Adoptees, Pseudonyms & Identities

The topic of identity can be a lifelong paradox and struggle for many adoptees. It’s much easier for adopted individuals to tap into their true identity when they have the truth to guide them along the way. However, for many of us, we experience secrecy, lies, and half-truths as soon as we’re born and passed over to strangers. It’s challenging for some and impossible for others to gain a true sense of identity when we have no idea who we are or where we come from. No one looks like us, and we don’t see anyone’s face looking back at us when we look in the mirror. We all experience different variations of complexities when it comes to identity. 

It’s widespread for adopted individuals to have many names and identities in person and on the internet in the adoptee community. In the 11 years I’ve been present in this community, I’ve had my own experiences with my legal name, changing my legal name, and having several different identities on the internet in those 11 years.

There are many layers as to why.  

It can be confusing to many and downright annoying and concerning to others. Therefore, I wanted to take a few minutes to share my experience with this topic to hopefully help others who might not relate be able to understand better. 

For many adoptees, we’re forced to split between two worlds when we are born, surrendered for adoption and adopted by strangers. We’re parts of two worlds, yet usually denied one of them. Our DNA will always be a part of our first families, even when adoption tries to erase that part of our life. We are very much our first families DNA, and even with adoption legally changing our names to our new families. Many of us feel divided between two worlds. For some of us it’s internal and subconscious. For some of us, it’s like critical pieces are always missing. We create a split to protect the people around us, and to protect ourselves.

For most of my life, my legal name was Pamela L e e p e r. That’s right, L E E P E R. What does this name symbolize to me? A legal tie to my previous life, one I didn’t sign up for. It’s a legally binding piece of my life I had no choice in, that I wanted to divorce. It’s a tie to my painful past, the one where I didn’t sign any adoption paperwork. It’s a reminder of my abusive adoptive homes and the people who abused me in those homes. It’s a tie and reminder to an awful and painful childhood, teen life, and history. And let’s be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever felt a connection to this name, well, really because it’s only my name on paper, not via DNA. The Leeper family tree is not my family tree.

It can be if I pretend as I did in kindergarten for that family tree project.  

No one on earth will ever know the depths of it all, but I know it, and this name L E E P E R was a constant reminder of it all. I hated how it sounded, and I hated writing it. I hated having the life sentence of being attached to it. No disrespect to the Leeper family; however, this isn’t about them. It’s about me, my name, and why I chose to change it legally as well as seasons in my life where I used pseudonym names to protect myself. 

What did that process look like for me? 

How many years did it take? 

Who supported me? 

Who was against me?

In 2010, I started writing under a pseudonym, “Adoptee in Recovery,” which was a way to share my journey and protect my real legal identity. Some people refer to this as a “Pen Name.” Writing under a pseudonym name for me was fear-based. First, I was afraid of people I was close to learning how I felt about adoption because if they knew how I felt, they might just leave me too. Just like my birth mother did. I was afraid of judgment and ridicule. I was fearful of being shamed because if I felt these ways, I must not be praying enough or spending enough time with God. But, I didn’t just “Let it go,” so I chose to hang onto the pain. It was clear I had to create two separate identities and keep things separate, and my life depended on it.  

The idea of bringing these identities together caused me great anguish far deeper than someone not adopted could imagine. I lived in constant fear of “What If” my adoptive parents found my writings and disowned me for feeling the way I do? What if my adopted siblings learned how I felt? What if my biological family finds me and reads my writings? Will they all leave me? Will they be angry with me? How will it make them feel, knowing adoption has wholly wrecked me? What would they say if I wasn’t grateful for being adopted and I hated it with every fiber in my being?

Adoptees are professionals at putting others first, before our wants and needs. But, unfortunately, so many of us are groomed from a very early age that our adoptive parent’s feelings are more important than ours, so we tend to be hypersensitive to how they would feel from childhood. After all, shouldn’t we be thankful someone took us in when our own biological families didn’t want us?  Would they send us back or abandon us if they knew how we felt? It hung over my head constantly, and I knew WHY I was creating a dual identity. Almost everyone else had no idea. Likewise, I have learned that many people have no idea of the complexities of WHY adoptees have dual identities. Sometimes fellow adoptees don’t even understand it. 

I get it! 

The pseudonym name did a great job at protecting my legal identity. However, it was one more veil of deception because I hid behind a pseudonym; people didn’t know who I was or the real me. Nevertheless, the pseudonym name served an excellent purpose for that time in my life because I wanted to be protected from others who might look at my feelings as an insult or attack on them. 

I did what I had to do to protect myself. 

However, things change.  

It was clear when I made this decision that I was still hiding from many things, and if I’m entirely transparent, I did not have the inner strength or courage to share my true identity, not for many years to come. However, my courage and strength were building behind the veil using the pseudonym name little by little.

In 2012, I decided I wanted to be identified online as Pamela Jones. 

One more step towards genuine authenticity.

