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Don’t write off these symptoms as “just anxiety”

When Rachel Romu, a 24-year-old from Toronto, was around 16 years old, she remembers starting to randomly feel really off. Her heart would race rapidly, she felt dizzy when she stood up, and sometimes she would faint and black out. Her doctors said her symptoms must just be a panic attack or sign of an anxiety disorder. “I was getting sent home, and I was getting ignored,” she says.

But Romu sensed that her fainting episodes were something bigger than panic attacks, because they often left her unconscious, but when she was able to lie down, her symptoms would improve. “I didn’t know how to manage or identify [my symptoms], nor how to allow myself to take the time to deal with the symptoms day to day,” she says. At the age of 23, a whopping seven years later, she got a diagnosis: she had dysautonomia and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.