Warning: this is a bit of long one
Yesterday was a long day. It was a tough day, it started early and it finished late, even later than expected. I was up at 5.30, got 20 boys up and dressed and out with their bags by 6.15. The bus was late for them so by 7am I decided to just stay up and get the work done. 5 rooms were hoovered and cleaned to within an inch of their lives, 5 bathrooms got the same treatment. Sometimes thank God for boys, as at least you don’t have to clear sink and shower drains from oceans of long, super straight hair! By 2pm all was done, dog was walked and I finally got to sit down. Typical I couldn’t sleep then. All day I had been waiting for Aunt Jane (my period) to arrive…. and just like a Cork city bus it failed to turn up despite the App schedule saying it should…any minute now girl! Then it was time to make dinner for the next group of 20 arriving at 5.30 that evening….and so it starts all over again. Unfortunately for me by the time I got to my eagerly-awaited bed at 11.15 that night, the pub next door was in full Feile mode and the music went on until the early hours of the morning, I vaguely remember reading posts on the EAI website at 2am. Suffice to say the 8am rise this morning was t-o-u-g-h. I look like I’ve aged 5 years overnight, my hair was doing a mean impression of Worzel Gummidge on a good day, even the dog visibly recoiled and returned to her basket when I came into the kitchen. Unconditional love of a pet?… only when you’re looking good it seems! Only 4 more weeks to go!!
(Just to clarify none of those 20 kids are my own…Its not my day job but I’m working at a camp as a houseparent this summer… just for kicks!)
Some days we hit a wall and the most appealing option is to sit down in front of it, enjoy the shade and not think about what’s on the other side. Last night I read posts from other women on their individual battles with Endometrosis and the havoc it reigns on their lives, they make me feel like maybe I’ve gotten away easily. I knew something was wrong the morning I lay on the bathroom floor having passed out walking the 8 steps from the desk to the toilet. I knew this wasn’t normal, that this couldn’t be right. All morning I had failed to find any comfortable position, I was trying to organise flights for 50 people (I work mainly from home) so I had been at my desk, I had a heat bag on my front and at my back, and I’d already googled how many Nurofen plus you could take in an hour! All I remember is thinking I’m either going to throw up or pass out and I felt like my insides were melting. And then I woke up on the floor. I stupidly got up, tidied myself up and went to the part-time job I had at the time. I followed that with another stupid move, I was on school collections that day. I made it up Shandon St hill, its a long hill for those who don’t know it, it seemed marathon long that day. The sun was shining but I was both sweating and shivering. I didn’t know whether to strip off my clothes or ask the nearest person if I could borrow their coat! I collected the child, only one little boy thankfully and set off down the hill. By now I was actually bent double. They say you should get down to a child’s level when talking to them, so I presume all the motorists on Shandon St just thought, she’s taking her job seriously as I literally walked all the way back doing a great impression of the Hunchback of Notre Dame. When I got back and there were 15 other kids all running around (in an organised fashion of course!) I just wanted to curl up in the corner and howl. I had pains shooting up my back, my stomach was in knots and again I didn’t know if was going vomit but I badly needed to use the toilet which turned out to be extremely painful. Luckily my colleague who ran the place with me, told me to go home, practically marched me out the door and asked the other girl to stay longer that day. I went home, crawled into bed and lay at the most awkward angle for the next 5 hours, I couldn’t lie down fully, I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t sleep but I couldn’t get up. I rang my then boyfriend to get pain medication on the way home. He’d never seen me this bad before, he didn’t know what to do and in an effort to do something, went to make dinner before I could mention the word “period”. I managed to eat a small amount that night sitting on a heat bag with another at my back, and crawled back to bed again. It was rare I would give in and go to bed, yes I’d worked from the couch before, propped up with heatbags, but I wouldn’t often just go to bed. In some ways I am lucky being self-employed because at certain times in the year, I can make the decision to go home and I don’t have to explain myself to anyone.
Generally I’m the kind of person that gets on with things, and when the merde hits the fan, I sit down have a good cry about it and then try to find a solution. There may be more waterworks before making it all better but I refuse to give up. That night my boyfriend slept in the spare room so I might get a better night’s sleep. It’s difficult when you’re torn between wanting a hug to feel better (and lets face it a full body heatbag) and also knowing that you are going to toss and turn all night so they won’t get any sleep either. I think I cried more than I slept that night because I was so fed up, fed up of spending at least 5 days every month in agony and bleeding endlessly. Another 3-5 days of stabbing pains every time I moved for what it seemed to be, no reason, later on in the month. I was exhausted and I was in pain, I had hit my wall! and I had no will to get over it.