Pamela Jones was one step closer to me identifying the real true me. Jones was my biological father’s surname, and I had the chance to see his face in person in 2010. So I created a Facebook identity under this name and disguised behind it for about two years. I made many friends online under this pseudo name. I knew why I was using this pseudonym name, but reality hit me that I still wasn’t being true to myself.

Another dynamic to Pamela Jones was claiming this piece of my history and DNA, but that part didn’t claim me back. My biological father rejected a relationship with me because I have bi-racial children. His loss, I know, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less. This puzzle piece made me want to divorce from the Jones name because I didn’t truly fit in with that family, although we share DNA. We have no shared history or memories together. It was a paradox non adopted individuals can’t even comprehend. I wanted so badly to be wanted by my birth father, but the reality was even after finding him and meeting him, he doesn’t want anything to do with me. 

It was time I let go of Pamela Jones

*Disclosure Statement: I support the idea of adoptees or anyone using a pseudonym name, however I do not support anyone using a pseudonym name to hide behind an account that bullies, torments, stalks, starts cyber mobbing attacks, or is vile and cruel on the internet. They are flat out cowards!

In 2014, two years after I stopped drinking alcohol, I decided I had gained enough strength that I was going to get my last name changed. I had started coming out of the fog in 2009-2010, and in that time, I became empowered by connecting with other adoptees online and sharing my story. As a result, I had a new level of strength I had never had when sharing my Adoptee in Recovery journey. 

First, I decided to ask my adoptive dad if he would mind if I changed it. He expressed his thoughts and let me choose for myself. The next step was to find a new last name. I live in America, and it’s relatively easy and cheap to change your name legally.  I wrote an entire article called Pamela Karanova: Welcoming The Real True Me!. You guessed it, K A R A N O V A was the new name I legally chose to get changed on my 40th birthday. At this time in my life, I was consumed with the church, religion, and Christianity. 

KARA was another word for PURE. 

Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is PURE, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

NOVA was another word for NEW. 

2 Corinthians 5:17, “17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the NEW creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!”

It was one of the most unique gifts I gave myself, a new name for a fresh start in my life. Part of me felt like it was divorcing the painful past that hung so tight by carrying the last name L E E P E R. This piece of me was dead and gone on to a new page and a new chapter.  The other part felt like I was finally controlling something in my life when other people controlled most of it. It was liberating, freeing, and exhilarating. Although I am no longer a believer, this new name was and is very special to me. 

I can honestly say that changing my last name legally was one of the most healing things I’ve ever done for myself. It was stepping into a new freedom of making a choice for myself that no one else had any say in. I wear this name so proud, and I love everything about it. It fits me. It is the new me. Today the “what if’s” that used to torment me have vanished into nothingness. I personally care more about being true to myself, than I do about offending others. I made a promise to myself several years ago, to always be true to myself and I will honor that until the day I die.

K A R A N O V A

I received 100% support from everyone in my life with whom I have relationships when I legally changed my last name to Karanova. The only person I heard disapproved of is name change is an aunt by adoption, who gave her baby away by adoption, and she talked down about my decision to get rid of her surname, L E E P E R. I do not have a relationship with her, nor do I care about her opinion. 

It’s currently 2021, and my only regret is not changing my first and middle name when I legally changed my last name. However, I know that in 2014 I didn’t have the strength to change my full name. My kids were still in school at that time, and I didn’t want to put them through the process of their mom changing her first name. 

One day, I desire to legally change my first and middle name, but I’m not sure yet what it will be, but I have a few ideas. Maybe for my 50th birthday? Maybe next week? I’m not sure yet, but I worry more about how other people will respond to this change and don’t want to inconvenience people to try to remember a new name for another chapter of a new me. Finally, one day I will get up enough strength to “Just Do It,” and at that moment, I will have reached another milestone of stepping into genuine authenticity.

I think it’s important to remember that all adopted people are transitioning to a new person every step of the way. Every time we get a piece of the puzzle, it changes us in some way. Although most people have the truth handed to them when they are born, they can’t comprehend what it’s like to fight for your truth your entire life and be spoon-fed pieces of the puzzle over a lifespan. It’s a different kind of life, and one only other adoptees will understand. 

I have learned from my journey of discovery that all of my names have been very symbolic to me and my healing journey. They have each served a great purpose to help me feel safe, depending on whatever space I was in at that time. I can’t speak for all adoptees, but when I see adoptees change names, and hide behind a pseudonym name, I can say from the bottom of my heart, “I GET IT AND I UNDERSTAND.” Sometimes these extremes go with the territory of being an adoptee and finding ourselves when our truth has been kept captive for so long. I’ve seen adoptees attach four and five last names to their names as a way to honor their birth mother, birth father, adoptive mother, and adoptive father. I’ve seen them change their names more times than I can count.

Being adopted is complex! 

As you can see, identity plays such an essential part in the dynamics of the adoptee experience, and this is directly reflected in how we represent ourselves in the names we are assigned at birth, changed by adoption and the ones we choose for ourselves. 

