How Trauma Recovery Can Inspire You to Support Your Partner With Endometriosis
Endometriosis, despite being a physical condition, has an undeniable mental aspect. For instance, people with endometriosis have higher instances of depression, anxiety, and self-harm than those without.1
Another aspect of the mental side of endometriosis is trauma. I have already written about how existing trauma may be linked to the development of endometriosis, but now I want to look at the trauma caused by endo.
The latter is trauma from diagnosis, which can often involve years of not being believed and feeling unheard, and the treatment of the condition, which can involve invasive surgery and strong pain medication.
What is the impact of trauma?
Trauma can impact all aspects of someone’s life and can lead to disempowerment and disconnection from others, including the partners of people with endo. As the partner of someone with endo, I am familiar with this trauma.
I recently came across a model of trauma recovery that I thought might be helpful for myself and others to know about and to inspire the help we give our partners around.
The model I’m talking about is the Three Stages of Recovery that Judith Herman outlines in her book Trauma and Recovery.
In short, Herman states that “trauma destroys the social systems of care, protection, and meaning that support human life. The recovery process requires the reconstruction of these systems.”
The three stages of recovery, therefore, involve empowering the survivor and restoring relationships by first establishing safety. Then retelling the story of the traumatic event, and finally, reconnect with others.
Please note, that I am not a psychologist or medical doctor, and I’m not prescribing any methods of treatment. Everyone’s journey to recovery from trauma will be different, and none will be straightforward.
The reason I found this interesting and potentially useful is that it follows similar steps to suggestions I’ve offered before about supporting your partner with endo, albeit more structured and detailed.
Below I will look at each step, and how it can inspire how we support our partners through their endometriosis journey.
Stage 1 - establishment of safety. People with endo may feel unsafe in their body, unsafe in their career, unsafe in their finances, etc. To support someone with this, it’s important that they don’t feel alone. Offer support where you can. Take some of the financial burdens if possible. Be present and available for them.
Stage 2 – mourning and remembrance. This stage is about telling the story of the trauma. For our purposes, I interpret it as: listen to your partner. Be the person who believes what others haven’t, the person that can see their invisible illness.
Stage 3 – reconnection. Once your partner is ready you can help them to start socializing or advancing in their career again. Try to help them make new habits that work for them.
Make sure family and friends are aware of endo and have clear boundaries. Help your partner live a full life with endo, using the strategies you’ve learned together.
As I have stated, this is not for you to do alone. The most important thing you can do to help someone dealing with trauma is to encourage them to seek help from a mental health professional.
However, these steps can give you an idea of the path someone recovering from trauma may be moving along, and how you can be a supportive part of that journey.
Has anyone ever said the following to you about your endometriosis?