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Meet Our #COTW Natalie Nolen – ‘I Am Resilient and Strong’

Meet Our #COTW Natalie Nolen – ‘I Am Resilient and Strong’


Our #WCW Natalie Nolen is still searching for a definitive diagnosis, hopeful for a better quality of life, and a proponent of The Spoon Theory and awareness for chronic illness.

Nolen began her fight when she was just 12 years old. She experienced severe abdominal cramping and pain, mood swings, headaches, and nausea that would (and still does) leave her bedridden. Even though her friends didn’t experience these same problems, Nolen convinced herself it was normal.

The doctors said it was just her period, after all. 

This was especially easy to explain away considering no one else in her family has been diagnosed with Endo or experienced these symptoms to the severity that she does.

Now, years later, Nolen still hasn’t been “officially” diagnosed with Endo, but her doctor believes 100 percent that she does indeed have the disease. In the meantime, she’s been tested for Crohn’s and celiac disease, diabetes, thyroid problems, and diagnosed with PCOS, chronic fatigue, a low immune system, and vertigo.

“I also experience tremors, brain fog, depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, random rashes all the time…” Nolen said. “I get sicker for longer with colds and the flu, my muscles ache constantly, my joints ache, I have a headache most of the time.”

While she used to manage a restaurant and work for Benefit Cosmetics, Nolen now works as an online wellness coach (and an activist for awareness). She feels that Endo has taken her former professional life from her. She deals with daily pain levels she rates as a 7 out of 10 on the pain scale, which (as I’m sure you know) takes its toll.

Nolen shares her story on Instagram with daily posts about her flare-ups, her life, and how many spoons she has at any given moment.

No, I didn’t have a stroke just then. For those who are not aware, “The Spoon Theory” is what people who suffer from chronic illness use to demonstrate what it’s like to be sick all of the time.

The theory originated in 2003, thanks to an essay penned by Christine Miserandino. In the essay, Miserandino writes about a time she was trying to explain what it’s like having lupus. In her explanation, she grabbed a handful of spoons to use as a visual. For every activity she completed during the day, whether it was brushing her teeth, taking a shower, etc. she would take one spoon away.

When she got to the end, she told her friend that while it was possible to use more spoons than what a person actually had, that meant that the next day would be even harder. This would go on until they were able to rest and give their body time to heal from even the most mundane of tasks, replenishing the number of spoons (aka energy) they have.

The Spoon Theory resonated with Nolen so much that she now uses the hashtags #spoonienetwork and #thespooniesisterhood to reach others and connect.

“I’m drawn to the Spoon Theory because it’s something everyone can relate to. It’s a coping mechanism that is easy to understand for most.”

What seems to hurt her the most about her diseases is the time it takes away from those she loves. When you have an ailment that zaps you of your energy (making something as simple as getting out of bed an accomplishment), you get used to prioritizing events. Sometimes, this means leaving some people out, rescheduling, or unintentionally hurting someone’s feelings.

“I’ve lost many close friends due to Endometriosis because my mood swings, pain levels, and anxiety are at an all-time high all the time,” she said. “It’s like being in flight mode constantly. Always telling your friends you’ll try to make it, even though you know that you most definitely won’t be there.”

“Apologizing to your friends for not being able to make [it to] their birthdays and saying you really wanted to go, even though the only reason [that] you knew it was happening was because Facebook told you an hour beforehand,” she continued. “Or sleeping through the whole event and having no idea it had passed.”

This is the reality for so many living with chronic pain and illness. But Nolen wants people to understand is that she is not her illness.  

“I am resilient and strong, and although I’m crippled from my illnesses I won’t let them beat me,” Nolen said. “And if you’ve stuck by me through this, thank you. I love you more than you’ll ever know.”

You can follow Nolen Endo-journey on Instagram @paininthenat

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