This time last year I had to leave a job I loved because I was too sick to work. I’ve since had two surgeries, cultivated an essential but bank-draining team of medical specialists, and developed a truly spectacular tolerance to painkillers.
For me, Endometriosis has been a nuclear bomb dropped on my life.
Scientifically speaking: Endometriosis is a condition that occurs when the inner lining of the uterus (the endometrium) decides it’s a strong independent tissue that don’t need no uterus. Instead it grows…well, wherever it damn well pleases. Generally endometrium growths stick to your abdominal cavity — setting up shop on your uterus, ovaries, bowel, bladder etc etc — but there have been cases of growths being found in other areas of the body (like the nasal cavity, what the fuck?).
In severe cases, endometriosis growths can adhere your organs to your abdominal walls, or each other. Think Shelob’s cave from Lord of the Rings.
Oh but wait, there’s more.
When I was little I would frequently return home from visiting my father with raging ear infections. I was a water baby, practically living in his pool on school holidays which served the dual purpose of a) giving me the infections in the first place and b) distracting me sufficiently from the pain that my head was about falling off by the time I raised enough of an issue to make it to the doctor. My mother learned early that when I offhandedly mentioned something hurt, only to be distracted by a game of tag five minutes later, that that didn’t mean the pain wasn’t serious. I just had a knack for ignoring my body’s klaxons, right up until either the distractions ran out, or an emergency room visit was in order.
It’s something I never grew out of. Which is probably for the best because two decades later I was diagnosed with endometriosis.
Periods are the worst. It’s a pretty universal constant among people with uteruses. Three to seven days out of the month, our insides decide to spring clean with the voracity of a nuclear detonation and the aesthetic of a serial killer. You plug what you can and you clean what you miss, all the while keeping the whole thing to yourself because Jerry in accounting will probably make a sexist joke and Carly will judge you because we don’t talk about such things, Sharon.
Well fuck that. Not only has our collective silence led to half the population not understanding a fucking thing about the biology of the other half (something that goes from hilarious to horrifying when you realise these are overwhelmingly the dudes in positions of power btw) but it’s contributing to a culture that sees people with all the symptoms of serious medical conditions shrugging them off because “lol periods amirite??”.
I should know. I was one of them.