Tiger Times

I’ll never sit still

Suffering RLS, growing through the pain

Illustration
Illustration

Illustration

Photo by Victoria Van

Photo by Victoria Van

Illustration

Story by Savannah Downs, staff writer

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She sits alone in a silent classroom. The squeaky desk provides no mercy. She can’t sit still, so the desk attacks her main fear: being judged.

Several months ago, I was diagnosed with Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS, a A condition characterized by a nearly irresistible urge to move the legs, typically in the evenings).

I’ve always known that I was an energetic kid. During my childhood, I was known for always dancing and running around the playground. I was in dance for eight years, and even then I was always moving around, even when the others were sitting still.

Once I realized dance classes were not for me, I quit. After that, I was just a typical freshman that only focused on family and school. I had no way to suffice my energy. For 10 hours a day, I was focusing on my schoolwork and home-life– nothing more, nothing less. Sitting in a desk for a great majority of that time was not helping my endless need to move.

I began to find simple ways to move while sitting in a desk. That included moving my fingers, hands, legs and toes. I was cooped up in a classroom to the point where my body could not handle sitting still anymore.

I went to the doctor, told her about my problems, and was given the diagnosis that I had RLS. I thought that it was a simple disorder, that the only part to it was that I wasn’t active anymore, so I had to move my legs. After researching RLS more, I realized that all my symptoms weren’t so simple. My symptoms include: gut-wrenching leg cramps, difficulty falling asleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, agonizing sleep deprivation, uncomfortable burning in my legs if I didn’t move, and intense fatigue. Soon, I realized I’d had this my entire life.

All this time, I thought my horrible cramps were growing pains. I thought my sleeping problems were due to my lack of melatonin. I thought I didn’t have a serious disorder.

I’ve always been the weird person no matter where I’ve been. After I learned about my RLS, I only felt weirder. I feel like anytime I’m in a public place, everyone looks down on me. For the longest time I thought that it would only get worse. The intense judging. The awful stares when the teacher calls on me got worse, and everyone looks at me like I’m an alien. I finally found friends that accepted me for who I was, and I no longer felt like an outsider, but now I had to deal with the physical side effects.

At the doctor’s office, I was told I have a severe case of RLS. Typically, the symptoms only occur in the evening. However, mine occur 24/7, 365 days a year.

Eventually, I thought about how to help myself in a more mental way, than physical. I tried yoga, meditating and taking time for myself to start. After a month, I noticed that I wasn’t in as much pain as I was before.”

— Savannah Downs

Unfortunately, there is no cure or treatment for RLS, so I’ll have this for my entire life. I was told that there are some natural ways to help myself, such as drinking tonic water (which tastes like a vinegar-flavored soda), receiving massages and taking natural supplements that are designed for RLS.

After trying all these products, none helped. I had to find my own ways to help myself, which was terrifying. Not because I knew what would happen, but because I didn’t know what would happen. I feared that I would have to take a crazy new medicine that would have awful side effects.

Eventually, I thought about how to help myself in a more mental way, than physical. I tried yoga, meditating and taking time for myself to start. After a month, I noticed that I wasn’t in as much pain as I was before. I was creating an environment for myself that focused on helping condition and improving my mental health.

Now, I am slowly taking steps to finding ways to improve my happy attitude and help my condition. I plan on informing others about RLS and getting involved with my community to help others that know what I’m going through. The future looks bright for the girl that will never be still.

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