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.
This time a year ago I was lying in a hospital bed up to my ears in painkillers recovering from my second laparoscopy while all my friends were sinking beers and playing two up. I was looking forward to reaching this ANZAC weekend and my 1 year post-op anniversary fighting fit – the way I’ve felt for months. But unfortunately I’ve had a relapse and lately my health has not been great. Getting the flu coincided with an Endo flare up, both of which have stuck with me off and on for the past 4 weeks. (To me this is a real indicator of the link between Endo and the Immune System.)
15 days of antibiotics has trashed my gut and my liver. 5 weeks without training has had a major impact on my energy. My muscles feel like they’ve been stitched together with a rope of crunchy glass. My body has been knocked around and its protective layer which I’ve spent months building up has been chipped away at. But unlike the last time I had an Endo relapse, this time I have backup. I have tools in my belt to help my rebuild. Everything I’ve been taught, everything I’ve learned, read, diarised and practiced over the past 8 months is going to help me gradually get back to where I was before. But getting to that point wasn’t easy. It meant growing up, being real and breaking some bad habits.
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.