Living With Endometriosis From an Early Age

Author: Elizabeth Zarb, Real Life Stories

Getting a period is pretty standard for anyone with a uterus. They can be painful, they can cause a wide range of unusual emotions, and they are a great excuse to eat an extra piece of chocolate. But, these symptoms are all considered “normal” parts of having a period. 

What’s not standard for people with uteri is endometriosis. 

Endometriosis occurs when tissue that usually grows inside of the uterus grows outside and around it, putting pressure onto the uterus. Its only cure is menopause. And, it’s genetic.

My mom had endometriosis, my aunt had endometriosis, and I have endometriosis. I’ve had my period for seven years. If you do the math, I’ve had around 84 periods, each lasting almost two weeks (way longer than average). And during every single one, I was screaming and crying.

At just 11 years old, I had to leave dance class early because of how intense my cramps were. My first memories of my period were of me lying on the floor of the bathroom, crying. I would describe the pain by saying, “you could probably stab me in the uterus while I had cramps, and I wouldn’t be aware of it.” By age 13, I was missing two consecutive days of school a month in order to deal with the first two days of my period, and I was taking four Advil every four hours for ten days straight. By high school, I had a doctor’s note saying I couldn’t play gym when I was on my period. At age 14, I begged my mom every single month to put me on birth control, as I was told that would help with the pain, and after I turned 15, I was put on the pill.

I was told that birth control should help my cramps, as that’s what it does for many others. However, over the course of three years, I’ve been on eight different birth control pills, with none of them alleviating the pain. I felt so helpless that I even asked about getting a hysterectomy. I wanted the source of pain as far away from my body as possible.

Eventually, my gynecologist sent me to a pediatric gynecologist, since they’re the ones trained to look for abnormalities. I told her what my symptoms were, and she immediately diagnosed me with endometriosis, something which my old doctor had only mentioned was a possibility. I began taking continuous birth control, which is essentially the same as regular birth control — except it skips the placebo week, meaning that those who take it don’t get a period. This worked well, but it gave me severe migraines. For a while, I was okay with this, as the cramps were by far the more severe pain. But, my doctor was not happy about the fact that the pain simply moved, and suggested an IUD. 

While types of birth control were being sorted out, another discussion came about. You see, endometriosis doesn’t show up on sonograms, so even though my doctor diagnosed me and began treating me for endometriosis, there was no 100% guarantee that I had it. The only way to know for sure was to do an exploratory laparoscopy, which is doctors sticking a camera through your belly button — and if doctors were to find any endometriosis, they remove it. Sounds easy, right?

I came out of the surgery in generic surgery related pain but otherwise okay. Sure there were cramps, but the cramps were considered a normal side effect (and yes, I realize the irony of how the surgery that was to prevent period cramps caused period cramps).

Right now, I’m hopeful. I went through seven years of unbelievable pain, and I’ve exhausted all possible options to help my endometriosis. Yes, it can grow back, but hopefully, the IUD will stop that from happening. The most important thing to me is spreading awareness about endometriosis, because it is something that 10-20% of people with uteri suffer from silently. It’s considered “taboo” to talk publicly about periods, but because of this taboo, many people don’t know what endometriosis is — and therefore, don’t know if they have it. Celebrities like Halsey and Julianne Hough have spoken openly about their struggles with it, and it’s opened up the conversation for other people.

And hey, if Julianne Hough can film an entire season of Dancing With The Stars while suffering from endometriosis, then at the very least, I can get out of bed in the morning.

 


For more information about endometriosis, visit endometriosis.org

depression

Self-Care is Important When You Suffer From Depression

Adulting, Author: Claire Greene

I have suffered from depression for over 15 years. Part of the catch-22 of Major Depressive Disorder is feeling a lot of guilt. You may feel guilt over what you think you’re putting family through, guilt that your friends might not want to spend time with someone who is a major buzz kill, and most of all, guilt that there are so many people who seem to have it worse, yet you’re completely miserable.

This guilt, in turn, can just feed into your depression, making you feel worse and worse until you’re in this downward spiral that’s extremely hard to pull yourself out of it. But what can you learn from this experience and guilty feeling? When you are going through a battle in life, such as you are with mental illness, you are what is the most important. You can love yourself when you’re going through depression — and you need to. Be proactive over this, and these little tips may help. They helped me!

