In the Beginning
Prior to diagnosis admittedly I didn’t know anything about Endometriosis. It was just something I heard other women talk about occasionally. A couple of famous people had it for example Whoopi Goldberg and Anna Friel, but I really didn’t have a clue what it was all about. I’ve since made up for my lack of knowledge, through the necessity of the journey I’ve been on and my own personal need to understand what it was that I had to face. Sadly, in my experience, our medical profession is capable of providing very little advice or support.
My endo journey started way before diagnosis, with me spending a couple of years just ‘not feeling right’. I would find myself often at either work or home in agony for no reason and my time of the month; well it certainly was not what I would call normal. There was the occasional bout of sickness and bloating which over time became the norm. Ovulation, which used to come and go unnoticed, was now a real pain in my side … quite literally.
At the time I put the symptoms down to stress, due to work and things happening in my personal life. Being driven as I am to succeed I haven’t always been great at taking time out for me, so it was easy to blame my symptoms on this rather than thinking it could be anything else. I even went to the doctors on a number of occasions explaining my predicament, and was told it was stress related, so this is what I went with for a couple of years.
As time went on unfortunately my symptoms heightened, and after a routine operation to remove a polyp, I remember vividly coming round in the recovery suite, and being told that, aside from the polyp being removed, I also had Endometriosis. It was as simple as that, no after care, no further information given about the condition, just “..by the way, you have endo… surprise!” At the time I had no idea what that meant, let alone having the slightest inkling as to the havoc it was going to play on both my body and mind. This is when my life with Endo commenced.
Three operations down, including having my appendix ripped out in an emergency, plus a ridiculous amount of visits to A&E, and I now deem myself a bit of an expert in the Endo stakes. From the occasional ovarian cyst that likes to take up residence, to the daily reminders my body throws at me to say ‘hello you have Endo’, as if I didn’t know.
You have probably guessed that Endometriosis is an aggressive condition that does not think twice about how it affects the lives of thousands of women. You see Endo is like that; it takes hold of you and refuses to let go. I like to refer to it as poison ivy, once it takes root it’s incredibly difficult to get rid off.
The physical symptoms are excruciating and quite frankly bloody annoying. Besides this you also have the negative mindset side of things. It gets you down, and I mean really down. You’re already in pain a lot of the time and then throw potential infertility in the mix…. well I can think of more than 100 other ways to have fun!!
This already horrible situation; is then compounded by what would still seem like a general lack of medical support. There are now experts in the field, but they are far and few between, with a most costing a lot of money for their expertise.
This has to change and thankfully awareness is on the increase with the help of organisations and Charities such as Endometriosis UK here in the UK, Endometriosis Association USA and EndoActive Auz and NZ.
Endo, Career & I
Balancing a career and a condition like Endometriosis is challenging to say the least. I’ve always been ambitious, so to have something like endo throw a spanner in the works, at the age of 30 has caused a great deal of frustration and anguish let me tell you. In fact in hindsight I now see it as one of the key contributing factors to my eventual ‘burnout’. An experience I share in a previous article.
Thankfully I’ve had a fantastic support network, including my employers, but that hasn’t stopped me getting stressed out over the amount of time Endo has kept me away from work. Besides this, there are the days when I would much rather curl up in bed due to the sheer pain I find myself in. How I’ve got through a day at work sometimes is anyone’s guess, but like a lot of people, you do.
I suppose my key frustration with my Endo dramas is that I want to have a successful career and life (doesn’t everyone!!!), and yet Endo seems to have different ideas. It loves to try and drag me down and grab my sole attention. Yes I’ve found it to be a bit of an attention seeker!
As time goes on my endo progresses and the likelihood of having children dwindles by the day. Three miscarriages down, including one at work (that was an interesting day!), it has affected my life in more ways than one. Lets face it adjusting to the tricks Endo likes to throw my way, whilst balancing career and life in general, hasn’t been a walk in the park. It’s not what I envisaged my success story to be; however as I see it I can either let it beat me or I beat it. I’ve chosen the latter!!
At the beginning of this year, after a tough four years, I reached a turning point. I needed to decide how I was intending to respond to my condition in the future
Did I allow myself to continue to drift into what had become the ‘norm’, in terms of the way I reacted to certain situations and circumstances ….. or was I going to change things and feel more in control of myself, my future, my life, …?
I asked myself the following simple, but important, questions and came to the same conclusion: Endo will not win, I’m in charge of it, not the other way around…
- Why can’t I have a career I’ve been working so hard to achieve?
- Why have I been holding off following my dreams?
- The chances of me being a mum are slim but does that mean my life has to stop?
My drive for success remains as strong as it always has been, and my mindset shift is allowing me to start living again. I’m now working on building a dream I’ve had since in my teens, that fulfills both my strengths and passions.
Endo does still play havoc at times, but changing the way I view it has had an incredibly powerful effect on how I now respond.
Through my research and a bit if trial and error I now have a daily ritual that keeps me balanced, positive and my endo symptoms at bay. It would be a lie to say I’m totally pain free, but compared to where I was its a massive improvement. If it was a 5 out of 10 before, I’d say it was a 8 out of 10 now, which I see as a huge improvement.
So what is the ritual, well it goes something like this:
1, Meditation. Wake up and jump right into my morning meditation. If you had asked me some years ago as to whether I meditated I probably would have laughed. Little did I know about the amazing effect it can have on you. I practice ‘mindfulness meditation’ as endo had such a detrimental effect on my mindset,
2, Exercise. Walk our crazy Labrador, Yoda – the whole positive spin about being outdoors can not be underestimated. Walking the dog is great exercise and helps release those feel good hormones within us.
3, Diet (1) Stay out of the way of Gluten. One thing I have discovered is that Gluten is an endo sufferer’s worst nightmare. It’s Gluten free all the way now for me. Interestingly other foods can effect Endo, but for me Gluten is my real trigger, hence why I’ve said bye bye to it.
4, Time Out. Listen to my body and take time out when needed. This follows on from my burnout lesson. A prominent Endo side effect is that it can make you feel stupidly exhausted. Yes I do have days where I liken myself to a zombie, thanks to the powers of Endo. It is therefore important for my self-care that I take time out during these periods, so not to exaggerate.
5, Diet (2) Eat organic whenever possible. You don’t really need me telling you about the benefits of organic food; however Endo is a hormone and autoimmune disease. This means chicken, for example, which has been pumped with hormones can play to Endos needs, feeding it what it needs to cause mayhem.
6, Talk. Discuss how you are feeling. I can’t thank my husband (my rock) and family and friends enough for the support and encouragement they have shown me over the years. Careerwise too I have been fortunate to have some fantastic support links and continue to do so today. Remember you are not alone. There are people out there who can help you balance career and life, from family and friends to your employer or an external career coach. Utilize them.
The Future is Bright
I’m someone who truly believes that one size does not fit all, so what might work for some won’t work for others. I think my key message here is things come at us in life that challenge us to our core. It can come in any form and at any time. No amount of preparation can help us avoid life’s challenges. What we have got to try and do is not be beaten.
Instead face these challenges head on, with the mindset of “I will not be defeated.”
There is so much truth behind the power of our minds, so let’s use it to the best of our ability. Living in the now and taking affirmative action towards our goals. I will achieve my dreams and so will you. Go out and achieve your own success story, you can do it, you will do it and it will be on your terms, with confidence.
If you, a family member or friend have been effected by Endometriosis, please share this article. The more awareness there is the increased likelihood that more research will be conducted to find a cure.
Keep smiling, keep strong, until next time!