A Day of Gratitude

It’s the first day of spring!  My mood has been slowly creeping towards the positive with the fresh smell in the air and the gradual increase in temperature, and now spring is finally here!  I’m celebrating it by making resolutions I probably won’t keep, but also by following on from last month and starting September in a positive way, with a gratitude post!  I want to kick this month off with a list of ten things that I am grateful for.  I challenge you to do the same thing, whether in your diary, here in the comments or on your own blog or facebook page.

Without any further ado, today I am grateful for:

1) Spring!

Yes, I know I kind of said this already, but I love spring.  It fills me with hope and a yearning to be outdoors.  In my mind it’s all flowers and lazy bees and warm days that aren’t too hot yet.

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Look at these happy little bees buzzing around in my rosemary.  

2) Work

I may not get there every day and it can be stressful as all heck, but I adore my colleagues and the work I do can be really fulfilling.  It can also be silly and trivial and you wonder why some people think that they need a lawyer to sort it out, but the feeling when a terrified women walks out of court with a piece of legal protection she didn’t have before, or a confused man who had no understanding of what he could do suddenly has a clear pathway to follow, and you gave it to them?  That’s pretty good.  It’s those moments that really make it for me, when people are staring at this confusing, tangled legal pathway and you can just go, “Here’s what you do,” and they suddenly have a clear path to follow.

3) Dr Edi-Osagi

I mentioned last week that I had an appointment with the good doctor via Skype.  More recently I received his reporting letter about the appointment, and I nearly cried.  He included every detail I told him about my pain, laid out a clear treatment plan, and noted that my quality of life is low.  I’ve never had a doctor do that for me before in such detail, or draw such a conclusion.  I didn’t even tell him I thought I had a low quality of life; he examined what I told him and drew that conclusion for himself.  It was the most validating experience and I have never felt so listened to or supported by a medical professional before, even if it turns out down the track that he won’t be able to assist me.

4) My animals

They are such a constant source of joy for me.  Every morning when Pearl comes out of her bedroom (the laundry) she does a little butt-wiggling stretch and then shoves her head into my chest for a cuddle.  When we get home from work, she dances around us with her silly little corgi paws all over the place, doing that thing dogs do where they really want cuddles but are too excited to stand still for them.

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Basking in the sunshine. 10/10 good dog.

Every day Max jumps up on the sofa to sit with me or on me and looks at me with that perfect ginger face, and purrs like a little steam train.  Each morning when I get up he throws himself dramatically down at my feet and rolls around on his back for tummy scratches.  He’s impossibly cute and I love him.

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As a lawyer, can confirm: it would be illegal not to kiss that little face.

5) My mum

Pretty much as soon as she got back from her overseas trip she was right back into the swing of supporting and helping me in every way she could.  From walking me and the dog to bringing me my microwave (which had been living with her) and just straight up emotional support, she is pretty much the bestest.

6) My husband

He works so hard and still finds the emotional energy to support and help me and the physical energy to walk the dog, do the bulk of the housework and keep fit and healthy.  He’s superman.  I don’t know how he does it.  He also makes the most amazing meals.

7) Small luxuries

This morning I had fresh berries on my cereal.  Tomorrow night I’m going to have a long relaxing bath with a face mask.  Yesterday I burnt my coconut Dusk candle and basked in its tropical smell as I made a really cool calendar page for September in my bullet journal.  This morning my dress has this little bit of tulle just at the base of the skirt and it feels so fancy.

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My fancy dress (Review’s Alouette Dress) as modelled on the Iconic by this stunning lady

8) Snails having baths

Just google it.  It’s adorable.  It made my heart sing this morning.

9) The Llandor Trilogy

My sister and I read this series of books about fifteen years ago, but over time we forgot what they were called.  We couldn’t even really remember the plot, just random elements; a boy and a girl get sucked into a fantasy world.  The girl wants to be a hairdresser.  The boy wants to work in IT.  They had adventures including a banshee in an underground cave, rock giants, and a black mage that the girl accidentally killed by shoving him off a cliff, except maybe he didn’t die because he could turn into some sort of bird of prey (but we couldn’t remember what).  We tried every google combination we could think of over many years, asked facebook friends, tried Yahoo Answers, and eventually, exactly one year ago today, we finally hit on the right google combination and discovered that the books were the Llandor Trilogy (and that there were actually three children, not two).  It was quite possibly the single most cathartic experience of my entire life.

I’m going to celebrate by reading the series again, starting today.

10) This blog and you, my lovely readers

I never actually thought anyone would read this blog.  I thought I’d write for a while with maybe 2 followers, then get bored and stop.  Instead, 2 months after starting it I have 41 followers.  It may not be many in the grand scheme of internet pages, but I am incredibly grateful for each and every one of you and you are the reason I will continue writing.  It tells me that there are people who are interested in endometriosis and that it is worth writing about.  So thank you, my wonderful people.  I hereby commit to a giveaway of some sort when we reach 100.  I’m working on ideas (but feel free to drop some more in the comments).

 

So what are you grateful for today?  What little things have made your heart sing?  Are you excited for September?

 

Bullet Journalling for Endometriosis

Yesterday I gave a brief, if somewhat slapdash, introduction into bullet journalling.  That was really just groundwork for this post, because I really believe that bullet journalling can be incredibly useful to people with endometriosis.  It can perform the function of a normal journal in helping us keep on top of all our various appointments.  However, thanks to the fact that a bullet journal is totally customisable and the addition of the ever popular tracking spreads, you can also keep on top of every other aspect for it.

I’ve considered starting a totally separate journal for endo.  This would include a brief chronology of important dates, such as surgeries, when I started on new medications, appointments with different specialists etc.  Then I’d have pages with information about the meds I’m on, the side effects etc, and dates relevant to that med (such as dates I noted particular side effects and their severity).  After that I’d have trackers dedicated to different symptoms; gastric pain, uterine pain, backache, gastritis, misc., and line them up with particular triggers, if any.  I’d also keep a mood/mental health page.  Finally I think I’d have a journal section where I could write anything I wanted – reviews of doctors, rants about pain, a diary of my hopes and fears, and little pictures and quotes that feel relevant.

Damn, now I really want to do that.  I’m going to need another Leuchtturm.

Right now, however, I just have two trackers.  Trackers are super useful because not only do they record information your treating team may need later, they also help you identify patterns.  I started with one but kind of abandoned that partway through February because it turns out I am not very good at checking in with things at the beginning of my diary, only in the section I’m actually in.

