[00:00:00] Jill Brook: Hello, fellow POTS patients and magnificent people who care about POTS patients. I'm Jill Brook, you're a horizontal host, and today we have an episode of the POTS Diaries, just barely because our software's got ghosts in it today. But thank you Zoom for coming to our rescue. So today we are speaking with the ever patient and ever tech savvy Thomas, who I'm very grateful for. Thank you for being here.
[00:00:24] Thomas: Jill thank you. That's way too kind of you well, we finally got it to work. I'm very happy and very excited to be here.
[00:00:32] Jill Brook: Okay. So tell us a little bit about you. What is your age, where are you and what else are you good at besides computer troubleshooting?
[00:00:39] Thomas: Again, you're too kind. I'm not the best at computers, but I'm 30 years old. I live in Denver, Colorado. I was born and raised in Brazil. Moved here recently and I've been into sports all of my life, so I've been a competitive athlete through most of my life, and it's important to share that. Yeah, that's basically who I am.
[00:00:58] Jill Brook: Brazil, what is Brazil like and what brought you to Colorado?
[00:01:04] Thomas: Well my mom's American, so like half of my family lives in the US and half is back in Brazil. So I had lived in Brazil throughout high school. I went to college in the US and then I moved back to Brazil and then, A year and a half ago, like before COVID actually, I wanted to move back to the US. COVID happened it delayed my plans maybe two years or so, and then I moved, finally, I moved back to Colorado, mainly because I have friends and family in Denver and I've never lived here before. I'd heard great things about it, so I'm like, yeah, let's, let's go. So I'm here.
[00:01:34] Jill Brook: Okay, so adventurous spirit. Tell us more about the sports you like to do.
[00:01:39] Thomas: Yeah, so it's more on like the extreme type of sports. So I like skateboarding, surfing, snowboarding a lot of like, martial arts. So I grew up doing a lot of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and martial arts, and I think that would be like my main sport throughout like college was always, you know, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which is like a form of, of wrestling kind of you could say that.
It's become pretty popular now, but yeah, I wasn't really into team sports that much. Mainly like individual sports like that.
[00:02:07] Jill Brook: Very cool. Okay. So how would people describe your personality?
[00:02:12] Thomas: That's a good one. I guess just kind, you know, kind, empathetic. I think I'm sensitive. I'm more of like sensitive, artistic kind of person.
[00:02:20] Jill Brook: So have you had POTS all your life or did you have a life pre-POTS?
[00:02:25] Thomas: No, so it started like 10 years ago and it was during a, a time that was very stressful. I was over training, you know, I really wanted to compete in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but I also was really into surfing and I wanted to get strong.
So, you know, I would go to college, do like the minimum I would do for classes and then just train all day. So I would train like two or three times a day and I thought that was normal. And I would like diet and I, I didn't really do this with like medical supervision, so I didn't have the great diet.
I was in the caloric deficit. It was an emotionally difficult time as well. We can get into that in, in just a bit, but at around that time, I started to feel really weird, right? Really tired. And it, it gradually progressed to like this general fatigue. And I couldn't really perform at the same level that I was before.
I was sleeping poorly. I would just wake up and feel very dizzy and just like brain fog and then it progressed to the point where like I would train. And I would like overheat during training. I would feel super hot. I would like sweat so much and I would feel like my heart just beating super weird.
And I would faint like several times cuz jiu-jitsu is like, it's an intense, it's like fighting, right? So as I was fighting, it was intense. I would overheat and then all of a sudden I would just kind of faint right. Out of the blue, I would just like pass out because of the exhaustion, right? And I'm like, wow, this isn't normal.
So that kind of started about 10 years ago. And I think that POTS, you know, it took me a long time to get to that diagnostic. At the time I was, you know, diagnosed with like, depression and, oh, he's emotionally sick, or, you know, oh, he has chronic fatigue, which are all like very subjective. I do think there was, there was an emotional component to all this as well.
I was very stressed. I wasn't emotionally in the best place, but I found a cardiologist like a few years back that said, look, you have vasovagal syncope, you have POTS. And this is one of the reasons why you overheat, why you feel dizzy, why you feel like nauseous and and stuff.
