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RAW PAIN

Woman shares agonising photos to show the devastating reality of living with endometriosis

THESE heart-wrenching photos show the devastating impact endometriosis can have on a woman's body.

Georgie Wileman, 30, spent years documenting her own battle with the agonising condition - to raise awareness for the often misunderstood illness.

 This image shows Georgie's own stomach with each of her scars joined together in pen
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This image shows Georgie's own stomach with each of her scars joined together in penCredit: Georgie Wileman

And Georgie's deeply personal photography, which she has titled This Is Endometriosis, is now being championed by the British Journal of Photography.

Speaking about the powerful photos, Georgie, from New York, said: "I always knew I needed to photograph what was happening to me.

"Four surgeries behind me, and in constant pain, I began documenting the disease through my own body."

Endometriosis, which affects one in ten women, is caused when tissue from the womb starts to grow on other pelvic organs.

 Georgie has dubbed endometriosis an "incredibly lonely disease"
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Georgie has dubbed endometriosis an "incredibly lonely disease"Credit: Georgie Wileman
 This image shows Georgie's abdomen mottled with burns
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This image shows Georgie's abdomen mottled with burnsCredit: Georgie Wileman

It is a brutal illness which many people do not understand and, as Georgie explains, can be hugely isolating.

She told the BJP: "Endometriosis is an incredibly lonely disease."

Georgie, who has had endometriosis since she was 13, also pointed out that people often dismiss the condition as nothing but "painful periods".

She added: "They’re words that do not come close to the impact on my life, one of heat-pad burns and morphine, wheelchairs and walking sticks.

"It was eating me alive from the inside."

Endometriosis is an incredibly lonely disease...It was eating me alive from the inside

Georgie Wileman

One harrowing image Georgie has shared is of her own stomach - with each of her scars from surgery joined together in pen.

The years that a new keyhole was cut open are noted next to each of the scars.

Other poignant images show her tummy mottled with burns or extremely bloated.

Georgie has not only shared pictures of herself, but also of other endometriosis sufferers.

 Georgie says she is now bound together with other endometriosis sufferers she has photographed
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Georgie says she is now bound together with other endometriosis sufferers she has photographedCredit: Georgie Wileman

And Georgie says she is now bound together with the other endometriosis sufferers she has photographed by their shared experience.

She said: "I try to build as much trust as possible with my subjects by letting my own guard down.

"Many of my subjects found being seen and documented incredibly cathartic, and that helped me to continue on and tell their stories."

Despite this, Georgie admits the process of taking her photos have proved difficult since her most recent surgery.

 Endometriosis impacts countless women and trans men as this image shows
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Endometriosis impacts countless women and trans men as this image showsCredit: Georgie Wileman
 Endometriosis causes tissue that behaves like the lining of the womb to grow outside the womb
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Endometriosis causes tissue that behaves like the lining of the womb to grow outside the wombCredit: Getty Images

She has experienced PTSD as a result of her cumulative surgeries as well as debilitating flashbacks while making the images.

Georgie said: "Continuing with the work has therefore been incredibly challenging, but I know how important it is, so I keep going.

"When I start shooting, something just kicks in, my love for the medium takes over."

Despite affecting countless women and trans men, endometriosis is shockingly underfunded and under-researched.

Seeing an accurate representation of yourself is so crucial in finding hope

Georgie Wileman

People with the condition are often subjected to speculative procedures, such as preventable hysterectomies or forced menopause.

Georgie was eager to spread awareness of endometriosis so that unnecessary, invasive suffering can be prevented.

She added: "I wanted to be a voice for the millions of sufferers worldwide.

"Excision surgery with an endometriosis specialist is currently the best treatment we have, yet it is not available on most insurance plans in the US, or healthcare services around the world.

 Around two million women in the UK are affected by endometriosis
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Around two million women in the UK are affected by endometriosisCredit: Georgie Wileman

"Leaving only those privileged enough to afford it, or go into debt for it, to have a chance at a better quality of life."

Georgie is still making the final touches to her photography project and is now looking for people of colour to shoot - in a bid to counteract the false and damaging narrative that endometriosis affects only white women in their thirties.

She said: "It is imperative to me that all people are represented in this work."

Georgie also admits the project may continue, even if she would rather it came to a close.

 Georgie says she doesn't think she would have survived without her photography
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Georgie says she doesn't think she would have survived without her photographyCredit: Georgie Wileman

Symptoms of endometriosis

Endometriosis is where cells like the ones in the lining of the womb (uterus) are found elsewhere in the body.

Each month, these cells react in the same way to those in the womb - building up and then breaking down and bleeding. Unlike the cells in the womb that leave the body as a period, this blood has no way to escape.

That can lead to infertility, fatigue, bowel and bladder problems, as well as really heavy, painful periods.

It affects one in ten women in the UK.

Symptoms include:

  • Painful, heavy, or irregular periods
  • Pain during or after sex
  • Chronic pain
  • Infertility
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Fatigue

The cause of endometriosis is unknown and there is no definite cure.

According to Endometriosis UK, it takes over seven years on average for women to finally receive a diagnosis.

It's estimated that up to 50 per cent of infertile women has the condition.

Source: Endometriosis UK

She added: "I am beginning to experience pain again for the first time since my last surgery.

"If I need another, I would document it."

She adds: "With a camera you can take these private moments and share them with those that need them most.

"Since I was 13, watching light slip down walls and seeing my reflection in hospital mirrors, I always imagined these images as photographs.

 Georgie is still struggling with pain from her endometriosis despite surgery
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Georgie is still struggling with pain from her endometriosis despite surgeryCredit: Georgie Wileman

"Somehow there was beauty in the day-to-day. Without it I don’t know how I would have survived.

"It’s hard to put into words how cathartic it is not to be on your own in this.

"Seeing an accurate representation of yourself is so crucial in finding hope."

Georgie's project was funded by The Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

What is Endometriosis? Medical video explains disease with affects 176 million women worldwide
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