If you are a non-adopted individual, hopefully, this article sheds a little light on why names and identity go hand in hand with the adoptee experience. Hopefully, you understand a little better. Be easy on the adoptees in your life, and accept whatever places they are in regarding names and identity. We weren’t offered the privilege non-adoptees are given. Many of us have to fight the world for our truth, and every clue we get to who we are and where we came from opens a new door of self-discovery. Change is going to happen—identity matters. 

If you are an adoptee who’s considering changing your name, legally or online, I am cheering you on. With every fiber of my being, I understand how we can spend our entire lives getting to the point of finding strength from within ourselves and the courage to push forth with an outward expression of legally changing our names or even creating pseudonym names for ourselves. 

Every step of the way, healing is happening. 

For any adoptees who have changed their names legally or created pseudonym identities online, I would love to hear your stories on how you navigated this piece of your journey? Why did you pick the name you chose? Have you wanted to change your name but haven’t done it yet? Why or why not? 

Whatever you do, be true to yourself and follow your heart. 

Put yourself first. 

You deserve it. 

Love, Love

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Adoptees, Mental Health & Daily Self-Care

Once again, I’m noticing a significant amount of changes in the adoptee community, and it’s helped me reevaluate and reorganize my commitments on where I stand within this community. We all have the abilities to make these choices for ourselves.

Back in 2010, when I started to emerge from the fog, Adopteeland (the online adoptee community) was a welcoming place to be in. It was a light to not only me but hundreds of thousands of fellow adoptees. We made online friends, we built online relationships, and we helped one another online when the other was down. 

I remember all of the “aha” moments I experienced in hearing other adoptees share their stories, and little by little, my story started to come out just like the adoptees I knew that shared their stories before me. It was empowering. I was finally able to tap into my deep-rooted issues that stem from being relinquished by my birth mother and being adopted into an abusive adoptive home. I started to share my feelings little by little, and it was validating and freeing in many ways. Eleven years of being completely consumed in Adopteeland has passed, and I’ve learned many things in that time. 

Part of sharing my feelings on my website has been for my healing, but it’s also to help my fellow adoptees who might be reading from afar so they know they aren’t crazy for feeling the way they feel. Our feelings are expected for a not normal situation. Nothing is normal about being separated from your biological mothers at the beginning of life. 

As years have passed, I saw the recognizable need for adoptee-centric spaces that meet in person, in our neighborhoods, and our communities. After a close call with my contemplation of ending my life in 2017, I decided I wanted to take all the pain I was carrying from my adoption experience and do something positive with it. For me, I describe it as finding purpose in the pain. It’s saved my life to create Adoptees Connect, Inc. In return, the resource itself has saved the lives of many adoptees around the USA and beyond who attend our in-person groups. 

Around 2018, I noticed an overwhelming and alarming amount of cyberbullying and cyber mobbing in Adopteeland. It was disturbing in every regard. I have seen fellow adoptees bully other adoptees to the point of attempting to take their own lives. It was so disturbing to see, and I created an Adoptees Connect Social Disclaimer because of this activity. I decided that any of the platforms I am a part of cannot and will not turn a blind eye to this type of behavior.  All of our volunteers and facilitators must agree to abide by this disclaimer to join our organization. 

I was hoping many of the other organizations in Adopteeland would follow suit, but sadly I have been greatly disappointed in that area. 

Let me be honest, aside from the adoptee vs. adoptee discord, the internet, in general, isn’t a safe space for anyone. Adopteeland is filled with triggers for adopted individuals, and time and time again, I see the fallout from these events. Someone is always getting hurt, and that’s never a good feeling. Adopteeland, just like the internet in general, is a breeding ground for keyboard warriors to flex their muscles and mistreat people disrespectfully and downright awful. Many people have big balls on the internet, even women. I have seen adoptees turn on other adoptees or adoptee-centric organizations and the drop of a dime. It doesn’t matter how much good they have done in the adoption community. This is the same community they wish to protect and care for. No one can be trusted on the internet. All of my real adoptee friends are ones I connect with offline, off the internet. There is a small group of them, and they know who they are. 

Because of the increasing toxicity of Adopteeland and the internet in general, I have decided to make some very significant changes for myself, and I hope you consider doing the same. First, I had to self-reflect and ask myself how these interactions with other adoptees and organizations made me feel? Do I feel consciously good about them, or do they leave me feeling drained, sad, depressed, isolated, and alone? Do they trigger me? How do I respond to the triggers? Are they interfering with my quality of life?

A lot of the time, I had so many fires in the oven all over Adopteeland, I sacrificed my time as if my commitments to Adopteeland were a full-time job. I knew the commitments created needed resources, and they were areas that had never been touched in the adoptee community before. I held my commitment to Adopteeland as one of the primary and most significant commitments of my life. This is 11 years of time I can never get back. 

I can’t lie; it’s taken a toll. 