So long story short, I mean, it took me a long time to get to that diagnostic. I do think it's at least in my case, POTS were more like a collection of symptoms than an actual sickness. Like I think that what I had was a combination of many different things, right? Like over training, poor nutrition, stress, anxiety, being away from home like I was living in San Diego and my whole family was back in Brazil, so it was very emotionally straining as well.
I think, you know, POTS is just one of these symptoms that I developed through all of this, right? Because I did have like digestive issues. I had other things that aren't really POTS related. But nowadays, you know, as things have gotten a lot better, I'm a functioning person, you know, at the time I wasn't.
I think that the more clear symptoms now are more of like POTS, like some type of dysautonomia there which is what I'm working on currently to get better on.
[00:05:19] Jill Brook: Wow. Okay, so let's go back to the time where you were still fairly normal and were you at college at that
[00:05:30] Thomas: time? Yes, I was in college at that time. Before developing POTS and these weird symptoms, I had a chronic back pain. Right. And I do think, well, is that a precursor to something else? Cuz I, I've done a lot of research and I do think that a lot of POTS is like neurological, right? It's, it's some dysautonomic thing with the brain.
So maybe chronic back pain could have stemmed from that as well. So I was pretty functional, you know, I was always super competitive into sports, so as I said, you know, I would train two or three times a day and feel great. Like I'd go surf in the morning. Then at 12 before lunch I'd hit the gym and like lift heavy for an hour.
And then at night I'd go to jiu-jitsu and train for an hour and a half and that was it for like months and months. And, and you know, I've always really wanted to get into that professional athlete mode. But it took me a while. But yeah, I was fine. I mean, I've always been super healthy and did a lot of sports.
[00:06:25] Jill Brook: Yeah. I mean, I just have to ask because it sounds like a real bummer to faint in the middle of some of your favorite sports, like I'm guessing, did you ever faint surfing? Did you ever faint sports? Did you ever faint skateboarding. And finally what happens when you faint in the middle of jiu-jitsu?
[00:06:42] Thomas: Yeah, so the fainting, at least in my case, and this is still going on, right? Not the fainting, but the, how the fainting happened is that I would overheat and I would get very dizzy. It's like when you pass out, like, I dunno if, if you've ever fainted before, like when drawing blood, right?
You kind of see everything go black and it's like, oh. So I would just overheat feel really bad and then I was like in a bad position. I was, you know, rolling with someone in jiu-jitsu. I was in a bad position. I was overheating and all of a sudden I would my vision would just get all black and then I like just faint.
But it was very brief and then I got to the point where I knew I was going to faint. So it, it didn't really happen anymore cuz I was just letting people know, Hey, I'm not feeling good. Let's stop. But yeah, it was horrible. The first two times it was super scary and very claustrophobic, you know, and I'm a claustrophobic person, and jiu-jitsu is a very claustrophobic sport.
But when you overheat and someone's on top of you and they're like 180, 200 pounds, and you're overheating and you're dizzy, it just makes it worse. So, yeah, it did kind of increased my claustrophobia, and it was very traumatizing. Like it took me years to get back to it because I was so scared of that happening again.
[00:07:50] Jill Brook: Yeah. So you said it took like 10 years to get diagnoses and like everything. So what, what did you think was going on at first?
[00:07:59] Thomas: Again, being away from home, it was hard to, to go through proper medical exams and stuff, but I thought I just had something called like adrenal fatigue or chronic fatigue.
And I think that was like a fad, you know, during the time everyone had adrenal fatigue or something like that. And then I went back to Brazil. I went to all my doctors. I spent like, you know, thousands of dollars going to different doctors and everyone's saying, oh, you have this issue, you have that issue.
Oh, but you know, all my blood tests would come back normal. Everything was normal. Like I did a a brain scan. Everything was normal. I'm like, this is so weird. Why is everything normal? And I was, is super weird because I was praying for something to show up on the exams, right?
Cause my family would think I'm crazy. Like, my dad thought I was crazy. I was spending all this money. He's like, it's all in your head. So it was very hard to not have that support. Right. So it took me about, I say I've had this for 10 years, but it took me maybe. Six or seven to get a proper diagnosis.
