An image of a shadow on a wall—moving slowly with the light across the room—speaks deeply to a feeling of lost hours and days that most, if not all, those suffering from endometriosis can relate to. I know I do.
Short film This is Endometriosis, playing as a part of this year’s Hot Docs slate, chronicles co-director Georgie Wileman’s medical journey from the first time she felt pain at the age of thirteen to the present day. Memories from Christmas mornings past and other snapshots of her childhood flash across the screen via family pictures and home videos, as Georgie’s soft, pain-filled voice shares the difficulties of living with endometriosis—an often painful and debilitating chronic illness which sees endometrial-like tissue grow outside of the uterus.
For many years, Georgie’s pain was dismissed by doctors and family alike, with most labeling her a drama queen. Internalizing this belief, Georgie did what most of us suffering from endometriosis do, she learned to hide her pain. At points, she went so far as to question the validity of her pain. At its core, endometriosis is an incredibly isolating disease, which takes an average of 7 to 10 years for a diagnosis.
Similar to Georgie, I learned how to hide my pain after being told at the age of thirteen that the pain was in my head. I, like Wileman, was just being overly dramatic. At age twenty-six, I was finally diagnosed with endometriosis and, in short order, underwent five surgeries, including a hysterectomy, in just seven years. Georgie has six surgeries in just four years. But still, the pain was all in our heads, right?
The raw honesty of Georgie’s words combined with the stark images of her pain, provide a rare but accurate glimpse into the agonizing world many reside in but that few on the outside actually witness firsthand. The counting and breathing through the pain. The familiar inside of an ambulance. The monotonous tiled ceiling of a hospital. The helplessness you feel as the pain consumes your body. As it robs you of your voice. Allowing only faint sounds to escape the further you are pulled away from hope. The repetition of this pain cycle and the years it steals from you.
Aside from handling Georgie’s most vulnerable moments with the upmost grace and care, This is Endometriosis highlights how much the onus is on the patient to become their own advocate. To raise awareness by sharing (and re-experiencing) their trauma in hopes that it will be heard and acknowledged. As the closing frame of the film states: an estimated 190 million people are living with this disease. Georgie’s story is just one of them.
Find out more at: www.thisisendo.com.