When I was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2019, I was so relieved. Not only had I found a doctor who actually listened to me, but she had an answer for my debilitating pain. After years of confusion, dozens of doctors and several misdiagnosis, I felt like I could breathe again.
But last year proved to test me even more physically and mentally as well.
I thought the height of my pain was a few years ago when I became the caregiver for my mother who was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. What I didn't yet know was that I had endometriosis and my chronic pain was just one symptom of many that I was experiencing. For over a year, I ignored my pain, put my business on hold & got a nanny job so that I could properly care for my mother all while still homeschooling my son and continuing my education through trainings and doula courses.
While I have been able to somewhat manage my physical pain since being diagnosed, I was not at all prepared for how endometriosis and stress would affect my mental health.
If 2020 taught us nothing, it taught us to focus on health and whole body wellness, especially mental health. Many things changed for me professionally and navigating a business during a pandemic was more than challenging. And due to the nature of my work, I had to make huge operational changes that completely modified the way I worked and connected with my clients. To say I was stressed was an understatement. Thank God for my husband who proved to be my saving grace and comfort more often that not after a long day of Zoom consultations and birth support. During this time, my main source of stress relief was halted overnight: exercise. I am a Zumba instructor as well as a doula and when Covid-19 began to rapidly spread across my city, county and state, everything was shut down including my classes. Truth be told, I was already planning the next phase of my fitness journey, but I did not anticipate how long my classes would be on hold. It has been over a year since I taught my last Zumba class and yes, I miss my students and the dance floor terribly. But it didn't matter.
My body was holding on to so many emotions, it was presenting itself as physical pain and suffering which left me no energy or desire to exercise anyway.
May 2020 proved to be one of the hardest months to endure due to the murder of George Floyd. Between the news and social media, I was in a constant cycle of being triggered and when I am emotionally triggered, my body responds well before my brain has a chance to even process what is happening. This is likely due to my childhood and the sexual abuse I experienced as a young girl. Believe it or not, this was a HUGE revelation for me. Why you ask? Making the connection between my pain and what I was consuming (news, gossip, negativity, lies, videos of unarmed black and brown people being murdered, political propaganda and yes, even food) helped me to make the necessary changes to slow and break the continuous cycle of triggers and pain so that I can permanently release all the built up negativity and projections that I am physically and mentally holding on to.
I have known for some time that I have a stronger intuition about certain things than most people. Attunement is a word often used in the birth world when describing the way
doulas connect with our clients. My son has actually helped me to tap into my own empathic power. What I have learned on my healing journey is that I am also an empath. However, I have recently discovered that this spiritual gift has been blocked in one way or another since I was a kid. So the more I teach my son to lean into his own power, the more I learn about my own and that has given me a peace I haven't had in long time. It assures me that I am indeed headed in the right direction with my healing.
This year I am continuing to focus on my mental health and releasing any blockages that may be holding me back from fully realizing my purpose. Connecting with other "endo warriors'' has also been important for me over the last year. Maintaining relationships and enjoying an active personal life can be difficult both physically and mentally with endometriosis or any chronic illness. Aside from my husband and my close girlfriends, the Endo Black community has been an amazing part of my journey. It's an organization dedicated to spreading endometriosis awareness and supporting the black and brown women who live with the disease. Not only do I receive information on how to manage my endo, I have found a tribe of individuals like me who can relate to a painful, life-altering condition that most people have never even heard of. The comradery and compassion is refreshing and healing. I started writing and journaling again. I have been meditating and practicing Reiki therapy. I am moving my body intentionally through yoga and nature walks. I am also exploring acupuncture and sound therapy. I am open to any and all things that will facilitate healing and mental wellness. The most important thing is that I am happy and whole so that I can properly care for myself, my family and my clients.
You can read my complete endo story and learn more about endometriosis here.
Brandlyn Owens is passionate about exploring and educating herself and others about mental health topics. She's a momma of 2 kiddos and she resides in Durham, NC.