And then I would just kind of go through life, like try and eat better, sleep better. And I could still train, you know, like every now and then I'd go to jiu-jitsu. I, I train for a couple months and then it would get bad. I'd stop. But I had other sports, you know, and I think for me, specifically, my POTS sym symptoms and these things that I have, they're exacerbated by high intensity sports.
So even when I had all these issues, you know, I could still surf, I could still like snowboard, I could do all these other sports that are very chill. You know, they're very easy to do. It's very easy to go out and surf and it's relaxing. So I could still do those sports. I just couldn't do high intensity.
I couldn't do jiu-jitsu, I couldn't do like a lot of heavy weightlifting. So that was the main barrier there is, is going to those high intensity sports.
[00:09:37] Jill Brook: So what were your worst symptoms?
[00:09:40] Thomas: I think like digestive issues for sure. Everything I ate I would feel bloated. If I ate like fried foods or even if I drank alcohol and I was in college, right?
Like everyone was having beer and, and going out. If I drank like one cup of alcohol, it would like burn my stomach. Like that was the feeling. And I would feel like intoxicated and I would feel weak. I would have to go to sleep. It was very frustrating. I was very thin, you know, I felt weak. And just the overall fatigue and like the dizziness.
Again, anything high intensity like, you know, I would try to maybe do like a CrossFit class or something like that and I would just feel so drained. And overheated. And my recovery would take forever. So I remember even recently during COVID, I spent two weeks in Mexico in quarantine cuz I couldn't go to the US unless you were in quarantine for two weeks.
And it was very hot. I did like a Muay Thai class there. I overheated, I felt horrible. And then it took me four days to get back to normal. So for the next four days, I would feel like, like trash, like wake up feeling sick, feeling nauseous, feeling exhausted. So I think the number one issue was just general exhaustion, like all the time.
[00:10:46] Jill Brook: Okay. Well, I know from something you said before we started recording, that you have gotten quite a bit better. When did that start? Was that when you got a diagnosis or did you figure out some things on your own beforehand? What has your rebound
[00:11:03] Thomas: looked like? Yeah, that's a great question.
It's hard to pinpoint an exact Time when this started getting better for sure. It took me at least four or five years. The first four years were, were horrible. But it was a combination of lifestyle changes and a lot of this, you know, since I didn't have support from my family, I didn't have a, a concrete diagnosis.
It was just kind of like, I'll try this for three months. I'll take this supplement, I'll try this. And you know what really helped was Sleeping well. So having like a proper routine, you know, waking up and going to bed the same time helped. When I got that diagnosis from the doctor and he said, look, you have, you have POTS, you have vasovagal better your diet so that you're eating more frequently during the day.
And then also to be honest, it was just, I'm a very stubborn person. So when the doctor said, oh yeah, you have this, you can't do high intensity sports, you have to do something else. Your recovery's bad, your body's not handling it. We don't have an answer for you. But you should switch sports, right?
You should do something else. I'm very stubborn. I said, no, I'm gonna keep at it. But you have to listen to your body. So what really helped was, again taking proper supplements, right? So making sure you have all your vitamins.
But the supplements and then dieting, but also going into some form of light strength training for me was very important. So if I was trying to do any high intensity sport, right, it would just drain me and I would be like drained for two or three days. So that wasn't working. So I had to slowly build up my workout capability, right?
So I would just do like weightlifting for maybe 30 minutes a day. And then that would go to 40 minutes and then up to an hour. And then I built that slowly over years where I was able to do a one hour strength training workout and feel good. And I'm like, okay. And then I did some cardio, right?
Very light cardio for maybe 20, 30 minutes. And then of course you feel horrible the first couple of times, but I said, you know, compared to jiu-jitsu, this is nothing. I'm gonna get through it. But always listening to my body. So as I progressed through those types of physical activity, I noticed that I could do a bit more and do a bit more.
Right? So I think overall having that balance of proper diet you know, nutrition and the slowly building your fitness. But I think the most important thing was also a mindset change. So I adopted a lot of meditation exercises, A lot of mindfulness practices, and again, I do have this theory that maybe this all started with some overactivation of the brain and it kind of messed up my system.
