What it’s like to have a “break” from chronic illness
I have endometriosis. If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically when your uterine lining starts growing in places it shouldn’t, like an invasive plant that refuses to be confined to its planter box uterus. Everyone experiences endometriosis differently, but for most women it causes pretty severe pain during ovulation and menstration. Especially the latter.
I remember one time in middle school I had cramps so terrible I had to go home after lunch time. I could barely walk, and spent the rest of the day curled up in the fetal position wrapped around a hot water bottle with three aleves in my system that were seemingly doing nothing.
I used to think I just got the luck of the draw. I got the short stick, so I was destined to have painful periods.
In high school I started avoiding dairy because I had these constant stomach aches and cramping. It seemed to help, so it didn’t seem too crazy to cut out gluten a couple years later. I went a whole year without gluten before things took a turn for the worst.
I was in pain constantly. It hurt to use the bathroom, it hurt to eat, and it felt like I was cramping every single day.
After test after test coming up blank, including a horrific colonoscopy (the prep is horrific, the actual thing isn’t so bad) a coworker of mine told me about her endometriosis. Her symptoms sounded the same as mine, and she said she went through the same battery of testing and a gluten/dairy free thing as well. So I stopped seeing my primary care physician and turned to a gynecologist.
I was diagnosed with endometriosis and put on a birth control that was supposed to help with the symptoms (which I needed anyway since I was getting married.)
So fast forward to post birth. My hopes were high, because most women with endometriosis don’t experience it again after child birth. I was back on the same birth control so endometriosis wasn’t even on my radar.
But slowly pain started to return. Different from my post c section pain, but so uncomfortably familiar. Stupid endometriosis…
Most days I barely made it out of bed to the couch. I would get up to get food for my baby, or to use the restroom, but mostly I just sat and tried to give my son attention without moving too much. I couldn’t function.
Once I had a totally normal day. It was amazing. I felt reborn. Barely any pain, normal energy level, and finally the ability to function. I cooked, cleaned, and took care of my family. I had missed feeling normal so much. Between pregnancy and post partum recovery and the endometriosis I hadn’t felt physically normal in over a year. It was bliss. But the next day I was back on the couch, heart aching because I had had a taste of what I’d been missing.
I had laparoscopic surgery to cauterize the endometriosis. I had three spots of it total, and luckily they were small. (Symptoms of endometriosis don’t correlate with the severity of the condition. So you could have super mild endometriosis but be in much worse pain than someone with severe endometriosis.)
Because my endometriosis turned out to be mild it means it will likely have no effect on my reproductive health. *phew*
Anyway, here I am. About 7 months later, and I have energy like I remember having in the “good old days.” My body can do the things I forgot it could. I can do basic everyday tasks that previously had seemed impossible.
You cannot understand the devestation chronic illness can make you feel until you’ve experienced it. I didn’t even realize the extent of how terrible I felt until I had that one blissful day of normalcy. That day gave me motivation to act. To pay the bills for surgery, because I knew it would be worth it. So worth it.
I have never been more grateful for feeling awake, alive, alert, energized, and strong. And hey, I’m still a tired mom! And way more tired than I ever was in high school or college… but it’s so much better than where I was a year ago. Even 6 months ago.
Don’t take for granted those every day tasks you can do. Because there’s people out there suffering, suffering from chronic illnesses, who can’t do those every day things.
I’m so incredibly blessed the surgery worked for me. Sure, my endometriosis is likely to regrow eventually, but I have these days. I have this time. And when it does come back, I’ll be ready to fight.