The Importance of Speaking Your Own Truth: An Endometriosis Story

Menstrual myth: pain during periods is normal and you should just ignore the pain.

 

My adolescent years was not a fun time for me. When I hit puberty, I started to realize my hormones were a mess, my periods were often irregular and very painful. 

Throughout my teens, everyone around me including doctors, and those close me, told me it was normal to have severe cramps. That pain during menstruation is a natural part of being a woman.

 

However, the pain I felt at the time exhausted me to the point where there were days I could not get out of bed. And because I thought it was ‘normal’ I went on thinking that perhaps it was just me. I believe it to the point where I myself started downplaying my experience and symptoms.

Yet, no one really talks about how debilitating ‘being in pain’ can be. How it takes a toll on your mental health especially as, it’s easy to think ‘I am so weak’ and ‘I’m just being overly sensitive’.

I struggled with this criticism narrative. I knew there was something wrong but there was nothing I could really do but endure it, since painful periods are considered normal. But is it really normal to be in pain every month; lying in bed for days unable to function?

 

Any kind of pain that disrupts you on a day-to-day basis, IS NOT NORMAL. Normalizing pain does not help the person who is in pain, it can in fact invalidate their pain.

This is not just another painful period, as Dr. Tamar Seckin, MD observed, “the pain that women experience during their periods was not believed in by doctors or loved ones. When I realized that the disease endometriosis was the reason behind these symptoms, I found a complete lack of information about it.”

 

It was not until later in my twenties that I started to be aware of endometriosis, even though I was struggling with it for years.

To be honest, the medical definition can be daunting, especially if it’s your first time reading it. But if I was asked to try to describe what is endometriosis this is what I would say:

To simplify it, I see it as hormonal imbalance that can cause severe pelvic pain and has a range of complex complications. My own confusion of it stems from how it is downplayed and misconstrued. The lack of awareness and education plays a huge role in that, which often leads to misdiagnosis. For further reading, Webmd provides great information about endometriosis through their slideshow presentation.

The symptoms I experienced were shrugged off because the condition had a lack of credibility. Sadly, it was not until after I had a second surgery to remove cysts that my surgeon mentioned the diagnosis.

 

At the time I was being treated for endometriosis. However, in my medical record it was reported that I had severe PCOS. I was shocked by this revelation because no one, not even the doctors, sat down and talked to me about it. My personal experience illustrates how hard it is to get a proper diagnosis. Doctors never gave me a concrete answer, as it was always in between endometriosis and PCOS, even likely having both.

I wish someone had sat down with me to explain that the symptoms I was experiencing was more than a painful period. It would have help me down the road in understanding this condition. Yet, I was blindsided.

 

Speaking from my experience, on days when I have bad flares ups it’s hard to be strong, through the pain. Yet, in the back of my head, when I hear that the pain is normal, I can’t help feeling weak. I doubt whether or not, it’s real.  But IT IS VERY REAL.

Often pain doesn’t make you a superhero and it doesn’t always create thick skin. Pain is debilitating. Through pain one can become more sensitive and that is okay.

 

Learning to love my body despite the pain is a journey. It is a challenge to be mindful about our inner self critics, but it’s important to be aware of it to keep moving forward.

Awareness and acknowledgement play a huge role in accepting our own truths. Practicing mindful self-compassion truly has been revolutionary on days when I have bad flare ups.

 

It is important to realize, that the narrative that painful periods is normal can be damaging to one’s mental health, which is why I am bringing attention to it. We need to stop the stigma, that ‘its normal to be in constant pain’. The continuous misunderstanding generally leads to misdiagnosis which can be extremely exhausting and mentally crippling.

One way I have found beneficial is validating the pain and advocating for my needs. To be able to speak up against the norm of painful periods, we can help end the stigma around endometriosis and PCOS. By doing so, I think we can detect it earlier and give young ladies a chance to find comfort and support in managing their symptoms.

 

By bringing awareness to these conditions, we can end the stigma, and the myth that painful periods are normal. Now is the time to advocate for more education in order to stop the downplay of its symptoms. It’s time we woman advocate for our own bodies and speak our truths. Because we are not just survivors, but warriors.