I've always been a very, very anxious person, right? I've had depression, anxiety in the past, so I do think, all right, I'm doing everything right with my body, but I'm still not there. How is my mind, right? How are my emotions? At one point during COVID I was doing like a 30, 40 minute meditation every morning and every night.
Right. That's a lot of work. Most people don't wanna do that. But I felt a significant increase in all of these other symptoms once I had a proper mindfulness routine. Right. Most recently what really, really helped me get to that extra, you know, 10% that I was looking for Are the salt tablets, right?
The potassium. I'm taking those. No one had ever told me about that. I actually learned about this on your podcast cuz my cardiologist in Brazil, very old school. He's like, yeah, no one takes this in Brazil. You should just, you know, supplement with regular salt and eat throughout the day.
I'm like, no, I'm gonna try Vitassium I'm gonna see how I feel with, you know, three or four salt tablet today. And then I bought the Element electrolyte drinks. I don't know if you've heard of Element. Great brand. And then, I, I saw like such an increase in energy, like the first couple of days when I started with this protocol.
I'm like, wow, this is the missing ingredient here. And I, I've been doing all this reading that, like people with POTS, they should take up to 5,000 milligrams or 10,000 milligrams of sodium per day. And it makes logical sense because I've always had very low blood pressure. By increasing, you know, your salt intake, you're kind of also increasing your, your blood pressure in a sense.
So it does help with the dizziness, with the fatigue. So, yeah, the electrolytes for me are like, the number one thing I can't live without nowadays are the, the Vitassium, the salt sticks, and the electrolytes.
[00:15:15] Jill Brook: Wow, that's huge. So do you still need to do the meditation exercises morning and night if you do all the electrolytes and everything?
[00:15:26] Thomas: No, I I still maintain that for just my overall, you know, lifestyle. I think it's helped a lot. I've also noticed that these symptoms, like the overheating and, and all of that fatigue, they do tend to decrease if I'm in a more calmer state of mind. Also, I've been doing a lot of tests with, with the new doctor here in Denver.
So we did like a VO two max test. We did all these other exams and we're trying to make sure I don't have anything, you know, serious or any like virus or anything that's causing all this. But what, what we basically saw is that I do have trouble recovering. It's, it's hard to, to recover from that.
But my body doesn't react well to stress. And a lot of that can be psychological too, right? So jiu-jitsu is a very claustrophobic, intense sport. When I arrive to my training session, and I'm already thinking like, oh, will I pass out today? Will I overheat? Will I feel bad? It makes it worse, right?
So of course the electrolytes I think are more important than, you know, the mindfulness stuff I've been doing. It's been helping me a lot more with my physical performance. But the mental part is just as important, so I still have that routine. It's just not as intense, right? It's maybe like I'll meditate like 15, 20 minutes every other day. It's a lot less intense now.
[00:16:41] Jill Brook: So can I ask how you got started with the meditation? Because I'm one of these people, I know it would be so good for me and I have a hard time getting started because it just sounds like a lot of work and it sounds boring. And so, so how did you start? Did you have a, an app or a program you followed ?
[00:17:01] Thomas: that's a great question.
So, I, I explained before I had some back issues, right? I had this very severe back pain when I was like 18, a doctor told me, yeah, you have a herniated disc. You have to stop all your sports, go do swimming or something. So that got me really, you know, upset. Cause I'm like, no, I'm not gonna swim. I wanna fight jiu-jitsu.
So, I stumble across this book called Healing Back Pain by Dr. John Sarno. I don't know if you've heard of Sarno. So, Dr. John Sarno, he's written a ton of books on back pain and how to treat chronic back pain. So the first book I read was on chronic back pain and how he used mental exercises and understanding emotions to treat back pain. And I was at the end of my rope. I'm like, this is bs. This is never going to work. But I had done like two years of physical therapy, stretching, yoga.
I was like super fit, super young. And healthy. And I'm like, and I still have back pain. So I read through this book and it did change my life in a sense that I said, well, what if there is a, an emotional component to this? It's very strong. And I don't mean like you're depressed. It's psychological. It's, it's psychosomatic, it's different, right?
