Imagine being in a strange place where everything triggers your worst fears. Everyone behaves in a manner that pushes your stress levels to the max almost constantly. You sweat and your hands shake. It all feels wrong, and you wish you could make it stop — except you can’t.
That’s me right now, still trapped in beautiful Madrid. Yet try as I might, this city and I are no match. Its loud traffic, pushy manners, and the hordes of humans that take up the width of every street don’t fit my spirit. Every evening I am exhausted. My skin breaks out daily. Often because of stress, my insides tighten. Pain follows, and eventually bleeding.
During lockdown, I have been reading a lot, including Jen Sincero’s “You Are A Badass,” a book that had remained untouched since I bought it two years ago.
I’ve never been great with self-help books. I get excited by their premise, convincing myself they will help me become a better version of myself. The truth is, you can have the best self-help library at your disposal, but if you’re not ready for their teachings, they will change zilch.
The same goes for any sort of therapy or life-changing practice: You have to be open to it, otherwise it won’t work.
Yet now, this book is speaking to me. One of its chapters made me rethink my relationship with this city. The author talks about a trip to India where she ends up sandwiched between hundreds of strangers on an overbooked train. Her only options were to “go with the flow and get to know your neighbor” or become ill with stress. Everyone on that train chose option one, including her.
Going with the flow when you have endometriosis is tricky.
Firstly, because our flows are the source of our miseries. (See what I did there?) But also because endometriosis is a chronic illness that presses our emergency stop buttons daily. It’s not that I don’t want to cross that busy avenue, it’s that my limbs are weak and my uterus is dragging me down. It’s not that I don’t want to see a human face, it’s that my symptoms are so severe right now I can barely walk straight.
My anxiety is a natural fight-or-flight response. Whenever I see dozens of people heading toward me, or a loud motorcycle flies by at top speed, my brain tells me to run and hide. But when I have to walk my dogs and safely take them to the park, hiding is not possible. I can’t give up on everything when I have to go out to the shops and buy food to ensure I remain healthy.
A couple weeks ago while standing in the middle of a loud avenue with both my dogs, Jarvis found a spot of grass. He planted his squeezable butt and breathed in the warm summer air. Nero followed suit. There it was: Sincero’s point in practice, the canine way.
I can’t change this bustling city or how its people behave. If I’ve learned something during this lockdown, it’s to let go of the things I can’t control — especially those that serve me no purpose.
I’m going with the flow, but in a way that works for me.
I think the key lies in accepting that we have a choice when reacting to what life throws at us. It’s about finding our own way to go with the flow, even it means always carrying a handbag with our pain-management tools and potions.
In the case of my sausages and me, last week it meant choosing the quieter streets and the early hours. This week is about finding the perfect patch of grass and taking plenty of power naps in between. Next week, it will involve a lot of deep breathing and heavy snacking — tapas anyone? And when everything fails, it will mean ignoring my screaming uterus and asking myself, “What would ’80s Madonna do?”
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.