Sydney Kay is a talented writer, surfer and student at PLNU. She spends her time like most students at PLNU spend their time; attending class, completing homework, studying for tests and surfing with her friends after a day filled with lectures. Sydney; however, does all of this while living with a chronic illness called “Dysautonomia.”
Dysautonomia is an autonomic nervous system disorder, the most common of which is POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), characterized by a sudden spike in heart rate and drop in blood pressure upon standing. “I experience cardiac, digestive and neurological symptoms,” Kay says.
“Living with chronic illness is a constant uphill battle and hard balancing act,” Kay says. “I have to make sure I’m putting my health first and redefining what my idea of college is and what it means to be a college student.”
Kay’s perception of a college student means that sometimes she has to say “no” to social gatherings and strenuous activities because she has a limited amount of energy within a day which she calls her “energy money envelope.” Kay says, “Some days, I’ll only have five dollars of energy to spend and I need to make sure I’m spending that energy on what I prioritize for the day.”
Though it is important that Kay recognizes she has a limited amount of energy and has to say “no” to people to preserve that energy, she also feels isolated in those moments. “It’s a work in progress,” Kay says. “In those moments, I’m accepting that it’s ok to move slower than people around me and even attending college in the first place is a big deal within itself.”
For Kay, it’s tricky navigating those social situations when meeting new people. “I look normal, but that doesn’t mean I feel normal,” Kay says.
Kay experiences a duality of appearing like a normal college student, yet feeling completely different from most people. “I’m more empathetic toward people and what they’re going through,” Kay says. “I’m hesitant to explain my situation to people when I first meet them which makes it hard to make friends because I have to do things that might seem like I’m distancing myself and that could be misinterpreted.”
Kay has grown to learn how to cope with a chronic illness in a healthy way by pursuing blogging and writing because she doesn’t have to feel good to do them. “It helps me feel positive about my situation,” Kay says. “I can release the bad emotions and discover the silver lining of my situation. It’s forced me to listen to my intuition and to give myself the most self-love I can by letting go of the negative influences and allowing me to be my true authentic self. I appreciate the little things in life like surfing, eating good food and going for walks.
This semester marks Sydney’s second at PLNU and it already has a lot in store. She says her goal is to get through this semester and have the most amount of fun she can.
“Instead of viewing school as a struggle, I view it as a privilege,” Kay says. “I want to make it through in one piece, have fun and continue to build authentic relationships. I want to keep working on my writing and feel enriched by my education instead of fighting it.”
If you want to read Sydney Kay’s blog visit: Sydkayokay.com or follow her on Instagram @sydkay_