While navigating the tumultuous sea of life, a melody is a compass that helps me stay the course. My album, The Tides, which I created about my life with endometriosis, has become a beacon of light. It’s the album that saved my life.
Endometriosis limited my independence and made it nearly impossible for me to support myself as a self-employed artist. When I separated from my partner and musical collaborator of seven years, the economic impact of this disease became evident; I would begin a contract only to quit halfway through. As the disease progressed, challenges I once enjoyed became impossible, and I could barely find the energy to keep up with basic day-to-day activities. Once a vibrant social being, I became a recluse.
Like so many endo warriors, I was hospitalized several times with debilitating and mysterious symptoms - undiagnosed for over two decades. But despite chronic pain and fatigue from endometriosis and PCOS, disintegrating relationships, multiple surgeries, and an increasingly nomadic lifestyle, I never stopped writing songs. I found within them a source of strength and meaning.
I was living in Toronto when I experienced a menstrual cycle like no other. I had just secured an endo specialist, affordable weekly acupuncture, naturopath, psychologist and a support group, but endometriosis can be ruthless. At my cycle’s peak the cramps turned to contractions so severe, I began to lose consciousness. As I lay on the floor contemplating calling an ambulance, a song came to me:
Like a girl possessed…crumples to the floor in a bloody mess.
Like a girl possessed – crawls across the floor in silence.
Pain you can’t undress. How to describe this feeling?
Look me in the eye – tell me this is perfectly normal.
The melody and lyrics came at once. Later came my songs “Social Pariah” and “The Knife." The creative flow was steady, and soon there was an entire album-in-waiting. There was no impetus to record it, so the album was shelved. Due to my absence from the arts community, I had faded into the background. I no longer had access to a studio where I could book around my unpredictable schedule. And of course, I thought I wouldn’t be healthy enough to tour. There were too many riptides, and the undertow swept me into an abyss once more.
As time passed, it became evident that I needed to record The Tides. Fans emailed me out of the blue to thank me for my music or to commission a song, reminding me how interconnected life and art are. I sang “End Endometriosis” with and for a group of endo warriors at a march in Montreal in May 2017 and I felt the sense of purpose and community returning.
The catharsis from shaping and capturing these new stories, creating something tangible and meaningful, would help me move forward. In doing so, I would honor the women from The Endometriosis Network Canada who helped me through the darkest times; I would honor my story. More than anything, the thought that my album could reach others in similar positions was enough to pull me out of the doldrums. My endo symptoms were now at bay; it was time to swim.
Millions and millions of women can’t be wrong
But the system of oppression weighs us down
Putting on our shoes stained with blood
We march through the streets arm in arm
Motivated, I secured an executive producer, and the project was on. I would record all the tracks within two weeks with whatever resources I could muster. I had holed up in my childhood music room with a zoom recorder, a laptop on its last leg, and a motley assortment of instruments when the songs took shape. The constraints of time and limited resources led to creative liberation; I even brought in a sax and trumpet player. For the first time in years I felt like I was in my element and my endo symptoms were manageable. It was an intense challenge, but by the end of September, The Tides was complete.
In December 2017 I performed several shows in Canada, engaging audiences with stories about growing up with undiagnosed endo, singing songs and showing videos. People approached me to share stories of their own: a couple that couldn’t have kids due to endo but later adopted; a young woman who now thinks her “blackout painful” periods may be undiagnosed endo. I also reconnected with endo-entrepreneurs such as Christina Paruag from Femevolve, who is on a mission to help endo women successfully work from home or work around their painful periods.
The Tides is dedicated to The Endometriosis Network Canada and to the memory of former CBC journalist Ange-Aimee Woods, a friend and arts advocate and I invite you to listen, stream, download, share or if able, to purchase or gift a copy to someone who might need some new songs to sing.
As this global wave of endometriosis awareness continues to gather force, may we find answers to our questions and ways of navigating these storms so that future generations of women will be carried more gently on their journey.
*Patient stories submitted to Endofound.org are the views of the patients and not necessarily those of the foundation.