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Post-Op Feels: I’ve Finally Learned to Love Myself

Post-Op Feels: I’ve Finally Learned to Love Myself


This post is part two of Emily Thorpe’s Post-Op Feels series. You can read her first post in the series here

“So, you’re going to slide down while simultaneously flinging yourself backward.”

Uhm, what?

I’m 45 minutes into my first circus class and two hours into my period (because of course, I am). I’m wearing leggings over a leotard that I’m having a hard time keeping my faith in and I’m perched on top of a slipknot I’ve created in the tissue. (A giant silk sheet hanging from the ceiling to the floor.) And my instructor is insistent on me leaving this comfortable little nest.

She expects me to fling myself backward in the hopes that I can get myself into yet another precarious position. Which is exactly what I’ve been doing since the second I got my thumbs around the trapeze bar at the beginning of this adventure.

I’m having a moment.

Then I realize, I’ve been here before. Hell, I’ve lived here before.

Chronic illness is a tricky thing, especially when, for so long, I didn’t exactly categorize my pain as a chronic illness. When you’re constantly told to push through and you’ve trained yourself to think “someone else has it worse” (especially, when your own doctors tell you that you simply got the short end of the stick in terms of period pain) it’s easy to believe it’s truly just that: a bad period.

But the pain and sickness seep into every bit of you before you even notice it.

Before my surgery, my life was pretty mundane. Any time I planned a trip, I had to pay attention to when in the month I was going, and try to make an educated guess as to what my cycle would be like on those days. I needed to know what types of foods were available ahead of time, guess if they would send my stomach into overdrive, and either find ways to avoid them or bring things to help.

When my friends invited me to try new physical activities, I had to stay hyper-aware of my lower back, because I would throw it out all the time. (I just thought I had gotten my dad’s bad back, but in reality, my uterus was in the process of fusing to my tail bone.)

I couldn’t trust my body to make it through even the most basic of tasks.

Endometriosis manifested itself in other, more detrimental ways, as well. Ways almost imperceptible to me until I started to heal. Endometriosis affected how I saw myself and what I wanted for my life.

I, the person with enough cringe-worthy stories of trying to get noticed as a kid to fill an Encyclopedia Britannica, had decided over the years that I was actually a background person who really did prefer to be watching from the sidelines.

When your body fails you on a regular basis and inflicts pain equal to that of a heart attack (as it’s doing the very thing you are literally born to do) you begin to distrust that you can do anything. And on the off chance that you finally find yourself in a comfortable place, whether physically or mentally? You will do anything to stay in that spot.


I stayed at jobs that were incredibly toxic for me physically and mentally because they were flexible with their PTO and sick leave. My coworkers, while not always the nicest or most supportive, were at least used to the idea that there were just some things I couldn’t do.

We could expect days where I was sick and would need to be on my own filing or doing whatever it took to not be in front of clients. In my personal life, I would take the brunt of the frustration in a relationship, because so much of the time I was just trying to make it through the day. I figured so few people would put up with this bullshit I had to make the best of it with the people who have stuck around so far — even when they’re not that great to me.

Which then begs the question: If I can’t trust my body, do I trust my mind?

Do I trust my decision making? So many of my decisions are based on limitations, not what I actually want. How do I know I’m me and not a hodge-podge of what’s left over? An amalgamation of best-case scenarios and this is what I have to work within these moments?

I was told after my excision surgery that my surgeon successfully removed the Endometriosis and he didn’t think it would be a problem for me anymore. My Endo seems to be of the slow-growing variety, and while I’ll always have it, by the time it grows enough to bother me again I’ll most likely be entering menopause (yes, the quarter-life crisis is now firmly in place, thanks for asking).

While this gave me a feeling of relief that was documented with the loveliest ugly-cry picture anyone has ever posted to social media, I didn’t fully believe him.

But after three months of the fiery hell that was my period post-surgery, things started to change.

My cycle stopped ruling my life.

I started having that extra slice of pizza or one more glass of wine (and now we know how I gained 20 pounds). Because I felt better, I said “yes” to more things, including taking on more responsibilities at my 8-to-5. I began freelancing, which is something that I always dreamed about but never did because I was unsure I would be able to keep up with deadlines.

I made a solo trip to New York City to see a show with my best friend and finally meet TabithaDO YOU ENDO’s badass Editor-in-Chief. I found my way to my best friend’s apartment on my own and I spent a lovely afternoon walking around Brooklyn by myself, which, up till that point, seemed far too daunting. (Spoiler alert: it’s really not.)

I joined a fucking circus class…

When your body operates the way it should, you not only start trusting it more but you begin to trust yourself and your capabilities more.


You begin to love yourself.

Back on the tissue with my arms on fire, and a sense of incredulity bordering on outright cynicism (and let’s face it, hostility toward my instructor), I laugh nervously. I slide down until I feel the slipknot in the small of my back, the same place my pain used to manifest itself to paralysis, and I fling myself backward.

My legs wrap around the tissue and my hands let go. For a moment I’m terrified, and then I realize I’m okay. I’m upside down and my sister-in-law is beside me grinning from ear-to-ear. I just did something I wouldn’t have let myself even think about doing a year ago. This doesn’t suck. I can do this. And I’ll be fine, maybe even great, in the aftermath.

But now the blood is rushing to my head, so help me up, will ya?

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