Endometriosis Awareness: Is There A Right Time To Talk About Endo?
March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. And that’s a perfect excuse to talk about endo. But you may wonder how to get the conversation started. That's because — other than your doctor’s office — there’s probably not a perfect moment to tell people about your chronic illness.
Instead of waiting for the "right" moment, I try to mention my symptoms whenever I think it makes sense. Here are some situations where I’ve brought up endo.
Anything about exercise
A lot of my friends have periods. And most of them know what it feels like to slog through a PMS-fueled workout. Whenever exercise and menstrual cycles come up, I segue into how endometriosis affects my fitness. That includes fatigue, inflammation, and increased soreness — pelvic and otherwise.
In the past, I've told people:
- I feel best 3 -7 days after my period starts. If you want to do a long hike, let's go then.
- Running gives me leg, back, and pelvic pain. That's why I stopped and took up indoor bouldering.
- Sometimes exercise makes my cramps and bloating worse. A lot worse. That's why I don't do much cardio the week before my period.
- Yoga doesn't help. Some stretches make my pelvic floor tension worse.
- I can't work out with you in the morning. It can make me tired all day.
Deciding on a restaurant
Most of the time, I enjoy creating meals from scratch. But sometimes it's nice to meet friends and family outside of my house. Or maybe I don't feel like cooking. But the severity of my digestive symptoms varies based on where I am in my cycle. That can change my dining-out options — and give me an opportunity to explain more about endo.
While discussing dinner plans, I've mentioned that:
- I can only eat gluten-free pizza or sandwiches on sourdough bread.
- Yes. I really do feel worse when I eat non-fermented wheat.
- Everything needs to be vegan.
- If it's 3-5 days before my period, I can't eat out. My stomach doesn't empty as fast, and I may throw up.
- If I eat large amounts of sugar the week before my period — either a banana or a bowl of vegan ice cream — my gas may smell like sulfur. (My doctor isn't sure why this happens — inflammation, maybe? — but assures me it's NBD. Though, it's really gross.)
When I tell people about endo, they're more willing to compromise on food choices. Or at least that's what it seems like to me. Either way, I don't have to eat somewhere that'll make me feel terrible.
For many years, physical and mental symptoms around endometriosis made vaginal penetration difficult for me. But over the past decade, I've learned to relieve painful sex. If a friend mentions intimacy is uncomfortable for them, I jump at the chance to bring up what's helped me. That includes:
Endo isn't embarrassing
Two decades ago, I'd never heard of endo. That's why I try to tell people about it whenever I can. So the next time you see an opening to talk about your endo, go for it. You just might help someone learn something new.
Do you know someone that has made a difference with endometriosis advocacy?