Endometriosis is as much a disease of the ovaries as it can be a disease of relationships. The pain that appears imaginary to the other people in your life leaves you debilitated most times, depressed and depleted. When friends and loved ones don’t know what to say or do, or don’t understand the chronic illness, or worse, don’t believe that it exists, it can be extremely painful and can leave you feeling depressed and isolated.
It’s easy to look back on my life and see the many times when I was experiencing what I didn’t realize were symptoms of endometriosis and was unable to express what it was, how I was feeling and what I was going through. I have only now just started to become aware of the social and mental ramifications of this chronic illness.
Outings and invitations to events with everyone wondering why you’re always absent. Sure, some of it was me being my introvert self but many times in my life I brushed off the anxiety and depression I was feeling as normal. Eventually, you stop being asked to hang out, get bugged by your partner for not ‘being social enough’ and fall into a deeper depression. It can be frustrating and emotionally exhausting.
It can be devastating to watch your relationships with other people change. It’s sometimes difficult for people to be compassionate about endometriosis because no one can’t see it, you may not even look sick yet it can still have a huge impact on your health and how you feel physically and mentally in your daily life. After all, endometriosis is caused by an imbalance of hormones and when your hormones are out of whack it affects your mood and ability to cope a lot of the time.
Symptoms like pelvic pain, painful urination, pain during sex, lowered immune defenses, lower back pain, intestinal pain, mood swings, anxiety, depression, isolation, blood clotting, extremely painful periods, heavy periods, bowel changes-lose stools and excessive diarrhea, bloating and infertility, affect the other people in your life too. Watching someone you love go through something like this can also leave you feeling powerless and confused as how to help them and move forward. That’s why sometimes people leave your life or stay in it and remain unsupportive. My advice is that if the people in your life are giving you a hard time or not supporting your for what you’re going through, try to be around them less.
The people in your life who really want to be in it and love you will do their own research into endometriosis, ask questions and make sure you’re comfortable in certain situations like love-making (something that can be quite painful for women with endo), or at restaurants because they know certain foods can cause inflammation, or in social situations where anxiety can be high.
One of the most difficult things about finding out I have endometriosis was to be accused of using endometriosis as an excuse to be lazy because many times the symptoms leave you inactive a lot of the time. It was even more frustrating for me because just as I found out what was going on with me and felt I got my chance at fixing it, some of my most cherished relationships ended. Here I was thinking that I was finally on the road toward healing and in turn healing my relationships, but that just wasn’t so.
At first this was devastating for me but over time I’ve come to realize that I don’t need anyone to understand me but me. Only I truly know what I’ve been going through over the years and if someone else doesn’t understand that, it’s OK. I don’t need them in my life. The right people will be understanding and gentle about what you’re going through. If you’re like me and have lost people after finding out you had endometriosis, try to see it as a positive thing and put the focus toward your own healing. The people who have fallen along the wayside are the unfortunate folks who lack compassion and aren’t deserving of being in your life.
You may not be surprised to learn that holistic healers see imbalanced mothering to be the emotional root cause of endometriosis. Perhaps a woman who is not giving to herself as she is to others. One who puts everyone else before her, her children, a partner and their family, a career, friends, co-workers, clients- leaving very little self care and self love for herself, concepts only now beginning to surface in American society and become recognized as vital to mental health and well being.
When it comes to those who you surround yourself with be choosey. More than ever you need people in your life who can be positive cheerleaders. People who love and support you no matter what. If you don’t have that right now don’t worry or think too much on it, be joyful and happy and receiving of the exact love and support you desire and it will surely find its way to you. Always remember, it’s better to be alone, even in your illness, than to be surrounded by negative, unsupportive people.
I’m lucky that I became aware of the unsupportive people early on in my diagnosis and that cleared the way for me to be able to see who is there. Who does care. I’m making sure to surround myself with them more. Have more conversations with them and most importantly, give back to them as they do to me. Illness or not, compassion and caring is a two-way street. Nourishing and cherishing these relationships is part of my healing because when I’m putting focus on the people who treat me well and support me and I do the same back, I’m bringing more of that into my life (self love in action!)
On the contrast, it’s important not to become defined by this chronic illness. For a while I began following all the endometriosis accounts I could, looking for support groups and spending all of my time researching and learning about the subject (this is how I cope). And while this can be great for emotional support, learning and healing, it can also be a rabbit hole. I began seeing a lot of ‘Debbie-downer’ stuff in my feed about the illness, what a bummer it was and worse, questions about supporting a life of pain and how to live with it with questions like, ‘I’m just out of college, what are the best jobs to apply for when you have endo because I can’t move around/do much?’
Seeing stuff like this breaks my heart because I know that for most women there are answers out there to help them live a life with endometriosis that isn’t so debilitating. So I stopped following accounts that weren’t about solutions and too much about complaining. Don’t get me wrong, endometriosis can be painful as a motherfucker and a real life ruiner but I just can buy into the negativity anymore and really believe that we as a society can get ahold of this illness that affects 1 in 10 women. I’ve already proven this in with my own body. I’m not cured by any means and my hormones still need some serious balancing but I’m working on it and some months I go without any pain whatsoever which is a huge improvement for me.
Another thing that made me realize my role in this whole things was a section in a Chakras book I’d gotten a long time ago. For one reason or another I picked it up recently and turned to the section about the sacral chakra which happens to lie in the reproductive area. Many believe that whatever emotional issues lie in the sacral chakra are related to the diseases there such as endometriosis.
One of the themes of the sacral chakra is relationships. As I read the material I began to understand why my role may have played in my illness as well. Consider the following from The Chakra Bible;
“The wholeness in the second Chakra is concerned with our ability to give and receive love-knowing that we are lovable and loved. These basic human emotions establish a positive identity for us at a deep core level of our being. When we know that we can give and receive love unconditionally, we can give emotional support to others again without condition. This Chakra is therefore also about friendship-our ability to relate to others on a deeper-than-everyday level. How do you see your friendships?”
The realization that hit me after reading this could be related to a light bulb, a shock, a hurricane or bomb going off. I was that stunted by the material, that knowing and aware that I knew it pertained to me. For as long as I can remember I’ve held my love for only those I’ve felt deserving of it. Those earning and willing to give what I expected in return. If I’ve ever gotten the slightest whiff of disloyalty, disagreement, dishonor, rude or mean demeanor or distrust, I cut off all loving flow and energy leaving me. I withhold it like a prize to the best in show. There is some good that comes of this-protection, awareness, honor and pride. But mostly it just feels lousy for the person trying to protect themselves. Withholding love, compassion and forgiveness from others will only cause you more pain.
I couldn’t ignore this new (to me) information that I’d related to my illness and what I once saw as my failed relationships. Now I’m more aware of others’ roles in my illness as well as my own. I can take ownership of my failures and mistakes and also be aware of those who don’t hold the compassion it takes to have a special relationship with a special person like myself.
There is still so much more for me to learn and so much growth to be had. And here I am, arms open, willing, scared but confident that the right people will find me and I will find them in return. I know because it’s already happening…
Have your relationships changed since being diagnosed with endometriosis or another ailment affecting the female reproductive system? I would love to hear from you!
*Please be aware that it’s a huge mistake to think that reading one blog or talking to one woman about her experience defines the entirety of the illness. If you want to know more, research, ask questions and know that not all endo sufferers are the same! 🙂