Surviving the Darkness to Enjoy the Light

Think back to a time when you were sick with the flu: unable to leave your bed for several days, having to reschedule plans, relying on others when needed. Those endless, dreadful days that feel as though you are never going to feel better. Now picture the day that you finally wake up feeling yourself as you reenter society and return to some type of normalcy.

Recently, I was asked to describe my experiences of living with horrible cycles and chronic pain and I found myself explaining my periods as if it was the flu. Sometimes, like this month, my cycle is so bad that I have all the same symptoms: lying in bed for five to seven days, unable to perform tasks, canceling plans with friends and family, and completely sleeping through my days off. It’s these cycles that make me feel trapped in darkness; these cycles that mess with my anxiety and my thoughts.

Yet, just like the final day of overcoming the flu, eventually the end of the cycle comes and I can return to my life. I often leave these cycles feeling as though I’m a different, happier, person. Now don’t get me wrong, not every day besides my period is pain-free, as I often experience pain throughout my cycles. However, during the days of little-to-no pain I can accomplish tasks, work towards my goals, and be the person I want to be. I can exercise, clean, cook actual meals, put extra effort into my work, hang out with friends, spend time with family, etc.

For 15-20 days between my periods, it’s amazing what I can accomplish. Over the course of one year I’ve completed my masters in education, learned American Sign Language (ASL), and helped several students survive the “COVID slump.” These accomplishes give me the strength and the encouragement to survive the dark times and pain. At any point this year, I could have succumbed to the pain and given up on my dreams of teaching. I could have listened to the thoughts in my head that tell me I could never teach with my chronic suffering. There have been moments when I’ve been screaming on the inside, wanting to tell my professors or my boss “I have endo/adeno and I can’t do this anymore.”

If I had given into the darkness, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t be the role model that my family, friends, and students look up towards. I wouldn’t be the person who’s always available to talk, give advice, or help. And I certainly wouldn’t have obtained my two college degrees and three teaching licenses.

It’s worth surviving the darkness in order to enjoy the light

It took all day, but I finally found the advice that I needed to hear, even if it was my own advice. So for anyone who needs to hear it: It’s worth surviving the darkness in order to enjoy the light. I’m not saying it’s an easy task, hell, this morning I definitely could not see any light at the end of the tunnel. But I am confident that surviving the darkness, our lowest points, is worth it if it means that we can live life to the fullest on the better days that come.