I woke up one day and learned I had been misled by this community I put so much trust in because I saw what they would do to others. I knew they could do the same to me. Adopteeland can and will turn on you in a heartbeat, stab you in the back, and LITERALLY leave you for dead. Most of them don’t care about you. You are just another adoptee on the internet. I have seen adoptees set up cyber mob attacks towards other adoptees or organizations and not think twice about the person they are cyberbullying or what they might be going through in their personal lives. After many years of seeing my fellow adoptees get dragged through the mud, I realized I could no longer witness such travesties. My heart hurts and hurts deeply when I see these interactions online, and it aches me to the core to see adoptees harm fellow adoptees. This is not the community I want to put my hope, trust, and time into. This is one of the main reasons Adoptees Connect groups meet in person in real life. To bypass the internet and build genuine in-person relationships.

It’s life or death for many of us. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are adoptees worldwide whom I have built relationships with online and who mean the world to me, and I will never meet many of them in person. They aren’t included in the Adopteeland problematic scene. They are kind, loving, compassionate, and would do anything for the adoptee community. I would do anything for them. They know who they are. 

Adoptees are tender individuals, and no matter what anyone does that I don’t agree with or dislike, I don’t have a right to cyberbully them or set up cyber mobbing attacks on that adoptee or an adoptee-centric organization. If I was to lower myself to that type of activity, it’s CLEAR that Adopteeland isn’t a place for me. 

I think it is safe to say the old days of Adopteeland back in 2010 are dead and gone, and for my mental health, I have had to disconnect and release myself from 99.9% of adoptee-centric spaces on the internet. Let me be honest; I don’t give my time too much on the internet these days. I have a beautiful life to live, and I don’t like the primary bloodsucker (internet) stealing the most valuable thing I have, my time.

Another dynamic to my mental health is not over-committing myself to adoptee/adoption-centric responsibilities. I sometimes think, as adoptees, when we find the online community, we get so excited we jump all in headfirst. But the kicker for many of us is that we forget to swim back to shore and find life again. It’s sometimes tough, if not impossible, to find a happy balance between life outside of adoption commitments and to be adopted and finding happiness in the world. 

For me, Adopteeland and adoptee-centric activities have drained the life out of me. I think it’s so important that we listen to our bodies and make changes when things aren’t bringing us solitude and happiness. It’s essential that we learn that many things are for a season, and we’re not supposed to sit in Adopteeland or the Adoption arena FOREVER. It will keep us stuck, and I am a prime example that it’s kept me stuck for a long time. 

I don’t regret a minute of my time in Adopteeland, and I am not disappearing. However, I have to put my mental health first because my mental health suffering was impacting my physical health. I encourage anyone reading this to listen to your bodies and what they are telling you. It’s okay to back out of commitments and also prioritize them. 

Adoption and Adoptee related topics are draining AF. The internet and Adopteeland are draining AF. Self-care is an essential dynamic to being knee-deep in something as heavy as adoption. I have developed a very effective self-care routine, and most of the things I do to take care of myself have nothing to do with adoption other than writing. For me, this means removing myself from ALL THINGS ADOPTEE/ADOPTION at times. My self-care routine are the things I’ve found that re-energize me and allow me to stay grounded and centered. Hiking, walking, writing, reading, bonfires, sunrises, sunsets, outdoors, spending time with my kids and loved ones, my dogs, arts and crafts, kayaking, tending to my plant addiction, etc.

Staying in something so heavy so much of the time can and will impact our quality of life. 

I challenge you, if you are an adoptee in Adopteeland spaces, to be mindful of your emotional, mental, and physical health being challenged. Be aware of your interactions on the internet, with others and how you treat people, and how you allow them to treat you. Be mindful of the triggers you experience and how your body responds to the triggers. Adopteeland can be an unhealthy place to be involved in. In the beginning, it’s like you finally found your tribe, a euphoric feeling. It has a lot of pros to it, but all of a sudden, you get sucked into something, and your whole life is consumed into it, from the minute you wake up to the minute you lay your head down at night. Nothing as heavy as adoption can be healthy without consistent and committed self-care and a healthy balance.

Every. Single. Day. 

If anyone on the internet has mistreated you, adopted or not, I encourage you to report them if possible and block and ban them from all of your platforms. However, if you are the creator of a platform and allow this behavior to occur on your platform, I would like to ask you why you let abuse happen? Turning a blind eye, you are no better than the cyberbully or emotional abuser. I used to have a loyalty to the adoptees in Adopteeland, but that ship has sailed and sunk to the bottom of the ocean. Unfortunately, there are many problematic adoptees in Adopteeland, and I will not tolerate anyone’s bullshit. Period. 

We have to realize that sometimes people make mistakes in person and online. We’re all human beings, and we don’t always get it right. If you make a mistake and have tried to right your wrong, and someone won’t allow for an honest, professional, and open dialog to find a solution for the mishap, you can walk away. If someone drains the life out of you, you can walk away. If anyone is bullying you and cyber mobbing you, you do not have to tolerate this behavior. I wonder what the online cyber bullies would do if they pushed another human being over the edge to end their lives? Would they still advocate for adoptee suicide?

WALK AWAY. 

REPORT ABUSIVE BEHAVIOR. 

BLOCK. 

BAN. 

DELETE. 

Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th is approaching. I picked one day on behalf of Adoptees Connect, Inc. to be a day we highlight Adoptee Suicide and all the other dynamics ARD symbolizes. I thought long and hard about this. One day was picked (over a week or month) because of the sensitive nature and focus of the day and how it can impact the adoptee community long term. One day seemed like a better idea than a week or a month because I worry about the mental health of anyone participating in such sensitive topics for a longer duration than a day. 

I am noticing the rise of a three-month highlight, starting with September being Adoptee Suicide Awareness Month, followed by October and November trailing on with some of the same highlights. I commend all adoptees who are pouring their hearts and souls into bringing awareness on such an important topic for the adoptee community. I support each of you!

First, of course, November is National Adoption Awareness Month, and it’s heavy and triggering for adoptees in its own way.  I worry significantly and even gravely for the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of all the adoptees participating in these topics for up to three months in a row. Do they have the resources they need? Are people spreading love and light during a difficult time? Who’s on standby when someone is on overload with emotions piling up during such a lengthy focus on such a excruciatingly painful topic?

I know for sure, my emotional and mental well-being can only take one day of it, and I am dedicating that day to Adoptee Remembrance Day. After that, I can not and will not be able to participate in more. It’s just too heavy. I would die committing to more, and I am not saying this lightly. 

One of the main points of me writing this article is that I’m worried about the adoptee community, and I see some awful interactions happening that are harmful and hurtful to the productivity of so many amazing causes. I’ve witnessed dark sides of adoptees I have known online and loved for years that I never thought I would see. In experiencing and seeing these things, I will continue to take steps back away from the same community I have poured my heart and soul into for 11+ years. My main focus is Adoptees Connect, Inc., and that’s the only commitment I have time for these days. Keep in mind, while Adoptees Connect does have a social media account on Facebook and Instagram, the root and main focus of the entire vision of the organization is creating OFFLINE adoptee-centric spaces that meet in person, in real life for many of these reasons. That’s where I choose to put my focus, time, and energy. I can’t get sucked into online drama, and I avoid it to the fullest at all costs. 

Please be careful with your online interactions and the amount of trust you put into Adopteeland. Please give yourself the gift of walking away from anything, anyone, and everything that doesn’t serve your emotional, mental and physical health positively. If Adopteeland is too triggering for you, either walk away entirely or set yourself boundaries and participate in small microdoses. Understand and recognize when your time’s up, and you can cross over to finding other fulfilling things in life. If you don’t do it on your own, your body will do it for you!  

Take care of yourself, and above all things, please put your Mental Health first. 

For any adoptees struggling right now, here are some Recommended Resources we have listed on the Adoptees Connect website. Please share them in your online communities.

Love, Love. 

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Learning to Live and Hike with Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT)

This is unequivocally the last topic I want to be writing an article about, but here I am. Acceptance is a real MOTHER!

Up, at the crack of dawn early on my second Saturday morning, to share a topic that’s one of my least favorite to talk about, let alone acknowledge and accept. I especially have a hard time sharing it with others.

My reason for sharing is because I don’t have the energy to explain some of my actions in recent months, and I feel I owe it to my friends, family, followers, and readers so they understand my actions better. I have had to back out of some things that I previously committed to. I have had to clear my plate of all items that are not 100% needed and necessary. I’ve had to walk away from communities, commitments, and even people to release some things from my life that we’re no longer adding to it the way I needed them to. The other part is me stepping out of denial that this is even a “thing” for me and stepping into the light that sharing this IS a real thing, and I hope a piece of my journey might help someone else.

A little back story:

In April of 2018, I started experiencing reoccurring signs of a heart rhythm upset, but I had no clue what I was dealing with, so I ignored these signs and continued my everyday life. Until eventually, it caught up with me. But that’s usually what happens when we ignore things. They always circle back around.

In May 2018, after a regular day at work, I visited an urgent treatment center when my workday ended for symptoms of chest heaviness, a racing heart, nausea, and fatigue; I was suddenly rushed to the emergency room by ambulance. My heart rate was stuck between 160BPM and 170BPM, and I was not running a marathon, hiking a trail, or walking fast. Instead, it was sitting still at work. This lasted for over an hour before I went to the urgent treatment.

The memories of that experience are vivid to me because it was the first time I had rode in an ambulance before. In transit to the ER, I remember the nurse giving me an IV and saying that I would feel weird, but he would have to provide me with some adenosine medicine in my IV to restart my heart.

Restart my heart?

WTF…

I remember things getting blurry, grey, and a hot flash came over my whole body. Finally, I faded out and back into consciousness only to hear him say, “It didn’t work I need to give you some more.” After another dose of adenosine, slowly, my heart rate finally started to come down. When I arrived at the ER, it was in the 130 BPM range.

The average BPM for healthy adults is 60-100BPM, and the normal resting for me is 80BPM. But, of course, if we’re exercising, running, walking, hiking, jogging, etc., it is higher, but average BPM starts to come down as you slow down activities or stop them.

