My Experience with Endometriosis

I remember feeling the now familiar stabbing pains for the first time when I was 11 years old. I cried to my mom most mornings before school, complaining about “stabbing men” in my stomach. I felt angry and confused on my best days, sad and incapable of leaving my bed on my worst. I didn’t know it then, but the journey to figuring out what was causing this pain and navigating how to alleviate it would take another 10 years. 

I lived with the pains every day, but they were the worst when I was on my period. I felt like passing out, throwing up, and never leaving my room. I was glued to a warm water bottle and a bottle of Advil for days on end. For a while, I thought this was normal. I had read online about period pains and the general suckiness of womanhood, and truly believed I had just severely underestimated the wrath of my uterus. After a particularly bad week, I confided in some friends at lunch. You know how period cramps make you throw up? Everyone shook their heads no and looked at me like I had four heads. I never brought it up again because I didn’t want the girls to know I was weird, or in pain, or different. 

Life with IBS Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels

Because of this, I stopped complaining and started to find ways to handle it on my own. I would go to school through the pain, take Advil like candy, and exercise to distract myself. After months of navigating it on my own, I was forced to confront it after I bled for 15 days straight. My mom took me to the doctor and I tried my best to explain what I was going through. 

I was told no to treatments, that I didn’t really know what endometriosis was and that I was too young to be experiencing symptoms that intense. Had I tried using pads instead of tampons? Don’t you know that these are just period symptoms you're explaining? Here, take some birth control pills and they’ll make you feel better. 

Nothing worked, and birth control even made it worse. My body wasn’t ready to interact with new hormones and I was taking pain relief pills like nobody’s business. When I was told it wasn’t my uterus, I explored other options. I visited with a nutritionist who told me to stop eating gluten (a protein known to cause flare-ups in endometriosis patients) and to take more vitamins. All the signs pointed toward endo, but nobody was taking me seriously. It was explained to me that most women go through life not feeling their best, and there are things to do to mitigate the general illness of being female, but nothing that would stop the symptoms of this state completely. 

Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels

Doctors had told me that I was being dramatic, that my bleeding was normal, and that pain was to be expected as a side effect of womanhood. These comments are not entirely unique to my situation. Women feel that their pain or discomfort is simply natural. That we are all always exhausted, that our stomach aches are normal, or that feeling the way we feel is part of the human condition. After seeing a doctor who took the time to listen to me and get to the root of the problem, I realized that feeling bad isn’t normal. While most women in my life complain of various ailments, that doesn’t make feeling sick or being in pain part of the female experience. Taking control of our bodies means pushing for help when we know something is wrong. 

It took years and several doctors, but I was finally introduced to the condition that had inhibited my life for so long. Endometriosis is a disorder where the tissue that typically grows on the inside of your uterus grows on the outside instead. This results in tremendous pain and discomfort, especially around your period. I never took it seriously because nobody took me seriously. 

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As women, we experience so many different medical phenomenons. It’s important to educate yourself on what is to be expected and to find doctors and resources who work to ensure those expectations are met. While it took me 10 years and several doctors to figure out my endometriosis, it’s important to persevere through the gaslighting that is consistent with many women’s visits to the doctor. Listen to your body and always seek help when it tells you that you need it.