How Award-Winning Hair and Make-up Artist, Carrie Jessup, Prioritises Her Physical and Mental Health while Fighting a Severe Disorder.
Take a read through Carrie’s brave account of the physical and emotional challenges she faces on a daily basis, and the heroic way in which she meets them head-on with bravery, courage and kindness.
In this article Carrie explains how living with endometriosis has impacted her everyday life, practical self-care strategies that she uses, her passion for advocacy and education, and why kindness wins every time.
On Living with Endometriosis…
Endometriosis is a disorder that affects women where endometrial tissue that lines the uterus grows outside the uterine cavity, most often on the ovaries, bowel and pelvis lining.
Endometriosis can be painful, cause abnormal menstruation with symptoms including heavy bleeding, painful menstruation, spotting or irregular menstruation. The condition can also cause cramping, constipation or nausea, and may make it difficult to fall pregnant.
Carrie highlights that the issue that the condition gets worse over time because endometrial tissue growing outside of the womb with every month that passes, more and more tissue builds up. So, the longer that it’s left, the worse the complications. In Carrie’s case, it was eleven years before she got a diagnosis. “I was in a mess. I had it everywhere. My fallopian tubes were twisted, my ovaries were touching each other. It was really bad.” But if it had been diagnosed earlier, then it could have been treated earlier and managed.
The only way to diagnose endometriosis is with a laparoscopy, which is expensive and time-consuming, so it’s often the last resort. Carrie only found out about her condition when a new doctor looked at her symptoms and ordered a scan. There was a cyst on her ovaries that doubled in size in just 6 weeks. And that’s when the first of her surgeries took place.
To date, Carrie has had nine big operations, one every year since the age of 25. She’s had to find ways to manage the pain and investigated countless alternative therapies.
On Endometriosis and Infertility…
Unfortunately, for Carrie, the nerve damage and the scar tissue is permanent. And with every operation she runs the risk of more scar tissue, and more nerve damage.
Doctors are now trying to maintain Carrie’s fertility. But with every operation, the chances of being able to conceive children goes down. “Now, I still hope that I can have children with IVF. But now as a single woman at thirty-five, that is something that scares me. I, I never thought that I would be that person that worries about her biological clock. I never thought that would be in my story, but time is ticking and I do want to have children. I’ve always wanted to have children and I don’t know if I can. And the reality of that is so great that sometimes I can’t even process it.”
On Running a Business and Managing a Condition…
Running a business is difficult when you have a condition like endometriosis. It’s hard to turn up for work each day with a smile on your face and get through it when it would be a lot easier just to lie in bed. There’s also considerable downtime after operations, and recovery time varies depending on the surgery.
“My bowel resection was the most intense recovery I’ve ever been through. That was six months plus. Wow. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, it was the pain was so severe that I remember saying and this is deep, I remember saying to my mom, this is too much. I want to die. That is how painful it was. I just I couldn’t get through. But you do, obviously. And your body is amazing in it. And it does its thing and it recovers, but I was so sick. “
“There have been other operations where I’ve got back up in a few days because I think the biggest thing going into an operation is being strong. So that’s why I put so much emphasis on diet and exercise to be physically strong, to then be able to pull you out the other side. But yeah, that the next day that was horrific.”
On Practical Self-Care Strategies…
According to Carrie, and backed up by science, stress can worsen the symptoms of endometriosis, so its important to identify and avoid triggers where possible.
Carrie has also had to make changes to her diet. For her, red meat, dairy, and gluten can exacerbate her condition. As such, she avoids red meat and dairy, and restricts her wheat intake, choosing other grains such as rice. “There are certain things I’ve had to cut out of my diet, and I’ve tried to find replacements so that I still feel like I’m enjoying my food and don’t feel deprived.”
It can be difficult sometimes, but it’s important to move, even when you feel like doing the opposite. As Carrie explains, “I need to make sure that I am being physical when I can, because if I if I do lay down too much and rest too much to then gettin up is really hard”.
“I’ve bought little routines into my life to help me function. So, I have morning routines, I have evening routines and I’ve found sticking to those helps me immensely.”
“My mind has been the biggest thing that I’ve had to work on, because not only do you have the physical impact, you have the emotional and you have the depression. You have the anxiety, you have the unknown.”
Carrie shares that “depression and anxiety, are big topics for me and they are conditions that I have suffered with for a really long time. And I’m coming out the other side of it. But I’ve had to change the way that I view myself and my body.”
She goes on to give practical examples, “instead of saying to myself, which I did for a long time, why me? Why do I have to have this condition? What is it? What have I done wrong? Why have I got all these hard cards that have been dealt to me? Instead of thinking like that, I had to say to myself, why not me? Why not me? I’m strong. I’m able to you know, maybe this is the reason that I have because I have a voice and I have a story to tell. And I could speak and tell my story to help others. I can be an inspiration to others, to look for them, to look to me for help, support, guidance.”
