After being diagnosed with a chronic illness three years ago, Allison Tennyson (@microcatmachine) has taken to social media to create a safe place and break stigmas. Now, the disability and chronic illness content creator advocates and empowers through sharing her story.
Allison recalls her diagnosis of Postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTs) as sudden and confusing. “One day, I got sick,” she says. “My heart was racing, I was nauseous, I was out of breath. I kept going from doctor to doctor but nothing was fitting the whole picture, until I finally saw a neurologist and he sent me off to a PoTs specialist.”
She explains that PoTs causes dysfunction of the automatic nervous system, sharing that the hallmark symptom is an increased heart rate. Allison says that every time she stands up, her heart rate increases by 30 beats per minute and remains at that pace until she returns to a seated or reclined position. “That’s the problem with Pots,” she says, “You can’t stand for too long.”
The content on Allison’s TikTok and Instagram accounts shares the realities of living with disability and chronic illness, focusing on correcting misconceptions and shedding light on the benefits of mobility aids. She says, “When I started posting on Instagram, there wasn’t anyone out there saying it’s okay to use mobility aids.”
Allison’s favorite comments are those telling her that she helped someone’s decision in getting a mobility aid. “Those are the comments that always get me riled up,” she says. “It makes me feel so great, I love it.”
As someone who loves traveling, Allison says that her diagnosis originally felt like her life was over, that she’d never be able to travel again. After nine months with her illness, Allison made the decision to get her first mobility aid. “There was nobody out there telling me that it was okay to do so, but I knew I wanted something to live my life. So I just bought a cane and it changed my life,” she says.
“I think the stigma behind using mobility aids prevents people from utilizing them,” Allison says. “There’s a stigma that mobility aids are only for people who have no use of their legs at all, people who are paralyzed. But that’s just not the case.”
She explains that using a mobility aid allows her to stay out longer, achieve more and go places that she wouldn’t be able to visit without it. Allison says that when she first got her wheelchair, she feared people would judge her or think she was faking her need for it. “With time, I don’t care anymore,” she says.
“Despite having a chronic illness, I still do all of the things that make me happy, like playing with my cats and my dog, and hanging out with my partner, and I just hope other people with chronic illnesses are able to see that and live their life to the fullest,” Allison says.
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