endometriosis, period, suffering

Stop Comparing

I remind myself on a daily basis to stop comparing. Stop comparing my symptoms to theirs. And, stop comparing my success (or lack thereof) to theirs. Stop comparing my life to theirs. 

It’s time to stop comparing

It started with my surgery in January. I shared that I had a laparoscopic procedure to see what exactly was going on in my abdomen to cause such painful cramps every month; something I’ve experienced since my period started in seventh grade. My surgeon found endometriosis. Later she told me the amount was about the size of a fingernail, so then, of course, my doubts started to creep in. 

Actually, they were creeping in way before that. After I shared about my procedure and my diagnosis I started getting “me too” messages with details about how painful other women’s periods were. One person said she had to take her girlfriend to the ER because the pain was so bad. Others talked about having to wrap fabric around their abdomen to help dull the pain. Then I saw that some people can hardly walk or move their body because their endo pain is so terrible on a regular basis. Some talked about how they bled so much they couldn’t leave the house. 

I’ve never been to the ER for period pain. I don’t use a heating pad or wrap anything around me. When my period is over, I’m usually back to my normal level of activity — like daily walks, running and yoga. Since going off the pill in 2015, my period lasts maybe 24 hours and I don’t bleed that much. 

For some reason, I can’t just accept that their experience is theirs and my experience is mine. Instead I compare and come to the conclusion that what I experience isn’t real and what they experience is. 

Not helpful. To anyone. 

This is what is true

Here’s what is true. All throughout my teen years I threw up on the first day of my period on a regular basis. Not just once or twice, but all day with most of it dry heaving. I spent the first day of my period in agony, writhing in pain due to cramps. When my doctor prescribed the pill, the vomiting stopped and the period lightened, but I still had to take a prescription medicine to manage the cramps. Later, when the prescription ran out, I just took 3-4 Aleve every couple hours until the pain went away. 

In the last few years, I experienced lower back pain, pain radiating down my thighs and when the cramps get really riled up, I have to stop and take deep breaths to work through it. 

What I’m saying (to myself — I have nothing to prove to anyone else) is that this is real. It doesn’t matter if I’ve never been to the ER or bleed so much I can’t leave my house. That is their story and this is mine, and mine says it hurts, like really really hurts. 

And on top of the physical pain is the emotional pain of having to go through this monthly knowing that I can’t conceive. 

The pain is real

One thing I know I have in common with those who share their stories with me — none of this pain is okay, none of it is normal. Not to the extreme that we experience it, anyway. 

I suspect that, like me, most of these women aren’t believed. The pain is dismissed. 

I know that’s been my story. I mean it was just a year or so ago that my women’s health nurse practitioner told me that period pain is normal and I’m lucky to have a light period. Say what? There is nothing about my situation that is lucky! (And I told her so.)

I realize that conditions such as endometriosis aren’t well studied or well understood. I know that in the 90s my doctor had no idea what endometriosis was and didn’t even consider looking for the source of my pain. 

However, hearing all of these stories brings me to one conclusion: women are suffering unnecessarily and it’s time for that to stop. 

If this is your case, I urge you to find a doctor who believes you. To keep pushing for answers. To stop comparing yourself to others and believe what your body is telling you. 

I am so thankful that I stayed persistent and I found a doctor who believes me and wants to help me. I met with her again last week and learned even more about what’s going on inside of me. And, I’ve made a big decision related to what I learned. More on that soon. 

I can’t wait to get back to writing about something other than… this. I want my life to be about more than this. Soon enough. 

peace.

stop comparing

4 thoughts on “Stop Comparing”

  1. Anne, thank you for so bravely speaking about your endometriosis, pain, doubts, comparing…

    Your words brought tears to my eyes. Because I, too, have compared. I suffer from endometriosis, as well. Like you, my pain has never taken me to the ER and, though I don’t have periods anymore because I’ve gone through menopause despite only being 43, I never bled so much that I couldn’t leave the house. So, I sometimes feel like I shouldn’t “complain” about my pain because it’s not as bad as others…

    But as you said, my pain is real and I shouldn’t compare. Recently, I had pain from my hip clear down to my ankle. My sciatica was acting up due to my endo (and possibly my menopause, too). This pain was so bad that I couldn’t sleep. So, yes, my pain is real.

    Endometriosis Awareness Month is coming up in March, so I think your post came at the perfect time to teach the world what endo is really all about. Hugs, fellow endo warrior. Hugs…

    1. Brandi, thank you for reading and responding to this post. I’m torn because I’m so glad you can relate to what I wrote (knowing I’m not alone is such a relief!) and I’m so sorry you can relate to what I wrote. Endo is such a strange illness — there’s no one way it presents, no one way to treat, no one way to diagnose. With all of those unknowns, it’s clear this illness needs more attention and research. I wonder what the stats would be if this was something men suffered with? Women’s illnesses are not given the same respect or attention they deserve.

      I know that you have made a huge impact on my life because of your website and blogs. Thank you for taking the brave step to share your story with others. You’ve helped those who came later to feel brave too.

  2. I so get this post, in every single way. And I so hate that endo is still chalked up to “normal” period pain — as if such a thing even exists! The fact that your doctor gave you such a dismissive platitude only just last year makes my blood boil.

    Next month I’m meeting with one of the top endo docs in the country to consult about a hysterectomy; I’ve had enough. We all know where are our limits are, and I’ve reached mine. Sounds like you’re reaching/have reached your limit, too. Whatever your choice ends up being, I’ll keep you in my prayers.

    God bless,
    Marixsa

    1. Marixsa, Yes, it’s hard to believe that medical professionals in this day and age still dismiss such painful periods. I feel incredibly blessed to have gotten connected with my current surgeon. Like you, I’ve reached my limit… I have my next (and hopefully final!) surgery next month. I’ll be writing more about it soon. I hope you get the support and outcomes you’re looking for at your consult. Prayers for you too.

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