Byron Bay 2012. So happy. Perfect day. Two 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 six months before I was diagnosed with endometriosis.
Endo pain is a whole other-worldly pain. It is unlike any other feeling and has been described as worse than contractions or child birth. To me it felt like my internal organs were being twisted, ripped apart and dragged through my body.
My ovaries felt like they were being minced. The most confusing thing about endo is that although you don’t LOOK sick, you can have 18 different types of pain and 23 different health issues happening all at once. This makes working or studying extremely difficult. It makes showing up to work even harder.
A regular day could go like this:
In the morning I’d often wake up with brutal fatigue, period pain, blocked sinus and an unexplained UTI. I’d often run late to work or uni because I’d be lying on the couch with a wheat bag on my ovaries till the absolute last second or rushing to the chemist to get more painkillers and Ural.
By the time I had arrived my UTI had progressed to severe cystitis and I’d be pissing blood. It’s surprisingly hard to sit in class or wait tables or answer phones with a big smile when you’re pissing blood.
I’d be hot and dizzy with blurred vision and be in intense, intense pain. Sometimes I would try to push through it (at that level of pain and untreated illness this is never going to help) so that co-workers and employers didn’t think I was ‘soft’ or unreliable. But often after several trips to the bathroom to spew/wee/lay down on the floor/recover I just needed to get home.