So, What is ENDOMETRIOSIS?
From the time I was in middle school, I’ve struggled with horrible periods. I was told that I was just one of those people that had “bad periods.” I started birth control at a young age to help with the symptoms, but it didn’t really do much. I missed school, was given prescription pain pills, + was constantly told that I just have really bad periods. I can vividly remember one of my worst periods — it was the middle of the night, I was crying on the floor curled up in a ball to the point that I woke my mom up. This was the point that I knew it wasn’t normal.
By the time I was 14, I was told I have endometriosis, a condition I had no idea about. It turned out that I didn’t just have bad periods, I had something physically wrong with my body ++ it wasn’t just in my head [as I was often told].
WHAT IS ENDOMETRIOSIS?
Endometriosis is a chronic condition that 1 in 10 women will go through during their childbearing years [between the ages of 13-45] — which is crazy! Endometriosis occurs when tissue from the uterus grows in other places besides the uterus. It can cause symptoms such as: painful periods, pelvic pain, pain with sex, lower back pain, excessive bleeding, bleeding between periods, + many other symptoms [which no one should have to go through].
No two cases of endometriosis are the same — some women have horrible pain + others have no pain at all. Endometriosis also ranges in severity of the growth, ranking from Stage 1 to Stage 4. While endometriosis is very common, unfortunately there is only one way to definitively tell if a woman has endometriosis. This is through a laparoscopy which is a surgical procedure to detect + often remove//cauterize the endometriosis cells.
MY ENDOMETRIOSIS JOURNEY
When I was informed at 14, I wasn’t prepared for the long years of suffering that was going to come. While I was told I had endometriosis, my doctor didn’t want to do the procedure that would officially give me the diagnosis or the stage. Instead, my birth control was changed + I was sent on my way. This was the beginning of what would become my constant battle with my [multiple] gynecologists.
Over the next 9 years, I saw a number of gynecologists + I learned very quickly that none of them seemed to want to do anything about my pain. It got to the point that I was switching birth control pills every year where my body would get adjusted to a hormone variation + the symptoms would come back [often worse]. I became very good at advocating for myself because it seemed like all of the doctors were just trying different things with me in the hope that something would work [spoiler — nothing worked].
9 years after I was told I had endometriosis, I had a period so bad that I was on the phone with my mom screaming in pain. I got in to see a new doctor the following Monday where he decided that I “should have a better quality of life than this”. In all my years of seeing gynecologists, not one of them had said that to me. We scheduled the procedure for Thursday + I headed back home feeling better than I had in years. The procedure went well, all of the endometriosis growths that they could find were removed ++ I received my official diagnosis of Stage 3 Endometriosis. Although we’re still on to the next part of my treatment, I’m happy to say I’m doing a lot better.
SELF-ADVOCATING//SYMPTOMS TO NOT IGNORE
I found out very early that not all doctors believed me//told me some of my symptoms were normal. I had to become my own advocate very fast. Here are some symptoms you shouldn’t ignore ++ some tips on being your own health advocate:
- Don’t allow a doctor to bully [or shame] you into anything. It’s your body + you know it best.
- Don’t ignore excessive bleeding// pain that doesn’t go away with over the counter pain pills. This isn’t normal + can be a sign of something much worse.
- If you don’t like your doctor, find a different one. This one was really hard for me because I felt like it was my fault that things weren’t working. I saw about a half dozen before I found one I like ++ trust.
- Don’t listen if someone tells you it’s just a “bad period”. Anything that makes you nervous// you’re not sure about — find a doctor + ask!
- Periods that last longer than 7 days are NOT normal! Pain that lasts + makes you miss out on things [school//work] isn’t normal.
It might have taken me 9 years to get that official diagnosis, but I listened to my body the whole time + knew something was wrong. I’m nowhere near the end of this journey by any means, but I’m glad that I was able to listen to my body + know that I wasn’t receiving the answers that I needed. Now I know how to advocate for my needs, even if it goes against what I was told.
If you have any questions about your period, talk to your regular doctor or gynecologist! Have any experiences with bad periods or endometriosis//want to talk about what is normal [or not normal]? Share with us on Instagram using #inCHAARG!