Endometriosis is an awful disease and not something I would wish on anyone but if you knew me you would know that I am always a glass half full person. So while living with endometriosis has been tough, it has taught me a number of life lessons. Here’s what I’ve learnt:
1. To chase my dreams and create a life I love. Although I didn’t know it then, my endometriosis journey started when I was thirteen. I was made aware of it fourteen years later when I was 27 travelling alone overseas and had to have emergency surgery. When your health is jeopardized, without warning and you’re in a foreign country, it really makes you think about your life and how you want it to be. This event gave me the push I needed to look at a new career. One that I would find rewarding and enjoyable and something I was really passionate about. Five years later I have a life I really love and always push myself to do things that scare me so I never wake up with regrets.
2. I am in charge of my own health and wellbeing When I was diagnosed with endometriosis it was natural for me to listen to my doctors and do what they recommended. I have since learnt that I am the one who knows my body best. I know when I am in unbearable pain and a doctor says they can’t do anything I have the power to do something. The New Zealand government doesn’t fund research into endometriosis, but I haven’t let that stop me. I have done five years of my own research and found various things from yoga to diet to supplements have helped me manage the pain. I have never allowed myself to be at the mercy of doctors or give up on believing I don’t have to live a life of pain.
3. I am not defined by my diagnosis. Yes I have endometriosis but I have never once let it stop me from doing what I want to do. I have competed in sports days, given corporate presentations, travelled the world, gone on hiking adventures, celebrated birthdays and carried out bridesmaid duties all while dealing with the pain of endometriosis. Endometriosis is something I have, but it is not something that defines how I live my life.
4. Be grateful for what I do have The double edged sword of endometriosis is not only do you have to live with chronic pain but when you finally do want to start a family it can provide challenges for you. There have been times of heartache and despair and times of not feeling good enough, but the thing that has helped me the most is being grateful for how amazing my life already is. I have an incredible husband (like seriously AMAZING!), we have amazingly supportive family and friends, we live in a beautiful country, we have travelled the world and we both have careers that we love. When I’m grateful for what I have I know I have a pretty epic life and focusing on the things I have rather than the things I don’t is very empowering.
5. I am a strong woman. Every month I experience more pain than some people will experience in their whole lifetime. The pain of endometriosis has been compared to child-birth. The strength it takes to deal with this pain has trickled into the rest of my life and means I have been able to face a lot of life’s challenges with strength, bravery and composure. Like many other women I have dealt with this pain since 13 years of age. Going undiagnosed for fourteen years I did start to wonder whether I was just not as strong as other women who don’t experience pain. I’ve come to learn the complete opposite is true. Women who have endometriosis are some of the strongest, bravest, inspiring women you will ever meet. Most of them are dealing with incredible pain whilst still going about their everyday lives with a smile on their face.
Bernadette Barrett 32 years old.