Writing poetry on chronic illness has helped Bethany Coveney, 23, "claim back power" while discovering a depth and resilience she is truly proud of.
After years of being "gaslit" by medical professionals on invisible illnesses such as Microscopic Colitis, Endometriosis and CUTI, Coveney started writing poetry to validate her lived experiences. “I was treated like an unreliable bystander instead of an expert witness in regards to my own body, half of the battle of chronic illness is convincing medical professionals that you're worthy of treatment”, she said. “I've had so much negativity thrown my way and I didn't want to let anger and bitterness control me so writing became an outlet for the emotions that came with chronic illness.”
The metaphors of falling, drowning and radio static create the poignant world of Coveney. They show the reality of chronic illness, yet they also show the lack of NHS support for these conditions which led to Coveney’s “medical trauma”.
Coveney’s journey started 5 years ago when she was seeking a diagnosis for symptoms which turned out to be Microscopic Colitis, Endometriosis and CUTI. She has experienced endless waiting, misdiagnosis, the wrong results being given from a biopsies of the bowels, unsuccessful Endometriosis surgeries with surgeons not qualified for the condition and medical prejudice. “I've had comments such as 'pull your big girl panties up' and 'you're a healthy young woman. Go out with your friends and forget about it. We've got patients waiting for cancer treatments' made by GPs”, Coveney said. All of this has led to Coveney developing depression, anxiety, panic disorder, and complex ptsd.
Microscopic Colitis is an Inflammatory Bowel Disease, a group which includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis too. Endometriosis is when cells, similar to the lining of them womb start to grow in other parts of the body such as the bowl and bladder and CUTI is a urinary tract infection which is associated with structural and functional abnormalities. CUTI has only recently been recognised by the NHS as an existing condition. This means diagnosis and treatment is so far behind most patients are forced to turn to private facilities to receive any recognition. “When your illnesses don't show in routine bloods or scans, you can be made to feel like everything is psychosomatic”, Coveney explained.
Poems such as "Femme Fatale", "The Disposable Women" and "The Crazy Girl and her Feminazi Agenda" (all featured below) convey the prejudice facing women with chronic illness. Their message shows how far the medical profession needs to develop when it comes to women's health.
But Coveney has found a way to process the last five years through poetry. "Through my writing, I realised that I've learnt so much and my experience had taught me so much about who I am and what I am capable of", she said. "Writing is a way of finding my own purpose again when I've felt purposeless, and when I stated writing I realised that chronic illness didn't take who I am away, writing about my own experience helped me claim back some of my power, and I explored the depth of my experience and my resilience. Whilst I wish it wasn't chronic illness that made me realise those things about myself, I'm proud of who I have become", she explained.
Coveney is sharing her poems with women who have similar stories on her social media account of over 1,000 followers. “I used to think of the last five years as wasted time, but writing about it truly made me realise that I can help other people who are going through the same thing. Writing poems is a way of relating to and informing other chronic illness warriors", she said.
Explore Coveney's poems below and find more on her social media @bad_bladder_beth