Ways to Nurture Your Mental Health During a Flare-Up
Last updated: March 2022
For anyone living with endometriosis, our flare-ups define the quality of our existence. Doctors may diagnose us depending on the location of our adhesions, studying our bodies to define the severity of each case.
Yet, as patients, we evaluate our own disease according to the intensity and frequency of our flare-ups, and their effects on our bodies.
We also know the harrowing effect flare-ups can have on our mental health.
Some of us bleed for weeks, ending up exhausted and drained. We may also have periods so painful, we remain bed-bound for days.
Sometimes, the worse bouts of pain come out of the blue. In fact, flare-ups are often unpredictable. Let me say this to anyone who is endometriosis-free: these episodes are massively debilitating.
All we feel, and everything we see, is pain. It is hard to think about anything else.
Dark thoughts during flare-ups
My frustrations at certain aspects of my life surface. I forget about the good things and focus on what I can’t have, or can't experience.
I remember the loss of a “normal” life. Often, I go over the times others were unkind to me because of my symptoms. I think of the doctors who didn't believe me , the ones who didn't listen.
Through these repeated flare-ups, my mental health suffers. This is why I now make sure I do certain things to care for my emotional wellbeing.
Let me say this first, mindfulness does not take away the pain, at least in my case. But it helps me stay grounded and steer my thoughts to avoid going down paths that cause more distress.
Staying present, I can remind myself that the pain is physical and that it is not part of me. A flare-up is about my body going through a temporary nightmare.
I’ve become better at being mindful through meditation, which helps me focus on things outside of my pain. The negative thoughts still occur, but I am not affected by them as much.
Giving in to what your body needs
Surrendering to the pain is not a defeat, but an act of self-love. It is saying “this is too much, I need to go easy on myself".
If my body is asking for rest, I comply. The kinder I am to myself, the calmer I remain.
Anything that can grab my attention, means giving less power to the negative thoughts. I tend to watch a binge-able show, like Buffy, or Drag Race.
Since a fellow endo-patient recommended nature documentaries, these also do the trick. David Attenborough's voice has soothed me during some of my worst flare-ups.
Placing your wellbeing before everyone else’s
It has been reported how bad period pain can feel akin to a heart attack1. Yet, no one suffering from cardiac arrest continues to function for other people.
So why do we, as endometriosis patients, feel like we are letting down others?
Yes, there are horrible human beings who won’t recognize our pain, but those are toxic people undeserving of our time.
During a flare-up, there is no room for apologies.
Validating the pain
When a flare-up strikes, nothing else should matter. Being kind to ourselves means recognizing the validity of our pain.
But we can’t expect others to do this for us, we must prioritize our own wellbeing. Suffering regular physical breakdowns is exhausting.
It’s no surprise that depression and anxiety are common among people with endometriosis2.
Our mental health needs to take as much space as our physical wellbeing. It starts with those pesky flare-ups and a lot of self-love.
Have you tried any of the following for mood swings?
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