As I arrived at the ER, they hook me up to more machines to monitor me, and they give me some medication to bring my heart rate down some more. Keep in mind, I’m a healthy person for the most part, so this was a significant shock to me to end up in the ER for heart-related issues. It would be helpful if I had my medical history from my maternal and paternal biological parents and families, but being adopted we don’t all get that luxury!

Eventually, the doctor comes in to explain that I have had an SVT episode. So, of course, my initial reaction is, “What is SVT?”

Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) is an abnormally fast or erratic heartbeat that affects the heart’s upper chambers. SVT occurs when the electrical signals that coordinate your heartbeats don’t work correctly. SVT occurs when faulty electrical connections in the heart set off a series of early beats in the atria. When this happens, the heart rate becomes so fast so quickly; the heart doesn’t have enough time to fill with blood before the chambers contract. As a result, you may feel light-headed or dizzy because your brain isn’t getting enough blood and oxygen. A normal heart rhythm is 60-100BPM. During an episode of SVT, your heart beats about 150 to 220 times per minute, but it can occasionally beat faster. Sometimes it can last a minute or two, and sometimes it can last hours, even days. Some people have no symptoms, and others have many. I have all the symptoms when an episode hits me, and they last between a few minutes and 6-8 hours. Sometimes I have to seek medical attention, and sometimes I have handled it on my own.

Signs and symptoms of supraventricular tachycardia may include:

  • Very fast (rapid) heartbeat
  • A fluttering or pounding in your chest (palpitations)
  • A pounding sensation in the neck
  • Weakness or feeling very tired (fatigue)
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Fainting (syncope) or near fainting

I had a few choices that the doctor presented me with while in the ER in 2018.

  1. Do nothing and risk the possibility of more episodes, which could cause damage to my heart if left untreated.
  2. Take beta-blockers 2x a day for the rest of my life.
  3. Take beta-blockers as needed.
  4. Have a surgical procedure called a catheter ablation to correct the faulty wiring in my heart.

I thought long and hard about this, and I decided to take beta-blockers as needed if an episode arose. However, I’m not a pill person; actually, I’m not too fond of pills, so taking two medications a day for the rest of my life was something I wasn’t ready to commit to.

I was discharged with beta-blockers in hand.

Life went on its merry way – until it didn’t.

In June 2018, the middle of summer, I decided to hike with two other women to one of my favorite newfound gorges not far from my house. They knew this gorge well, and we had plans to show me around to become more familiar with this gorgeous area of Kentucky.

We met at the trailhead at 3:30P and off we went. This particular gorge, we had to hike approx a mile in a creek that took us to the top of a huge waterfall. Once we hit the waterfall, we adventured down a steep scramble to the bottom. Once we got to the bottom, we hung out a bit, and then we ventured up another steep scramble to see a bat cave on the other side of the mountain.

By the time I made it to the top, my heart rate was beating 210BPM. Then, I sat down and took a break for close to an hour, and my heart rate was still 210BPM.

I realized I forgot the medicine.

I was screwed.

The following six hours of my life is a time I will never forget. It took us over five hours to get out of the gorge it took us one hour to get into because I could barely breathe, walk, or talk with my heart beating so fast. I took five steps, sat down, almost passed out dozens of times. Then, finally, I would sit down again because I couldn’t go any further, and then I would get up enough energy to take a few more steps. Sweat dripping, and my chest was hurting. I was exhausted. 

H O U R S seemed like days.

I honestly thought I was going to die in that damn gorge. But the ladies I was with were so kind, patient, and understanding, and they were not leaving me behind. Of course, they had no clue what they were signing up for that day, but I will always be thankful for their presence. 

We finally made it out, my heart rate was still 210BPM, and I drove myself home. I should have gone to the ER, but I had to work the next day, and it was already dark by the time I made it home. I was so weak I couldn’t get upstairs to get the meds, so my son brought them to me. I was so tired; I couldn’t even tell him what had just happened. So I just sat there in the living room in the dark – hot, sweaty, and exhausted.

I took a beta-blocker, waited a few minutes, and crawled upstairs, barely making it into my bedroom. Somehow I got enough strength to get into the shower, almost passing out. I just wanted to rinse my body off so I could lay down and go to sleep. I knew once the pill started to work, my heart rate would come down eventually.

By the time I made it to my bed, I didn’t even have enough strength to put clothes on. I wrapped my towel around me, wet hair and all, and laid down. I couldn’t believe what I had just gone through. Little by little, the beta-blocker did its job, my heart rate finally lowered, and I eventually dozed off to sleep.

The next day I felt like I had run a 10K marathon. It took me days to recover and feel semi-back to normal. At this point, I decided I wanted to get the surgical procedure to fix this problem because I never wanted to go through this again.

E V E R

I reached out to my Electrotheseaologist and made an appointment to set up the surgery. I expressed how active I am, my recent upset in the gorge, how scary it was and how I never want to go through that again. He said many avid hikers like me choose to get the surgical procedure for the same reasons. So in July 2018, I was scheduled for a catheter ablation, which I was hopeful would fix this problem.

