Fighting Like A Girl: Talking About Endometriosis

Fighting Like A Girl: Talking About Endometriosis

There's no shame in being honest, especially when it brings awareness about a disorder that is rarely talked about.

About four months ago, I found out that I am at risk of developing endometriosis, if it hasn't developed already.

The news came suddenly when my estranged mother responded to my plea for her medical history, so that I could know what to look out for later. I figured that there wouldn't be much for her to tell, that she may only tell me that her family has a history of heart disease, and I could go on my way. Looking back now, I realize how clueless of a mindset that was.

My mother was so matter of fact about it, admitting that she had a hysterectomy to combat the disorder. I was left reeling, not sure what I was allowed to feel. The things that I associated with my concept of womanhood — my period, my ovaries, my uterus — suddenly found themselves under attack, no longer personal, there in the description I found during a frantic Google search. To this day, I still haven't been diagnosed, because I'm still in denial.

I struggled with the concept the first two days after Mom told me. It seemed so rare, even though one in every 10 women suffer from the disorder, meaning that, on my college campus alone, about 1,298 girls out of the student body of 21,634 students are suffering (assuming that the male to female ratio is 2 to 3). It seemed so implausible that something that lines my uterus, makes it possible for me to have a baby, could be growing where it shouldn't be and causing me pain.

For the first two days, my mind was just a gif of Jessica Day from "New Girl": "I was sabotaged by my baby box."

Then on the third day, Lena Dunham of "Girls" fame wrote about her life with endometriosis. I wish I could say that the sky cleared, the sun shone, that all was bright and beautiful again. I wish I could say that her article brought me comfort and solace. But the article and her honesty was just the beginning of me paying attention.

As someone who suffers painful cramps that keep me sidelined two to three days during my period, I hadn't thought about a disorder as the cause. I was told that bad cramps were a badge of honor ever since my first period, that I was "becoming a woman." Even when the pain has me nauseous and unable to move, I still think, "It's okay, could be worse."

Unfortunately, that kind of thinking is why many women ignore the pain, insisting that it's normal. It's the kind of thinking I've been guilty of and it's a dangerous way to think.

It's March now, and it just so happens to be dedicated to endometriosis awareness. Though I'm scared, I know that I need to visit my doctor and figure out if I, too, have the disorder. But I needed to have this conversation first, to let you know that endometriosis is a real thing, a legitimate disorder. You don't have to quietly suffer just because we live in a society where "menstruation," "ovaries" and "uterus" are seen as taboo words. True, there is no cure for endometriosis — but there is treatment, from surgery to remove the tissue to hormonal treatment via the pill or IUDs. There's still hope, and that hope is strengthened when we become aware of it.

Yes, I don't know if I have endometriosis — but my mom does. My sister might. Girls all across my college campus may be suffering in silence. The girl who sits next to you in class, who asks for notes because she couldn't make it to class due to a harsh pain around her pelvis. The girl down the hall from you, who you never see, because she's usually curled up in bed, wishing that she knew what was going on with her body.

I may not know what the circumstances are for any of you, but it won't stop me from trying to bring awareness to it. Now when I see an article about Dunham, I don't think about needing to watch her show, or read her book (though it's certainly on my list). I think about the battle she's fighting, about the battle that my mom is fighting.

Endometriosis is a battle, but we can fight it like girls: strong, beautiful and, above all, hopeful.

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Being Depressed Does Not Make You Lazy

A person is not 'lazy' because they're in bed all day, likely feeling trapped by their own mind.

Anyone who has ever dealt with depression -- whether it be due to major depressive disorder, dysthymia, postpartum depression, seasonal affective disorder, or the low of a bipolar disorder -- knows that being depressed isn't a choice, and it isn't just a fleeting feeling.

Nobody chooses their mental illness, and that includes people with any form of depression.

Because, really, who wants to choose to hate themselves? Who wants to live a life where they feel trapped in their own brain and body, where they either can't eat or can't stop eating, can't sleep or can't stop sleeping, where nothing is fun and everything is a burden? Most importantly, who wants to live a life where the idea of suicide comes up as a 'good idea'?

Spoiler alert: Having depression isn't some glamorous life of pretty mascara-lines down your face while an equally pretty and also sad boy holds you in his arms.

