How To Deal With The Invasive Side Of Endometriosis
As an endometriosis patient, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve undressed in front of a stranger. My mind does as best it can to push aside the uncomfortable, embarrassing feelings I regularly experience. Yet, every time I need to be examined by a doctor, or someone says the dreaded words “Let's have a look at you!”, I know it’s coming. I am to be horizontal and completely vulnerable. It never gets easy.
A few weeks back, I traveled into London to meet an osteopath specialized in treating endometriosis patients. He knew what I had was not a simple annoyance. He pointed at the burns on my stomach, knowing my daily hot water bottle had caused them. All of his endometriosis patients share that physical trait. He also anticipated that living with this disease, my pain thresholds were high. After the exam, I got dressed and the super-friendly osteopath gave me an appointment for the following month. He assured we were going to see each a lot.
On the one hand, I felt relief. This osteopath clearly knew a lot about endometriosis and most importantly, believed every symptom I described. But even with his comforting knowledge, I am fearful of going back. Why? Because of the invasive side of this illness.
Any time an endometriosis patient goes to a doctor, especially one trained in gynecology, it tends to involve an internal examination. Scans will generally be trans-vaginal. To top it all, treatment of this disease is based on surgeries that require us to go under general anesthetics, giving up all control over our bodies to someone else.
Explore the possibility of having someone in the room with you
Gynecological examinations can be quite challenging. Having someone nearby that you trust can provide a world of comfort. They could potentially be there to hold your hand throughout, or support you immediately after you've left the examination room. While having someone right next to you won't be possible every time, especially if surgery is involved, during an examination doctors, should not deny you the right of having a chaperone.
If you are seeing a therapist, spend a session talking about your feelings
If you have a medical appointment coming up that makes you uneasy, bring it up at your next therapy meeting. In this way, you can explore where the discomfort comes from, limiting its importance. You can also discuss coping mechanisms, such as breathing exercises, or visualizations.
Always reward yourself after the appointment
I have a ritual after any medical procedure that proves challenging. It may be in the form of a chai latte at my favorite cafe, or treating myself to some shoes I’ve been lusting after. It's important, and healing, to make a conscious effort to acknowledge what you've just gone through. You truly deserve to give yourself a good high-five in the form of cake, cookies, or a FaceTime session with your favorite person.
Most importantly, never make apologies for being nervous or uncomfortable. Most doctors I’ve met have reacted very positively as soon as I’ve voiced my discomfort. A stressed patient is the one thing they want to avoid, and admitting you’re not OK doesn’t make you weak. Knowing what can trigger your anxiety makes you communicative, which is a great trait in a patient.
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