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June 15, 2021 6 min read

We spoke to Abbie (@cheerfullylive) who is a lifestyle photographer. She shared her experience with Endometriosis, Fibromyalgia, Costochondritis and Interstitial Cystitis. Abbie raises awareness about these conditions, invisible illnesses, and has created a space for people to share, connect and empower. 

Abbie’s Journey with Endometriosis and Mental Wellbeing

Tell us about yourself, Abbie!

I’m Abbie, 25 years old, from a little town near Cambridge and I live with my husband, Ben and cat, Luna. I’m a remote product and lifestyle photographer over at @creativebloomstudios, taking images for brands and small businesses, for an aesthetic social media feed!

I was diagnosed with Endometriosis, Fibromyalgia, Costochondritis and Interstitial Cystitis in 2019/20. I started up my Instagram page @cheerfullylive to share my journey, raise awareness about invisible illnesses and create a safe space for all to share honestly and authentically. I run a series called #ChronicConvos on IGTV where I share other people’s stories to open up the conversation around chronic illness and mental health conditions. It’s been so wonderful building a supportive community online and getting to know so many amazing people!

How has your endo journey been?

My Endometriosis journey has been a whirlwind - after 10 years of pain, symptoms and being dismissed, I was finally diagnosed with Endometriosis. Every month from the age of 15, my periods would come and I would be bed-bound, unable to walk, fainting, with nothing working to ease my pain. I was back and forth seeing healthcare professionals month after month.

Every time I was told nothing was wrong. My tests would come back clear and I was always dismissed as being the 'unlucky one', told I had a “low pain threshold” and that it was “part of being a woman”. I was even once asked by a doctor “are you sure you are not over-exaggerating?”. It wasn’t until my pain became chronic in December 2018, that Endometriosis started being investigated. I was referred to a gynaecologist, who sent me for an MRI and it was found that I had severe, deep-infiltrating Endometriosis in May 2019. I went on to have excision surgery in December 2020, where Endometriosis was removed from my ovaries, uterus, bowel and between my rectum and vagina.

Invisible and Chronic Illness | Women’s Mental Health

Any tips for women who might be experiencing the challenges with it?

My top tips would be:

  • Get a 2nd, 3rd or 4th opinion, if someone is not taking your pain seriously, gaslighting or dismissing you, you have every right to go and speak to a different professional. Go forth and keep advocate for yourselves!
  • Research and really understand your condition- Read the NICE guidelines on Endometriosis and take them with you to your appointments - it will help you know what level of care you deserve and what healthcare professionals should be doing for you to look into diagnosis or treatment.
  • Get yourself involved in the Endometriosis community online - there’s some amazing Facebook and Instagram pages and this was one of the reasons I set up mine @cheerfullylive where you can come and be apart of a little family, sharing the realities and what it’s like to live with Endometriosis. This is a safe space where you know your pain and experiences are valid and listened to.
  • Endometriosis UKrun face to face support groups (at the moment they are online) and they are incredible - you can meet other people in your position and just talk to people who understand. Definitely recommend going to their website and signing up to join your local support group! 

What are invisible illnesses and what awareness do you think should be raised?

An invisible illness is any illness that you can’t see from just looking at somebody - there are so many different illnesses this could be relevant for! In terms of Endometriosis, so much awareness needs to be raised - 1 in 10 people assigned female at birth have this disease and yet we still don’t know what causes it or have a cure. It’s as common as Asthma and Diabetes, yet we are so far behind in terms of research and awareness surrounding it! We need more awareness around the fact that debilitating period pain is not normal, you shouldn’t be bed-bound, vomiting, passing out or unable to go about your daily activities. If you struggle with this, please seek some medical advice from your doctor and query whether you could be struggling with Endometriosis.

Debunk some myths about chronic illness, endo or invisible illnesses!

That endometriosis is just a bad period, it’s a WHOLE body disease and can affect any organ! Endometriosis doesn’t have a cure and you certainly can’t be cured by getting pregnant or having a hysterectomy.

Self Care and Wellbeing Guide 

What are you top 5 self care tips?

  1. Have a mix of simple (brushing your teeth, cleaning your face, open the window for some fresh air, etc) and more complex (run a bubble bath, read a book, go out for a walk, write a letter to a friend, etc) self care ideas available, so that if you are having a particular bad physical or mental health day, it doesn’t take too much energy to focus on self care.
  2. Try to incorporate fresh air into your routine each day - whether that’s going out for a walk or sitting by an open window.
  3. Try to do something for your mind, something for your body and something that makes your heart happy each day.
  4. If you are able, get up from your seat, put tunes on and have a little dance, it not only gets you moving and increasing that serotonin but also helps you to take your mind off anything you are worrying about and put a little smile on your face!
  5. Put yourself first and focus on self care, you can’t care for others and enjoy time with others if you are struggling yourself!

How does skincare factor into your wellness practice?

I love to set aside each morning and evening to just sit and relax with my skincare routine, during that time I like to think and process what I might be feeling that day and just have a moment of reflection, which helps my mind, whilst I’m nourishing my body.

Are there daily, weekly, monthly self care skincare rituals you follow?

  • In the morning, I love to start with washing my face with a cleanser, followed with an exfoliating toner, a vitamin c serum, light moisturiser and factor 50 SPF.
  • In the evening, I tend to start my soaking in a bath with lavender or CBD Epsom salts, double cleansing my face and then going in with a face mask (a couple of times a week). Then I get out and follow up with a gentle toner, skin clearing serum and a thick moisturiser before heading to bed.

What are your favorite affirmations for positivity?

  • I am enough.
  • I am worthy.
  • I am loved.
  • I am capable of all things.

Have you tried CBD, what are your thoughts, and how do you hope to use it for wellness, skincare, etc.?

I have tried CBD bath salts, CBD balm and a CBD moisturiser before and have found them incredibly relaxing and help me to switch off after a busy day! I’d love to start properly taking it orally in tea and drops, as I know it’s meant to help with both anxiety and physical pain.

What do you know now that has changed your relationship with your health?

I wish I’d known that it’s okay to talk about periods, women’s health, vaginas, sex, chronic illness, mental health, etc - it would have helped me feel a lot less alone, especially whilst going through difficulties with my Endometriosis. I now know that periods are not dirty, they are NORMAL and deserve to be spoken about with no taboo around them! I now know that my body is beautiful, a temple and deserves all the love. Learning this has enabled me to take proper care of it and know that my body is doing its absolute best to battle through and keep functioning despite chronic illness and pain! I value my body SO much more!

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endometriosis, chronic illness

To find out more about Abbie, check her out on IG (@cheerfullylive).

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