The surgery was a success, and I was discharged the same day and spent some time recovering. After that, the SVT episodes dissipated into nothingness, and I felt like I had my life back.

June & July 2020, things seem to shift a bit. I started showing signs of SVT again. I have also had symptoms resulting in getting up out of chairs, getting out of my car, and bending over.

Sometimes I would be awakened in the night with my heart racing 130-140BPM. Sometimes I would be sitting at work or home doing nothing activity-wise, and it would go up and come back down on its own after some time. I ended up going back to the Cardiologist in August 2020. I was sent home with a new monitor, but after a week of wearing it, I decided I didn’t want to be bothered with anything heart-related. Maybe if I just pretended like it didn’t exist, it would go away?

I just wanted it to go away.

Life went on, and some symptoms would come and go over the next year. I took note, but basically, I ignored them as they were minor compared to the episode in the gorge. I have been hiking on trails that are various levels of difficulty in that time.  I have seemed to do okay since the catheter ablation. I have been hiking a lot in that time, and I have never stopped.

July 2021, I had a significant episode come on me while I was at work, sitting still doing nothing active. I noticed my resting heart rate was 120-130BPM which a standard resting heart rate for me is 80BPM. This episode lasted off and on for 10-12 hours. I ended up taking a beta-blocker I had on hand to bring it down because I was hiking the next day, and I wanted to enjoy my hike and forget I was having this issue.

It’s always in the back of my mind, but again I just wanted it to go away.

Around this time, I decided that I need to start putting my health in my own hands, which goes for physical, emotional, and mental. If I got honest with myself, my plate was overflowing in all areas of my life. Some of the triggers for SVT are doing nothing. However, some are anxiety and stress, as well as many other things. Doing my part, I started to slowly clear my plate of all items that aren’t 100% necessary in my life for my health. All extra commitments and responsibilities had to go. One by one, over the last few months, I have been clearing my plate. I can no longer participate in anything that is emotionally or mentally upsetting or draining. I’ve had to make some significant changes, and some of them have been heartbreaking, but I know I have to do what I have to do for my overall health and, in return, happiness. I’ve been setting major boundaries for myself. This has been life or death for me, because at 47 years young, heart problems are the last thing I want to be dealing with. But here I am, dealing with heart problems. If I haven’t mentioned this to you before, sorry. I don’t like talking about health issues, and keeping it private has aided me in staying in denial.

Today is a new day.

It’s only apparent that I have to make some changes for myself.

Things have begun to shift in my personal and professional life, and I had to evaluate the things that mean the most to me and let go of things that aren’t a priority in my life or they might have been a priority, but not good for my emotional and mental wellbeing. So there has been a lot of getting alone with myself and soul searching, thinking about the life I want to live and the future I want to have for myself.

August 20, 2021 – I flew to Salt Lake City to spend my post-birthday weekend with my best friend. We decided on Saturday, August 20, we would hike a canyon to Fifth Water Hot Springs. We had never been too hot springs before. This was a gorgeous hike, approx—five miles in and out. The incline was pretty significant the whole way in, but making our way to the hot springs was so worth it.

We decided to spend about an hour basking in the hot springs before we make the trip to the bottom of the trail. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, especially with my best friend. The ambiance was out of this world. We got out of the hot springs to gather our things, and I noticed I felt light-headed, dizzy, and totally off balance.

This is so not like me.

I sat down to get myself together, but I still felt sick. I decided to look at my heart rate as I felt it beating out of my chest. It was between 150-160BPM. I waited for it to come down, and it didn’t come down. We were sitting still in the hot springs, and even after resting out of the water for 30-45 minutes, it was still stuck between 150-160BPM.

Here we go again.

We waited longer, but it showed no lowering signs, so I decided to get up and keep it moving. At least we were going down an incline (instead of an elevated slope) going out, which would be easier for me. So we made it out, taking many breaks, and 1.5-2 hours later, my heart rate slowly started to come down on its own after about 3 hours at 150-160BPM. This episode was similar to the episode where I was stuck in the gorge, and if I was coming out up any incline like I was at the gorge in 2018, I’m pretty sure it would have been even harder on me. Don’t get it twisted. I love a challenging hike, steep scrambles, and I consider the difficult hikes something I enjoy to the fullest!

By the time we made it back to my friend’s house, I was exhausted because when my heart beats that fast non-stop, it does a number on me. I was feeling the impacts of this episode for the next 4-5 days, maybe even longer.  I realized I hiked a strenuous hike, around 5 miles, my heart rate was stuck for several hours, and I traveled by airplane. When I returned home, I was dead to the world.

I made it to work last week, but I was only showing up in a half-ass way most days. I could barely complete my routine tasks, and after work, I was home in bed. I had no energy, and I did not feel well. Finally, by Thursday and Friday, I started to feel semi back to normal. Tuesday, I made it into the heart and valve clinic, and after discussing this episode with my Cardiologist, it’s evident that the SVT is returning. I was told when I had the ablation that there is a possibility that the SVT could come back for a variety of reasons. I was also told other issues could come about after the ablation. I knew it was a possibility, but I didn’t want to believe it would happen to me.

