Vulnerability and Presence

10:50 AM

Sick Girl Club
So the photo above represents the past few (crappy) weeks of my life. 

About two weeks ago, endometriosis handed me a horrible bout of menstrual cramps, which have been weird to adjust to. Up until my surgery in November, I had been on continuous birth control for about two or three years and hadn't had a scheduled period during that time. Now, with my IUD, I get one every month - at least for a little while.

When I knew I'd once again be joining this world I thought I'd left behind, I was like, "PFFT. I'm a seasoned veteran of painful uteri. I've got this."

Anyway, no. I didn't "got" this. It still hurts, no matter how long you've gone without feeling it.

After I recovered from that week of laying around and being useless, I was hit with a double whammy. I caught a miserable cold that decided to linger as long as possible, and at the same time, my dog, Juno got really, really sick.

Juno suddenly stopped eating and spent her usually energetic mornings laying on the couch or curled up in a ball. It got to a point where I started to seriously worry, so I called our vet. This is how all of my phone calls to our poor vet go:

"Hiiii, umm, this is Juno's mom. Uhhh she's doing this thing, and I'm not sure if she's sick, but she really seems sick, and I don't know, am I crazy? Should I bring her in? Is this worth spending a ton of money on? Fix my broken dog, pleeeease."

Some things never change.

Long story short, it was a good thing I brought her in because she probably would have died had I not. After a few days of tests and fluids and me trying not to lose my shit over my fur-baby, our very smart and very astute vets diagnosed her with Addison's disease. This means her adrenal gland isn't producing the hormones that it should, leading her to lose energy and her appetite. 

Thankfully, it's treatable, and as long as we manage it, Juno will lead a full, happy, healthy life. In fact, she seems back to her normal self right now.

But oh my god, I almost cried in that vet office like three times. Thank God our vets are wonderful people who love my dog because I probably would have lost my mind.

So. All of this is to say it's been a tough and sick few weeks. My husband, Andrew managed to stay healthy and calm throughout it all, so whatever, screw him!

After I took a long weekend to regroup from all of this, I received an email in my inbox Monday morning:

"Congratulations! Your proposal has been accepted to the social justice symposium!"


.........I did what? 

It came from one of the universities in the area, and this symposium sounded vaguely familiar. I stared at this email with my head tilted for a solid two minutes before I realized what the hell it was.

"OOOH YEAH. I remember applying to this now!"

Some people have a fun night out, send regrettable text messages and wake up the next morning with no memory of doing so. Tracy, on the other hand, sends presentation proposals to local universities and totally forgets she ever did such a thing.

Once it all came flooding back to me, I remembered my presentation topic: the difficulty many women face in getting medical professionals to take their pain and other serious symptoms seriously.

You know, the story of my life.

1D wasn't that bad, don't @ me.
In scrambling to prepare a presentation that makes me look like I know what I'm talking about, I've been thinking about how vulnerable I should be in this and in my stories about endometriosis in general. Obviously, I'm always honest about what I'm up against. But complete vulnerability has been harder.

In an era when everyone has a voice and a platform, sometimes in multiple places, it's sometimes hard to walk the line between "helpful vulnerability" and "that was way too much information, you need to dial that shit down."

For example, I have vulvodynia as a byproduct of my endo, which makes exams and sex and everything else related to that extremely painful. But I just don't like talking about it. That's just unquestionably private for me, even though I welcome and celebrate other people who want to talk about these things. And it kind of sucks, because I think more people do need to talk about it! Just... not me, I guess.

Another thing I don't spend a ton of time talking about is my relationship with my body. Well, I have before, I suppose, but I don't like to post photos of my scars or bloated stomach or any of the other nitty-gritty details of living with endometriosis. (Side note: Chrome asked if I meant "titty-gritty" instead of "nitty-gritty." Yes, Chrome, that is what I meant, thanks.)

I guess my reasoning for that is, why would I? Scars are scars, and everyone has at least one of them. I have a ton on my abdomen from surgery, face from acne and places that met asphalt from that time I fell of my bike.

I'm not ashamed of them. In fact, when a dermatologist once offered to buff out the scars on the bridge of my nose from the chicken pox I had as a kid, I yelped. "No! I like them!"

So, I don't know. Is there a benefit in sharing those details? Are those things that I feel the world needs to know to understand endometriosis?

With this presentation, I face the challenge of not only explaining my illness and this frustrating trend in women's health. But I also have to tell them why they should give a shit.

When you're consumed by a cause, that's sometimes hard to do. It seems so obvious. "Women are in pain, and no one is listening to them! Why doesn't this seem like an urgent problem that needs your attention and involvement?!" But it's, unfortunately, not always so obvious to an outsider.

How much vulnerability and emotional labor does it require of me to make someone believe? Not necessarily with this presentation I just remembered I signed up for. I mean in the grand scheme of my advocacy.

Lately, I've been pretty consumed by the state of affairs in our world. I attended my city's local women's march last month. My grandparents were Ukrainian refugees, so I'm involved in those issues, too. And when another issue I care about pops up literally every single day, I feel like I'm spinning a bunch of plates that are rotating at supersonic speeds and oh my gosh, what was life like before this?!

My news and politics obsession became so overwhelming recently that I had to have a chat with myself and take advice that I've been trying to take my entire life: Choose your battles. Allow separation. Allow breathing room.

My thinly veiled guilt complex makes me feel as though every task, every fight is mine to shoulder. But I'm trying to remind myself, "Tracy, no one is on pins and needles, waiting for you to say something."

Yes, it's incredibly important - it's vital - to be part of causes you care about. But you aren't required to wear yourself thin to do so. And the entire cause isn't going to go to shambles, simply because you didn't cram absolutely everything you wanted to or felt like you should in that blog post you wrote or presentation you gave.

Anyway, this meandering blog post is more for myself than anyone, I guess. But in a time when so many people I know are fatigued, I hope someone will get something out of this, too.

I celebrate vulnerability and welcome it. I think this breaks down stigma and helps people get the support they need.

But as I've heard so often lately, "You cannot pour from an empty cup." And I'm trying to let that be true for myself.

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  1. Hi! I followed you on twitter, was going to tweet you, but ended up finding you here from everyday I really related to your treatment by the doctor! I have never heard of endometriosis until now, and my dad is a doctor. I've been sick on the floor unable to move, and passed out in restaurants before. I might want to look into this. Thank you!

  2. "But as I've heard so often lately, "You cannot pour from an empty cup." And I'm trying to let that be true for myself." I love how you come back to self-reflection in this article. I have a friend that had endo for three decades and actually came through it, she no longer has it. She found that the way she was living and driving herself with work was actually intrinsically linked to the severity of her symptoms. This understanding supported her to make the lifestyle changes that slowly translated into the changes in her health. You might be interested in reading about her experiences, not sure if I can post links in comments or they get stripped out be here is a link a blog she wrote on a blog site called women in livingness. the title of the article is 'Endometriosis experiences and observations on women's health', her name is Jane Keep.

    All the best with your health - I am bordering on getting an auto-immune disease and have been looking at how I am living that has been impacting that as well as doing all the necessary medical interventions, which are of course equally necessary.

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