I’ve had pretty rough periods my entire life. Or at least that’s how I described it three weeks ago to the gynecology specialist sitting in front of me. “Define pretty rough” he responded, with a slight laugh (probably knowing it was a loaded statement). Welllllll, you know, the usual. Back aches that keep me from walking, extreme fatigue, cramps that leave me in tears on the floor, bloating until I look at least 6 months pregnant, nausea, indigestion, depression, anxiety, the list goes on. Pretty rough.
I left that appointment with a diagnosis of endometriosis. Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory disease where tissue, similar to what lines the inside of your uterus, grows on the outside of your uterus, causing scarring and a slew of painful symptoms. I have been told time and time again at doctor’s visits that I’m a healthy young girl and should just take more ibuprofen or that switching my birth control for the fourth time was the only option to potentially find some relief. The dismissal of women’s pain in doctors offices is all too common, so it was a deep sigh of relief to finally feel heard, validated, and to have a name to my agony.
That validation was soon replaced by a little nagging voice in my head saying “are you sure you’re not being dramatic?” and “what if you’re making this all up?” I began invalidating my own pain. Actually, I had been invalidating it the whole time. Because, no, my periods are not “pretty” rough. They are debilitating, immensely painful, and all consuming.
I realized that to get through these next months while I await surgery, it was crucial to challenge that inner voice and meet my mental and physical pain with self-compassion. Navigating self-compassion while you feel like your body is working against you is difficult, and it takes different forms from day to day — even moment to moment.
At its core, self-compassion with endometriosis looks like fighting that invalidating inner voice and speaking my truth. I talk about it a lot because it is a part of me, and I shouldn’t have to feel sorry for that. But on the day to day, self-compassion looks like cancelling plans because my fatigue makes me feel like I’m wearing a suit made of sand bags. It looks like curling up in bed with a heating pad and an episode of “New Girl” instead of getting ahead on school work. It looks like letting the tears flow and allowing myself to feel frustrated at my body. Overall, self-compassion with a chronic condition looks like meeting myself where I’m at from moment to moment.
There is a long wait list to get surgery to remove my endometriosis. It sucks, because I have to wait, but it also rocks because it means more menstruators are being heard and taken care of. So, if you need me in the mean time, I’ll probably be in bed with a heating pad. Or maybe doing some yoga. Perhaps crying on the floor. Whatever form of self-compassion my body and mind need to get through.