I have just got back from a lovely week in the sun and, having braved donning a swimsuit for a delightful dash into the sea, I thought I would share with you my thoughts on body image, since endo has changed how I feel about my body's appearance.
Six years ago, I had bowel and bladder resection surgery and was left with a permanently swollen leg - nobody knows how and why and I guess I will never know. I was subsequently diagnosed with lymphoedema, which is a chronic condition. So I have a fat leg - it's pretty ugly, I don't like it one bit but it doesn't cause me too much grief now that I can get shoes on again (the velcro type - high heels are a no-no). I wear compression stockings but after six years of this, I am used to it. So I swim in my compression stockings and think nothing of it. Little kids always ask about it, bless them, they are so honest but everyone else politely ignores it so all is good.
What really affected my body image was living with an indwelling catheter for many months. I have often had these for a few days or even weeks after surgery, but in 2010 I had one for 4 months. And then again for another couple of months this year. I have a dodgy bladder after lots of surgery on it for endo - my problems are really unusual thankfully.
I have found that life with an indwelling catheter is..well, different. Firstly there's the leg bag - practical but oh so not glamourous! And walking round with one's wee strapped to your thigh has its own challenges. Forget jeans - baggy trousers and skirts are the best. I found looking in the mirror, naked, a real challenge - I haven't got over that enough yet to contemplate dating again. Somehow it sapped my confidence a bit.
Since June, I have been liberated from my indwelling catheter after my bladder healed I hope it lasts better this time. Sometimes I use intermittent self catheterisation - basically a small tube inserted into the bladder that allows you to pee. This is much easier than it sounds and I just do it at night sometimes when things aren't working well.
It's strange, I guess - I have had 9 laparoscopies for endo now but what has affected my feelings about my body image has been the external stuff that people can see. Yet all the damage is inside where we can't see it.