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As you can see, this tracker covered the whole year (optimistic) and relies on colour codes.  Each day has a rectangle made of two squares  On one half I record my symptoms (if any), and on the other my triggers (if any).  It was a good idea but I’ve found it has some draw backs.  It doesn’t record the severity of the pain, it’s a little smaller than I’d like, and I didn’t choose my colours particularly well, so it can be hard to tell what’s what.

This month I’ve been using a pain level tracker each week instead.

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The red line is the maximum pain I experience that day, and the black line is how I felt the pain was in general (not including the moments of extreme pain unless that is a significant portion of the day).  Whilst this does a great job of recording my pain levels, of course, it lacks what my other tracker had in terms of symptoms, triggers etc.  This one can’t specify between the different types of pain, either, so I need to note that down in my daily log.

This month I’ve also started keeping two separate habit trackers.  One is for habits that are just good personal development, such as practising my German and wearing perfume so my massive collection doesn’t just moulder ignored in a drawer somewhere.  It also tracks which days I’m too sick to go to work.

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The other is for habits that are vital to my self care – brushing my teeth twice a day, washing my face, brushing my hair, getting sunshine – all the little things that shouldn’t present a challenge but are usually the first things to go when I start to struggle.  This has definitely been super useful and I’m going to keep it up for the rest of the year.

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I don’t currently have a period tracker, but I don’t have periods, so there isn’t much point.  However, many people do, and you can get really fun with them

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Fantastic “Shark Week” tracker by Mieke Bjins.  How gorgeous is the little shark?

So far this tracker only tracks flow rate, but you could also mark pill usage, ovulation, the beginning of pain etc by using other symbols or colours.

Other people like to track their moods in detail.  That can be important as it shows whether a pattern of negative moods is developing in your life, which may suggest that it is time to seek professional assistance with it.  However, I know that some people say they don’t find mood trackers helpful as it leads them to obsess over their state of mind and make it worse.

I’ve never tried a mood tracker, but I like the idea of something like this:

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To read the full text, visit Shaylara Shen’s site where she shows her daily spreads.

In this spread Sheylara takes the space and time to chronicle her negative thoughts and her struggle, but also her wins for the day.  I think this a great holistic way of approaching it.

Do you use your journal to track your endometriosis or other chronic health conditions?  How about mental heath?  Or do you prefer simply to journal about it?  Whatever you do, please drop a picture or instagram link in the comments!

Staying Strong

So far in this mini-series I’ve talked about staying grateful and staying generous when we are faced with challenges that make it very hard to do that.  Today I want to talk about how we stay strong.

I think this is probably the hardest thing of all.  I can generally find something I’m grateful for even in the midst of despair – usually especially in the midst of despair – such as love, or morphine.  I don’t find it hard to give my time and energy to people because I literally do it for a living.  However, I do find it hard to pull myself out of depressive slumps and keep going.  We don’t get to use little mantras like “this too shall pass”, because it probably won’t.  We might not be able to exercise to get those endorphins pumping.  So what can we do?  More specifically, given that I’m neither a motivational speaker or a counsellor, what works for me and might work for you?

1) Accepting the situation

And right away we’ve got the hardest thing on the list.  Accepting what the situation is rally hard for me, because it requires me to walk a weird line between hoping that things will get better but also not dwelling on the fact that they aren’t, whilst being clear with myself that they might not, but not despairing about that.  It’s like being in a washing machine sometimes.  It doesn’t mean fatalism or pessimism; it just means dealing with the hand we are dealt right now and learning to live with it.  That being said, I still advocate…

2) Working to change it

Accepting the situation doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be working on getting better.  Keep checking with your specialist (or multiple specialists) about alternatives, clinical trials, advances, anything that will progress your ability to manage endometriosis.

3) Having a purpose

Setting goals is one thing that makes me keep going.  I will not give in because I haven’t done X, Y or Z yet.  Sometimes they are long-term things, like making it through a year of work and going up a pay grade, or growing this blog to 100 followers with a giveaway to celebrate (let me know in the comments in that is something you’d like).  Sometimes it is smaller things, like to give this new medication a go, or to make it to the next long weekend and reassess.  As long as I have a reason to keep pushing through, it makes it a little easier.  Right now I’ve got my eyes on two weeks hence, when I’ll meet with Dr Edi-Osagie again to see if the Zoladex is working and determine whether surgery is the next step.  Having something in the future that I am focused on makes it easier to push through the present, which is mostly a weird stabbing pain in my…bladder?  Uterus?  Can’t really tell.

4) Staying as positive as possible

As I said in my last two posts, being happy makes it easier to deal with the bad stuff.  Training your brain into a more positive mindset isn’t a foolproof, 100% guarantee that you’ll always be happy, but it helps.

5) Treating myself well

Whether it is looking after myself physically by taking my medication and vitamins, keeping myself mentally healthy by being kind and forgiving to myself, or just plain spoiling myself on occasion, I find it much easier to make it through a week when I’m doing those things than when I’m not.  My journey’s hard enough; no point making it harder.

6) Keeping occupied

When you are stuck at home just doing one thing all the time it becomes really easy not to do anything at all.  I try to switch it up as often as possible.  Rather than watch several episodes of a show back-to-back I’ll go outside for 10 minutes after one, or get on the floor to hug my dog, or go and write something on my blog.  Mind games like Sudoku or logic puzzles are good to keep the old brain-motor running as it should.  Having an app to switch to for a little while, or a book, or doing some journalling or doodling is great.  The more you do the harder it is to sink into a depressive state (and the more you sink into a depressive state, the harder you will find it to switch up activities).  If I binge-watch a series, no matter how excellent, I won’t stop, and I’ll hate myself for it, and that will make me feel useless, and then I’ll be useless.  Breaking it up with other activities makes me feel more productive and active.

7) Asking for help

I’ve already talked about how I couldn’t have made it through the past few years without a support network.  Sometimes, I’m not feeling so strong.  Either I have no hope for the future, or feel like I can’t bear up under the pain any more, or simply need help taking the load off for a bit so I can get into a healthier mindset without the stress of undone tasks.  Asking friends and family to pitch in with some emotional support or practical help lets me do that.

