Byron Bay 2012. So happy. Perfect day. 2 hours after this photo was taken I was in agony, bawling my eyes out in the bath tub, cancelling dinner reservations and wondering if I needed to go to hospital… all because of Endometriosis. But at that time, I had no idea. I often think now about the things I’d say to my 21 year old self.
At 21 I was studying at UTS, interning at Mamamia, waitressing at a restaurant (both jobs that I loved) and flatting in Bondi. I was having a lot of fun but also feeling extremely unwell. Despite what my life looked like through the filtered lens of social media, offline I was a very sick, anxious girl. I was always tired and always in pain.
The pain came in a variety of flavours: pelvic pain, period pain, back, hip, glute, abdominal, migraine… and searing, stabbing, grinding, ripping Endo pain. But back then I didn’t have the right words to describe it. I didn’t have a name for it. I’d never even heard of it. It would be another 6 months before I was diagnosed with Endometriosis.
Hellooo people of the internet & fellow EndoActivists! Someway, somehow I am a finalist for The Cosmo Women of the Year Awards. I’m up against 4 other women in the ‘Game Changer of the Year’ category – A huge surprise and incredible honour. I can’t actually believe it. To think that around this time a year ago I was lying on the couch in pain with my little cat Pepi snuggled up next to me, unable to do very much is… I don’t even know how to describe it. It was an exhilarating time because of the excitement from our petition to Bayer going viral but right before that happened, life for me was miserable, unexciting and I was unhappy. Endo was causing havoc in my life.
On Tuesday my Mum / Co-founder of EndoActive and I flew to Melbourne for the launch of the Pelvic Pain Foundation of Australia. Before we arrived at the launch we were feeling quite out of place and a little nervous that we wouldn’t know anyone. Cocktail parties are for mingling and there’s only so many wines you can quietly inhale and only so many paintings you can point and nod at before someone notices that you’re the Nigel hogging all the canapés.
Today I had my first grown-up job interview. (Years of cruising into bar jobs aren’t quite the same). But just six months ago I was miserably contemplating a life of unemployment. I had started to listen to the shitty little voices in my head, needling away, telling me that nobody would want me because I had Endo. I couldn’t see past my next doctor appointment. I knew that I had a strong work ethic, a mind that craved stimulation and good values to offer, but I was losing confidence.
Going public about having Endo was a big decision and one which I knew could have ramifications for me in the future. I wasn’t sure if ‘outing myself’ was the smartest move if I wanted a career. Would anyone hire me if they knew I had a chronic illness? I had the opportunity to remain anonymous. Instead, I chose to put myself out there – full name, full disclosure, total transparency. Despite the perceived risks, to me it was a no-brainer. How could I express the importance of public awareness about endo and encourage others to do the same while hiding my identity? It would be a total contradiction.