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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How We Can Help Millennials With Mental Illnesses

Make Mental Health Less Taboo.

Over the course of my childhood, there have been people here and there who, including myself, have suffered from various mental illnesses. But recently, as I began college, I noticed more and more people having to deal with severe mental issues. Why is this happening? Were they always there and I just noticed? Or are we at that age where our brains are put under so much pressure that they cannot handle it without some type of medication?

This is a subject that has bothered me for a while. In high school, I had to tip-toe around others to hide that I'm dealing with things like anxiety and depression. But in college, as you are scrolling through your social media accounts, there are many jokes that normalize these mental illnesses. They become those "relatable" memes that everyone "likes." These memes include "funny" captions like "Netflix and Avoid People"

or "Me to me," with Kermit the frog talking to himself about self-destructive behaviors.

Not that comic relief isn't a good thing, but that makes it so normal that people don't understand the actual amount of suffering that happens while you are experiencing mental illnesses. There are "funny" memes where there are fake text messages saying phrases such as "I'm in the middle of a mental breakdown, you? / Just got through a mental breakdown."

While this is light, the main issue isn't addressed. Why are millennials (people approximately 18-early 30s) suffering from these mental illnesses?

My theory is that as we develop into adults, much like a sorting hat, it seems we are each assigned a battle to fight as we develop into who we are supposed to be. Maybe we are healthy children, but the habits we develop as adults cause some type of mental or physical illness.

According to an article for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):

"Millennials are often referred to as the 'anxious generation.' They were the first to grow up with the constant overflow of the Internet and social media. The Internet can make life better, but it can also make life complicated, as Millennials often compare their personal and professional achievements to everyone else’s. This can result in low self-esteem and insecurity."

The article is right about social media causing low self esteem. I know when I was growing from a teen into an adult, I started to want to be friends with certain people because they looked "cool" on Facebook and Instagram. I diminished my achievements because it didn't seem "good enough" to match everyone else's. I'm not saying social media causes that actual chemical imbalance that is a mental illness, but it certainly doesn't help it.

Also, as I said before, maybe it's the fact that we are given more pressure somewhere, starting from the most important year in high school- junior year -and all throughout college when we are trying to figure out our career paths. We have deadlines, are expected to manage our time between rest, work, school, maintaining appearance and a social life. I know for a FACT if you have no social life, and I've had that, it can lead to depression; a socal life is just as important as the other parts of life.

I like to reference the mental and emotional health pyramid, also known as Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs:

The pyramid is not properly taught growing up and should be included in the school health curriculum. Now I'm not saying that knowing all these things will actually deter the medical problem that is mental illness, but it will give you at least an idea of what important factors to focus on in your life. Also, therapy is still a taboo subject. Therapy is not just for people with mental illnesses; it is like having a life coach. And it is all about you. THAT is what needs to be normalized. WHY so many people experience health problems at this age; I'm not a doctor so I don't know, but we can help each other by opening a discussion about it.

Cover Image Credit: geralt / Pixabay

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The 5 Best iPhone Fitness Apps

I'm workin' on my fitness.

Turns out, your phone can be used for more than just scrolling through Instagram or endless online shopping (Although, let’s be real, many of us would be fine if that were all it could do). There is a plethora of health and fitness apps on the market, that, when used correctly, can be very beneficial in one’s journey to a healthier lifestyle. If you are anything like me, I am obsessed with finding (cheap) new apps that somehow enhance my life. And when it comes to health and fitness, these are the 5 best ones that I have found so far:

1. Yoga Studio: Mind & Body

Price: $1.99 per month

There are many things to love about Yoga Studio. The session lengths range from 10 minutes to 60 minutes and target specific areas such as balance and flexibility. My favorite thing about the app is the fact that the yoga for beginners is actually possible for a beginner to do. It is challenging enough to be worth it, but not so difficult for a beginner that it is discouraging. The intensity of the sessions goes all the way up to advanced, and there are classes for certain things such as back pain, deep relaxation, and even prenatal yoga. You can also make your own classes by selecting the poses that you like. You can create a yoga schedule on the app and even link it to the apple health app.

2. Fooducate

Price: Free

Fooducate is a fantastic app. You can search for or scan the bar code of almost food item and the Fooducate app will assign that food a grade, ranging from D to A, based on how healthy it is overall. There are detailed explanations as to why certain foods or brands receive that grade, along with all of the nutritional information of that food, and a list of healthier alternatives. You can also track your caloric intake on the app and find free diet tidbits and healthy recipes.

3. Nike+ Run Club

Price: Free

Nike Run Club must be the best app on the market for runners. The most basic quick start feature tracks how far you run and how long it takes, but the app has many more features. It shows you specifics about your route, pace, and splits. There are also guided runs, where you have a coach in your ear, and you can pick a running plan that lasts either 4 weeks, 8 weeks, or up until an upcoming race. The app has challenges and personal achievements. Music can be played through the app.

4. Meal Time

Price: Free, with some recipes premium.

Mealime is a simple app to navigate with a multitude of healthy recipes, most of them free. You set your eating preferences and can build a personalized meal plan or just check out the recipes. The app details the cookware needed along with the ingredients and instructions needed to make the dish. It is easy to save your favorite recipes so that you can cook them again and again.

5. Sworkit: Abs & Core

Price: Free

While it’s mother app, Sworkit: Workouts & Plans, is not free, this mini-version is. You can select if you want to focus on abs or back strength, as well as the duration of the session, which can be anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour. A Person appears on the screen to demonstrate the workouts while a voice-over talks you through it.

Cover Image Credit: We Know Your Dreams

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