How We Started To Understand Endometriosis As A Couple
Jessica has endometriosis, and Chris is her partner. Together, they find ways to manage the condition and support each other through its challenges. But they weren't always on the same page when talking about endo - below they share how they first started tackling endo as a couple.
When and how did you first start talking about endo?
From Jessica: We briefly talked about it when my endometriosis symptoms returned for a second time. At that stage, I was in full on denial still and I’m not sure I even believed it was endometriosis coming back! I think - believe it or not - I thought it was probably just a ‘bad period’.
As it continued, the pain amplified very, very quickly and so not talking about it was impossible! I guess that sort of broke any awkwardness there may have been between us around the subject. I can’t really recall how we first talked about it, it seems like it suddenly came back and was such a huge part of my life that I just talked about it as a daily thing, as I do now.
From Chris: I first heard about endo when it came rushing back in to Jess' life a month or two after we started our relationship. Endo kind of forced the conversation because Jess was in so much pain it was difficult to hide. For the first few months. I think we tried to ignore it and suppress it with pain killers, but it was when we had some time away in Cape Town that we really started talking about it properly, working out how we could manage it, and how it would fit into our relationship.
If you could start again, would you tackle it any differently?
From Jessica: Oh, 100%. When we were first together, we were binging on Cadbury’s mini-eggs and loads of coffee! Little did I know then that both sugar and caffeine were some of my worst inflammatory triggers and were for me, really increasing my pain ten-fold. I would have also started being more assertive about our sleeping habits, which weren’t great then. I used to go to sleep early, but Chris went to bed really late, so when we got together we sort of met in the middle but it was way too little sleep for me with my fatigue, and I think that was a huge trigger for a severe bout of depression which came along.
From Chris: If we could start again with the knowledge we have now, I would get straight in to the nutrition and lifestyle changes that Jess has made over the years. If we could have known early on how much of an impact they would have had on the condition, it would have saved a lot of worry and a lot of pain.
What is your understanding of endo like now, and how long did it take you to get there?
From Jessica: I’m studying women’s health now, and I’ve worked for and alongside Endometriosis UK for a number of years, so my understanding is really good. However, some of the deeper science I still have to consult on and doesn’t necessarily stay in my head! I’d like to do a bit more of a deep dive into how the different types of endometriosis cells behave. And though from an experiential perspective, I’m very aware of the impact of nutrition, lifestyle, and hormones, I’m getting the opportunity to learn more about the data and evidence behind all this now. I guess once endometriosis came back, it probably took me 6 months to a year to get a good understanding, but it has continued to grow since then. There’s always more to learn!
From Chris: I probably know more about women's reproductive health than I ever thought I would need to. We have a good understanding of what does and doesn't work for managing Jess' symptoms, and although this is changing constantly and we sometimes aren't as strict as we should be, we've got a good structure to work with and lots of information and research to help us.
Do you ever experience urinary incontinence?