When I Realized My Cramps Were From More Than Just A Period

For as long as I can remember, my periods have been bad. They were long, heavy and irregular. In high school, I would have to miss at least one day a month because my cramps were unbearable. It wasn’t until the beginning of my first semester of college when I started getting concerned. I was excessively bleeding and experiencing nausea, vomiting, constipation, lower back pain and extreme cramping—to the point where it was difficult to sleep, move and carry on with my daily activities.

Sitting through classes was impossible, and the only thing that gave me minor relief was a heating pad. My pain was different every day: some days it would be mild and others it was severe. I never knew what to expect, and I was very frustrated with myself and with my body.

 

Every doctor I talked to, even at the ER, told me I was overreacting, that it was just my birth control adjusting, I was being dramatic and that this was normal. They gave me a pregnancy test, told me to take an Aleve and assured me that everything was fine. Hearing this was aggravating and upsetting, and I felt like no one was listening. The doctors made me feel like I was either weak and couldn’t handle a period, or that I was lying. It wasn’t until a visit with a gynecologist that I was finally taken seriously and diagnosed with endometriosis.

Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining inside the uterus is found outside of the uterus. The symptoms include severe cramping, heavy bleeding, pain during intercourse and nausea—but all women who have it are different. Endometriosis does not always cause every symptom, and because the symptoms are similar to a period, there is a lack of awareness in both women and healthcare providers. This is a major problem because a lot of times women with endometriosis suffer in silence. Women are sometimes told that their symptoms are normal period symptoms and that nothing is wrong. However, this is not always the case.

A laparoscopy is the only real way endometriosis can be diagnosed, so ultrasounds and pelvic exams can be unreliable and ineffective. While technically there is no cure, different birth controls can help relieve symptoms, but it is a matter of trial and error to figure out what works best for you and your body.

I learned from my gynecologist that it is a common misconception that endometriosis only affects women in their 30s and 40s. Endometriosis can actually start during a girl's first period, and one in 10 women have endometriosis—with most women completely unaware they have it.

You know your body more than anyone else and if you think that something may be wrong, the best thing to do is to schedule an appointment with a gynecologist. While going to the gynecologist can be an intimidating experience, it is nothing to be embarrassed about or frightened of. If you are having trouble finding someone who will listen: have hope, keep fighting and let yourself be heard. Endometriosis can be tiring and frustrating, but you are not alone, and you don’t have to just “deal with it”. You are in control of your body—your body isn’t in control of you.