When your body's like creates symptoms. Real symptoms. They're not like made up. They're real symptoms, but they're, they have a deep emotional or psychological root. So that book kind of helped me get over the back pain. I did these exercises and my back pain was gone in like two or three days, something that I had struggled for two years was just all of a sudden gone, and I'll have it every now and then, but I know it's like actual back pain from my disc and not like chronic back pain. So if it's acute, it hurts for like two or three days. I know I did something wrong, I may overused it, but if it's chronic, It never got back to that chronic state because of that book.
So then when I started having all these weird symptoms, I went through the same ordeal going through a bunch of doctors and whatnot, and you have, oh, you have POTS, you have this, you have depression. I'm like, okay. These are all real symptoms. POTS is a real symptom, like the salt tabs, they help, I get dizzy I faint.
But what if psychologically there's something that I can also work on that I can get cured from, just like I cured my back pain. So that's where I stumbled upon meditation, and it's just a more consistent way of doing that. So I didn't start with like an app. I started reading a few books. And then some guy that I, that I really recommend is Dr. Joe Dispenza. I don't know if you've heard of him. He is very famous, like meditation advocate. So he has a lot of books on, you know, meditation. He was like in a serious injury, he like couldn't move for a couple of months and through meditation he was able to cure himself.
So he's had a very powerful story with meditation. So I've read a lot of his books. As I read through his books, I'm like, okay, this makes sense. This goes back to my, my issues with the back pain. Let's try these guided meditations. So he has a ton of guided meditations. They're a bit expensive, so I only bought like one or two.
The same concept is there, right? You can learn meditation through any source, but I learned it through him and it really helped me get started. It's easier if you start with the guided meditations. Right now, I can sit and be in silence for 30 minutes with no guided meditation at all.
But if you do that, like you're gonna get bored, it's gonna be unpleasant. So you have to start with a guided 10 minute, 15 minute, and then you slowly build up.
[00:20:21] Jill Brook: Okay, well that's so open-minded of you to go searching for that kind of solution, and that's amazing that it helped your back pain so quickly. That's wonderful.
[00:20:32] Thomas: I guess it's more desperate than open-minded, but.
[00:20:35] Jill Brook: Yeah, well, whatever it takes. So you had mentioned earlier that in the beginning you did not have a lot of family support, but then before we started recording, you had mentioned that now you have a fiance who is wonderfully supportive.
Do you wanna talk about that? What's it like to have support after not having it?
[00:20:58] Thomas: It means a lot, you know, cause to this day, like I don't talk about a lot of these health issues with my parents or with my family because, you know, my dad thinks I'm, I'm crazy and it was all in my head.
He was like, oh yeah, Thomas was depressed. He had a hard time in his twenties, you know? But it's, it's not that simple. These are serious issues. Anyone with, with POTS or, or these types of symptoms knows that it's serious. And very, very often it's hard to diagnose. So if you know, you don't have support, you're in this struggle alone, which is something that's difficult to diagnose.
It's like, you know, it can be overwhelming. And I think that with my fiance, you know, my partner, she's very supportive and she understands that it's difficult. And she's always supporting me. So, you know, she wants me to, to sleep well, to eat well, to take these electrolytes and everything that I need to do, but to also not obsess.
So I was also obsessed about finding a cure, about getting better, right? And she just helped me open my mind to like, well, what if you never get better? What if you're never gonna go back to that a hundred percent intensity? I mean, are you just gonna be unhappy for the rest of your life?
Right? I mean, so just kind of questioning my obsession to try and get better. And I think it's actually worked a lot better where like, I. Okay, yeah, I trained horrible today, whatever, and then just kinda laugh it off. It actually has been helping me to feel a lot better the next day. Right. So it's kind of counterintuitive. If you obsess too much, you know, it's not a great thing.
So I think she's been very helpful in that sense to just help me be more balanced. And yeah, it's, it's great to have someone that supports me and I've always been into sports and physical activity and I wanna live my life in that way. You know, we wake up at like five 30 in the morning. So something that's important to me and, you know, if I had someone that lived a completely different lifestyle, it would be very hard to be together.
[00:22:41] Jill Brook: That's great. That's wonderful. Has there been any silver linings at all that have come from having POTS?
