Endometriosis Awareness Month May Be Over, But The Supportive Community Is Staying

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I have struggled with menstrual pains since my periods began, but it took me years to realise I may be suffering from Endometriosis. I came across the term when a friend from school described her recent surgery on Instagram. Her reflective post encouraged me to do further research and to take my debilitating pain seriously.

Seeing my friend describe the disorder led me to find a definition. Endometriosis is a condition where the lining of the womb begins to grow outside the uterus. Symptoms include pain in the lower back or stomach, discomfort during sex, and feeling nauseous around your period. Unfortunately, due to the difficulty of seeing endometrial growth(s), and the relatively early stage of endometrial research it takes patients an average of eight years to get an endometriosis diagnosis. For most people, even after an ultrasound, endometrial growths will be unclear. 

Endometriosis is a word that is unfamiliar in our popular vocabulary. This unfamiliarity is instilled by taboos around menstrual health and the historic underfunding of menstrual conditions. Indeed, as Professor Philippa Saunders, argues “put[ting] up with menstrual pain is almost embedded in our DNA. It is somehow normal that this pain shouldn’t be of concern, treated or investigated.” Due to a lack of treatment options, self-referral for painful menstrual cramps can feel unjustifiable. I have experienced the effects of the casualisation of period pains. The frequent, and optimistic refrains to take more, (and stronger) pain killers substantiates the belief that they are the only solution. Many of the strategies for coping with menstrual pain may work for moderate pain. They scarcely scratch the surface when dealing with severe pain. 

The dialogue generated by Endometriosis Awareness Month has allowed me to find resources for adopting alternative coping methods. One activist recommended the use of a TENS machine (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation), which has helped manage my symptoms. The fact that TENS machines are also used for childbirth is one indication of how severe the pain is. Endo Awareness Month may be the first time that a sufferer researches the word,  speak to someone supportive, or find a suitable coping mechanism. Seeing fellow endometriosis sufferers share their stories validated my concerns. I wish I had sought out treatment sooner. It took my symptoms to worsen severely for me to justify returning to the doctor. 

Like many people, fear and embarrassment have continuously pushed me away from seeking out further help. The emotional burden of having a diagnosis, but not a solution, is something I felt compelled to put off. Endometriosis’ potential relationship to infertility and increased risk of endometrial cancer has made my diagnosis process tense with worry. 

The relief I have received, from seeing people with endometritis thrive, takes away some of the fear and embarrassment. Without their support, and my friend’s Instagram post, I would not currently even have a potential explanation for my pain. Every March during Endometriosis Awareness Month sufferers of endometriosis have their voices amplified. When the month is over, a community of people who feel supported, and encouraged by each other’s strength remain.

Words by Scarlett Croft


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