Finding Beauty in Brokenness: How One Woman Turned to Art for Healing after Being Diagnosed with Endometriosis

Written by: Shin Kitane/Tuesday, Apr 04, 2017 11:20 AM

"I wanted to reach people and tell them that they weren't alone, that even if problems weren't going to be solved through Art, someone understood and someone out there could connect to their darkness and desire to light it. "
- Marika Callangan, Woman Create


When Marika Callangan was diagnosed with a chronic disease called Endometriosis, she was only 24 years old. Her doctors declared her cyst inoperable, and pronounced that her condition would eventually lead her to become infertile. This caused her to sink into a deep depression, weighed down by all of society's notions about womanhood and how women are expected to create, to bear children--at one point or another.

"While I wasn't looking for marriage [yet] at that time, I didn't expect to be so devastated by the mere idea of not being able to conceive, to create life. I started becoming fearful of the future ahead. I broke down when I realized that I was an inadequate woman, that I was a failure, unwanted, forever damaged." she recalls. 

It was during this time of depression that Marika turned to art: initially, art just distracted her from her struggles. Inspired by an Instagram post, she started immersing herself in her art until it eventually allowed her soul to heal. No longer was she ashamed of her condition: Instead, she was empowered by art's capacity to be beautiful, truthful, and authentic. It made her recognize what shame had done to her, and how other people, especially women, must also be suffering in silence because of shame: from being abused, from being sick, or for being other than what society expects them to be.

Because of this realization, Marika started to create a movement called Woman,Create in her desire to reach out to other women who could also benefit from art as a means of dealing with their personal struggles. Driven by her personal story, and a belief in the transformative power of art, Marika started reaching out to more and more people through her art. Among her first efforts to reach people were through outreach programs and workshops, as well as beautifully-crafted creative yearly planners that allowed its readers to write and make art daily.


Today, Woman, Create continues to be an art-based platform, offering courses in poetry writing, collage art making, and inspirational talks, but it is most importantly a community of women supporting and empowering each other. Just two months ago, Marika formed a Feminist Book Club (which naturally, I promptly signed up for), where women had conversations about womanhood, art, and feminism over coffee or dinner. We talk about our struggles at work and in our personal lives, and how being a woman also comes with a unique set of challenges and stereotypes that need to be challenged.


Currently, in a move that would surely make Emma Watson truly proud, Marika is also including more men in the conversation. In an effort to spread the message about gender equality, she recognizes that the divide between Masculinity vs. Femininity needs to be broken, and that the best way to start this revolution is to shed more light on the issue through more meaningful conversation. 

We had a chance to talk to Marika in an interview recently, and we asked her a few questions about her crusade for women empowerment, and her art's advocacy.


Can you tell us about how you started Woman, Create? 


Two years ago, I was diagnosed with Endometriosis, a chronic disorder in my reproductive system. It is both a cyst and a condition, and mine was huge around 7mm at that time. There was no cure (even if I had it operated on). Mine was a bit complicated to the point that the doctor declared "no confidence" to operate, and that it would still come back a year or two later.

I hated how I went through various doctors and therefore, various degrees of how to address it. I hated how I would feel after - hopeless and dejected. I was in danger of possibly being infertile but I can't be sure yet since I am not yet married. It was a "chronic disease", a "tumor," they said. I thought it was just a cyst that couldn't get to me. But it did. It gnawed and it consumed me into darkness. 

Because I was in the grey area of not knowing whether I was infertile or not, I began to think that I as a Woman was a failure. That a choice was snatched from me, and I had no power to do anything about it. And so, I felt that I failed. I felt that I deserved this, that this was my fault. I hid from people and felt ashamed that there was something off living inside me. Soon after, my then-lover left me and I started to believe that I belonged in the trash can. I would succumb to 3 months of total darkness and absolute depression.


One day, Art came to me. It stirred me, telling me to take comfort in it, to release everything in it, and more importantly, to share everything to the world. The darkness, the incoming light, all of it. This was also how God first came into my life in full form. 

Soon after, a thought process came to me: Imagine, how many other women out there were up in their rooms, hiding in their pain--whatever it is, may it be disease or heartbreak. Yes, we all go through different struggles and beliefs, but still, the idea ate me, the idea of people suffering. I understood but I was going through so much with no direction. I remember the yearning to reach out to those people in the best way I have been trained in (social media) and I wanted to reach people and tell them that they weren't alone, that even if problems weren't going to be solved through Art, someone understood and someone out there could connect to their darkness and desire to light it. 

