Endometriosis is a health condition in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus is found outside of the uterus. This can occur in many places, most commonly the pelvis, abdomen, ovaries, or fallopian tubes. Endometriosis (endo) is a very painful but silent illness that may be hard for others to notice or understand, despite having a severe impact on the endo sufferer.
Author, radio presenter, and endometriosis advocate, Bridget Hustwaite, has kindly shared her personal and professional endometriosis journey with VUSH, and given us her top tips for dealing with endo or supporting a loved one through it.
1. Tell Us About Your Journey Of Being Diagnosed With Endometriosis
"Well, it’s been a long one! I first started experiencing period pain around the age of fifteen, so my mum and I decided we needed to check in with a doctor. The consultation was pretty standard in the sense that I was just told it would be time to try the pill and that it could ease my pain. There was no mention of endometriosis, and I didn’t even know the condition existed until I was out of high school and working in retail because one of my co-workers had it. However, our conversations were pretty surface level as it still seemed like a taboo topic of sorts.
I started to experience other pain beyond my period, like during sex or passing bowel movements. Even random abdominal cramps! I never thought to put it all together due to the lack of education and awareness - We were never taught about endo in school and I never saw any public figures talking about it. I’ve had my fair share of shitty encounters with medical professionals who dismissed my pain, but I found a great GP in 2018 who not only believed me but referred me to a gynaecologist for surgery. I was diagnosed with stage four endometriosis in August 2018 and it was pretty widespread across my pelvic side walls and Pouch of Douglas. They even said if I left it any longer I would have required a bowel resection!
If we look at the first moment I saw a doctor about my pain to my official diagnosis, it took twelve years to obtain answers! It was a very bittersweet experience because I finally felt so validated but at the same time, the diagnosis wasn’t the destination. Endometriosis has no known cause or cure, so I had to quickly shift my attention and focus to how I could best navigate life with a chronic illness."
2. What Made You Want To Write Your Book: How To Endo?
"Following the success of my Instagram page @endogram, I felt there was a void in the book market for people with endometriosis and their loved ones. I wanted to create the kind of resource that fifteen-year-old Bridget desperately needed, and I knew that a book like this could have the potential to change lives. My intent for this book was for it to be both parts practical and personal, and the team at Allen & Unwin were amazing in bringing my vision to life! To see the book reach bestselling status within its first week of release just goes to show how needed it was!"
3. What's The Best Bit Of Advice You’ve Received About Helping Someone With Endometriosis?
"People with endometriosis just want to feel seen and heard. Many of us have experienced a lot of dismissal not only from medical professionals but also from our friends, family, and colleagues. Some have been told it’s all in their head or to just suck it up. There are so many barriers to obtaining a diagnosis, which on average in Australia takes six and a half years! Life with an invisible illness like endo can be really lonely, so the best piece of advice I have received about helping someone going through it is to just listen."
4. How Has The AURA Tens Machine Helped With Your Battle Against Endometriosis?
"Admittedly, I have had very little luck with TENS machines in the past, but so many of my @endogram followers love using them! I knew I needed to give it another shot with my period cramps, which are my biggest endo symptom, and I’m glad I did because I feel like the Aura allows for more personalised relief with its vast range of intensity levels and therapy modes. It’s really nice to have that control and use the device in the exact way you need. The single patch design also makes it easy to wear and means I don’t have to worry about cords getting in the way of my clothes. Noise isn’t an issue either, so it’s quite practical to wear both at home and out and about. I’m obsessed with the colour too, it’s so cute!"
5. What Are Your Favourite Self-Care Tips That Make You Feel Better When Going Through A Flare Up?
"I’m all about comfort – I’m talking dressing gown, slippers, and couch (or bed!). I also try to keep as hydrated as possible but ultimately, I think it’s important to do anything you feel you need to do to feel good during a flare up, soooooo if that means inhaling a block of choc, then so be it! It’s also really important to be kind to yourself and not beat yourself up for being in a flare. Your body is doing the best it can and you just need to take it easy!"
6. What’s One Thing You Wish Everyone Knew About Endo?
"It’s so hard to pinpoint just one thing, but I think it’s important to remember that endometriosis is chronic and not something that just simply goes away, even after surgery. There is no known cause and symptoms are so widespread and inconsistent – You could be fine one day and absolutely rubbish the next. It’s hard to understand invisible illnesses, but I think empathy can go a long way."
More From Bridget Hustwaite
Bridget’s book ‘How To Endo: A Guide To Surviving And Thriving With Endometriosis’ is available at all good bookstores.