My name is Nicola and I have endometriosis. For the uninitiated, endometriosis (endo, to its seasoned sufferers) is an incurable tissue disorder which affects one in 10 people with uteruses. In a long list of hideous side-effects, endo’s greatest hits include fertility problems and unrelenting chronic pain. Simply put: for eight to 10 days out of the month, my insides feel like they’re going to war with each other. 

My main coping mechanisms are medication and a brave face – which is more convincing some days than others. Most of the time I will crack on with things as best I can, with a vaguely pained expression on my face and a hot water bottle shoved up my jumper. Occasionally I have to admit defeat and curl up in the foetal position for a few hours. That last bit never gets any easier.

For a long time, I didn’t really tell people about my condition. I wanted to be seen as reliable and not written off because of a minor inconvenience like regular internal bleeding. I spent a lot of time hiding how ill I was until I was sure I was respected enough to be honest about it because, as much as they pretend not to, people judge you for it (even the good ones). But, over time I’ve realised, while I don’t want sympathy, I need understanding.

This revelation came to me after months of working from home, which I have discovered to be an absolute godsend. I no longer need to choose between the appearance of an editor with their s*** together and a chronic pain sufferer: in the comfort of my home, I am free to be both; I can lead a meeting while hooked up to a TENS machine and work in my PJs when my stomach is swollen like a balloon.

It is not an excuse to hide from work – since lockdown, I probably clock more hours than I ever have – but I finally have the freedom to look after my health in the comfort of my own home without feeling guilty about it.

When it comes to remote and flexible working, we weren’t moving fast enough. And, while being sent to work at home so abruptly has undoubtedly hurt the world in other ways, the pandemic has forced employers’ hands – I can’t help but feel a little relieved about it. Because, when the threat of Covid-19 eventually lifts, we can’t go backwards, and that is a win for so many people for whom flexible working is not just a luxury or a preference but a baseline necessity. 

And, hey: as a 20-something woman who spends weeks out of the month in inconceivable pain, I am going to take wee victories wherever I can get them.