8) Letting my worries out

Whether by writing them down, talking them over or praying them away, analysing my fears lets me take control over them and prevent them from controlling me.  If I know what my fear is I can step on it by asking, “So what?”  That’s kind of how this blog started.  I was telling myself, “I’m going to get fired because of my health.  I’ll lose my entire career and never be a lawyer ever again.”  Then I said to myself, “So what if that happens?  What will I do?”  “Ella,” I said, “I’ll start a blog.  That way I’ll have something to keep me busy and maybe one day I can even use it as a business.”  (There was a bit more emotional drama in between those sentences, but you get the gist).

Of course, this doesn’t always work.  Sometimes there is no solution to the worry so I’ll focus instead on letting it go, only to find it comes buzzing back in like that annoying little fly you’re sure you saw fly out of the window a minute ago.  Trying is important, though.

9) Staying hopeful (but not too hopeful)

If you pin all your hopes on a particularly solution, you will be crushingly devastated when it fails.  However, a bit of cautious optimism lets you aim for the faint light at the end of the tunnel, and means you aren’t absolutely broken when you find out it was a vital part of the tunnel infrastructure catching fire instead.  A little bit of hope makes it easier to get through the bad stuff because there is the possibility it might get better.

10) Preparing

Even if I don’t go out, I make sure to do certain things as if I will.  Every day I wash my face, brush my hair and clean my teeth.  It’s not much and it is something most people take for granted, I suspect.  However, those three little things make me feel more human, give me a small sense of purpose and achievement, and ensure that I don’t look and smell in the event that someone knocks on the door.  Even if I’m in my pjs, it gives me a small sense of self-possession I would otherwise lack, and it’s that small sense that helps me feel like I’m more competent, more confident, and therefore stronger.

 

What do you do to get through the really tough bits?  Any mantras or quotes that help you?  Let me know in the comments.

 

Staying Generous

Yesterday I wrote about how to stay grateful in a situation where there is so much against us.  Today I want to talk about how we can stay generous when we are already lacking in money, struggling physically, and devoting most of our emotional energy to caring for ourselves.

Most forms of generosity involve giving your money, your time, or your emotional labour.  Donating to charity, helping friends move house or listening to people discuss their problems are all common forms of generosity.  Being generous is something that feels good, makes people like you and is just a nice thing to be.  However, it can also be seriously draining.  So, what are some things that people with endo can do?  Here’s a few ideas…

  1. Engage in online advocacy, including sharing and signing petitions.  It generally only takes a few clicks so it isn’t a huge amount of energy required, but it helps promote good causes.
  2. If you have the spare cash, invest in a charity that helps you help a lot of people for a small amount, like Kiva.  You can lend a certain amount of money to a cause of your choice.  The person you loan it to then pays it back over time, so you can reinvest it in a new cause.  It’s not a commitment to a monthly scheme and it means you only have to give the money you have, which you will get back.
  3. Participate in fundraisers that don’t require too much from you.  Many fundraisers involve sponsored walks, runs or cycles.  Others, like Frocktober (to raise money for ovarian cancer research) or Dressember (to raise funds to combat human trafficking) simply require you to wear a dress each day.  I managed Frocktober last year and raised around $700, which I couldn’t have done if I was required to, say, walk for an hour a day.  I won’t be able to do it this year as I’ll be in the UK and I want to wear pants to travel, so I might give Dressember a go instead.
  4. Practice being generous with the people closest to you.  Maybe you can’t afford to take your partner for a romantic date, but can you offer a back massage or a foot rub?  If your best friend is struggling at work, listen to them and talk to them.  Be their shoulder to cry on.  It’s easier to expend emotional energy when you care about the person you are doing it for.  If you still have something left, give more or expand the circle of people you support.
  5. Support your endo-fellows.  One thing that warms my heart in the local facebook endo support group is to see people generously offering to drop in care packages, emergency supplies or even just company to others in hospital.  If you are up to a drive, consider that.
  6. Educate.  If there is a cause you are passionate and knowledgeable about and you want to share it with people, go for it.
  7. Volunteer at things where you can sit down.  Perhaps it is manning a stall at an event or festival, or doing a bit of face-painting at a school fete (although a word of warning as a former professional facepainter: it is KILLER on the back and shoulder muscles).  Is there a phone service you could help with?  If it is something physical within your ability to take it on, why not?
  8. Compliment people!  I’m not saying to be insincere, but doesn’t a nice compliment just make your day a little brighter?  If you like someone’s outfit, tell them.  If you think their work today was just fantastic, tell them.  It doesn’t take much from you but it might make a big difference to them.
  9. Forgive people.  A lot of people will say insensitive stuff about endometriosis or about you.  Generosity includes forgiving people for that, even when it hurts and is frustrating.  That doesn’t mean you have to keep hanging around that person, excuse their wrong or forget what was said, but it does mean you stop dwelling on it and being angry at them for it.  It’s good for you, too.

There are, of course, some things you should remember with this.  Rules, if you will.

  1. Whilst true generosity may include giving up things you want, it should not include giving up things you need.  Ensure that you have enough money set aside for medical expenses, food and rent before you give it away.  If you’re anything like me, you don’t know if you’ll be able to work sufficiently in the future to make up any deficit.
  2. Don’t overdo it.  It’s not much good helping someone for one day and going all out only to leave yourself bedridden for the next fortnight.  Know when to say no, and when to call it quits and go home.
  3. It is fine to advocate and be generous for a cause that helps you too.  If raising funds and awareness for endo is your passion, it is no less generous to give your time and money to that cause simply because you may benefit (although let’s be honest, anything we achieve in the endo sphere is really more likely to benefit the next generation than ours).
  4. Be generous to yourself!  If you are forgiving and complimenting other people and giving them time and energy, do a little bit of the same for yourself.

Overall, I think generosity is a little easier than gratefulness, but it still promotes a certain positivity of mind.  Sharing and caring feels good.  Feeling good helps you cope with pain and negativity better.  It’s a nice thing to do and a nice way to feel.

What are ways that you stay generous while suffering?  What is hardest for you?  Let me know in the comments.

Staying Grateful

There’s a lot not to love about endometriosis.  It alters our moods, our bodies, our pain levels, our love lives, our work and our ability to have children, and generally not for the better.  I tried starting this month out with a post on the few positives I have managed to drag out of this experience, but today I want to talk more about how to maintain a mindset of gratitude in general.

It’s a funny thing, gratitude.  I often say and think that you don’t owe people gratitude for doing the bare minimum of decency, such as when men get applauded for “babysitting” their own children.  However, I do think that gratitude is healthy, and taking time to be grateful for small things is good for the soul.  It has a whole range of positive benefits on the psyche, from making us happier and more likeable to making us physically healthier due to the reduced stress.

