How My Chronic Illness Is Defining My Relationships

How My Chronic Illness Is Defining My Relationships

Dachshunds & Duvets – a column by Jessie Madrigal-Fletcher

An endometriosis diagnosis can bring a lot of changes, from realizing what causes your symptoms to navigating life with a chronic illness. However, I never thought it would affect my relationships. I now categorize every relationship by whether it does me good or causes me distress. If it’s the latter, no matter what links me to this person — blood, workplace, or common friendships — I will limit my interactions with them.

A while back, I gave up on certain people with a heavy heart, knowing that their influence was damaging me. I had heard of similar experiences from other fellow endo-sufferers, but until I encountered them myself, I didn’t really know what I was in for.

First, it was a relative who saw firsthand the symptoms I lived with daily. This person even witnessed one of my flare-ups of excruciating pain. But when my health interrupted social plans or meant I had to eat differently, I experienced some upsetting behavior. At times, I received the silent treatment. On other occasions, this individual openly mocked my dietary choices in front of others. It broke my heart to realize they didn’t see me as a human being anymore, but rather, as an inconvenience.

More recently, it was the friend who also had endometriosis and believed her experience should be everyone else’s. She was certain her endometriosis was cured and began talking to me less like a friend, more like a therapist. I didn’t want to undermine her beliefs, but when I tried to explain how having a chronic illness affected me, she argued away each of the points I made. She told me the illness was all in my mind, and that I was holding myself back from being completely healthy. My anxiety levels skyrocketed as I struggled to explain how her words were impacting me. But she didn’t accept anything I had to say. I realized she didn’t want me to shatter her perception of the world, so I stopped talking.

Not being able to do what everyone else can, suffering from chronic pain, going through repeated surgeries, and constantly discussing your fertility is bad enough. Losing people because of their inability to empathize is heartbreaking. However, it’s crucial to remember that having endometriosis has also meant making wonderful connections with strangers who suddenly “get you.” Through illness, some friends can become heroes, or make you feel extremely supported by joining you in your dietary and lifestyle choices.

While our endometriosis may influence how others see us, it does not define us.

Don’t let others push their preconceptions about what you should or shouldn’t be doing. If certain people around you cause you anxiety, limit your exposure to them or change the conversation. I haven’t “broken up” with the two people mentioned above, but have deeply modified the way I interact with them. My health is the number one subject I no longer discuss with them.

We can’t control how other people feel or act. However, we can control how their preconceptions affect us, and this is not only extremely healthy, it’s empowering.

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

–Maya Angelou


Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.