Earlier this week I wrote a post on building a career with a chronic illness, a subject that is huge in my life. It had an enormous response, and inspired my to pen an e-book which is currently in the making, and also to contact other ladies willing to share their stories and coping techniques. I am thrilled to introduce you today to the lovely Sam Sparrow – we met last year at one of my Cherry Sorbet workshops and is part of the amazing crew I am proud to call my friends. Beautiful, ambitious, clever, stylish and like a whirlwind of creativity, Sam too has some demons to grapple with. Over to you, hun…
On the face of it, I’m a healthy happy 29 year old with a 9-5 job. Peel away what you see on the surface, and what you actually get is a 29 year old with a busy job, a myriad of outside of work interests and a chronic illness known as endometriosis. It is the condition that no one knows about on the outside – and that makes functioning that little bit tougher.
Until I got my diagnosis, I struggled daily with pain, fatigue, difficulty in just being and a confusion as to why my body would not keep up with all I wanted to do. When I couldn’t get up, or couldn’t move to get to a lecture or to work I felt intense guilt. After all, I was only suffering in the way all women do right? All these questions started buzzing round my head, leading to a spiral of despair
and defeatism. Am I just lazy? Do I have a low pain threshold? Is it all in my head?
Getting the diagnosis didn’t make the condition go away, and the struggle continued. When you are expected to turn up to work on time and function normally, having something wrong with you that no one can see can make the bad days hard to explain. And really, who wants to get down and personal with what is going on on the inside with everyone you work with?
I’ve always been incredibly active and have always pushed myself to want more and do more. As well as being a manager in a youth charity, I have my own blog, I co-run a successful online magazine and podcast, volunteer as a school governor, am a wife and cat mummy and want to socialize as much as I can. When you suffer from a chronic illness that can rear its head at any given moment, it is pretty difficult to plan for. On the good days I feel invincible – like I can achieve anything I want to. On the bad days, all I want to do is crawl under the duvet with my onesie and the Friends boxset. But I’m hardly going to take over the world doing that am I?
I’m now in a place where on a day to day basis I manage my condition – through a combination of looking after myself, hard drugs (prescribed, obviously!) and a support network I’m almost functioning the way everyone sees me – but like a swan looking calm and serene on the surface, there can be a hell of a lot of kicking going on under the water.
Over the past 11 years I’ve learnt a lot about how to deal with the condition. My aim in life is to be the best person I can be, and sometimes that takes a bit more work than most realise.
♥ Looking after my body – some days that is boring as hell but fueling myself right, cutting out alcohol, taking the medicine I am given and getting plenty of exercise can make me feel like I don’t have endo at all. For someone that loves cake and jaegerbombs in equal measure this is tough but if I want to function at the highest levels, eating right and moving more is the key to making my body love me back.
♥ Having a support network – not everyone in my life knows the ins and outs of my bodily functions, but those that matter do. If you want to have a normal job and do lots of other crazy stuff besides, the people around you need to understand you, and why things do go wrong. I’ve spent days crying over what might have been, but by being open with those around you, the people that matter will understand any limitations you might have.
♥ Being flexible – when I have been at my worst, I have tried where possible to be flexible about my working arrangements. There have been times that my brain is working, but that commute to my desk is going to kill me so I have worked from home, safe in the knowledge that I’ll be far more useful to my employers as a result. Having that flexibility and dialogue before you need it is vital.
♥ Not getting stressed – when I get overly stressed, I get endo symptoms which make me feel like I have crashed into a brick wall. Healthy levels of stress are important, it keeps the adrenaline pumping and pushes me to do what I want to do. But you have to identify bad
stress what triggers it and cut those bad boys out.
♥ Staying happy – most important of all is staying happy. Taking time out to be calm and do things you enjoy and will put a smile on your face is the number one tool to fighting a chronic illness. If that means lying comatose on the sofa watching eastenders after a hard
days graft that is absolutely fine.
♥ Above all, the one lesson I have learnt as a person who wants to achieve it all with endo is to make myself the priority. There are times in life when you don’t get to choose, but being selfish is not a crime. When you have an illness that no one can see, sometimes you have to put yourself first – the rest will follow.
Thanks so much Sam for sharing your story. If you want to share yours, drop me a line. x