[00:22:49] Thomas: Yeah. I. To be patient for sure, and to just accept, you know, things as they are, accept life as they are, and just be more compassionate with your body. Right? With your mind.
Because I was very, I think I caused this to myself, right? I was overcritical, I was a perfectionist. I was like, if you don't train three hours a day you're a loser. If you don't go and show up every single day, you're never gonna be a black belt. You're never gonna be the best. And this insane pressure that I put on myself.
I think it's very bad, right? And so I think this kind of taught me to slow things down and slow life down. And I think that was my main lesson, is just to try and be in the moment and just treat your body well. Because you know, when you're in your twenties, you think you're gonna live forever and you're always gonna be 20.
And, you know, that's not the case. And now I'm just a lot more kinder to my body. So if I feel I've, I've trained too much, like this week I'm exhausted cuz I train way too much. So I'm like, you know, I'm just gonna take two or three days off, not do anything, go to the sauna, go to the hot tub and then go back and train. You know? So I just think it's just being more yeah, more compassionate with your body and, and your life. It's gonna make things better.
[00:24:00] Jill Brook: interesting though that you blame yourself because you don't actually have any evidence that you did this to yourself. Right? It could easily have been a virus or you know, who knows what a toxin or something that no one has discovered yet.
But I find it interesting because it does seem like so many patients in this community have a similar feeling. I know that I do, and my story that I tell myself is that, yes, I was too much of a perfectionist and I was letting myself eat. You know, Splenda, I thought the artificial sweeteners back then, we didn't realize how bad they were for the gut microbiome.
And I have it haunting me that, you know, oh, that's what I did to myself. But, you know, sometimes I feel like we are too easy on the polluters of the world but it is interesting that, that you go there as well.
[00:24:55] Thomas: Yeah. Yeah. It's funny because I still struggle with that. Like, I feel guilty, like, yeah, you caused this, you made all these symptoms happen.
So that's why when I get in this obsessive mode of like, I'm gonna train two hours tomorrow and then work out the next day and do all this, I'm like, wait, calm down. If you do this again, you're gonna get worse. You're gonna get pOTS 2.0. Maybe we're not that fragile. Right?
Maybe it's like we just had, as you mentioned, a virus or toxin or something that, you know, was on top of all these other issues that you might have had and it just made it worse. I don't have a good answer for you on that one, but I do think it's something that I'm working on. But again, it makes me in, in this control mode where like, I don't want to overdo it again. Right. I wanna be, I guess more, more kind to my body.
[00:25:37] Jill Brook: Absolutely. Are you up for a speed round where we challenge your oxygen starved brain with just invited to say the first thing that comes to mind? Yes. Let's go. Okay. What is your favorite way to get salt, the electrolyte drinks? What is the drink you find the most hydrating?
[00:25:59] Thomas: The watermelon electrolyte drink. It's the best flavor. Gross. It's really good.
[00:26:06] Jill Brook: What is your favorite time of the day and why?
[00:26:08] Thomas: I think the morning, for sure when I wake up. It's just really good. I love waking up early, knowing that I have the whole day ahead of me. It's the best.
[00:26:18] Jill Brook: most glorious moment in all your sports?
[00:26:22] Thomas: Hmm. I don't think I've had it yet. My, my big dream is to go back to competing. If I go back to competing jiu-jitsu, I wanna have, you know, one or two really good fights where I give it my all and say, wow, I didn't let POTS or I didn't let any of this get in the way and I fought great. That's like my dream is to just go back to compete one day, not at a high level, but at just a recreational hobbyist level and, and not pass out or, or feel bad. I think that's my main ambition there. But I guess, yeah, the first time I ever like competed in jiu-jitsu, I was 18 and I won like second place in the tournament, so it was a very special moment as well.
What do you like about surfing? I just be in contact with nature. It's a very peaceful sport. It's very like easy on the body. it's just a lot of harmony with nature. I really enjoy it.
[00:27:13] Jill Brook: I must have done it wrong then, because I gotta say, getting back out into the waves once you've surfed in. I did not find that gentle on the body, but I was probably doing it wrong.
