Chronically Creative #3: No Endo’ Creativity with Hannah (LadyGabe) and Mikaela (love.endo)
Happy Spoonie Sunday (slightly later than normal, sorry about that!). Today’s blog is another in our Chronically Creative series, which showcases and explores the relationships that creative Spoonies have between their illness and their art. However, this is an extra special one! To mark the start of Endometriosis Awareness Month, we‘ve got not one but two endo Spoonies together for the very wittily titled No Endo’ Creativity!
We‘ll let Hannah and Mikaela introduce themselves to you personally, but we just want to say a massive thank you to them for such honest and beautifully written posts! There’ll be links to all of their sites and socials at the ends of their respective pieces.
This post isn't the endo’ it either (Can you tell we love that pun?), there’ll be plenty more endo related content throughout the month, so whether you’re a sufferer or someone curious about the condition there’s going to be lots to keep you busy here in a The Village! So, without further ado, it’s on with the show!
Hannah - ladygabe.com
I’m grateful to my chronic illness, endometriosis, for putting me where I am now in life. Strange thing to say, I know, but bear with me here.
I am a self employed published Illustrator and writer, pursuing a creative career that brings me so much joy! I’ve illustrated for Disney, Jaguar Land Rover, Hotel Chocolat amongst many others. However, before I continue with my creative pursuits, I’ve got a little background on what brings me here today.
My Uterus and I were well acquainted quite early on in my teens. I remember the moment I got my first period like it was yesterday.
Getting ready for school, I parked my bottom on the loo and pulled down my white Tammy Girl knickers (when you know you know) to find a little splodge of blood. There it was, womanhood.
‘Muuuuum!’ I screamed from the tiny bathroom, ‘I’m bleeding!’
It was equal parts thrilling and terrifying. Luckily, my dear mother had been very open about the exciting aspects of puberty long before I was to be graced with mother nature’s menstrual miracle.
Of course I knew it would be painful at times, but nothing a good ol’ dose of paracetamol couldn’t cure. I was armed with a bag full of nappy sized pads and the fear I’d wet myself every time I coughed or sneezed. I was good to go to school and step into the next chapter of my life.
It was a privilege after all, to be a woman with a fully functioning uterus. I finally understood Britney Spears’ classic, ‘I’m not a girl, not yet a woman’. I was in that magical in between, how wonderful it was to be alive!
Well, as you’re reading this I’m sure you know that it wasn’t the happily ever after I’d hope for. I’m a spoonie after all!
My uterus and I began to fall out with each other pretty badly 6 months after that first joyful day. Endometriosis and I were not quite formally introduced until my early 20’s, after my first laparoscopic surgery, but the effects of Endo’s existence were painfully obvious in the intervening years.
If you’ve never heard of it before, Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes. Or in my case the bowel, intestines, bladder, kidneys to infinity and beyond! Like Buzz Lightyear, but way cooler.
Over the years I’d find myself unable to move for days at a time, with only a sketchbook and a biro for entertainment. I’d pile the pillows around me to create a fortress of comfort (or as close to comfort you can get with 1,000 tiny ninjas stabbing at your ovaries) - and express my fears and frustrations through the doodles I’d create.
Like many invisible illnesses, you can find yourself feeling quite isolated. You question your sanity - “am I imagining this pain? I was perfectly fine 5 minutes ago!”
Nobody else can experience your pain for you, it is truly indescribable, which is why it is so hard to diagnose and discuss.
I’m now 30 years old, 4 surgeries and multiple cyst ruptures later, my relationship with my uterus is still rather rocky… but my method for escapism has never changed. Creativity with a pinch of satire is my way to express all the frustrations in my mind and my body.
Recently, I’ve taken to expressing myself very literally through digital web-comics all about endometriosis and similar chronic conditions. This new focus for my work came as a result of months of pain and swelling I couldn’t explain - pain my GP insisted was in my mind. After demanding a scan (it took 2 appointments), he relented and they found 2 medium sized cysts causing havoc.
Of course, the only way to react to this is humour. I named them.
Adolf Cystler and Darth Cystious.
The thing is, there’s nothing funny about my condition. It affects 1 in 10 women and trans men across the UK and USA. That’s about 176 million people.
It’s likely to be more than that around the world of course, but it is not easily diagnosed in poorer countries, especially without the means to educate women and teen girls on menstrual health and what constitutes a normal period.
Creative humour is my personal way of dealing with it. As much as I make light of endo and how it affects me, there is nothing light about the burden it puts on the shoulders of those who suffer with it.
Bottom line for endometriosis sufferers is:
● We want to be heard
● We want to be seen
● We want more funding for research into better diagnosis
● We want better education about menstrual health in schools
● We want to stop generations more of us from years of misdiagnosis (7 years in average)
● We quite simply want to be believed
With this new focus, my steely determination and the need to earn extra pennies to buy a sexy new heat pad for my belly, a new book is in the horizon.
Cramping My Style is an interactive journal full of fun facts about endometriosis and closely related conditions. Featuring personal stories from around the world, space to express your own frustrations creatively, a scribble / stabby page to take out your frustration and a diary to log your pain and experiences - to thrust under your doctors nose every time they state it is all in your mind.
It’s a work in progress right now with space for more stories from anyone that has experience with endometriosis, whether that’s first hand experience or as the carer of someone who has it. I’d love to hear from anyone who wants to contribute to the book, or has ideas to expand it and help more people access this type of information.
I’m funding the book myself, with the possibility of a crowdfunding campaign when I’m ready to publish! I feel it is important we have more accessible literature out there, that has the facts we need, along with personal anecdotes to relieve any feeling of isolation. A book that is your go to companion for the doctors waiting room.
My aim as a creative is to use my skills as a means to help others. I know how it feels to be completely alone in the middle of the night thinking your body is failing you, fearing the absolute worst outcome, then the next day having a doctor dismiss you entirely.
My mental health has broken down due to holding back all of the suffering I have endured, all I want to do now is to create something that will help alleviate that kind of anxiety for someone else. Even if all I can do is create silly illustrations to poke fun at this condition, then that’s what I will do!
You can find Hannah through her website, @ladygabe on instagram and twitter, and on facebook HERE!
Mikaela - love.endo