The Lessons I Learned Post-Diagnosis
As I write this, I am on my period. My back aches and my stomach hurts.
During these flare-ups, I can't help but think about how endometriosis has impacted my life. Many of these impacts make my life worse.
I do not particularly enjoy squirming into my jeans when I'm bloated. When I'm in pain, I wish I had never struggled with this chronic illness.
But as a great aunt used to tell me, "If wishes and buts were candy and nuts, we'd all have a Merry Christmas."
I cannot change the fact that I have endometriosis. For now, there is no cure.
While I can cope with endometriosis' negative effects on my life, I can also grow. I do not think that endometriosis has improved my life, but I have been able to adapt.
In these moments of adaptation, I have grown.
How I benefited from my diagnosis
When you have a chronic illness, you have to become flexible. I don't mean I can do the splits, although I enjoy a good yoga session.
Chronic illnesses can be unpredictable. Sometimes, when I'm cursing my cramps, the hours in a day seem to stretch like I've been caught in quicksand.
On other days, when I'm trying to meet deadlines through brain fog and fatigue, my workday slips away like there are not enough hours to complete my tasks. Many disability advocates and scholars call this phenomenon 'crip time' because time feels different depending on how our chronic illness impacts us on any given day.1
Crip time helped me embrace my new normal and be more patient with myself and others. I tried to push my body and mind for years, even in pain.
But I could not produce my usual standard of work when I was in pain. So, I learned to ask for extensions.
I learned to be gentle with myself when I needed to take a day off work or request a rain check for a lunch date. I also stopped penalizing my students' when they turned in their essays late.
These flexible expectations for myself also helped me be more sympathetic to the people in my life who also deserve this same grace.
Acknowledging the strength and beauty of my body
Before I was diagnosed with endometriosis, I wondered why I kept bloating while exercising and restricting my diet. I felt like I should be able to have a flat stomach, so there must be something wrong with me.
But my endometriosis diagnosis has forced me to learn more about my anatomy. I have had to research my body and how it changes.
I've learned that deep inside my abdomen, my organs are intricate. I do not feel undesirable when my stomach looks like a balloon. I understand that the endometrial tissue outside my uterus is inflamed and that inflammation causes the very natural reaction of bloating.
Because I know that my body is fighting an illness, I am grateful. I know my body is working hard, and it's beautiful because it keeps me alive.
Yes, this body is flawed; this body endures pain that frustrates me. But this body is mine; without it, I cannot experience everything I love.
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