I remember the first time I came to know about endometriosis. At one time, it was just a big word I could hardly pronounce.
I googled "heavy painful periods." Let's admit it, we always google our symptoms and come to the conclusion that the worst thing we could find was exactly what we have. After all of your feverish research you diagnose yourself with cancer. Afterwards, your Doctor—with an actual MD—counters your diagnosis with the common cold, and advises you to quit googling your symptoms. In my case, my absurd conclusion ended up being exactly right—11 years later.
I was a 15 year old girl with horribly painful, very heavy periods. (Hence the Google search.) I did not understand why I was always in so much pain when most girls my age had quick, relatively easy Aunt Flow visits. I continuously told my mom and my friends that I knew I had endometriosis, but they all thought I was crazy and overreacting. Again, who ever ends up having the mysterious illness they find on Google?
Coming from an Italian background, my mother taught me that periods weren't something that women were supposed to talk about—especially to the opposite sex. I always challenged that notion as I found it absolutely ridiculous. Here I was, a young girl that was confused and in pain, but I was not supposed to voice my concerns because men found it gross? I found no shame in what my body did naturally every month. It was a part of my anatomy. It was what made me a woman. If the roles were reversed, and men had monthly periods, it would be advertised like tobacco commercials in the 1950s.
As I mentioned earlier, my mom was an old school Italian, and that meant no tampons until I was married. The thought of me putting something up my virgin vagina disgusted my mother. So, you know what that meant, every month was a murderous crime scene. Caution tape and all. It was only pads for this virgin (yes, I pointed at myself with my thumbs as I said that.) After every period at school (no pun intended) I would have to rush to the nearest bathroom to avoid a clean-up in isle 12. I relentlessly begged and pleaded with my mother to allow me to use tampons. The mess, on top of all the pain I was experiencing, was just too much to handle. She finally gave in and it was Ally: 1 - Period: 325.
After two years of advocating for my uterus, at the age of 17 my mother decided to take me to my family doctor. She even noticed that what I was going through was not normal. My doctor came to the brilliant conclusion that I just had painful, heavy periods and suggested that I go on the pill. Duh duh duh—a 17 year old girl with a long-term boyfriend on birth control. That was a hard pill for my mom to swallow. (Pun intended this time.) We had a discussion, and decided that it would be best for my health, my quality of life, and my grades if I took the pill to better control my symptoms. My doctor told me that I could take the birth control for 3 months, and avoid the sugar pills in order for my period to only make an appearance 4 times per year. He advised us that my ovaries simply just go to sleep and once I stop taking the pill, they wake up. Wow, what an analogy. We fell for it. Knowing what I do now, I probably would not make that decision again.
I stayed on birth control for 5 years. Throughout those 5 years, I made many trips to my doctor voicing my concerns about the list of problems I was experiencing. To my disappointment, I was reassured that everything was normal and was dismissed, yet again. At the age of 22 I got engaged. I always wanted the whole fairy-tale. Married by 25, house and kids soon to follow. Right after I got engaged, I made the decision to stop taking birth control and let my body find its own rhythm again. I wanted my body to be ready once my fiancee and I decided we wanted to have kids.
We spend our whole adolescent lives being told that we can't even cuddle naked, or we'll get pregnant. Let's be honest, most of us have had that nail biting experience one time or another, when you are anxiously waiting for aunt flow to make her appearance in hopes that your "naked cuddle session" two weeks before didn't land you pregnant. How about that time you forgot to take the pill one day, and there is a slight chance one of his soldiers marched his way to your army base.
Trying to avoid getting pregnant was the hard part right? Wrong.
Married by the age of 24 - Check
Home owner - Check
Kids - To be determined
To be continued...