This is how Woman, Create began. A desire to create for others. 


Why do you believe it is important to empower women?


I believe it's important to empower women because we forget who we are, our identity, lost in the endless messages and notions the world springs upon us from the day we are able to comprehend anything as children. When we forget who we are, we lose sight and hope in whatever potential is within us--and surprisingly, God placed a whole lot of potential within all of us--and this just makes us aimless in society, instead of actively contributing to its betterment, no matter how small or insignificant the contribution may be. When we lose track of ourselves, and ultimately our potential, we get caught in a meaningless life. At some point, one just tires from that. How can we make life into Art? This the question I'd like the core of Woman, Create to keep asking. 

Women can contribute, women can make beautiful spaces to light up the darkness, women can be the heroines to their own story. Most times, we just forget. Empowering women, therefore becomes crucial. 


How important is it for us to support other women? 


Contrary to Machiavellian beliefs, we don't actually walk this journey of life alone. As mortals, we just weren't meant to carry the world on our shoulders--alone. But most people forget that. We are so caught up in the norm and standard of competing with each other, that we forget the core of humanity. When we compete against another, we feel we are alone. We forget that we are not, that somewhere out there, someone connects to what you're going through or how you're being treated. 


Encouragement and support from others and to others goes to back to our basic humanistic need. Any negation from that leads us to chaos of our own spirits. 


Society expects a lot from us women (and imposes a lot on us). How do you personally deal with such expectations and standards?


I say, "F*** off!" Lol, no, just kidding. 

Again, it's really important to remember your identity, who you want to become vs. what others want you to become; how loved you are even in your most unlovable state, and finally, the potential within you just waiting for you to stop listening to the world and their notions. Potential is waiting to be taken and used by you. That means there is a lot of work to do. Why should we then allow ourselves to be washed away in their waves? 


Personally, when things get tough and blurry, I run to God with loads of questions and God is gentle in reminding me of these important things. Reflecting on His story, society expected a lot from God back then. There were all these prophets and pretty words about what He should do, and how He should do it and how He should be like this and He should be like that. I think about how women are told about what they should do or not do, and I just can't help but see that connection. But did God follow their narrative and their way of the world? No. Instead, He remembered His purpose and who He was and what He was meant to do. It is amazing how what He was meant to do was also meant for all of us, so we can remember our core and potential and purpose for both ourselves and for others exactly in times when the world will keep insisting that we conform.

But for me, and as a woman, if God can break expectations and standards, I mean how can I just not? Sure it pissed off a lot of people back in the day and still up to this day, but that's what non-conformity vs. authenticity through purpose looks like. Far from being “conservative," I think that's just revolutionary. And I want to keep emulating that for the rest of my life, as much as I can. You don't just be a revolution, you live it. 


What is your message to other women who still struggle with stereotypes and unequal standards?


Stop looking at yourself through their eyes. You were intentionally created to be so much more. You are a force to be reckoned with. You are deeply loved and known. Embrace that potential. 



What can be achieved from stepping out of one's comfort zone and challenging problematic dominant opinions?


Freedom. And it is a freedom that comes with responsibility. In whatever we do, especially in the issue of women and gender inequality, we all play a part in contributing to history, in making a mark for the future to come.

Do we really want this future to still be laid out with misogyny and backlash against women?

We all have a role to play when it comes to the progress of the world. The first step into living a revolutionary, creative life is not conform. Break out of it, unlearn what you have learned.

Be free, woman. The world is yours to contribute to, and make beauty out of. 

For more information about Woman, Create, you may visit their social media channels @womancreate or e-mail them at [email protected] For more inspiration, you may watch Marika Callangan's TED Talk below:




Find your passion and pay it forward. 


About Shin Kitane
Shin Kitane writes to remember and believes that words have the power to heal, inspire, and move others. She dreams of a world where men and women are treated equally, where race, gender, and religion are not measures of one's worth in society. She is also a book-hoarder and a firm believer in re-watching Mean Girls and Harry Potter multiple times a year. Follow her misadventures @shinkitane on social media.
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