[00:27:25] Thomas: it's not gentle. You're right. Well it depends on where you're surfing and how strong the waves are. But yeah, once you get that conditioning then it's very peaceful. It's, it's very nice.
[00:27:35] Jill Brook: Got it. What is one word that describes what it's like living with a chronic illness?
[00:27:41] Thomas: Acceptance.
[00:27:43] Jill Brook: What is some good advice that you try to live by?
Just never give up. What is something small or inexpensive that brings you comfort or joy?
[00:27:53] Thomas: Tea I like doing. Like tea ceremony, stuff like that. So I have like a tea kit. Me and my fiance like making tea. So just that ritual of making our own tea in the morning and or coffee. I love making coffee.
Those two coffee or tea rituals are, are really special and they're, you know, very inexpensive and easy to do. Cool.
[00:28:14] Jill Brook: Who is someone you
[00:28:15] Thomas: admire? I think Arnold Schwarzenegger, cause I was just watching his documentary. But I've always admired him mainly because he set his mind to something and was the best in everything that he did.
So he was the best bodybuilder, then He was the highest paid actor in Hollywood, then he was governor of California. So in very three, you know, extremely unique businesses there, unique industries, that he was able to kind of get to the top. And I think that I admire that drive and that vision that he had. I think it's very inspiring.
[00:28:47] Jill Brook: Right on. What is the toughest thing about POTS?
[00:28:51] Thomas: It's very specific, so it's showing up to class. Right. And especially in jiu-jitsu where it's like a very intense thing, showing up to class and knowing that I'm at like a higher skill level. And then someone of course who's at a much lower skill level but is extremely strong or they're well conditioned or, or maybe, you know, they don't have POTS, right.
They can just absolutely like, run me over because I'm having a bad day, right? Because like, my symptoms are really bad. So it's just very bruising to the ego in that sense. And that's not what jiu-jitsu is about, but I'm human, you know? So it's hard. But yeah, that's when I feel the worst is like, I show up to a class and I get absolutely destroyed by everybody because I was feeling bad, you know?
So I think that's something that I still struggle with and it's hard. What is something that you're proud of? I think just not giving up and I met a doctor, for example, here in Denver who he works with people that have POTS and they barely function .
They can't get out of bed, they can't do a lot of the basic, you know, life functions that someone is able to do. And I'm just so proud that I was able to not only get past that, but still train super hard. I train maybe four or five times a week I'm doing something. I show up to jiu-jitsu three times a week and I still train hard, I'm not where I wanna be.
I'm not like feeling a hundred percent, but just being able to do that is, for me, a great achievement and it just makes it fun, right? I, I started in jiu-jitsu and all these sports because they were fun and, you know, just by being able to do them, it just, it's, it's very fun and I really enjoy it.
[00:30:26] Jill Brook: That's great. That's beautiful. So just a couple more questions. What do you wish more people knew about POTS?
[00:30:34] Thomas: I just wish it was more easily diagnosed. It's very hard to diagnose, like you don't have the best, like the best exams. I also think that, and of course hearing a lot of people on your podcast, and I don't mean to sound disrespectful in any way, but I do think a lot of people think, oh, it's an illness. It's like, this is who I am. And I don't identify with that.
I think for me, POTS is more of like, it's symptoms related to maybe something bigger that I'm having or some other issue. But it's a conglomerate of symptoms, but it's not, for me, a disease, it's not an illness.
Right. It's something that I'm living with and it'll get better, or maybe it'll, it'll get worse, but it's, it's something manageable. It's like you're born with low blood pressure, right? Or you're born with high blood pressure. I feel POTS is kind of like part of your genetic makeup, but it's not an illness.
I don't think of it like that. But I do think that people should be diagnosed easier and then I just think that there should be more support in the medical community, right? That that would be easier for people to get more clear support. Like is it supplements, is it diet? Like what should you do to get better and to treat those symptoms, right.
Okay, so last
[00:31:43] Jill Brook: question. If you can think back to your toughest POTS day or moment ever and how you felt in that moment, there's a good chance that somebody right now listening is feeling that way. What would you say to that person, knowing where you are now and how far
[00:32:06] Thomas: you've come? Yeah, I think there's a very clear moment to me, and this was, so we're in 2023 right now.
