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A woman sits with an internal view of her gut organ with a direct connection to her brain with a lightbulb alit inside.

Trust Your Gut (Feeling)

I lived with endometriosis for fifteen years before getting a diagnosis. My story is sadly not unusual. Many women struggle to get a diagnosis the first (or second, third or fourth) time they go to the doctor or gynecologist with their symptoms. It’s even hard to be taken seriously by doctors, let alone get a diagnosis!

I felt something was wrong with me right when I had my first period. None of my friends or sisters had cramps the way I did. None of them were doubled over with crippling pain, barely able to walk. But no matter what I told my mother or the doctors, the answer was always the same: period cramps are normal. Some women just get it worse than others.

Dismissed by doctors

After a while I gave up. If you are told time and time again that either your pain is normal, or your pain isn’t as bad as you say it is, you eventually start to believe it. I stopped going to doctors and trying to get answers, and tried to manage my pain as best I could. Years later, after I suffered a miscarriage, I was diagnosed with endometriosis by accident. I have never felt so vindicated in my life. My pain was real – and something was wrong with me!

Women are often dismissed by the medical establishments. Doctors tell us we exaggerate or, worse, that we’re hysterical. This is a mind set that has been ingrained in the medical profession for centuries, and it’s not something that will change anytime soon. It will need a full cultural shift, and all evidence we’ve seen in society lately points to a regression in women’s rights, not a progression. So what can we do to make sure we’re heard?

Fight for yourself

One thing I wished I had done earlier in my life when I was struggling with pain was to insist that my pain was real. I should have trusted my gut feeling that something was wrong and not have rested until I had received answers. I was a teenager, though. A female teenager no less, and when you though adult women are not taken seriously try being a female teenager telling the doctor you know your body. But just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean you should give up.

Advocating for oneself isn’t easy. It’s even harder when everyone tells you that your pain is imaginary. But if you feel like something is wrong with you – whether it’s because no one around you seems to suffer from crippling cramps or because your fatigue can’t be explained away – no amount of doctors should be able to persuade you otherwise. Doctors don’t take us seriously; the length of time it takes for women with endometriosis to be diagnosed proves this. So we need to take matters into our own hands and trust our guts if our guts tell us something is wrong. Find another doctor if your current one isn’t willing to explore further options. You deserve treatment for your pain and you’re not crazy. Maybe one day medical professionals will believe women the way they believe men. Until then we have to fight as hard as we can for ourselves, and not give up.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.