How Home and Away helps with Sophie Dillman’s ‘severe’ health struggles

Home and Away star Sophie Dillman was nervous that she would be fired from the show due to her health struggles, but revealed that they've been so accommodating.

Video transcript

SOPHIE DILLMAN: I have endometriosis, which is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of your uterus grows anywhere. And it can grow anywhere. It's been found in the brain. It's been found in men. It's been found in the liver, in bones.

Absolutely everywhere. And it causes-- it can cause a lot of pain. Some women have a lot of that scar tissue and don't feel it at all. Some people have the tiniest amount that almost can't be found during surgery, and it can cause excruciating pain and debilitating circumstances. I was diagnosed about 10 years ago now.

I started-- I had always had really bad periods. I always used to wake up, especially on my first day of my period, and I'd faint, vomit, and I couldn't stand up straight. And they were really heavy and really uncomfortable. But I didn't really think much of it. I feel like growing up, a lot of women are told to just suck it up and that period pain is normal.

So I did, I sucked it up. And I actually got to the point when I was in my mid 20s, I was in acting school, and I had to skip days of uni because I was in so much pain. And I was like, this is-- I've got to do something about this. When it first started happening, I was freaking out because-- not that "Home and Away" has ever put any pressure on anyone to look a certain way, body image-wise, and they really strongly-- they feel really strongly about that, but you put pressure on yourself. And I was petrified that I was going to lose my job because I couldn't stick to a beauty ideal, because I fought so hard to stick to that beauty ideal.

And I struggled to fit that beauty ideal at the best of times, let alone when I'm swollen. But they're fantastic. I'm allowed to wear a towel whenever I feel uncomfortable, or they'll change the way that the scene works so I don't have to be in a bikini. And that just makes it that little bit easier to go on set and do your job when you're in pain and you're self-conscious. "Home and Away" is actually really great.

I couldn't ask for a better workforce. When I first started and started talking about endometriosis, I don't think everyone had heard about it or understood how severe it could be. So I had some awkward conversations with a few people about what it was. But now everyone knows that hot water bottle is mine and they'll hand it to me in between sets if I'm sore. Everyone will get me a chair if I've been standing up too long.

I-- because another problem for me, apparently, is sitting on hard chairs, I'd just sit on a soft chair, so they'll get me a pillow. The wardrobe girls are fantastic in getting me-- we've been really able to sort of juggle getting stylish clothes that also can fit me when I have a swollen day, or I can change the clothes so that I feel comfortable on a swollen day. They're fantastic. And they've always got Panadol and Nurofen. And if I ever have needed time off for tests or surgery, they've been really, really accommodating.

I can't thank "Home and Away" enough for that. And I really hope-- and have heard that there are other companies getting on board with that sort of help, but I really hope that continues because it's so, so helpful. I've had three or four now. Some people are lucky enough that they'll have one surgery. All of that tissue will be able to be removed and it doesn't grow back.

But some people have it grow back, and I'm one of those people. It seems to be-- I want to say, spreading now, so it's going further and further away from my uterus. So every time we go in, there seems to be more that needs to be scraped out. So I haven't had-- my last surgery was two years ago. I haven't needed one since then, which is great.

But I probably will need to have ongoing surgeries to manage the pain. And I judge it on how it's affecting me, how badly it's affecting my daily life. If I get to the point where every day I'm unable to cope, then I know that it's time to go back. There was a long period of time where every day I was in pain, and I thought, well, am I weak for being in pain? Am I a sook?

Am I-- is there something wrong with me? Am I making it up in my head that I'm in pain? Am I actually not in pain and I'm just making something up because of something else? That is infuriating. And then when you go to a doctor and they say, no, it's just your period.

This is just what you have to live with. That's infuriating, and heartbreaking, and scary. To have that happen multiple times is really scary. And then once you get a diagnosis-- and unfortunately for endometriosis, there's no cure. When you're told that this is something you're going to have to manage for the rest of your life, that can be really scary.

I mean, no chronic illness is sexy. Nothing about chronic illness is sexy because there's no end point. You're managing it forever. So that can be really tough to handle. I get a lot of anxiety of whether I'm going to be swollen and my costumes aren't going to fit.

Or if I have a photo shoot, I get stressed. That normally triggers pain, and then I get swollen. And then I'm doing a photo shoot when I'm swollen and in pain. That can be really scary. A lot of endometriosis sufferers also struggle with bladder control, and that can be really scary and anxiety-ridden when you're going out in public.

So it is really, really tough. And I think it's something that isn't spoken about enough, is that the mental toll that physical symptoms can have. So it's another thing that we really need to pursue and research more and get more data on so that we can help people. Social media is a gift because we do get to see stuff like this. But it's also a curse because you don't necessarily get to see the reality of life, and the ins and outs of a daily life, or the ins and outs of people who have illnesses or disabilities.

The more we see it, the more it gets normalized, the more people do reach out to help, the more people aren't scared to reach out for help, or put their hand up and say, yes, I'm suffering. And that means that we'll be able to create infrastructure and support networks around that to give them a better quality of life. And really, that's all we want. It's just some help, and an ear, and some support.