Life with endometriosis is ever-changing, from the moment you get your diagnosis, to becoming familiar with the new symptoms that can occur at any given moment. However, one of the things that surprised me the most was seeing how it changed some of my relationships.
Most of the people around me, even strangers, have been supportive. They generally ask the right questions and know when to respect my silences. However, there have been instances in which people who are supposed to love me have shown a new side of themselves when faced with my illness.
Flare-ups are an aspect of this illness that I like to keep private. Like that, these debilitating episodes affect only me. However, sometimes I am unlucky and they happen in public, in front of others. I was once in the back of a car, curled up in pain, suffering an excruciatingly painful flare-up in front of two relatives. We had planned a day trip, but my bad health suddenly meant cancelling our plans and having to drive home, fast. One of these relatives stopped talking to me for three days. They blamed me for ruining a family day out.
Then there’s been occasions in which others have mocked me for my dietary needs. Or so-called friends who have confidently told me that my disease was “all in my head”.
An illness like endometriosis can make you reassess the effects of certain relationships. Needless to say, my relationships with these people have been permanently affected. But not because of anger or resentment on my part, more from a sense of self-preservation. I now categorize every relationship by whether it does me good or bad. If it causes me any form of anxiety – my personal alarm mechanism – then I limit my interaction with these people. If my illness had caused issues in the past with them, then that is the one topic I refrain from discussing with them.
On any endometriosis support forum, there are countless stories of thoughtless remarks or lack of understanding, from relatives to close friends. It can be heartbreaking. The key thing about relationships is noticing how you feel after you interact with certain people. If they make you feel exhausted or upset, then it may be useful to restrict what you share with them or change the conversation.
Endometriosis can be what brings you closer to others
However, is also worth remembering that having this illness can mean connecting with many people: fellow “endowarriors”, old friends, or even strangers. Through this illness, some of my friends have become true heroes. My partner of 15 years being one of them, or my neighbor across the road who always sends cakes my way when I am unwell.
We can’t control how other people react when faced with an illness like endometriosis. However, we can control how their comments and behavior affect us. You don’t have to break-up with those who have hurt you – I never did – but you can limit your exposure. This is not only very healthy, it will make you feel empowered, and happier.