What Living with Endo Looks Like - by artist Justyna Green?
We chat with London-based Illustrator, Justyna Green about her real and raw comic series 'Understanding Endometriosis', that demonstrates the realities of living with Endometriosis - a the condition that affects 1 in 10 people with periods.
Justyna tells her story of living with Endometriosis in a fully illustrated format. The comic tracks her journey from experiencing the first symptoms of Endometriosis to receiving the official diagnosis. Read on for our full interview with the artist.
I’m an illustrator and ever since I can remember, drawing has been my preferred language and a form of therapy. The more I read about endometriosis, I wanted to understand it and familiarise with it – that’s how I first started to draw uterus plants.
The process of reaching diagnosis was a very difficult time for not only my body but also my mental health, and so those visuals and stories naturally started to come up in my head – whether that was during a meditation or on a run.
I think it was in spur of a moment, that I decided to pitch my story to the commissioning editor at WePresent – the lovely Suzanne Tromp, who a few months prior gave me my first ever illustration commission. As it happened Suzanne loved the idea and was commissioning a few endo projects, so we’ve hit it off, and in less than two months created the comic.
One of the reasons I wanted to tell my story in a comic way too, is the fact that a lot of material about endometriosis is quite dry and informative, whilst I found the experience highly emotional and fluctuating – I wanted to capture it.
Like for many people, it’s been a bumpy ride. There’s lack of awareness of the condition, which means that it’s not easy to get diagnosed. The first hurdle was that when I first started to experience my symptoms, I had never heard of endometriosis. I assumed that severe period pain and constant problems with my gut were not only not related, but also ‘normal’ or that the gut problems specifically must have been linked to my diet. It was thanks to my friend, who saw me not being able to get out of bed in the morning due to severe period pain and mentioned if I heard of endometriosis, that I became familiar with the condition. The second hurdle was the lack of awareness of the condition among the first-contact doctors – who in the UK are also overstretched with little time to see patients. This means that I couldn’t get a referral to the gynae team, until I changed my GP and also to be honest, bigged up the issue just to be seen by a women’s health professional – intuitively I knew something was wrong. I’m very glad I did, because it turns out I had stage 3 endometriosis.
The response has been incredible, with many women getting in touch with me saying that they can see themselves in the comic, or that it helped them understand the condition from which their friends and family suffer. It’s also helped other endo sufferers to feel stronger and encourage being vocal about the condition – there’s absolutely nothing shameful about it.
Since publishing the article I’ve connected to fellow endo creatives and I’ve loved keeping in touch. It’s just so freeing to just be able to text a friend that you’re in lots of endo pain, and for them to simply understand it.
So many things! First awareness and breaking the taboo. Nothing will change until we can talk about periods freely, not only among women, but in the public domain, with partners, families and colleagues. Only by normalising periods, we can make a difference when it comes improving endometriosis support.
I’d also like to see a shift in how first-contact doctors support women with endometriosis – addressing period pain properly, paying attention and I believe what’s very important – not making the whole conversation about fertility and having children. I felt unseen as an individual throughout my diagnosis journey, as most of the focus was on the fact if I can have children in the future. Or that I should have one so that my symptoms go away, which is a myth! Whilst my concern was being to function normally and bringing my mental health back to a happy balance.
That’s another important piece of the puzzle – endometriosis affects mental health so so much – from the isolation, confusion, the physical pain and managing the symptoms. I wish there were more local peer support groups, to which people suffering from endometriosis can be referred, so that they don’t feel alone throughout the process.
Want to learn more about Endometriosis. For more information and resources, visit Endometriosis Australia. You can also donate direct to Endometriosis Australia via our checkout.
Follow Justyna on Instagram @justynagreen