Endometriosis can be physically exhausting. At times, it has literally sucked the life out of me. My life is scheduled around the side effects of endometriosis and my period. Something so simple as a last minute gathering with friends can cause major anxiety if I am dealing with cramps or bleeding or fatigue that day.
In short, I can’t be the woman that “does it all” anymore. Not even close. I am the woman that schedules my life around a chronic illness, and tries my best to maintain some semblance of normalcy.
It has taken me years to admit that to myself. I still struggle with owning up to it at times. I wasn’t always this way. I view myself as was one of the more silent victims of endo. Since I started my period at age 13, I remember having some difficult cycles here and there. Cramps, bleeding, etc. Other than bad cramps, there was nothing too far out of the ordinary. I was rarely sidelined by my period, and was a competitive athlete throughout high school. I would go to school from 8am-3pm, and go to basketball practice from 3:30pm-6pm every day, and those practices were NO JOKE. The one side effect I did suffer from was breakthrough bleeding. I remember visiting my doctor on a number of occasions because I was worried about my spotting. I was given birth control every visit, and told I would grow out of it. I was told that my period was irregular because I was young. I had no family history of endometriosis, and never had a friend or acquaintance with it. I was clueless when it came to this disease.
My point in sharing this background information is to note that most of my life I didn’t have much physical evidence I was suffering from endo. It wasn’t until my mid- to late- twenties that I started to really wonder what was going on. After graduate school, and around the time I got engaged (age 26) was when I started to notice my periods were changing. They were becoming noticeably heavier and clot-filled. I would become so crampy and sickly during the first two to three days of my period that I would need to stay in bed. The bleeding was so heavy that I couldn’t really leave my house.
All of these physical impacts affected my ability to function, and get through my day. I cut back on work, and eventually went part time. I have also had periods of complete unemployment due to physically not being able to work. This has put a HUGE strain on my career aspirations. I rarely talk about it, because it upsets me so much. Other physical impacts include anemia due to blood loss. I was depressed, and I didn’t know why. My workouts were significantly shorter and less strenuous due to endo pains. Some days, I simply couldn’t work out.
I continue to deal with all these side effects even today. I feel like I am a little better at tackling them now, because I have had years of practice, yet you never really get used to the pain and isolation. You just get a little better at forgiving yourself for the cancelled vacations, for the missed birthdays, for the times when your husband wants to be out all day, and you need to come home and rest.
BUT, in spite of all of your physical shortcomings, you find a core strength inside yourself that you honestly never knew you had. It is an ability to move forward and live your best life, even when everything in your body is trying to hold you back. That is an endometriosis survivor.