In addition, Christians are called to be grateful to our creator for our lives, this beautiful planet, and pretty much everything else.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you let yourself turn into some sort of sycophant who is constantly kissing the bottoms of everyone for any minor thing they’ve done to assist, nor am I suggesting that we should be grateful for the problems that we face as people with chronic illnesses.  What I am suggesting is that we do our best to cultivate a more grateful (but still realistic) mindset overall.  How can we do that?

Step One

List things that you are unadulteratedly (is that a word?) grateful for.  Things that don’t have any negative association for you.  For instance, I am grateful for spring weather, for my idiotic cat, the love of my husband, and my comfy bed.  They aren’t things that ever have negative aspects for me.  I think you’ll find that this is actually a surprisingly large list.  Challenge yourself to make it as big as possible.  Fill pages.  You don’t need to have a reason for why you are grateful for them.  I’m grateful for mountains.  I don’t know why.  I just like them.

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Mountains are PRETTY.

Don’t just make stuff up, though.  If you hate the ocean, don’t put that you are grateful for it.  It’s not something that you can be purely grateful for without a negative.  There’s no point fluffing out the list for the sake of making it bigger – that will take away from the things that you really are grateful for.

Step Two

List the things that didn’t fit on that first list – things that suck but you are grateful for a particular aspect of them.  For instance, I hate that it can be so hard to get doctors to listen, but I am so grateful for the ones that do.  I hate that I have so few days without pain, but I am grateful when they come.

It’s important with this to list the negative before the positive.  Framing it as, “I love it when I get to exercise but I hate that it hurts so much afterwards” is not looking on the bright side.  It’s true, but it doesn’t belong on this list.

Step Three

Put your list into practice.  When you come across a bad situation or are having a terrible day, see if you can find a bright side to it.  Write it down if that helps.  I’m not saying that you will always be able to find a bright side.  Sometimes there simply won’t be one, and that’s ok.  However, the more you do this, the easier it will get.  It’s a case of faking it til you make it, and it does work.  You are training your brain to be more positive.

There are a number of things that I don’t find to be healthy habits in training your brain this way, and I would try to avoid them.  First, don’t compare yourself to someone else.  Your gratitude shouldn’t be, “Well, my endo sucks but at least it isn’t as bad as Emma’s.”  That invalidates your pain and makes poor Emma an object of pity.  Don’t do it.  Second, don’t get stupid with it.  “My pain is a 10/10 but at least I’m not DEAD.”  That’s not a helpful mindset and it will make you bitter, not grateful.  Goodness knows I struggle enough to be not bitter without thoughts like that.  Third, don’t force it.  Faking it and forcing it are not the same.  Four, don’t let gratitude get in the way of holding people up to standards of human decency.  If you got your handbag stolen at knifepoint, you wouldn’t be grateful to the thief for not actually stabbing you.  You might be grateful that you got out unharmed, but that’s not the same as being grateful to the knife-wielding menace.  Send your gratitude in the right direction.

 

I don’t think gratitude is easy when you’ve been dealt a really rough hand.  I am often too depressed to be grateful for anything.  Sometimes, even the things I’m grateful for can be really annoying.  For example, I am incredibly grateful for my cat, but as I typed this sentence I just heard him figure out how to unlock open the bathroom window and now I know I will never have peace or a warm house ever again.  Yep, here comes the cold winter air swirling in.  Little pest.  Got to be impressed at the persistence and ingenuity, though.

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Preparing to ruin my nice warm bath by opening the window and letting in all the cold, no doubt.

I digress.

Practice making perfect and faking it til you make it are pretty worn-out maxims by now, but they remain true all the same.  Some days it is hard, but I find my mental health really does benefit when I drag my brain away from the bad stuff and let it frolic in the good stuff for a while.  Being in a good place mentally then makes it easier for me to deal with the physical pain.

Do you find that being grateful makes a difference to your mindset?  How do you manage to stay grateful when we have a fair number of things not to be grateful for?  Let me know in the comments, and say tuned for the follow-up to this piece, “Staying Generous.”

 

Reframing Part III: Body Image

I recently did a 3-part series on some of the common side-effects of endo, including UTIs, thrush and constipation.  Now I want to do some on the emotional side-effects, beginning with guilt, and talk about reframing the way we think about things to combat these negative emotions.  Please bear in mind I am not a psychologist or mental-health expert – these are just some strategies that I have employed to deal with my own feelings.

Today I want to talk about body image, which is something I struggle with all the time.

My pre-endo body was hot.  I never would have phrased it so blatantly at the time but now she’s practically a different woman so I have no problem singing her praises.  I was long and lean but still curvy – think a less muscular Xena.  Just before my 25th birthday I was in really peak condition, working out almost daily, going for 5km runs and swinging kettlebells round my head.

Now my thighs are bigger, my tummy is chubbier, even when it isn’t distended, and I don’t fit into my fantastic red bootcut Cue trousers.  I’m learning to deal with my heartbreak about the trousers but the grieving process is long.  I’ve already discussed how I don’t like this body because it doesn’t feel like mine.  For a while, though, I actually despised the fatness (it’s not very fat, it just felt that way) because this society really hammers into us that you can’t be pretty and fat.  Even though we’ve made some strides towards body positivity by showcasing more fat models, they often don’t show “real” fat.  They are the idealised fat, where everything is still a super smooth, cellulite-free curve, just on a larger, rounder scale.  Real fat tends to be jiggly and has lumps rather than being a perfect curve.  It’s not taut and smooth, and mine definitely isn’t sun-bronzed.  If I go out in the sun and expose anything other than my face and hands people tend to be blinded by the whiteness.

So how did I learn to move past that and learn to accept my body even though it isn’t the one I want?

1) I was exhausted by hating it

It is a very tiring thing to wake up and look at your body and think, “I hate you,” every day.  I already hate that it causes me so much pain and seems to be failing in its job to carry me from point A to B and sustain itself properly.  Hating the way it looks is extra energy that I really don’t have.

2) I forced myself to confront it

These days I have to wear clothes that accommodate a painful, tender pelvis, so I stopped wearing a lot of the awesome trousers I used to have that would highlight my neat little waist and long legs.  I still wear clothes that show off the bits I like, but a side-effect was that I was hiding the bits I didn’t like, which also meant I could hide from them.  Unfortunately, pretending they weren’t there didn’t make them go away, so I forced myself not to rush into getting changed.  I forced myself to look at my body without those comforting layers.  And you know what?  When I looked at it, really looked at it, it wasn’t actually as bad as I thought.  Self-hatred has a tendency to magnify your flaws and downplay your assets, but when I made myself stare at myself and get reaquainted with parts I was avoiding, I could go, “Ok, so the thighs aren’t what they were, but I still have nice calves.  My hips don’t fit into some of my clothes anymore but they don’t actually look any bigger.  I still go in at the waist.  My face is still pretty.”

