potentially productive time sleeping when I never got rest anyway, but even when I was awake for that extra three to four hours, I never had the energy to do anything. I had always dealt with anxiety and depression, but now, you used them as a pawn in your game against me. On days when I had low energy, I would beat myself up, unable to accept that I couldn’t do the things I wanted or meant to. I started to have anxiety whenever I couldn’t manage the pain, which eventually lead to panic attacks with time.

Even though you’ve been a nightmare, you haven’t been the worst part of all of this. There was nothing worse than laying in bed, fighting back tears due to the amount of pain in whatever body part(s) you chose to visit that day, and being screamed at to “just get up already.” There is nothing worse than not being believed by the ones you love, nothing worse than being told “it’s all in your head” and to “stop whining.” So I started to internalize. I didn’t share how bad it had gotten, with anyone, for a long time, because I was afraid of not being believed. Even now, I often downplay how much pain I am in, or how often I am in pain, because why burden others with my problems?

Modern medicine was no help; I saw countless doctors, physiotherapists, and chiropractors, and I tried an array of pain medications, but nothing would make you go. Doctors started to dampen my expectations, assuring me that they would do what they could, but never any promise of results, never an official diagnosis. I was told time and again that I suffered from chronic pain with no clear cause, which is the equivalent of handing an umbrella to someone trapped in a hurricane; it doesn’t help anyone.

It has been nearly a decade since you first crept into my life. I am 26 now, and I have come to find out that I have a compacted lower spine, which can explain away the back pain, but I still have so much pain with no answers. I now have sharp, stabbing pains to go along with my regular aches. I am tired the moment I wake. I can’t always concentrate and I tend to forget a lot of little things. I am moody and irritable at times and, though I try to keep it under control, my partner often gets the brunt of it. I occasionally get cold at the snap of a finger, and it can be really hard to warm up; sometimes I overheat as soon as I have a sweater on, and have to dig around for a thin blanket instead. My depression and anxiety have worsened over the years though, fortunately, medication has helped to alleviate some of those symptoms. And just when I thought this couldn’t get

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Dear Chronic Pain,

Part 2 of 2 any worse, that I had it all figured out, I started having bouts of extreme dizziness and occasional fainting spells in the last three months.

I remember what life was like before you crept into it. I could walk for hours and never get sore. I could keep up with my friends in dance class, my body not screaming for me to stop. I remember how good it felt to wake up after a long, hard sleep. Sometimes, I wish I couldn’t remember these things, because you took them from me, and for that, I hated you.

I hated you for a long time, and I put so much of myself into that hatred. But, with time, I’ve come to realize that it is not worth the energy to hate you. What I mean by that is that I have spent so much of the little energy I have hating you that I have let more important things slip by me. I have let life pass me by, time and again, because I have exhausted myself hating you – but not anymore. Instead, I will put my energy into learning to live with you more effectively, and into fighting you. One day, I will find a clearer answer than that general term “chronic pain” and, though no diagnosis will allow me to go back to the life I once had, and no diagnosis will bring a cure, it will at least be an answer.

Edit: It’s important to note that this was written years ago. I am now 30 and diagnosed with hEDS as well as a handful of comorbid disorders. I may not have a cure, but the answers have certainly eased my mind some in knowing I’m not crazy!!

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Hi! My name is mal. I’ve been having these symptoms and honestly I don’t know what they are I’ve had lots of these for years and I recently went to the doctor about this and he told me that I was dehydrated which i was but my symptoms didn’t get better with drinking more water. For context I have been diagnosed with anxiety, adhd and an eating disorder anyway to the symptoms.
.cold and hot flashes
.constant purple/mottled hands and legs
. Numb hands
.often dizzy
.when I stand up I often sit back down because of feeling lightheaded
. Nausea before eating
.often sweaty
.often tired after simple tasks (dishes, making bed)
If anyone knows anything related to these symptoms I would appreciate so much if you could reach out. Thank you!!! #help #nausea #Dizziness #dizzy #cold flashes #Hot flashes #numbness #purplehands #Fainting #lightheaded #Sweaty #chronic fatigue

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Just saying hello

Just wanted to introduce myself! I’m Jody, a fellow #Potsie I am 56 yo, however I feel so much older as I have a total of 15 dx chronic diseases. Unfortunately, a little more than 2 years ago, I was fainting just a little too much (lol… 🤣), as well as having "gray outs", and my wonderful doctor told me that I could no longer get behind the wheel of a car!! It’s really nice to have to depend on your 85 yo mom to drive you around (who we are not sure if she should/should not be driving distances & freeways) to doctor’s appointments, etc.
#livinglifeinafishbowl #PosturalOrthostaticTachycardiaSyndrome #saltlick #Dysautonomia #SmallFiberNeuropathy #MastCellActivationDisorder #Gastroparesis #EhlersDanlosSyndrome #Subluxations #dislocations #Fibromyalgia #ChronicMigraines #ChronicNausea #ChronicDiarrhea #chronicconstipation #MyalgicEncephalomyelitisChronicFatigueSyndrome #Osteoarthritis #RheumatoidArthritis #Facetarthritis #ChronicPain #Depression #Lonliness #bored #icantpeople

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I'm new here!

Hi, my name is Big_Boys_Mom1. I'm here because I think my son has POTS/EDS. Waiting for him to see a dysautonomia cardiologist. Good & bad days, good & bad moments. Fainting spells almost daily. Seizures. He can’t be alone. It’s scary for all of us. So many tests. So many bills. So few doctors. He’s frustrated! So are we!


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