Brittany Wattenbarger: Living well with chronic illness

One of the things I aim to do with this website is offer inspiration to others faced with illness in living their lives as best they can.

This is the first article in a series of feature posts called “Living Well with Chronic Illness” and I am extremely pleased to introduce Brittany Wattenbarger, of A Southern Celiac, as my first guest.  Drum roll please…

Brittany manages a condition not dissimilar to mine.

She has Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (the Classical type), Dysautonomia (Neurocardiogenic Syncope and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) and she is also a Celiac.

She manages these conditions alongside managing the needs of a very young family. On a daily basis, Brittany deals with joint pain, dizziness, fainting, feeling permanently cold and avoiding anything remotely gluten like!

As you can see, Brittany has developed a huge affection for her Ugg boots (who can blame her, the most brilliant invention for keeping feet warm).

She also totally loves coffee and coffee shops but more on the coffee bit later!

Brittany has been sick for most of her life, describing herself as a bit of a sickly child, but she wasn’t properly diagnosed with her conditions until she reached her late teens. You could say, she has grown up with them.

Managing chronic illness.

On a daily basis, there are many things Brittany finds challenging.

She can’t drive for one thing because her sight has been impacted by her illnesses.

She has also had to choose a mode of work that best suits her health conditions.

The job of choice is working from home as a virtual assistant for her Mum’s blogging business. It gives her maximum flexibility in terms of when she can work but also allows her to spend her time in predominantly seated positions to deter the fainting spells and fatigue.

A major part of her day is also about being a mum to her gorgeous, young baby which she manages with help from family and friends.

She says blogging is relatively easy compared to parenting which is pretty challenging. She uses a lot of coffee, tramadol, and ice packs to get through it. Her husband sounds like a complete hero, working three jobs, to help sustain the family unit!

Like me, Brittany struggles with group social situations or too much busy which leads to her feeling fatigued and faint quite easily.

However, there are times when she just has to do them – for her sanity’s sake. She tells me that being cooped up in the house with a chronic illness means there are times that she just has to get out regardless of the hit it takes on her body.

She takes medications and supplements to keep her symptoms under control. She also adheres to a gluten free diet, tries to eat mostly vegetarian and avoids junk as much as possible. She says she’s not perfect (who is?!) and sometimes eats too many gluten free brownies, but she doesn’t beat herself up about it.

Pacing is also really important, preventing herself from overdoing it and making herself sicker.

Keeping positive.

Brittany’s view is that overall chronic illness sucks but, despite this, she chooses to take a positive outlook on it and doesn’t let it hold her back.

She tells me meeting other people with chronic illness has been a huge blessing in her life. I would echo that. It really helps to feel connected with others who get what you’re going through. Otherwise it can be extremely lonely and you can develop a tendency to feel like you’re going slightly mad!

Her condition has also influenced her to start her own blog and to develop a love of writing. She reflects that she wouldn’t be writing or blogging if she wasn’t sick. Which is a similar reflection for me too, because I don’t think I would have been either!

Getting sick and coping with it positively requires a good deal of creativity and tenacity. Brittany has done this in the way she has adapted her work and work environment, how she manages her young baby with help from others but most of all with her attitude to life.

And who can forget the coffee.

Because coffee makes all the difference!

I have to say I’m with Brittany on her love of coffee. Personally, I am a decaf kind of girl but I do find a coffee in my day helps restore my balance. It’s more than just a drink. It represents time to sit down, stop, just savour the taste, the moment and breathe.

Advice for others.

I asked Brittany what advice she would give to others about living well with chronic illness who perhaps found themselves in a bad spot.

She reflected that bad spots can happen for her sometimes but, when they do, she likes to look at what she’s doing in her life and asks herself how she can do things differently.

She says “when you’re sick, you probably can’t change everything at once, but you can find small steps. Maybe it’s drinking more water! I tell everyone to drink more water”.

I suspect she tells them to drink more coffee too!

When you're sick, you probably can't change everything at once, but you can find small steps. Click To Tweet

What the future holds.

In terms of what the future holds, her focus right now is on watching her baby daughter grow.

She hopes to travel more in the future too, and maybe check some things off the bucket list. She went ziplining recently and the next thing on her list is parasailing!

Clearly, there’s no holding this lady back!

Right now she’s building on her love of all things coffee by featuring a coffee shop review series on her blog and she is also featuring what she calls “chronic coffee chats” with others who are chronically ill.

I love the tagline on her blog – food, fashion and fainting! As well as honing her love of all things coffee, she includes her experiences as a mum to her young baby, how she deals with her chronic illness and provides lifestyle and nutrition tips too.

It was great meeting Brittany more properly and getting to know someone who also has some of the same challenges I deal with. Even more so, it was inspiring to get an understanding of the positive outlook she takes on her life and how she can best live it, despite her challenges.

So thank you Brittany for being first cab off the rank with this new series of mine. It was a pleasure getting to know you.

If you would like to know more about Brittany, maybe grab yourself a coffee (!) and go check out her blog at A Southern Celiac.


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9 thoughts on “Brittany Wattenbarger: Living well with chronic illness”

  1. It was so nice talking to you! I’m honored to be the first in this series. Can’t wait to see who is next! Thanks for being so accommodating too. You’re fab <3

  2. This is a nice start to the series 🙂 Love the third person angle, somehow it enables me to put myself in the person’s shoes better. Keep it coming!

  3. This is a great post! I love both yours and Brittany’s blogs. It’s rare to see other young parents in the chronic illness blogger community, so I really resonate with Brittany and her experiences. I am also a young mom, though my daughter is 3, a little older than Brittany’s.

    Looking forward to reading more of the series!

  4. Wow! Great piece of writing. I feel like I know Brittany too!
    Can’t wait to see who else I’ll meet along the series…

    Love, love, love it!

  5. Thanks for the endorsement Kat. I have two young kids too – youngest was 4 when things went badly for me. Juggling a family with a health condition is another layer that requires management.

  6. I’ve got some great stuff coming – so many amazing people out there managing well despite being sick. It’s inspiring!

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