It’s probably not that healthy because I was still looking for things in my body that conformed with the idealised standard of beauty that gets plastered over magazine covers.  I’m told a healthier mindset might be to ditch all that and say, “my hands are dexterous, my legs let me stand, etc.” That kind of body positvity focused on functionality, though, doesn’t really work for people whose bodies aren’t functional but still don’t want to hate themselves.  Am I supposed to look at my stomach and go, “Yeah, nothing inside this bad boy actually ever functions how it should, but it sure is great!” It’s a common tactic for encouraging self-love but it is unintentionally ableist.

I don’t really have a solution to how we navigate that line, given that bodies are really only “assessable”, for lack of a better word, based on looks and function.  If anyone has a healthier approach to that, please let me know.  I went with looks because I was hating my looks, so finding things about my looks that I did like was a good antidote for me.

3) I treated it well

The best thing I have every done to learn to love my body is treating as if it deserves love.  If you treat something with care and respect, it is very hard to hate it; if you treat it like it doesn’t matter, it is very hard to love it.

So, I exercise when I can, not to get all slenderised, but to feel my muscles rebuild and protect myself.  I eat well (mostly) because I like to think my body goes, “Ooh, nourishment.” I have a super elaborate skin-care ritual because if I pretend I deserve it (or my face does), I begin to believe that is true.  So treat yo’self.  Treat your body well.  It may not give you anything in return when it is still riddled with disease, but it will help you shift your mindset into liking it again.

4) I gave myself a break

If I see my friends have a bit of a tummy, I don’t fixate on it and go, “ew.” If I see acne on someone’s face, I don’t recoil in disgust.  So why do I put myself through that?  Why can’t I love myself the way I love my friends?  Also, if I feel that way about their bodies, chances are they feel that way about mine, and don’t notice my gradual expansion (except when I can’t shut up about it).  I think they are beautiful, inside and out.  I am fairly certain they believe that about me (they certainly say they do).  So I can learn to believe it about myself.

5) I tried to change my thinking

Instead of seeing the weight gain as a symbol of a battle lost, I am trying to see it as a mark of a battle fought.  It remind me that I have endo, yes, but it also reminds me that I am taking steps to fight it as much as I can.  Today I had a third piece of plastic injected into me (into that wobbly little tum, of all places) to induce menopause at just 27 years of age.  I’m going to great lengths to give my body back its health.

I also tried to see my body as an ally instead of the enemy.  It hasn’t actually done anything wrong.  It has been invaded by endometriosis and taken over.  Endo is the enemy.  My body is fighting back against it, and it can’t win every battle, but it is on my side and you can’t hate people who are on your side.  Those are the rules.

 

One thing I haven’t talked about in this article is trying to get away from the notion that prettiness or looking a certain way determines your self-worth.  I know it doesn’t.  For me, the battle hasn’t been about self-worth.  It’s been about self-love.  I haven’t struggled to like my body because I think it devalues me as a person; I have struggled to like it because it wasn’t what I wanted.  I don’t equate my value with how I look (mostly.  I’m not totally over that.  Is anyone?), but I do equate my happiness with it.  My fight has not been to change my priorities, but the way I view my body.

Have you experienced a change in the way you feel about your body since having endometriosis?  How have you dealt with that?  Is it still a struggle for you?  Please let me know in the comments.

Reframing Part II: Worth

I recently did a 3-part series on some of the common side-effects of endo, including UTIs, thrush and constipation.  Now I want to do some on the emotional side-effects, beginning with guilt, and talk about reframing the way we think about things to combat these negative emotions.  Please bear in mind I am not a psychologist or mental-health expert – these are just some strategies that I have employed to deal with my own feelings.

Yesterday I spoke about the guilt we often feel for not living up to the same standards that healthy people can.  As a related topic, I want to discuss what gives us worth as people.

Too often people who are not completely able-bodied are subjected to rampant discrimination.  I’ve straight up been told in a facebook discussion that disabled people are “worthless” because they contribute nothing.  Even more frequently, you see people make comments that just totally fail to take into account that not everybody has the privilege of consistent good health and mobility.  Just this weekend (on facebook again!) someone made a very well-meaning post encouraging people in the group to be active, and in doing so explicitly criticised inactive pursuits, such as watching tv, as a waste of time.  Plenty of people thankfully pointed out that taking time for self-care, which can definitely include tv watching, is not a waste of time.  But that is the kind of comment people make completely unthinkingly.  We, and the extra challenges we face, are an afterthought for healthy people.  All of this serves to reinforce the idea that we are not worth the effort it takes to include us.

But what makes us worthwhile?  Far too many people measure our worth by what we do for society as a whole, and consider us to be “low value” if we aren’t doing something.  And by something, they tend to mean working, and usually earning.  That’s why we hear about so many complaints and generalisations about dole-bludgers – if you aren’t working but still would like to be able to exist, we are “bludgers” or “leaners”, taking from the tax-payer without giving back.

Does that suggest a person’s value can only be measured in dollars?  Are children only valuable because they could earn money one day, and old people because they have in the past?  Was I a lesser human being when I was earning $10 an hour as a casual worker than I am now as a salaried lawyer?  Does my severely autistic client on the DSP deserve my help less than the bus-driver on $70k a year because the bus driver is earning more, or contributing more to society?  Or is value measured in the type of job you have?  Is a nurse more valuable than a retail assistance because they work in human lives rather than dollars and cents?  Does a construction worker’s value change based on whether they are building a community centre or luxury flats?

Perhaps the child or the old person are valuable because they are loved by others and bring them joy.  Certainly most people have someone else who cares about them and derives some sort of pleasure from their existence.  I remember when I was a facepainter and I did a gig where there was a little boy with Downs Syndrome.  It was apparently quite serious and it was unlikely that he would ever be functional enough to hold down a “normal” job or possibly even complete his education.  However, I have never facepainted a child who had such a pure, joyful reaction to it.  When he saw his little face painted as a tiger he just broke into the biggest, most infectious smile and a bubbly giggle that was impossible not to laugh at.  I’ve painted hundreds of children’s faces, but I’ll never forget his.

