176 million people worldwide have endometriosis. Despite its prevalence, many people don’t know what it is. It's not talked about, it's under-researched, and it's persistently underfunded. For Endometriosis Awareness Month, Bustle UK is hearing from people living with the condition and doctors who specialise in it, and is opening up the conversation to help you get the treatment you deserve.
In this piece six people who live with endometriosis share how the condition affects their life day to day.* Although coping with a chronic illness is never easy, their words are an inspiring and important lesson in finding solace in friendship and hope in unexpected places, and, most crucially, they highlight why it's time endometriosis and its impact were taken more seriously.
It takes all my energy to even attempt a shower.
Living with endometriosis can be summed up in two words — it’s interesting. You never know what day you are going to have because endo likes to creep in whenever she can and throw off your day just like that. I have good days when pain levels are bearable and I can appear like a normal functioning person in society, but unfortunately those days are few and far between. Most days you can find me confined to my house struggling to do even the simplest of things such as walking up the stairs. It takes all my energy to even attempt a shower.
The majority of the time my body feels like it’s been carved open like a pumpkin on Halloween. The nausea, dizziness, bloating, and fatigue all add to the generally feeling of being hit by a bus most days. The pain takes my breath away and I have to bite the side of my cheek to stop me from screaming. There have been times where I have collapsed from the pain.
I have been in a chemically induced menopause for over 19 months now in a bid to get control of my pain but this no longer gives me any relief. I have been unable to work for almost two years because of endometriosis and the toll it has taken on my body. Endometriosis is so much more than just a bad period.
I have no control over my own body. I can feel utterly powerless.
The devastating effects of adenomyosis and endometriosis can be both physically and mentally exhausting. On bad days the pain can be so severe that either I vomit or can’t move. On most days, I still suffer from varying degrees of pain in my lower abdomen, lower back and a hot/sharp sensation radiating up and down my legs. It is rare to have a truly painless day.
Even on "good" days (where pain is manageable), I can become so swollen that I look like I’m pregnant. I try my best to laugh this off and disguise it under my ever-growing collection of oversized clothes. That said, I can still feel heartbroken in the knowledge that there’s nothing I can do about it — I have no control over the size of my own belly. I have no control over my own body. I can feel utterly powerless.
I laugh regularly, I try to stay positive, and I am lucky enough to have hugely supportive friends and family. That does not mean I don't find it tough and it does not mean I'm not suffering every single day. Just because you can't see something doesn't mean it isn't there.
You go from doctor to doctor, hoping that someone will take you seriously.
Living with endometriosis is hard. Really hard. The disease affects over 176 million people worldwide, yet having it makes you feel so alone. The pain is worse than I can even describe. It makes you the best actor. Smiling through horrible pain, working through horrible pain, going to school through horrible pain, but still being able to tell people you’re “fine” because you know they won’t get it when you try to explain why your pain is different than regular period cramps.
Every day is a balancing act of doing too much or not doing enough. If you rest, you’re “lazy”, but if you push yourself too hard, you risk being in bed for days. The misery that comes along with the pain is suffocating, and then comes the emotional toll the disease takes. Going from doctor to doctor, hoping that someone will take you seriously. Having your “script” rehearsed when you visit the emergency room so they don’t label you as “one of those patients”. Feeling so desperate for relief that you’ll literally do anything to make it stop. Defending yourself when doctors make you feel like the pain may just be in your head. Imagine what that does to a person?
It slowly but surely drove me from my job.
Imagine having your own body trying to destroy you from the inside out. That’s the reality for so many with endometriosis. We can’t prevent it and we can’t stop it because there is no cure. It has affected my whole life. It slowly but surely drove me from my job because the pain was so severe that I couldn’t get out of bed. I felt so isolated because, how was I supposed to explain to people how I felt when I looked fine on the outside. I couldn’t physically keep up with my friends and it definitely created a wedge. It’s affected my relationship because I need support in everything. My boyfriend has had to be more than a boyfriend, he’s become my carer and helps me with everything. It’s exhausting and has had a huge impact on my mental health. I’m scared for the future and how my health is going to be. Hopefully one day there will be a cure.
I have made some life-long friendships.
It's very hard to put my finger on exactly how endometriosis changed my life, because I haven't lived a life without it. From being a kid and starting my period, confused and scared as to why I bled through my pad, underwear, and school skirt, up until now — nearly 25, having had two surgeries with another looming to relieve some of the side affects of this confusing condition. Cramps, bloating, nausea, brain fog, UTIs, bleeding when I use the toilet, and this is my every day. It's a real blood bath (literally) when my period arrives.
Endometriosis has ruined relationships, put my social life at a halt, nearly gotten me fired, embarrassed me, caught me short and destroyed my mental health, but the biggest thing I've taken from having this curious condition is the community surrounding it. I have made some life-long friendships, I have people check in on me every now and then (and vice-versa) and have even received a care package from an amazing endo-sister and blogger. Every day I am grateful for the sisters I share this condition with. I don’t think I could get through without them.
I am strangely thankful for it.
Endometriosis isn’t life threatening, but it's life debilitating which robs you from living a normal life. Living with endometriosis is exhausting, frustrating, painful, and goddamn unfair. I am 25 and have my 10th surgery at the end of his month. That’s all down to damage endometriosis has caused. I long for a day where I will wake up with no pain, but I am also strangely thankful as it has taught me to appreciate everything in life no matter how small.
*Responses have been edited for length and clarity.