Two weeks ago, we came home from our anniversary vacation at 2 a.m. to find water gushing out through the front door. Upon opening it, we were met with a completely flooded home. Needless to say, living there was impossible, and we are now at an Airbnb while our sodden home dries out and becomes inhabitable once again.
After a couple days in our temporary apartment, the internet disappeared. I work from home and have a podcast, so this was clearly a problem. We won’t have Wi-Fi for two more weeks, so I found a cheap workspace and started turning up there.
I haven’t worked in an office for over a year and a half. Working from home gets lonely, and due to my predisposition to depression, it hasn’t always been easy. So, I was equally excited and terrified to be around humans again. But I began to notice things I’d forgotten that used to challenge me in the workplace.
I’m not an early bird. While my pain and most other symptoms are minimal and under control, I still struggle with tiredness. I wake up at about 7:30 a.m. on a good day or 9 a.m. on a tired one. My morning routine helps me wake up slowly and positively, and I tend to take some time getting ready.
I don’t doddle, but I’m not one of those people who can be out the door in 30 minutes, either. This means I start working at home between 10 and 11 a.m. This is fine when all I have to do is walk over to my desk. If I feel a bit behind, I can work later in my PJs to get on top of things.
It’s not the same when I have to be somewhere. I immediately grow anxious about the time I arrive at the office. I start worrying about whether people will think I’m a slacker or lazy or that I sleep in every day. By day three, I make up excuses if people ask why I start so late.
Then there are my eating habits. As you probably know if you read this column, I eat for endo, which means I avoid sugar, gluten, dairy, caffeine, and other inflammatory food groups. (This isn’t a fixed endo diet, but rather an anti-inflammatory diet that helps support people with endometriosis and minimize their symptoms.)
I also eat regularly and choose certain foods that help keep my blood sugar levels stable, which in turn keeps my hormones balanced. I often have a protein shake on me and eat at certain times. Last week, however, I found myself avoiding eating in the office for fear of questions about my food. I go home to eat and take a protein shake to sip during the day.
This might not seem like a big deal to become anxious about, but when you work with people and can’t just grab a sandwich because of your condition, questions start popping up. Judgment follows. Everyone seems to have an opinion on food, and I’ve been at the receiving end of criticism and cynicism on many occasions.
Finally are the dreaded Friday evening and Monday morning questions: “What are you doing this weekend?” and “How was your weekend?” These are the questions I feared every week as an employee. My weekends are a blend of resting and doing things I enjoy. But activities also must nourish my body and mind, so that I can return to work feeling relatively normal, rather than depleted.
My weekends rarely involve going out and drinking or going to parties or clubs. While some with endometriosis can do that, I found that the exhaustion I experienced in the week after a late night out wasn’t worth it. These questions that are normal for everyone else fill me with anxiety, because they reveal the “boring” life I lead compared to other energetic bodies in the office.
It comes down to my decision to lie or not; to omit truths and embellish reality or to admit my differences. These small but everyday reminders and affirmations that I’m not like everyone else were key reasons why I felt becoming self-employed was a better option.
My answer? I’m not sure I have one yet. I like being my own boss, but I also like working around people. I guess it boils down to having the conviction and the confidence in the decisions that matter to me. If I cave to peer pressure for Friday night drinking, eating a sandwich, or drinking tea like everyone else, I’m the one who suffers.
Somewhere along the line, I have to find the confidence to be OK with standing by my values and not hiding from others because I’m scared. I’ve spent a year and a half finding out what works for me and it’s time I started unapologetically standing by those choices.
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.