But what if that little boy had been cranky and nonverbal and smashed up my paints and made his parents’ life a constant battle and never shown them that gorgeous little smile?  Would he matter less?  I don’t think our only value rests in whether we bring joy or love or positivity to other people either.  That’s not to say that kindness, gentleness and warmth aren’t important qualities, and, in my view, far more important than how much you earn or pay in taxes, or whether your job contributes or not.  I applaud nurses and think their jobs are vital, but I don’t think it gives them more intrinsic value than someone who is not in such a role of care and service.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m of the view that every person is born with and retains an inherent value by virtue of being a human being.  Part of that is because I’m Christian.  I believe every person on this earth is made in God’s image and loved by God, and that all of us are made equal by our flaws and faults.  I don’t think that the unwell homeless man who hangs around our building and makes sexualised comments to the people walking by is of less intrinsic value to God than the lawyers milling round in freshly dry-cleaned suits, and I imagine God knows people’s true worth a lot better than I do.  (I do wish the weird comments wouldn’t happen, but I’ve heard plenty of people in full possession of their faculties say far worse).  Consequently, I don’t think that the “leaners” of this society, whom I am in ever-present danger of joining, have any less value than the “lifters”.  Everyone deserves the same baseline of respect, service and dignity.

All of this helps me.  I know who I am as a person.  I am clever, creative, funny and kind.  I try to be generous with my time, my abilities and my money.  I have good language skills and can think outside the box.  When required, I am organised, hardworking and conscientious.

But if I was not clever, if I had no creativity, no wit and no instinct to help, if I had no law degree and couldn’t organise my way out of a paper bag, would I be less deserving of respect and kindness?  Would I have less worth than someone else?  No.  I am a human being, and that means something.  More importantly (for me), I will always have worth in the eyes of God, no matter how much I can earn or do or achieve by societal standards.  I am worthy of love and care.  We all are.

How do you remind yourself of your own value when you hear comments about not contributing?  I’m particularly keen to hear from you Godless heathens :p I couldn’t get through all this without my faith but I know that plenty of others don’t have that and survive anyway.  Please share your coping strategies in the comments!

Reframing Part I: Guilt

I recently did a 3-part series on some of the common side-effects of endo, including UTIs, thrush and constipation.  Now I want to do some on the emotional side-effects, beginning with guilt, and talk about reframing the way we think about things to combat these negative emotions.  Please bear in mind I am not a psychologist or mental-health expert – these are just some strategies that I have employed to deal with my own feelings.

I’ve touched before on how incredibly easy it is to feel guilty with endometriosis.  There are as many things to feel guilty for, it seems, as there are people in our lives.  I know that I personally feel guilty for:-

  1. The disproportionate burden of household chores that falls on my husband;
  2. Forcing my colleagues to cover my appointments and deadlines when I am unexpectedly sick;
  3. Not being a reliable financial contributor to the family;
  4. Depriving my husband of the chance to have a normal life with ordinary fun couple activities;
  5. Letting down my clients by not being there for them;
  6. Relying so heavily on my mum when I am supposed to be an independent adult;
  7. Taking up doctors’ time;
  8. Not being as sick as other people;
  9. Being sick in the first place; and
  10. Not being a good dog mum because I can’t walk her…

…to name a few.  I don’t even have mother-guilt to contend with, and sometimes I still feel like a guilt pudding with pain frosting.

So how can I deal with this?  How can you?

Step One: Identify the Culprit

I think step one for me is to identify the specific guilt I’m struggling with.  They all stem from slightly different causes (although the common theme is the idea that I can’t do enough) and all take a different type of internal dialogue to resolve.

You also need to figure out, is the guilt coming from internal pressures and a failure to live up to the standards I set myself, or is someone making me feel guilty (and yes, people can absolutely make you feel something).

If it is someone else whom I don’t have a close relationship with, I tend to burn of feelings of guilt with righteous indignation pretty quickly.  “How dare you judge me?  You have no idea what I’m dealing with!” Which is totally true and justifiable.  Funnily, that anger response is not there when someone I do love and respect does it.

Step Two: Speak to the Offender

If someone you love has made you feel awful and they love you back, the last thing in the world that they would want is to hurt you.  I think the best thing you can do is explain to them why what they said hurts and why their expectations for you are too high.  So many people do not get how horrifically painful endo can be.  It’s not your job to do the emotional labour of trying to educate them, but too often we have to anyway.  See if you can make the pain relatable for them.  Give them an “objective” measure people can understand.  All people tend to accept broken bones, childbirth and being kicked in the testes as very painful experiences – can you relate your endo to that?  If they are more of a visual person, can you describe the pain through imagery?  “It’s like being burned by a really hot fire.  It’s like I have pins and needles in my ovaries.  It’s like someone is stabbing me with a fire poker and gradually trying to drive it right through me.”

If you are the one you are making feel guilty, sit yourself down and frown at yourself.  You know how painful this is.  You know what your body can and can’t endure, and how pushing yourself on Thursday will break you on Friday.  You know the consequences of trying to go beyond your limits, dammit!

Step Three: Reassess Your Standards

Most of my guilt comes from a failure to meet a standard I expect of myself.  This is because I still expect as much of myself now as I did when I was healthy.  If you told me to go out the door right now and run 5km, part of me would probably go “Pfft, I can run it while carrying you on my back,” because I could before I was sick (not the carrying part.  Just the 5km part).  Now I’ll be lucky to manage a single kilometre before something gives out – it’s a lottery as to what.  Trying to remind myself that that is ok and it is not a failure is really hard, but so important.  I wouldn’t expect someone else with my condition to do it, so why on earth do I expect it of myself?  We can be our own harshest detractors.

Talk to the people in your life, as well.  Explain that you have a permanent and debilitating condition and you can’t do all the things you used to.  Make it clear that you won’t simply recover and be back to your normal, healthy self.  That’s gone.

Step Four: Cut Your Losses

If there is someone in your life who is consistently unsupportive and does not believe you, you will eventually come to a point where you realise that you can’t win them over.  If you reach that point, cut them out.  You have enough to deal with and enough people to keep up with already.  You don’t have the time or energy to be wasting on people who don’t have your back.  This is really hard when it is someone you love (or feel you ought to love) really deeply, but realistically, the alternative is to let them continue to wear you down.