This started in 2013. My grandfather passed away in April of 2013, and that's coincidentally when all this kind of started as well. It was during those next months. I remember I was in San Diego at the time, going to college. I was living alone, and I just felt absolutely hopeless because I had put all my energy and all of my life's goals to moving to San Diego because it was the mecca of both surfing and jiu-jitsu, right? All the top Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes were living in San Diego. It was amazing surf. So I'm like, this is it. And during college, you know, you have a bunch of free time and I purposely chose my schedule so that I could train 3, 4, 5 hours a day and do all these amazing sports that I wanted to do.
And then just in a couple of months, not being able to do any of them, or I could still surf, but it was very tiring. As I told you before, it was extremely exhausting to do anything, even to like walk a mile. So I felt completely hopeless. I'm like, wow, I changed my whole life to be here.
You know, my family's back in Brazil. I'm here alone. Just to be able to do all these sports. You know, once you're done with college, you have to start getting a real job and become an adult. I'm never gonna have this amount of free time to go out and do all these sports, and I can't do them. So I felt like. You know, it's very spoiled for me to say this, but I felt like I was angry with God and I was very like, upset and I felt that it was unfair. And I was extremely hopeless and, you know, it was just a very, very difficult time for me. It was very hard and no one really understood it.
Like my family was like, oh, whatever. You're depressed. So, yeah. For anyone who is in this situation right now, you know, fast forward 10 years, like. Everything's better. I'm training, I'm still, you know, surfing, snowboarding, doing all these sports that I love at a high intensity, right? So I'm not competing, but I'm still doing everything and I'm 30 I'm feeling a lot better, a lot healthier and fitter now than I was 10 years ago. So, yeah, I hope this serves as inspiration that you can get there. And, there's tools for you to get there. There's people for you to lean on. But it is possible.
[00:34:24] Jill Brook: That's excellent. Wonderful. And it sounds like you almost feel like maybe you're there and you're even wiser for the experience you've learned these other tools, the meditation, the humility, the everything.
[00:34:38] Thomas: Yeah. And it's funny cuz when I was a kid I was always super afraid of dying and getting old, right? And I've just learned that this prematurely taught me that like, at any time you can get sick or these things that you derive your life's purpose or your life's pleasure out of, you know, surfing and training jiu-jitsu.
They can mean nothing when you're sick or when you're old. You know, I'm not gonna surf and do jiu-jitsu when I'm like 80, so I'm gonna be unhappy, right? No. So it just taught me that there's a lot more to life than just these sports and these passions of mine. And there's more important things right.
That you can focus on. So, I studied a bunch of other stuff. I studied acting and like stock trading and all these other things, cuz I thought, well, you know, if I can't do jiu-jitsu, I'm gonna study and do something else. And I just derived pleasure from other activities and from being with friends and families.
So I think, yeah, it was a hard lesson to learn, especially when you're like 20 years old, but now It's gratifying to be in that position where, you know, when I hear someone that's like, oh, I just injured myself in jiu-jitsu. I'm not gonna train for six months. I'm so depressed.
And I kind of laugh internally like, man, that's nothing. Time's gonna fly and you're gonna be back to, to doing your sports in six months. Like, just relax, you know, life is good. Awesome.
[00:35:53] Jill Brook: That's so great to hear. That is just really inspiring. So Thomas, thank you so much for sharing your story and your insights with us today. We really appreciate it and I know everybody listening is wishing you only the best going
[00:36:08] Thomas: forward. Thank you, Jill. Yeah. And I really appreciate being here. I hope this story helps motivate other people and I'm still working on it. Right? In, in six months, maybe we reconnect again, and I'll let you know, Hey, I figured out this other thing that's helping and I'm 10% better, right?
The whole idea is to be 1% better and hopefully get back to where I was before. But if I don't, you know, I'm still happy with where I am right now.
[00:36:31] Jill Brook: Wonderful. Yay, resilience. Awesome. Well, thank you Thomas, and hey listeners, I hope you enjoyed today's conversation. We'll be back again next week, but until then, thank you for listening. Remember, you're not alone, and please join us again soon.