So now what?

I sat in the Cardiologist’s office and failed miserably at holding back tears. Snot slanging, and my emotions overwhelmed me. I expressed my feelings of forcing myself to step out of denial that this is even a thing for me, and my hope of the problem being solved was shattered. I mentioned hiking, especially alone, is the number one thing I love doing in my life, and I didn’t want to be scared to hike alone or give such a precious thing up. So I told him I refused to give it up.

If I get one thing from both my birth parents, it’s stubbornness. I’m not a quitter, and I’m not going to let this heart issue stop me from doing the main thing I love to do. But, I won’t lie, this has been a difficult transition to step into.

The Cardiologist convinced me I needed to wear another monitor to catch an episode in action hopefully. He also ordered several tests to make sure its nothing else going on.

The thing with SVT is that everyone has different experiences with it, and it usually isn’t life-threatening. However, it depends on an individual’s lifestyle and the frequency and duration of the episodes on how it impacts each of us. Especially when I have the episodes hiking, it affects me significantly; it’s impacting my quality of life.

I have a few choices to make. I can let this paralyze me into stopping doing the things I love, or I can push through it and try to step out of denial that it’s even a thing so I can step into a space of truth that if I want to keep doing the things I love, I need to make some changes.

If anyone knows me, I will never stop hiking and chasing waterfalls as long as my body will allow me to go and run wild in nature! This is one of the things I live for. So I have chosen to push through and continue to hike. However, I am working on preparing myself; if things go wrong, what will I do?

I have invested in a new Apple iwatch six series that has some benefits for someone in my situation. They can now check your heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and they can monitor an ECG.  I will need to invest in a GPS (they are expensive!) device that will work when I lose a cell signal and almost always lose a cell signal hiking. I will have to let someone know where I’m going at all times and carry the medication with me if I should be triggered into an episode. I will have to talk to my close friends and family about what to do when I have an episode, and I will continue to research natural ways I can help myself when episodes should arise.

I’ve learned about the Modified Valsalva Maneuver, which helps reset someone’s heart when having an SVT episode. It seems pretty dramatic watching it; however, it looks like it does the job effectively!

One of the most important things I can do for myself is to walkway from the things that have been causing my plate to overflow along with anything that causes consistent stress or anxiety. I can control this, and I have been working on backing out of things and clearing my plate for a few months. I can honestly say it’s been exceptionally freeing to get to this space, but denial can keep us stuck and, in return, sick.

I am determined to kick SVT’s ASS around the world and back again. It will not paralyze me, and it will not control my life. It might slow me down sometimes; however, listening to my body is so much easier with less shit on my plate to tend to.

I’ve spent the last few weeks stepping into a space of acceptance that even with another catheter ablation, this might be something I deal with moving forward. This is important to me and could save my life at some point. However, acceptance hasn’t come without many tears because I don’t want to deal with this at the end of the day.

I’m reminding myself this is similar to when Covid hit us all, and we suddenly had to make some choices on what was the most important to us regarding our time and presence. So we cut back on many things to stay safe and keep others safe in return.

For me, this is my health and my life, so making these choices to step into a lighter role with less stress and anxiety will allow me to step into a space with more love, more laughter, and more quality time with those I love. Because of that, I am thankful.

One last thing I would love to share is that when someone is going through heart issues or any issues, it’s never okay to place a burden on that person as if they have done something or things to create this situation. We all live with stress and some levels of anxiety in life; however, it’s up to each of us to prune our lives to get to a place of peace and joy. Sometimes people are stuck; however, it’s not helpful to say things like “You need to calm down, and not be so stressed all the time” or “You are bringing this on yourself, don’t you think you need to let go of some things and your health might get better?”

It’s hurtful and can keep someone isolated from sharing important health information with those close to. I have gotten this stance several times over the last few years, so I just stopped communicating about this topic. Even when I had a legitimate heart condition, followed by a surgical procedure, it was nothing I could control, people have said these things to me.

Stress, anxiety and such can trigger our hearts to react a certain way, but it’s up to each of us to eliminate as much stress and anxiety as possible. Not those we love placing a burden on us that we are causing these problems; therefore, it’s our fault for the health condition. This is not helpful.

I’m not sharing all this to look for sympathy or prayers. I don’t need pity at all; however, if you are someone close to me and I have backed out of an event, or a relationship, commitment, tasks,  etc., this is likely the cause. Changes have had to happen, and in return, it’s opened my life up to a new path of freedom, even learning to live, love, and hike with SVT. It’s been emotional for me, but I have arrived at the place of acceptance. If you are a close friend of mine, I don’t need anything from you aside from a listening heart and understanding because if we are ever together and this happens, I would love for you to be prepared to handle the situation.

Stay tuned for a fabulous article on how I celebrated my 47th Birthday along side my 9 year sobriety birthday! I was surrounded by those who mean the most to me, my kids!

Are you an active hiker with SVT? I would love to hear others experiences.

Thanks for reading.

Love, Love