Sophie Dillman of Home and Away is very candid about having the chronic condition endometriosis, but it wasn’t always like this.
In fact, she tells Yahoo Lifestyle that before realizing how supportive the cast and crew were, she was “petrified” that she’d lose her job on the soap opera because of her endometriosis symptoms.
Endometriosis is a condition that can result in “excruciating pain” and “debilitating circumstances,” as it causes tissue that resembles the lining of your uterus to grow in other places.
Endometriosis tissue, according to John Hopkins Medicine, typically develops in the pelvic region but can also show up in the intestines and bladder.
The actress from Home and Away received her endometriosis diagnosis ten years ago, but it’s likely that she had been suffering from it much longer. She finally received her life-altering diagnosis in her mid-20s after years of excruciatingly painful periods that frequently resulted in fainting and vomiting spells.
A swollen stomach is one of the chronic illness symptoms the celebrity deals with, which can make her appear bloated or larger than usual.
She acknowledges that she worried that Home and Away might fire her due to Hollywood beauty standards and the increased scrutiny that come with being an actress.
“When it first started happening I was freaking out because you put pressure on yourself,” she says, “not that Home and Away has ever put any pressure on anyone to look a certain way, body image-wise, and they feel really strongly about that.”
“I was terrified that I would lose my job because I couldn’t maintain a standard of beauty, and I toiled to fit that standard of beauty
even when I’m not swollen, let alone when I am.”
Sophie quickly realized that everyone was genuinely supportive because the soap’s creators are proponents of putting health first. The crew came up with methods to reassure Sophie rather than treating it as something taboo or unfavorable.
“They’re amazing. I’m allowed to put on a towel whenever I’m uneasy. Or they’ll alter how the scene is set up so I’m not required to wear a bikini.
When you’re in pain and self-conscious, that just makes it slightly simpler to go to a set and perform your duties.
‘Everyone knows that hot water bottle is mine’
When she needs a little extra comfort, the star gushes about how much the cast and crew take care of her. Since endometriosis is not a condition that is widely recognized, it was initially “awkward” to bring it up, but her coworkers now expect it.
Everyone knows that hot water bottle is mine, and if I’m in pain between takes, they’ll give it to me. If I’ve been standing up too long, everyone will bring me a chair, she says.
Sophie and the wardrobe team have even collaborated closely to try to find outfits that will accommodate swelling while still making Sophie feel chic and self-assured.
Sophie has had three or four surgeries to treat her endometriosis so far, and she will always have the condition.
Former actors have referred to Home and Away as a “machine” because of how quickly it shoots scenes.
The actress claims that the soap opera’s producers will juggle their busy schedules to make time for her to have procedures, tests, or to give her time off when she is in excruciating pain. Although it would seem that this would be the norm, accommodations are not always made at work for those who have chronic illnesses.
The actress wants to eradicate any stigma or taboo surrounding endometriosis and other chronic illnesses, which is one of the reasons she is so passionate about raising awareness of these issues surrounding it.
“I really hope and have heard that there are other companies getting on board with that sort of help,” Sophie says sincerely. “But I really hope that continues, because it’s so, so helpful.”
‘Chronic illness isn’t sexy’
While Sophie notes that physical symptoms can also have a “mental toll,” chronic diseases like endometriosis have a significant physical impact on patients.
People who are suffering frequently hear that their problems are all in their heads or that they should “suck it up.” The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that it typically takes patients seven years after the onset of their symptoms to receive a formal diagnosis. Anxiety levels may increase during this time of ambiguity.
“For a long time, I experienced daily pain and questioned whether I was weak for experiencing it. “Am I a sook?,” she asks herself.
When you visit a doctor, they may tell you that “No, it’s just a period, and this is what you have to live with. That’s frustrating, heartbreaking, and frightening,” she laments.
Patients are partially relieved when they receive the accurate diagnosis because they can then begin treatments, but it is also unfortunate.
“Nothing about managing a chronic illness is sexy because there is no end in sight. So, that can be really difficult to handle, and it can cause lots of anxiety and sleepless nights,” Sophie acknowledges.
Being in the spotlight and taking part in publicity photo and video shoots are both essential parts of the star’s job. She gains from it for both Summer Bay and her own brand.
She is candid about why these ostensibly standard job requirements can be excruciating for endometriosis sufferers.
“I become anxious if I have a photo shoot. When that happens, I typically experience pain and swelling,” she explains.
The thought of taking part in a photo shoot while swollen and in pain can be extremely frightful.
‘Social media is a gift, and a curse’
Sophie now has a sizable social media presence thanks to Australia’s top drama, which has amassed over 285,000 Instagram followers in just one year.
Like Demi Lovato and Lili Reinhart before her, she has refrained from using her platform to present an idealized, glamorous life. She is actively attempting to start a conversation about issues that are important to her.
She justifies her candor by telling us how “important” it is to use your platform for good.
The start of her statement is, “I think social media is a gift because we do get to see stuff like this, but it’s also a curse because you don’t always get to see the reality of life…the ins and outs of people who have illnesses or disabilities.
“The more we witness it, the more it becomes the norm, and the more people seek assistance. More people are becoming less afraid to reach out or raise their hand and admit, “Yes, I’m suffering.”
And because of that, we will be able to build an infrastructure and support systems around it to improve their quality of life. Actually, that’s all we really want.