Carrie shares more from her journey, “I looked at myself, and thought ‘your body is so amazing. It is fighting every single day. The pain that you feel is it a constant fight to protect you. You know, that bit of extra fat that I have around my middle, it’s there because it’s protecting your organs. So why not give it a break, stop being so hard on it and give it the things that it needs instead of trying to fight against it.’”
On the Complications and Opportunities of the COVID Lock-Down…
As a makeup artist, maintaining a positive self-image can be difficult. Self-esteem so quickly gets tied into how you look, and not feeling good enough. And that can quickly snowball when you add in a condition like endometriosis. In Carrie’s words, “It was just a lot of self-pity and I had to go, no, enough is enough. Let’s get your act together and let’s turn this all into a positive. And that is what lookdown actually gave me. It gave me the time to focus on myself because I wasn’t distracted with my business and wasn’t burying everything.”
But the change doesn’t happen overnight and lockdown was also an incredibly difficult time for Carrie, who was relaunching her business and dealing with a painful break-up. But, as Carrie explains, “him walking away made me realise that I needed to be there for myself because I was too reliant on external things to try and make me happy. And I was looking for happiness in all of the wrong places. And, actually, just taking the time out to just be by myself and go on this journey of self-love and self-discovery and deal with my mental health issues that I was struggling with, that’s what I needed to do.”
Part of taking control back, is contributing to a greater cause. So much of what Carrie has gone through has been because of a lack of awareness. It’s for this reason that Carrie runs and raises awareness and money for Endometriosis UK because it is imperative that more research is done, because every case is so different.
“You could have minimal endometriosis but really severe pain or a lot of endometriosis and not be in so much pain, it’s very different for each person. That’s why we call ourselves warriors and sisters. We love to come together and share our stories because the more that is known about it and the more that we speak up, hopefully they will listen and we’ll get more research and we can figure out what’s going on because this condition affects one in ten. It’s as common as diabetes, which is crazy to me.”
Another topic that Carrie is passionate about is education, “it’s crazy to me that we’re not talking about it in schools. There’s sex education and learning about periods so you know what to expect.” But that’s where the conversation ends. Teenagers know to expect pain with their period, but they don’t know that extreme pain is not normal.
“If I had been taught about endometriosis, I would have recognised the signs and I would have gone to my doctors and I would have been more persistent in trying to get my diagnosis. Instead, I went to a doctor. I trusted their judgement because their doctor, they know they know best and you just trust that what they’re saying is correct. But because I kept having these problems and kept experiencing this pain that wasn’t normal. I was put on the pill at age 14 because my periods were so heavy and so painful. You know, I just I just accepted that. And you do kind of suffer in silence.”
Carrie is re-writing the narrative for young women across the UK. “I don’t want my story to be so common in the future. So, I speak out and I share my story because I want the younger generation to know that it’s not normal. You shouldn’t suffer and you shouldn’t be curled up in a ball. I mean, I passed out and threw up from the pain. That’s not normal. When I went to the doctor and told her about what I was experiencing, she said, ‘oh, you’re just having spasms. Here’s some cream for your rectum.’”
Carrie also experienced gaslighting. She was advised to go for counselling when one doctor said it was all in her head. And that’s why she advocates for awareness, for research, and for education in schools.
On Looking Up and Looking Forward…
Carrie is on a priority waiting list for operation number ten. “I am very anxious about going into surgery because you don’t know what they’re going to find. You don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know what they’re going to need to do. So that then makes me scared because I have all of this responsibility. I’ve got this business, I’ve got these weddings coming up and I don’t know when the surgery will be, so it’s difficult to plan ahead.”
“But in terms of the business, I’m really excited because I finally feel like I’m in a really good headspace. I have done so much work and I feel like I’ve expanded my knowledge in terms of how to make this grow bigger. And it’s very scary when you all this one person and you’ve got this vision for this brand and it all relies on you. I think the fear of not feeling good enough has stopped me in the past, but now my mindset is in the right place and I’m just really excited. I’m not scared to take my business to the next level.”
“I want to take every single opportunity that I can to do the things that make me happy. And I think that’s the biggest thing with this condition. You can’t let it define you, you are not your condition. The real me is the person who goes out there and makes people feel beautiful and gives someone that gift of being able to look in the mirror and say, wow, I feel amazing.”
“That’s why I get up every day.
That’s why I do what I do.
Because making other people feel beautiful makes me happy and I will not let endometriosis define me.
I think kindness, kindness wins every time. And it doesn’t cost a thing to be kind.”