For most of my life, I have felt some uncomfortable limits of the chronic illness. I’ve always known myself to be capable of so many things, but my reach has been stopped short by limitations I’ve faced having endometriosis and acute IBS. It’s not an excuse, it’s a fact. I have mentioned some examples in my article “The Endometriosis Octopus”.
It’s hard living with endometriosis, and it’s hard work managing it. Sufferers also often spend so much time trying to mask the pain in public so that we can avoid being judged by people who don’t understand, get on with our job, and prove that we are just as capable as everyone else.
When I go through something difficult in life, I try to look for the lessons. It’s often one of the ways that I start my journey of acceptance and moving on.
I decided to ask myself what lessons have come from having endometriosis. I’m all too aware of the limitations, but how has it shaped who I am for the better? Is it possible to find some beautiful lessons – some positives – from living with endometriosis and other chronic illnesses?
Here are a few of my beautiful lessons.
1. I don't take my health for granted
I might have days or even weeks of feeling unwell. I might have to have surgery and take months of work. So, when I have a good day with my health, I don’t take it for granted.
I love it, I enjoy it, I make use of it, I am grateful for it. I smile with all my might, and I take in everything wonderful about the day.
2. I learned to have a dream, not a plan
When I was younger, I used to make plans – 5 year plans. Yes, I was THAT girl.
My chronic illness quickly got in the way of plans I was making. From small plans like going out on Saturday night, to bigger plans of being CEO of a major corporation, my plans were interrupted by the unpredictability of endometriosis. Whether bedridden for a few days or having to take months off work for surgeries, I experienced self-disappointment after self-disappointment when my ‘plans’ never worked out.
Because of this, I had this constant feeling of needing to prove myself. I needed to achieve goals to prove to myself that I could finish things and achieve things like everyone else. When they worked out, it was because I pushed my body too far – often so far I’d be sick for months afterwards. When they didn’t work out, I felt like a failure.
Life doesn’t consider your plans. It doesn’t care about your plans. But you can dream.
Having the truth of the unpredictability of life and health thrust in my face daily, taught me something powerful though. Life doesn’t consider your plans. It doesn’t care about your plans. But you can dream. Yes, you can dream and chip away slowly at that dream bit by bit when you have the time and feel healthy. So that became my personal mantra – “have a dream, not a plan”.
3. I learned to say F*#K you to the limits imposed on me by others
Life gives us enough limitations. So why did I spend so much time trying to fit within bounds that other people had set up?
These bounds obviously didn’t work for me, but for years I kept trying to make myself ‘fit’ them; often resulting in me feeling disappointed and sometimes even depressed because it just didn’t work. If it didn’t work for me because I’m different, or because my body works differently, then I always had a choice to walk away. Yes, it’s a hard choice. But it’s also a brave choice.
Embrace it and BE different. Think outside the box, and construct a life that FITS you.
The more you do it, the easier it is. The ‘norm’ doesn’t fit? You’re different? So what. Embrace it and BE different. Think outside the box, and construct a life that FITS you. I ditched working full time and took a leap into freelance work which gave me extra time and flexibility to recoup from health issues when they came up.
Yes, you are different. But you don’t need to be like everyone else, do what others do, fit into their routines.
You are YOU, and you are beautiful just as you are.
Eleni Fegan is the founder and Managing Editor of DearBub Blog and Magazine which began from a personal journey of research and healing. Her motivation for DearBub is beautifully summarised in her Editor’s Letter: “I realised that there is beauty to giving voice to our experiences, and raising an awareness that we are not alone in them. I realised the immense power that ‘sharing’ had in transforming our sense of self and being through creating connection”.