I have been struggling for over twenty years with reproductive health, specifically, my period. I wanted to use this platform to share my story with you to hopefully give voice to something that most women don’t discuss or only discuss in private settings. There is a whole community of us out there who want to help support and advocate for our illnesses.
People talking about their bodies isn’t always easy because generally speaking we feel embarrassed, alone or isolated when it comes to what we think is normal or abnormal. There is no shame in owning your experience and honoring that you may be in pain or suffering. You deserve to explore why things are different and you don’t have to live the way you currently are.
I got my first period when I was nine years old. I was at school and I remember passing out from the pain. I had no idea how to manage this but it persisted for my entire life, each month getting worse and worse. It was so bad that I had to either be picked up from school or stay home. Each month, for a day or two, I was missing school due to my cycle and this was obviously a negative thing.
As a kid with their period and obviously some challenges, I was bullied because I missed school, I developed breasts early and was overweight. I struggled with bullying until I was in high school and my weight didn’t change until I start dieting (as a tween) and under-eating all because my cycle came on so early.
Flash forward to my teen years. My pain was so bad that when I finally told my doctor, he recommended I see a gynecologist even though I was only seventeen. We found a local one who suggested I had endometriosis (endo). I had laparoscopic surgery when I was 18 years old and they found some horrific scenes in my organs. My endo was on my ureter and urinary bladder which is what caused the INTENSE pain throughout my leg and caused my syncopal episodes. My body simply could not handle the pain so it shut down.
They could not take care of my endo as they had initially thought so we discussed my options. I had two: Depo Lupron shots (medically induced menopause) or invasive open stomach surgery. I said I wanted the surgery. My doctor and parents wanted me to go with the hormones. Needless to say the shots were the worst thing I had ever experienced and after the six months of being on them I experienced weight gain, night sweats and hot flashes.
After the six months I went on straight hormones to stop my period for six years. I had to take straight progesterone. If I missed a pill I’d immediately start cramping and bleeding. What a way to live as a young adult! When I was 24 I stopped all Western medicine and went off the hormones but went right back to my life of missing school, work, social functions and passing out on a regular basis. I finally found an amazing gynecologist when I was 28 who specialized in endo. We had a good plan down but I had to keep taking prescription drugs.
In 2017 at the age of 32, I decided to take control yet again and seek out an acupuncturist because why the hell not?! I had tried everything so why not try something as old as Traditional Chinese Medicine? In an act of synchronicity, I found my acupuncturist through my yoga studio. It was a miracle. SHE SPECIALIZES IN WOMEN’S HEALTH. I made an appointment for the next week. As a coach myself, I recognized that she’s an amazing practitioner and coach!
She spent 45 minutes with me at our first appointment – learning my entire history and starting thinking about a treatment plan. She is incredible. I’ve been dealing with my cycle since I was nine years old. I have never known true relief and still don’t, but I finally am on a road to healing or at least managing.
I see my practitioner once a week. I’m on special herbs to help my body in a variety of ways. I’m changing my diet and she gives me treatments including abdomen massages, cupping therapy and acupuncture needles in my belly to help release the many years of stagnation. While I am not symptom free and not sure I ever will be, everything has changed significantly when it comes to my ability to manage my chronic illnesses. She thinks I may also have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) so is treating me as if I have it and it’s been working! It’s incredible to have a practitioner who listens and can look at me as a whole person and provide holistic healing.
This disease, just like many others, can be frustrating, isolating and present very differently in everyone. My symptoms and treatments aren’t going to look the same for you or your friends/family but this is at least a start in not giving up. Had I given up, I’d be living a life of fear. Fear of passing out and hitting my head, fear of the pain (which is terrible), fear of losing my job because I have to miss work. There’s so much fear and shame associated with a chronic and invisible illness that I want to begin to start to break the silence for us.
If you or someone you know experience symptoms that may resemble endometriosis, talk to your doctor or seek a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner who can help. One in ten women are afflicted with this disease and we deserve to be pain free. Even if some of us will never know what pain free means, at least we can manage our pain differently. You are not alone. There’s lots of us out there. #endowarriors