In life, things rarely go as planned. This is especially the case if you have endometriosis. When you suffer from endometriosis, it is nearly impossible to know if you’ll be able to make it to where you’re needed. Work, school, and even just popping down to the corner store is nearly impossible while suffering from excruciating pain, nausea, and lightheadedness that is associated with this condition.
As defined by UCLA Health, endometriosis is a condition where “the tissue that makes up the uterine lining (the lining of the womb) is present on other organs inside your body.” This can cause pain during, before, and/or after periods, pain during sexual intercourse, and difficulties conceiving. Other factors can further aggravate these symptoms. In my case, certain foods trigger the pain and suffering. Although, I’m not so sure what exactly they are anymore, as the list is extensive. I only know that I can never be certain when it will flare up, and there hasn’t been much I’ve been able to do about it. On my mother’s side, both of my aunts lived with endometriosis from the onset of their periods up until menopause. They spoke about their suffering since before I started menstruating, and, once I started, I immediately knew that something wasn’t right.
The pain began when I was in middle school, and intensified with each period until I got to high school. I would cut classes, lie down in the nurse’s office, and was overall unable to do anything. The first time I went to the school nurse, she gave me the response I’d continue to hear for the rest of my teenage years, “some people just suffer more than others. You simply get bad periods.” I was shocked. There was nothing simple about being on the verge of passing out and vomiting from excruciating pain every. Single. Month.
I was luckier than most women for having known of the condition for such a long time. Being able to compare my symptoms with those of my aunts was a Godsend. However, my determination to find an effective method of treatment was swiftly dismissed by every OB/GYN I’d visit. From the time I was 14 in that school nurse’s office, guzzling down gatorade and hoping I wouldn’t pass out, to becoming an 18 year old, desperate for a medical explanation or diagnosis, I was only ever offered one option – “The Pill.”
As a 14 year old already taking medications for mental illness, this seemed risky. My mother didn’t approve of me starting birth control pills in my early teens. Though years later, at 18 years old, I started taking them without the knowledge of anyone other than my doctor. After a year, I told my doctor I could no longer continue with the pill. Not only was my bleeding nearly constant, but my anxiety disorder had worsened and the side effects were no less bearable than before. I felt stuck.
Toward the end of high school, the pain that was once confined to my period became a daily occurance. There was a constant dull, dragging, aching pain in my pelvic region. I feared for my future. I worried there’d be no way to stop this pain from interfering with my college career and beyond. Starting college was tough. There were the usual stressors, and I worried for my mental health, as well as my physical well-being. I discovered Aleve worked best for my pain and found solace in those small, pain free interludes. I’d taken Midol, Advil, and Tylenol for years with minimal relief. But even Aleve ultimately stopped performing effectively as my body developed resistance to it.
Just two years later at age 20, I went back on the pill, and my mental health spiraled downward. I woke up every morning to a panic attack and would struggle to catch my breath for the rest of the day. I couldn’t leave my house and, eventually, confined myself to my room. I missed, and subsequently failed, all of my classes. After a family intervention, I sought professional help. Again, I was advised to stop taking the pill. The symptoms of my anxiety disorder seemed to spike at the loss of the synthetic hormones.
I’m now 23, turning 24 in a few months, and have since been on several different methods of birth control. However, I still find myself trying to plan around the symptoms of my endometriosis. When I’m in too much pain, I simply cannot be as productive as I need to be at school, work and in daily life. Health care providers need to find a better way to handle people with this condition. Heavy bleeding and periods that come with excruciating pain are not normal. Being unable to complete simple tasks due to constant abdominal discomfort is worrisome, at the very least, and the unpredictable characteristics of endometriosis is concerning. We can not, and should not, have to plan our lives around the erratic bouts of suffering that come with endometriosis.Loading Likes...