I wasn’t sure how to begin my story, but now seemed an appropriate time as ever. It’s just before New Year’s Eve, and I will admit that this year I’m looking forward to my last one as a single woman by staying in with wine, a good movie and the best company. On the other hand, even if I wanted to go out and party, it’s not happening this year.

My endometriosis journey started almost four years ago, on paper, at least. I’m 26, but like so many other women with this condition, the clues were there from the beginning. Cramps that couldn’t be resolved by normal painkillers, doctors telling you it’s normal or ‘it can’t be as bad as you’re saying it is’. I’ve been on the pill since I was about 18, at my mum’s recommendation - she’d heard that it can help bad periods, but she’d never heard of endometriosis. It didn’t seem to make any difference though.

At age 23, something suddenly seemed to switch on. I’d been having periods that had been gradually getting far worse, but after this particular one, I was left with a deep, burning and very unpleasant pain in my right hand side, quite different to the usual cramps and pains I’d experienced. I waited a week after my period, two weeks… But the pain stayed there and gradually intensified over a period of months. Three years on, and that pain never really went away at all. 

Fast forward a few more months and the pain got much worse. Hospital visits, ultrasounds, several GP's and gynaecologist's later and I was diagnosed with mild endometriosis on my bladder, both ovaries and in my pouch of Douglas. Nothing was removed, ablated, burned or whatever: it wasn’t deemed necessary I suppose, and I didn’t have a say in the matter. I was immediately started on Zoladex - the course of six hormonal injections that throw your body into menopause. This is a chemotherapy drug. It did not help my pain and gave me a whole host of unpleasant symptoms. Not worth it.

Day to day, symptoms are at best uncomfortable. At their worst, the smallest of tasks such as popping to the shops, running an errand or walking the dog become impossible. Having a chronic condition, you can’t be angry at yourself for the things you can no longer do, and you should never feel guilty. If you need to rest, rest, if you need to sleep, sleep, and if you think you deserve a treat, then you do!

It’s about adaptation. I’m in pain around three weeks out of every month, so I take things slower than I used to. I don’t do much exercise, I don’t wear heels, I take household chores slowly, and some days, I just have to admit defeat and do nothing. I’ve realised that it’s about doing what you can, on days that you can, and as an artist this means painting when you can, and planning and thinking when you can’t. Instead of standing at the easel, sit. Instead of breaking my back over a massive canvas, I’ll sit and paint some light and easy watercolours instead.

Another key part of endometriosis is having someone who understands. I’ve never said ‘sorry’ so many times in my life, yet as my fiancé always reminds me: you have nothing to be sorry for. Sometimes, all you need is a hug, a hot water bottle and some great company.

I was always a home bird, more than a social butterfly, and this helps as it avoids people asking too many questions when you stick outside of the crowd, or you don’t attend this or that, or you’ve simply taken a chair at the back instead of dancing. A little part of me wishes to be more open about my condition: this isn’t ‘bad periods’ or ‘women’s trouble’: it’s a real and life-altering condition. I hope by sharing with you, I’ll encourage you to share more, and hopefully encourage myself too.

Next year (hello, 2018) I’m trying to use the words of Monty Python and ‘look on the bright side of life’. I’ll be getting married to the love of my life, and then off for a South American adventure. Endometriosis may not want to take a back seat, but we’ll deal with it as it comes.

Thank you for sharing your story Chloe.

If you would like to contact Chloe, you can follow her on Instagram @chloewaterfieldart or on Facebook Chloe Waterfield Art.

Remember, every one of us has a different story, and the more shared, the more we can learn. If you are interested in sharing your story, please contact me at shireen.emlwy@gmail.com.