I like looking nice as much as the next girl. But do you know what I like more? Comfort.
Throughout my teenage years/early twenties I perfected the art of keeping the two in balance – feeling comfortable whilst maintaining my appearance. It was blissful.
Sure there was the odd slip up…I’m thinking of the time a woman ushered her children away from me muttering “We mustn’t speak to them!” having mistaken me for a member of the homeless community. I had left my house late at night to grab something from the shop and decided no one of concern was going to see me in my baggy old joggers and my hair a mess. I went home slightly insulted but more upset at this woman’s blatant disregard for my feelings once perceiving me as homeless.
I have always found I become much more upset by disregard and insult of my feelings, or the feelings of other beings (animals or humans), my perceptions and general intelligence than I am by comments on my appearance. My mum raised me that way and so it is that although I like to look nice, I prefer to be nice.
That said, the odd day does come about that I like to at least attempt looking like I belong to the female species.
Up until my condition took ahold I dabbled in modelling, travelling the UK and Europe working with a good friend and esteemed photographer John. Through this career I learned to apply make up well, to look after and style my hair, how to best dress for my figure, how to pose in a flattering manner. I learnt how to feel confident in my skin, or if I didn’t feel confident, how best to look confident. I learned how to socialise with all manner of people from different places and backgrounds, how to act with professional decorum no matter the situation. My last shoot was in May 2016, 1 week prior to my first laparoscopy.
Since May 2016 I have faced a number of hurdles that halted my modelling career and made keeping up appearances much harder. My first hurdle came the day after my first surgery.
I stood under the shower, G there to make sure I didn’t collapse or anything daft and out of the blue I wailed:
“My legs are hairy!”
Bless his heart, G (after a small amount of pleading) weilded the razor and made my legs feel slightly less like that of a caveman and a touch more feminine.
A week later I was still weak but found a way to curl my hair with little effort – put it into a bun whilst drying (thank goodness I suit an 80’s sized fro).
Not long after that I struggled to find loose clothing that looked presentable but didn’t hurt my scars – and so my housemate at the time introduced me to the wonders of wearing tee-shirts approximately 3-4 sizes too big: bliss.
A month after surgery I went for a job interview for what is my current workplace, I swallowed some codeine (I was not recovering quickly), squeezed into a tight skirt and pretty top. The unfortunate result was that due to a mix of pain and pain killers when asked “Are you familiar with Microsoft Outlook?” I replied “Is that the email one? I know the email one”.
To this day I don’t know why they employed me.
As time went by, post op pains eased but new pains began – Endo pain.
When trying to function on Codeine I would tire easily, and it showed – eye bags enough for a months worth of luggage.
As my hormones got wilder and wilder (I had now had my implant removed, unaware the effects removal would have as I wasn’t diagnosed yet) big, juicy spots started growing. I didn’t have the energy to put make up on, and when I did manage, I rarely had the energy to remove it.
As the Endo grew and my pain increased, I found that the lovely, smart clothes I had bought for my new job were too uncomfortable. My job previous had been in a GP Surgery so I had relished in the absence of my tunic and black trousers to buy slim fit trousers, pencil skirts and dresses. These were no more. I wore trousers and dresses a size too big, leggings and oversized shirts became a staple, I took full advantage of the “office casual” dress code.
I expected my surgery in May 2017 would rid me of pain, at least for a year or two, I reminded myself that in a few short months, I would be back in my figure hugging clothes with the energy to make myself presentable.
For my pre-op appointment I wore my beloved high waisted jeans (it was a low pain day) and posed for a selfie “last chance to wear these before post op recovery has me in joggers for a month! Lol”. Oh how I “lol” now!
My second op did not provide the relief it promised and alongside coming to terms with all the “big” impacts this failure would have on my life (my relationship, my job, my hobby etc) I had to at some point accept my fashion choices needed to adapt… quickly.
In comparison, this is a shallow and superficial concern, but for a 26 year old girl, it is a concern nonetheless.
So nowadays I live in joggers, leggings and maternity trousers. Oh yes, maternity wear is a fashion staple for me these days.
One of my most beloved wardrobe items for work are a pair of slim fit black maternity trousers from H&M. If you are an Endosister I cannot recommend these enough. Like, seriously, they are life (but not the jeans – they put pressure on trigger points).
I also love leggings that are a size too big. Frustrating because they can go baggy at the knees however, Primark sell them cheaply so I usually purchase a pair or two every month or so.
Joggers, straight fit boys – bliss. With a vest these don’t have to look trampy. I have brand ones for pain days where I have to go somewhere. I wear unbranded, at least 2 sizes too big, non-elasticated, drawstring joggers for bad days at home or horse riding.
These choices are made half through pain – any pressure on any point from my ribs to my pubic line is a trigger – but also through bloating. The more my Endo spreads – the bigger I bloat!
This is a whole new level of frustration when I am well aware that after years of my tummy being a “problem area” thanks to horse ownership and riding, I actually do have a flat and toned tummy there now… somewhere. Nowadays I am treated to the view of it from anywhere between 5 minutes to a few hours before my belly suddenly and dramatically pops out to early stage pregnancy size. That may not sound much but on a size 8 frame (with fried egg boobs – unfortunately they are not an area of my anatomy that grows) it is noticeable. To me at least.
During my time modelling, I was able to flash this tummy. My wardrobe is still made up of crop tops and high waisted items that I used to love and can’t quite bring myself to get rid of. I am thankful I had that time to enjoy the results of good riding, mucking out and walking for miles at least for a small time period.
It’s strange, up until the time my choices were taken, I never much thought about the way I dress or make myself look and feel good. It was something I took for granted, that if I wanted to, I could glam up. Now I bitterly miss it.
A few months ago I bought some high waisted jeggings and spent the first day I wore them in glorious denial that they were not comfortable…until I realised everytime I wore them I would start spotting. That day I received compliments on my appearance and absolutely reveled in it, now they are pushed to the back of my drawers.
But for all this moaning, there is a positive.
I can say until I am blue in the face “I prefer to be nice than look nice” but realistically, before Endo came along, I was so critical of my appearance. My body did me so many wrongs: small boobs, frizzy hair, flabby tummy…but these days I really am much less bothered.
I prefer my body to be healthy, not pretty. I want to feel the part, not look it. I am active on good days because I want to be, I can be, not to achieve a perfect figure. I eat the damn cake, I put facemasks on to relax and improve natural beauty, so I can afford to not put make up on. The days I can do my hair and dress nice, I look great not through the art of Superdrug and a curling wand, but because I feel on top of the world because I have energy and a painless day.
7 months ago I did something I would never have dreamed of – I donated 12 inches of hair in a charity haircut. In doing so I raised just under £1000 for World Endometriosis Research Foundation. I miss my long locks dreadfully but man, I feel good about it.
For all Endo takes, it often does give. There are so many things I didn’t appreciate, nowadays my focus (as it should be) is on helping other sufferers, on working towards being healthy, happy. I can’t be shallow because Endo won’t allow me. I am stronger because I can’t be weak.
For all Endo takes, it often does give. The greatest gift it has given me is perspective.