My name is Dana Kearley — I am an artist and illustrator based in Vancouver, BC. My artwork is a visceral response to personal life, being a woman, and my endless conflict with anxiety. These drawings, like my other illustrations and paintings, create a narrative that is melancholic, absurd, humorous and vulgar. I use a visual language that draws from themes of feminism, sex, gender, and horror.
Last year I was diagnosed with endometriosis. Like many others with endo, it took many tests until I finally had a diagnosis. It explained all of the painful periods that I have had since my early teens. In high school, I remember leaving class to go to the bathroom and my vision went black — I almost passed out and felt like I was going to vomit from the intensity of the pain. I thought this was normal. So many people believe that severe pain with periods is normal and go untreated.
My entire struggle with endo has been rough, but this past year has been the hardest. I created this little zine about my struggle and how it has affected my body, mental health and daily life. Why are our bodies and periods so scary to some? I hope for this zine to break the stigma around menstruation and reproductive health by starting a conversation for those who have endometriosis.
Endometriosis affects me every day. I go through bouts of depression because of the illness. Some days are worse than others. I love food but it has become a source of anxiety since I experience chronic nausea.
My pain is worse in the evening. Medicinal marijuana gives me an appetite and eases pain better than any painkiller I’ve tried.
Sometimes the pain is in my lower back, my abdomen, pelvis or even my legs. When this happens I feel like I am going to pass out and vomit. This can happen anywhere. Cramps come whenever they please, even if I am not expecting my period.
My periods can be very heavy, painful and ruin my favourite underwear. I tend to wear red or black underwear when I have my period.
Guilt is the hardest thing to cope with. I feel guilty for having pain. I feel guilty for feeling insecure. I feel guilty for not being able to work very much. Even after working on this for several months with lots of support, I still have to remind myself that endo is something that I cannot control and that the illness is not who I am.
When endo flares up I don’t feel like myself. I feel depressed, insecure and don’t want to talk to anyone. The emotional impact of endo is something that I was not prepared for, but have learned to cope with it.
In just a year since my diagnosis, I have learned to cope in the best way possible. It is still extremely hard at times but I have learned a few small things that have made coping with the illness much easier: I do not drink alcohol because it makes everything worse (pain, bloating, mental health issues), and I stopped eating processed soy (I am vegan and used to eat A LOT of soy). Endometriosis is not curable, but it is treatable! I make sure that I am nice to myself, practice self-care and surround myself with loving and supportive people.