It is also hard when that person is someone you have to associate with constantly anyway, such as a colleague.  If they become outright rude, report them to HR or to your supervisor.  If they just stay at the passive-aggressive level, work on developing a shield against their taunts.  It’s like the old adage, those that matter don’t mind, and those that mind don’t matter.  The ones who believe you and support you are your friends.  The ones that don’t are not.

Step Five: Recognise It Is OK

It is ok to be passionate and advocate and educate about this disease.  It is ok to take the time you need to rest.  It is ok to cry and to require medication, and to feel pain even if someone else feels more pain.  It is ok to have new standards.  It is ok to not hate yourself for living a different life.  YOU ARE NOT TO BLAME FOR WHAT YOU CANNOT CONTROL.  You did not ask for this disease or the incapacity that travels with it.  You cannot control it.  You cannot control the fact that you now need different things, and that is ok.

Do unto yourself as you would do unto others.  If your best friend, or your partner, or even a total stranger, was in your shoes right now, would you berate them for not doing the washing up?  Would you tell them they are not good enough because they couldn’t go to work today?  You would not.  You would have compassion and empathy.  Have a little for yourself.

 

So, that’s my five-step anti-guilt programme.  Does it actually work?  Eh, sometimes.  Sometimes I can’t escape the guilt and cry on my husband and then feel guilty for making him look after me and dry my tears, and the cycle begins again.  But I’m trying, all the time.

What makes you feel guilty with your endo?  How do you deal with it?  What do you say to others who judge you?  Let me know in the comments!

 

Book Review: Eggshell Skull

Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee is not a book I would recommend reading unless your mental health is in tip-top order and you don’t have trauma around sexual assault, self-harm or eating disorders, because that is what the book is about (and consequently also this review).  

The title refers to the Eggshell Skull principle of criminal law – that if you hit a man with an eggshell-thin skull and it shatters, killing him, the fact that you didn’t know about his skull being so thin is not a defence to murder.  The book itself is about flipping that principle and making victims of abuse and assault strong, and forcing their abusers and attackers to face them.

It is an incredibly hard read, emotionally speaking.  It’s biographical, and from the outset Lee is a very relatable character, particularly to me.  She’s fresh out of law school and has landed a coveted associateship with a District Court judge, and spends a goodly portion of her time doubting whether she is good enough for the job, struggling to keep up with its pressures, and envying her Type-A colleagues.  I’ve certainly felt that.  Regardless of career field, I suspect we all have.

From there Ms Lee is thrown headlong into the world of criminal trials – almost entirely sexual assault.  There is a depressing monotony to the cycle of abuse victims reliving their trauma in the witness box and men whom Lee is sure are guilty being let off because the victim is portrayed as insufficiently virtuous or attractive to be raped – she was either definitely just a slut having sex and then regretting it, or she was lying outright because who would succumb to uncontrollable passion for someone who looked like that?  It’s a damning indictment of how women are too often not believed, whether it is medical conditions or rape trials.

Almost as bad is when Lee does see men convicted; one is Aboriginal, and it is clear that there is a racial factor at play because the white man the day before gets away clean.  Another is revealed to be a truly evil man, but his little boy loves him.  Yet another is a violent rapist with two convictions whose girlfriend has his side completely.  It’s another slice of heartbreak and just shows how few winners there are in the criminal justice system.  It’s messy and horrible, and a good reason why I don’t practice criminal law.

Woven throughout this is Lee’s own story – her horror at what she sees in court everyday as it bleeds into her own traumatic experiences and growing self-harm.  We find these out both slowly and suddenly.  There’s no hint of her own traumatic background, and then suddenly she is talking about a trampoline in the back garden and you realise, “Oh my goodness.  Someone raped her there.”

The story from there is Lee’s battle with self-harm, bulimia and alcoholism and her own fears.  It’s heartrending to hear her thoughts about her perceived lack of self-worth, and how that drives her to purge, to cut and to drink.  In her mind at the time, it was logical and necessary, and it comes from a desire to make her “spoiled” self perfect for the people around her.

Lee makes it, though, and she makes it to the point of reporting her trauma and taking on her abuser in the courtroom.  She learns from the horrors she witnesses in the courtroom and is determined to be the strong victim who fights back against her abuser, years after the event, in the only way she can.

The book is very hard to read on a number of levels.  For me, as a lawyer, seeing the flaws in the system I’ve sworn to uphold is always painful.  It’s imperfect and the desire to see people convicted for their crimes is in tension with the knowledge that everyone is entitled to a good defence and that anyone accused is innocent until proven guilty.  I also know that the vast majority of criminal matters never make it to trial, because the cases are black and white and the defendant pleads guilty to get a better deal on sentencing.  I also know that sexual assault cases are rarely black and white, as the book discusses.  Establishing sex occurred is the easy part.  Consent, that barrier between sex and rape, is harder.  There’s no forensic evidence in most cases to help establish it.  Most rapes don’t involve physical violence.  If they did, we’d have a much higher conviction rate.

It’s also hard to see a young woman labouring under the horrible pressures of the legal system as one of its workers.  I’m lucky in that I’m not a Type-A, overachieving, highly ambitious person.  I realised relatively young that my sister is cleverer and a harder worker than me, and that I’d kill myself trying to equal her, so I learned to sit back a bit and prioritise my happiness over my marks (somewhat.  Marks still mattered to me, just not as much).  That attitude carried over into my career.  I want to do well and be the best I can be, but I’m not competing against anyone, and I don’t need to be a top barrister or partner of a huge firm.  I don’t need stacks of money and I’m not willing to work 14-hour days to get it.  In other words, I’m a bit unusual amongst the legal profession.

In law school I saw a lot of people who were the complete opposite.  They are willing to take the absolute punishment of body, soul and mind that is required to get to the top as quickly as possible and distinguish themselves.  There are some people who are born for that kind of competition and labour.  There are others who have simply been told they are, and break themselves trying.  Given Lee’s circumstances during the book, she ends up being one of the latter.  She does amazingly well considering, but the pressure is clearly killing her.  I know that the legal profession can do that and that we have stunningly high rates of suicide and substance abuse, and Lee’s experience is a good explanation of why.

Hardest of all, though, is reading this book as a woman and knowing that if I were ever raped, this is what I’d come up against.  I’d have to hope that the assault was a violent, stranger-danger attack rather than someone I know well.  I’d have to be completely sober, wearing a long skirt or trousers, and not at a party.  On my side is the fact that I’m white, in a professional job, married, Christian, and don’t have a long history of partners.  No one can call me a “slut”.  I’m a “good girl,” and if I end up as someone’s victim one day, that might be the thing that convicts him.  On top of that, I’d have to demonstrate impossible strength in the face of horrible trauma, and relive it again and again as a witness.

