As part of our #BREAKFREE campaign, Helen Wilson-Beevers explains why she won't be ashamed of the condition that's affecting her life...
Labels to me suggest limitations; a tool for judgement and a way to put someone in a box.
Labels are why I once held back from talking about something which could define me, and potentially provide a target on my forehead.
Labels used to scare me.
Lena Dunham spoke recently about cancelling her book tour because of a horrifically painful disease called endometriosis. Endometriosis is a gynaecological condition in which the lining of the womb attaches itself to other parts of the body, causing intense pain and other debilitating symptoms. It eats up your social life and relationships, and sucks away your energy while you’re left feeling like a bedridden bag of emotions. You lose count of times you’ve answered the question ‘are you better yet’ with an exhausted ‘no’, and try your hardest to explain the battle. How do I know this? Because I suffer too.
Last year I totalled about nine ambulance trips, a tonne of morphine and multiple cancelled social engagements – all because of endometriosis. It started when I was 14 – but I didn’t receive a diagnosis until the age of 23.
The label bit became clear when I was the girl who collapsed at work, needing an IV morphine in the office. I became the friend who backs out of nights out, or worse still, keels over during them.
But is the idea of being labelled by this illness just in my head? Perhaps no one cares – or perhaps everyone does. I am aware of a lack of understanding, and friends who’ve fallen by the wayside or got bored of my situation.
I know I’ve judged other people on their strengths and weaknesses too.
If I’ve learned anything, it’s that the way we label ourselves is all that matters. I don’t worry about my illness defining me anymore because it’s given me strength, empathy and an understanding of others. I pride myself on showing a pragmatic attitude, at the same time as wearing my heart on my sleeve. Kindness is all that matters, to ourselves and to each other.
It’s taught me to support strangers through random acts of kindness. We never know what the couple in the supermarket or the woman at the school gate are struggling with while going about their daily business. We each have our own battles: whether it’s grief, trauma, illness or something else.
And the strength I’ve gained from mine is what defines me. And that should be my label, not the actual trigger for this journey.
It’s time to reclaim labels in a positive way, supporting each other and beating away negativity and judgement with a big stick.
So, my main labels (in no particular order) are: empowered woman; proud wife, mother, daughter and sister; fiercely loyal friend; passionate writer and blogger; mascara snob; leopard print fiend and serious chocolate lover.
Come on then, what are yours?