Years ago when I first went to France for the summer from college, my sister helped me to get a job and she presented me with accommodation, a printout list of Metro stops how to get there and a warning not to make eye contact with anyone while underground. Long story short a week or 10 days later I called home, in tears. I hated the country, 8 years of learning the language hadn’t seem to be of any use, it was 35 degrees and I had a stalker in the residence I was living in. I wanted to go home, I wanted out, and preferably asap! My father told me to take a step back, you’re standing in front of The Wall he said. You have two choices, you either sit down (in the sun!) in front of the wall and you’ll never know what’s on the other side, or you get up, straighten up and get yourself over that wall and discover all the things on the other side. If eyes can be thrown higher than heaven well I threw mine up there! Sweet Jesus, I don’t give a hoot what’s on the other side of the wall I replied, I’m in a permanent state of sweat, the lift is broken to the room on the 11th floor and this country is impossible. Take your wall and put it where the sun don’t shine. Now I didn’t say all that back to him of course! He told me to think about and see how I felt the following day. My sister says my mother told her something similar when she rang home from an Erasmus placement in college, hard-core parents these two!
But you know they were right. I thought about it, because I said I would…and I went to work the following day…. because I had to! Over lunch I mentioned to a colleague that I hated where I was living and about my stalker. She gave me an English magazine where there were ads for people sub-letting apartments for the summer. I went through the ads and called random people to organise visits, I was a girl on a mission! By the end of that month I moved into an apartment owned by a theatre actress who mainly wanted someone to water her multitude of plants (it was like a mini forest! ), another friend from college came out to Paris having found a job and moved in with me, and I had the summer of a life time. I gained so much in confidence and had so many new experiences that summer, I realised that taking control over my own life was actually quite fun. I started to enjoy the freedom and anonymity of a big city. I fell in love with Paris and ended up spending 10 years of my life there (after going home of course and finishing college). And The Wall story stuck. I remembered it when I faced a difficult time in my final year in college. I remembered it when I moved to Paris two years after that and I faced many hurdles in order to make a life for myself there.
The wall story is one I’ve told to other friends, friends with older kids who have since told them the same story. While it was the last thing I wanted to hear at the time, he was right, I needed to get over the wall. When you have a chronic illness such as Endometriosis for some women every day seems like a 10ft wall, every day you have to weigh up if you have the strength to haul yourself over the wall and keep going with your life, just getting into work might feel like a mighty big wall. I’ve read stories of women with this disease who are forever ending up in the ER in the middle of the night in agonising pain. Women who have gone through miscarriages and failed IVF treatments in an effort to get pregnant (Endometriosis can play havoc with fertility) and I’ve read about how they pick themselves up and try again, they’ve faced their wall and somehow found the strength to pull themselves over. They do it by themselves, and they do it with the support and help of understanding family and friends, because sometimes you just can’t do it all alone. I’ve faced many challenges in the last 10 years and getting through each one has made me stronger even if at the time I thought I’d never get through it. So if I ever have kids myself, they’ll hear that story too.
In January I did the Hell & Back race in Wicklow with a group from the Bootcamp class I started attending last September. With the help of the acupuncture sessions I was finally in a place where I could start to exercise again and I found a class that was encouraging without putting pressure on me. I use the word race loosely as we weren’t racing, it took us twice as long as anyone else I’d say. No one in the group was aware of my situation or my real reason for doing it. We all agreed we were doing it together and no man was to be left behind. The race is full of hurdles, most I went through, apart from the electric shock ones…. I mean why would you? you would have to be INSANE!! The last one is the giant wall. I stood in front of the wall and started laughing… it was 10ft high! No way I was going to be hauling my now-mud-covered-ass over the that wall! But the team got together and mortifyingly, two strong men manhandled me up in the air and put me on their shoulders. Then taking a foot each pushed me up so my hands could reach the top of the wall, I hung there for a minute, shouted down that the view was great, and that maybe I’d just hang there for a while, because I don’t have the upper body strength to lift the large bag of potatoes out of the shopping trolley let alone pull myself over the top of the wall. But a random stranger, two in fact, covered in so much mud I couldn’t really see their faces, took one hand each and lifted me (as though I were just a 7kg bag of potatoes!) over the wall. I sat on the straw bales for a few minutes to catch my breath and give myself a little mental clap on the back. Once again I had gotten over the wall when I thought I couldn’t. Doing that race was not about showing off physical strength and fitness or even for the adrenaline rush that many do it for. (Though I do admit I was buzzing for about a week afterwards ☺️) For me it was about how far I had come in the previous 6 months, it was about doing (and finishing!) something I never thought I could do, particularly not over the last few years.
Friends, and family, and it seems random strangers, are sometimes that ones that haul our sorry-asses over the wall when we can’t do it ourselves. Grab onto those hands that are outstretched, hold on tightly and say a silent thank you for their help. We all face the wall at various times, and every little bit of help is welcome. Whether its as simple as a friend/sister/mother/spouse nuking your heatbags for you so you don’t have to leave the couch, or an understanding nurse/doctor in hospital that offers another painkiller, or its just kind words in a group forum from other women who just “get it”. They are all important because sometimes a gesture, a nod, or a few simple words are really enough to help you get over the wall.