Bri Lee is an incredibly strong, brave young woman, and this book should be read by everyone.  However, I don’t know if everyone will be able to.  It will leave your heart raw.

The Tragedy of Domestic Violence

Big trigger warning.  The title should explain why.

1 in 6 women and 1 in 16 men in Australia will experience physical domestic violence at the hands of an intimate partner.  When the definition is expanded to include emotional abuse, the numbers grow.  I think everyone can agree that’s far too many.

It’s a subject close to my heart.  The majority of my work as a lawyer is to do with domestic violence.  I’ve assisted people of every demographic, from the very young to the very old, male, female or nonbinary, and in many different types of relationships.  The number of people I see suffering from family violence is horrific.

It’s not just partners, either.  It’s children hurting or being hurt by their parents, siblings attacking each other, or vengeful exes going after their former partner’s family.

All in all, it’s a bleak, depressing and sometimes deeply traumatising area to be involved in, and I’m only dipping into these scenarios for the brief moment that they collide with the legal system.  I don’t actually have to live it.  My heart goes out to the people who do, particularly those that never even make it to the point where they can seek legal help.

Now, when I’m talking about domestic violence, what do I actually mean?  Obviously it involves violence between two people who are related or in a relationship.  Physical or sexual violence are the most obvious examples – hitting, shoving, strangling, sexually assaulting someone, etc.  But most jurisdictions also make provision for things like harassment, intimidation, stalking, threats, and generally tormenting someone, as well as financially and/or socially controlling them.

Each state and territory in Australia has its own specific legislation that deals with domestic violence, each defining it in slightly different ways and each making different requirements on the courts and the police.  The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), which applies everywhere except WA, also defines family violence quite broadly to include the above.  WA has a nearly identical bit of family law legislation, but had to be special and couldn’t possibly just sign up to the same one as everyone else.

There’s  lot of myths and misinformation about DV floating around Australia.  One of the most infuriating things I hear people say about domestic violence is, “Why didn’t they leave?”  The reason people experiencing DV usually don’t leave varies from person to person, but it could be any of the following:-

  1. They still love the abuser and believe that they can change;
  2. They believe that it is their own fault and that they need to work harder to please the abuser to make it stop;
  3. They are scared of being alone and feel being in a bad relationship is better than no being in one at all;
  4. They have children and are worried about what will happen if they leave them behind;
  5. They have children and don’t know how they will provide care to them if they leave with the children;
  6. They are a child themselves and may be forced by authorities to return home;
  7. They do not know how to survive without their abuser;
  8. They are financially controlled by their abuser;
  9. They are socially isolated and have no support or assistance;
  10. They do not recognise that they are experiencing abuse;
  11. They are too scared to try and leave in case their abuser catches them.

It could be one of these factors, or it could be several or all of them.

But what does any of this have to do with endometriosis?

Well, imagine you are feeling one of the things on that list but are then chronically ill as well.  Someone with endo also has to ask themselves, “How will I afford my medication?  How will I support myself when I’m sick?  How can I care for my children without help?  Who will take me to the hospital?  How can I afford rent if I can’t work?” Chronic illness massively adds to the difficulty of trying to escape an abusive relationship.  People with chronic illness are already more likely to be experiencing financial difficulty, social isolation and reliance on another person than your average, healthy person.  That makes us even more vulnerable.

HOW TO ESCAPE

So, if you are experiencing domestic violence, what can you do?

Well, the first step is getting in touch with a domestic violence service.  They range in what they can assist with from advice to coordinating your escape, depending on the service.  The Victorian Organisation, Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria, has a great list of resources for all over the country.

I strongly recommend also getting in touch with a lawyer.  They will be able to speak with you about getting a domestic violence order (noting that they are called different things in different states, such as Violence Restraining Orders in Victoria and Apprehended Violence Orders in NSW).  Domestic Violence Orders, or DVOs, can keep you safe by making it a criminal offence for the abuser to come near you or your home, among other things.  However, a DVO isn’t the right option for everyone, which is why I advise talking to a lawyer.  I have specifically told people not to get them before because I think it will make their situation worse or put them in more danger.  However, if it will help you, seeing a lawyer will make it much easier.  Rather than pay for a private lawyer, consult your nearest Legal Aid or community legal centre – many of these places will assist you for free.

In some states, such as NSW, it is better to talk to the police, who will take the order out for you and run the case from start to finish.

Those are the big two first steps to take.  However, there are some practical steps that are also worth considering:-

  1. Getting a parcel locker or PO Box so the abuser cannot intercept your mail;
  2. Creating a separate bank account with a new password that the abuser will not be able to guess;
  3. Separating yourself on any joint services such as Centrelink;
  4. Ensuring that your medical care providers know that the abuser is not to receive any information about you and should not be considered your next of kin;
  5. If you own a house in both names, making sure that the abuser cannot take money out of the mortgage or change the mortgage amount without your signature by talking to your mortgage provider;
  6. Making sure that location services are turned off on your phone;
  7. Checking your vehicle for tracking devices.

In many cases some of these steps will not be necessary, but think about your situation and decide what is best to do.

I also strongly recommend reading the various tips and stories in this guide.  It’s specifically about escaping abuse with a disability.

HOW TO HELP

What if you know someone who is being abused?  First and foremost, be gentle.  They may not yet recognise the behaviour as abusive, or may feel that they can’t yet leave.  Telling them simply to cut and run is not supportive, particularly if they are facing the obstacles I mentioned above.  Instead, ask them how you can help.  Do they need a place to stay for a while, and can you offer that?  Do they need an interest-free loan, and can you afford to do so?  Can you help coordinate their escape, or babysit their children, or do the school run for them?

Generally speaking, I would not advise calling the police unless they are in immediate danger, such as if you walk past the house and hear them screaming for help, or if they call you and ask you to do so.  If you call the police when there is not a crisis, scared abuse victims may defend their abuser.  Further, it could put them in more danger if the abuser believes that they called the police.  Alternatively, the abuser may force them to cut contact with you.

If you think a friend is being abused, you can also contact one of those resources above to seek advice on the best thing for you to do in the situation.

 

Are you one of the brave souls who has managed to break free of a violent relationship?  If you have endo or another chronic illness or disability, how did you navigate it?  Any tips I have missed, or anything you disagree with?  Let me know in the comments.