Having depression is not being able take care of your basic hygiene because you can't get the energy to do it. Having depression is being unable to focus on and enjoy something that used to get your blood rushing. Having depression is a fight to do what you need to do, likely being unable to do it, and feeling like you're utterly worthless because of that failure.

Another spoiler alert: Being unable to do tasks that are perceived as 'simple' is not laziness when you're in a major depression.

A person is not being 'lazy' because they haven't done a certain thing. A person is not 'lazy' because they're in bed all day, probably feeling trapped while they fight with themselves to get out of bed and do something.

While mental illness should never be used as an excuse, it's important for the person with depression and the people around that person to understand.

The person with depression needs to recognize that there is only so much they can do, needs to recognize they need to get help, and needs to be gentle with themself until they find some footing to start climbing back to proper functioning.

The people around need to recognize that this person is hurting, much like someone in a hospital after a horrific accident is. When someone's in the hospital, people swarm to try helping or send condolences and 'get better soon' cards. That's what someone suffering from depression needs.

They're both in similar situations:

The person with depression and the person in the hospital are suffering. They both want to get better. They both need the help and support of loved ones.

If you or a loved one needs help, there are plenty of resources available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has a phone number you can call for anything ranging from immediate suicide prevention to resources that will help. If the idea of a phone call causes an anxiety attack (I know that feeling), I believe they now have online chat available.

Cover Image Credit: Jim Jackson

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16 Life Lessons I Learned in 2017

My most important takeaways from the year.

2017 was a wild ride. The year was filled with incredible moments that changed me as a person and I learned some important life lessons. These are my 16 biggest takeaways and lessons learned.

16. Sunscreen.

Always wear SPF if you'll be out in the sun. Even if you're driving in the car, wear SPF. Going to Seattle? Wear sunscreen. 2017 was definitely the year of horror-story sunburns and I now carry sunscreen with me at all times. (And no, that isn't an exaggeration.)

15. Procrastinating a 30 page paper rarely ends well

Do I really have to explain this one? Just don't do it. Even if its only a 15 page paper, its so much easier to write when it isn't the night before. There are very few reasons to procrastinate it. It isn't worth the few extra episodes of Gossip Girl that you can watch (for the fifth time) if you keep putting it off.

14. Worrying about World War III is not worth your time

This is a tricky one, but very applicable. For the most part, worrying about things you cannot control is a waste of your time and won't make you feel any better. This includes anything relating to the world falling apart.

13. Get rid of those toxic friendships

Seriously. Just do it already. If they suck the joy from your life and only create negativity, they don't belong in your life. If you don't like who you're becoming around them, they probably need to go as well.

12. ...but don't burn any bridges

There are a few occasions that warrant this, but for the most part, it tends to be overkill and often more destructive than helpful. Don't let your emotions lead you to do something stupid.

11. Decluttering your life is one of the best things you can do for yourself

Get rid of the crap you've been accumulating since middle school. If it means nothing to you, get rid of it immediately. You'd be surprised how much stuff you have that you didn't realize existed.

10. People can surprise you, for the better and for the worse

I'll just leave this one here without an explanation.

7. Ghosting is real, y'all

Stop wondering what happened or why they've stopped communicating with you, even though it may hurt. You don't need closure if you understand that (for whatever reason) they no longer want any sort of relationship with you. Also, try not to ghost too much.

6. A belief system is everything

Life is many, many times easier if you have something to fall back on when times get tough. Religion and faith are the best, but having something there is incredibly valuable.

5. Your friends need you as much as you need them

They are (and were) there for you when you need (or needed) them. Do not abandon them when they need you the most. It may not be fun, but you need to do it anyway.

4. Trust your gut

Maybe I've watched too much NCIS, but listen to and trust your gut. You're probably right. (I should also note that many of Gibbs' rules were very applicable this year as well.)

3. Do not, under any circumstance (ever), let anyone push you around

It doesn't matter who they are or how they're doing it, don't let them. Know your worth and use it to make sure they can't push you around.

2. When you find good friends, hold them tight and don't let go

Good friends are hard to come by. When you find those incredible people, remember how great they are and cherish them.

1. No risk is too bold to take

You might fail spectacularly, but you may also succeed in grand fashion. Do not be afraid to do something outside of your comfort zone or unlike you. Something good may come from it and you'll be glad you did.

Cover Image Credit: Canoga Park Neighborhood Council

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