There's no denying it, unless you have a group of people in your life who are remarkably compassionate, understanding and accommodating, endometriosis can put a very real strain on your relationships.
The past couple of years I feel like I have lost a part of myself. Before the return my my endometriosis, as I've mentioned before, I was in full denial mode. I've never been one for having a glass of wine with a meal and I go periods of time (often months and years) without drinking at all, but at this point I was a part of the Friday night culture at my work and I was a social butterfly. There were holidays and festivals and meet ups. I was having a lot of fun, there was a lot of joy found in these moments, I was also going through a lot of emotional pain in my life at the same time, but the joy and love I had for the people around me kept me feeling alive.
When the fatigue, the low moods, the ill health and eventually the pain crept in, bit by bit, that social world fell away. I began feeling too tired to go out as often, and when I did, if I drank I ended up emotional because I was feeling so low, I started finding that my conversations with others were strained. I think they knew how much fun I could be and were confused about the change in my behaviour, people wanted me to drink, wanted me to lighten up and I couldn't fulfill those expectations anymore. I found myself coming home hating the crying idiot I was when tipsy, or terrified by the fact that I couldn't find anything positive to talk about anymore in conversations.
The problem was, is that at the beginning, I didn't really know what was happening to me. I didn't yet understand the link between endometriosis, my hormones and depression. I didn't know the extreme exhaustion I was feeling was a symptom. I didn't know I wasn't going crazy, having several health problems and returning endometriosis all at the same time. I felt like I was cracking up and falling apart and I couldn't explain that to people, I tried, and many tried to help, but their help also put a strain on us. I could feel them willing me to get better, I could feel myself becoming suspicious. What did they really think of me? Were they fed up that I couldn't just sort myself out? Was I draining to be around? I became an anxious wreck and it was easier to stay at home, trying to rest and trying to work my way through the mess alone, than it was involving others.
I don't think this was wrong, I think at the time, I didn't know any other way.
As I began to understand my condition, I made lifestyle changes to help myself feel better. I began cutting out the diary and gluten, stopped drinking alcohol and curbed my coffee habit. I increased my meditation and began going to various classes that I felt would help me through my emotional depression and pain. This is when the second cracks appeared. Friends talked about me being 'extreme', some felt that I was too controlled, too hippy, too into wellness, jumping on the band wagon. I felt angry and misunderstood - hadn't anyone listened to what I had been going through? Though I was feeling good about going vegan, and felt the difference in pain levels from the changes, it was far from easy for me to do this. Instead of support, I was being met with criticism.
When suffering from depression, it's hard to not take things personally. It's hard to see disagreements with compassion and love. I became resentful of those who didn't understand what I was living with and what I was trying to do, and I became the victim. I couldn't see that others were acting from a place of their own fear, or acting from a place that they felt was best, with the understanding that they had. Any positive moments or comments were darkened by the suspicious voice in my head that was convinced the world thought I was a boring, self-absorbed control freak - in fact, I still battle those voices daily.
Undeniably, the past couple of years have been lonely at times. Friendships have dropped off the radar completely, or have turned into catch ups every couple of months. I see different people every weekend, in that sense, I am lucky I have a large circle, so there is always someone to catch up with - but consistent, strong friendships who were a constant presence in my life reduced and it was that love and joy that I missed.
I feel that the journey I have gone through with my relationships has been natural and understandable - from both sides. Though in hindsight I can see where I could have been more open, honest, challenging, forgiving, loving, etc - I also feel that if you took me back to that place in time now, I wouldn't have been able to act any differently. I was experiencing a lot of pain and it's hard to make positive decisions when you're in a dark place.
Now, my friendships have changed and evolved, some in painful ways, some in very beautiful ways. More recently, my life has opened me up to friendships that I had hoped for and longed for and I feel I am ready for those now. The second part of this post will explore these blossoming new friendships, the healing of old ones, and my journey from isolation to connections, but I felt it was important for me to share these difficulties first, to raise awareness, let others feel they're not alone with their relationship struggles and to perhaps help family and friends of endometriosis warriors understand our inner battles with the disease. Part two of this post will be coming in the next few days. <3
If you're feeling that you need endometriosis specific support at the moment - have a look at Endometriosis UK's Support Groups or get in touch with me - email@example.com.