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.