Misogyny Contributes to Misdiagnosis of Endometriosis
It took me sixteen years to be diagnosed with endometriosis. From my first period, all the signs of endometriosis were there – no one seemed to take them seriously though. Doctors refused to perform any tests: I was prescribed with painkillers and sent on my way. My own parents thought I was exaggerating the pain – my mother giving an almost god-like status to doctors took our family doctor’s word for it that cramps were just a normal part of having a period. At one point, my family doctor openly questioned the amount of pain I said I was in, falling just shy of calling me hysterical.
The history of ignoring women's pain
Sadly, my story is not unique. If you spend a bit of time talking to other women with the disease, you can see a clear trend. Most women initially have their symptoms either dismissed or misdiagnosed as something else. A lot of women find out about endometriosis from websites such as Endometriosis.net, not from their doctors. Apart from the fact that there is a deplorable lack of research (and therefore knowledge) about endometriosis, throughout history, women have never been taken seriously when it comes to medical issues. And this is even more obvious when it comes to “feminine issues”.
I am not the only woman whose doctor openly expressed skepticism when I complained about debilitating period pain. Sadly, even in 2018, women are still treated with doubt and disbelief. We don’t know our own minds and should defer to men to tell us how we feel. This misogyny is engrained in society and it will need a complete overhaul of the medical system in order to change this.
When I once tried to describe my pain to my doctor, he interrupted me, asking, “You are on your period now, aren’t you?” When I confirmed this, he said: “Well, you are not in horrible pain now, are you?”
Rather than taking me seriously, he dismissed my complaints and tried to convince me that I had made up my pain. I have no doubt that had I been a man complaining about horrific pains in my penis, the doctor would have moved heaven and earth to find the problem.
Fighting for change
We need to fight against this misogyny as it perpetuates the needless suffering of countless of women. We need to work to remove the stigma around menstruation, so that women talk about their periods – and any issues surrounding them – more freely. Doctors need to stop viewing women as hysterical when they come with complaints of pain so bad their whole life comes to a halt during their periods.
Endometriosis is a horrible disease. No one likes to receive the diagnosis of endometriosis, but the alternative is worse. Having been told for sixteen years that my pain was nothing out of the ordinary, I learned to question my ability to judge what my body is doing. I started to believe that I was exaggerating my pain and I tried to ignore it at all costs. When I eventually did get diagnosed, I was so relieved to know that I had been right all those years. There was something wrong with me and I should have trusted myself to know my own body.
Do you make any endo preparations when you know you are attending a BBQ, party, or a day at the beach?