Life with endometriosis for one woman
Okay, so let’s talk periods.
I am a woman and because of that, I have to deal with a menstrual cycle or period if you will. This is a perfectly normal and healthy thing for a woman, however, it is not always as easy for some women as it is for others. I started my period at age 10 or 11 and ever since, I have always had really bad cramps. Before, during, and even after my period I would have spurts of extreme pain. I’d heard about cramps from family members, friends, and the elementary maturation program. I thought this was normal for me to feel this pain. The cramps sometimes got so bad that I got light headed and felt like I was going to pass out. I took a lot of over the counter pain medicine, I learned how much I could take every few hours and which drugs I could mix very quickly.
My pain wasn’t normal
By the age of 12, I began carrying ibuprofen and Tylenol with me in my backpack, just in case I got a pain flare during school. My parents started having to buy me Pamprin and Midol. I used heating pads frequently. I would be woken up at 3 in the morning sometimes in extreme pain and could not fall back asleep. I found solace in hot water baths, higher strength pain medication (such as Pamprin and Midol), and heating pads. I thought this was normal. When I was 14, I began to notice that my body was not normal. My girlfriends and I were discussing our periods, and I realized no one else was suffering the way I was. No one else felt this much pain, no one else had weeks of pain, no one else had periods that lasted more than 10 days. I finally decided to talk to my mom about this, realizing it wasn’t exactly normal. She told me she had PCOS, which is another period related disease, but her symptoms did not match up with what I was experiencing. We decided to get me an appointment with a gynecologist.
Before my appointment, my mom created a group chat with my dad’s sisters and asked if any one of them had any problems similar to what I was having. We thought maybe if there was some hereditary thing, it would be nice to know so I could tell my OB/GYN at the appointment. This group chat was the first time I heard about endometriosis. All of my dad’s sisters suffered from this disease, and they all had symptoms similar to mine.
I went to my appointment, I shared my symptoms and was asked many, many questions, I had my belly and pelvis pushed on. I brought up the family history of endometriosis. It was concluded that I most likely had stage one or two endometriosis, but there was no real way to know. The only way to truly diagnose endo is with exploratory surgery to see if there is any endometrium outside of my uterus. Based on my symptoms though, this is what diagnosis my doctor has made. I am extremely lucky, some women with endo, it takes years and multiple doctors to get an endo diagnosis and often it takes even longer if the girl is still in her teens. I opted to not have surgery and instead started the birth control pill. I was on this for about a year, then I took myself off of it because I was getting overly emotional and started having anxiety and depression issues, I also still had quite a bit of pain.
For a while, I was doing good, the pain seemed about the same. Then the pain came back, and much worse this time. So again, I went on the pill, the emotional trauma still happened though and I just did not feel like myself. I hated this emotional turmoil, but it was better than the pain. Eventually, my senior year of high school, I decided I wanted to try something else. I talked to my gynecologist and decided to try the Depo Provera shot. This has been a bit of a miracle for me. I still experience pain and some emotional struggles, but they are far less frequent and more manageable than ever before. My periods have almost stopped completely which has made my life so much easier. I am lucky enough to find this kind of relief, a lot of woman with endometriosis cannot find this kind of relief from birth control or even surgery to remove endometrium growing in the wrong places.
Everyone’s experience with endo is different
I have come to understand that endo looks very different for all women that suffer with it. To me, endo is a LOT of pain and not just associated with my uterus. I also suffer from menstrual migraine headaches, severe lower back pain, and other cramps including sore legs, especially in my thighs, and occasional bloating. I also struggle a lot emotionally. I cry at the most random things, I have sudden anger outbursts, I laugh uncontrollably, I get panic attacks, I have depressive episodes. I am getting a lot better at controlling these emotions, though. I do not have days where I cannot move, and I have never had to have surgery, which are things I know other women have had. My bloating also is not nearly as bad as some other women’s “endo belly” which is a term for the overly bloated stomach during endo flare-ups that can make a woman look pregnant. My birth control alleviates the pain enough that I never feel like I am going to pass out or throw up anymore. Not only that, but I am lucky enough to have an amazing insurance company that covers the cost of my birth control in full.
Besides my shot, I have also found a few other ways to help manage my endo symptoms. When I am in pain I do yoga and try to drink some tea. This helps to ease my muscle pain by relieving stress that can often cause flare-ups. In order to help with my emotions, I practice meditating and breathing techniques to help me stay more grounded and stable. When I feel a migraine I take Excedrin and get some caffeine into my body. However, if I feel stomach/uterus cramps, I avoid caffeine and carbonation because it makes my pain much worse. I take warm baths or showers to relax my aching muscles and use muscle relaxing creams. Despite the fact that I suffer from this, I am perfectly normal. I am a student and a daughter, a friend, and a sister. I am just like every other woman, except I also happen to have endometriosis. Yes, sometimes I have more emotions or handle those emotions worse, and yes, sometimes I am in extreme amounts of pain, but that does not limit me. I am still a full-time university student and I am able to work part-time. I still intend to one day have a successful career and become a mother. I have goals and dreams and I do not and will not let my endometriosis prevent me from that.
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