 

Talk to a therapist
It’s hard talking to people who don’t understand. By talking to a therapist, you are talking with a professional who knows what she’s doing, and wants to help you. My therapist taught me that my depression was not my fault, but a result of my brain chemistry and genetics. Once I stopped blaming myself, I was able to focus on the things that I needed to do to help myself. Yes, it does take a lot of courage to get yourself there, and a therapist does in a way have to break you down to build you back up, but once you do, you will be much stronger for it.

See a Psychiatrist
This one may be a bit controversial, I get it. But, I would not be who I am today without finding the psychiatrist that finally understood my brain chemistry and found the right medication for me to be on. I do not abuse my medication, and I stick with my prescribed dosage. But, my medication changed an imbalance in my brain that would not have fixed myself otherwise. If you do not abuse it, you are responsible with it, and you go through the right channels, medication can certainly put you on the path to wellness. However, medication isn’t for everyone, and psychiatrists can also give you psychotherapy treatment and in some cases, light therapy, to name a few other options.

Take up a new, creative hobby
A creative hobby that you learn to love can give you something to be proud of, and it slowly can bring you back to who you were before. Find a creative project that does this for you, to give you something to concentrate on so you don’t become your own worst enemy, and you can focus on something other than your depression. When you have a final product, you’ll have something that you’ve created, with no copy, that is impossible to replicate exactly. Find whatever is healing for you — whether it is sewing, adult coloring (a great one), jewelry making, even something like painting or building something from wood.

Do what you love, and have always loved
This can be anything that releases negative energy for you and has always made you happy no matter what — and can be a complete release of sadness, grief, anger, and shame. Maybe you love sports. Maybe you love to write. It can even be as simple as playing with your pet or spending time with your friends. But it is so important to have a reason to get out of bed.

Be kind to yourself
Did you have that extra donut? That’s okay. Were you not able to leave the house today? That’s okay, too. You are going through a fierce war within yourself right now, and it’s alright if you lose the occasional battle. Sometimes, all you will be able to do for the day is just take a shower. Sometimes, just making the effort to text a friend and have a minimum of social contact is a huge win, and you should be proud of yourself for it. Be proud of yourself for accomplishing the small, little things. It’s all of those little things combined that will lead up to those big milestones. By just making a small effort, you are taking a big step towards believing that it will get better. It’s about the small steps that add up to a huge leap.

 

Pain is different for everyone. Yes, there are those less fortunate who have been dealt some terrible cards in life, and you should feel for those people. But that doesn’t mean that you aren’t in pain, and it doesn’t make your pain less important. Be kind to yourself, and you will make yourself better to help others.

How to Manage Your Chronic Pain Through Diet and Exercise

Author: #NAMB Guest Author, Real Life Stories

Many people, millennials included, suffer from some sort of chronic pain — defined as lingering pain following an illness or injury. Though some turn to medications, which certainly have their place in some scenarios, they can lead to the development of a dependence.

Rather than relying solely on medications, it’s a good idea to give attention to things like having a proper diet and getting enough exercise (and the right kind) to help you manage your chronic pain. Now, how can we get started managing all this?

Reduce inflammation to reduce chronic pain
“Inflammation is the body’s immune response to toxins as it works to ‘purify’ itself. There are many ways to treat and manage chronic pain [but] one of the most exciting approaches, however — because it is all natural — is adopting an anti-inflammatory diet,” says The Cleveland Clinic.

Eat foods that help fight inflammation
Need a list of them? Here’s one. Also avoid foods that are known to cause inflammation. Try to eat as many fruits and vegetables that you can every single day. Include cruciferous veggies like cauliflower, sprouts, and broccoli into your diet as well as fish and nuts.

Avoid certain foods
Unfortunately, this list is pretty long. Studies have shown that fried foods, red meat, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, refined carbohydrates, and dairy can all cause inflammation. It may help to begin a sort of elimination diet and remove all of these at first, and reintroduce some to see what effect they have on your pain. Take baby steps until you figure it out.

Drink more water
No, you can’t go through your whole life drinking nothing but water — nor would you want to. But you can surely reduce the amount of things you drink that aren’t water. What you drink affects you just as much as what you eat. And if you think about all the things we drink, so many of them can cause inflammation.

Drink less caffeine and sugary drinks
Coffee and tea (due to caffeine), alcohol, sugary sodas, and milk can all exacerbate chronic pain if you buy into the inflammation model. And what about diet drinks? Well, according to Health.com, “The artificial sweetener [aspartame] found in diet sodas and many sugar-free sweets is part of a chemical group called excitotoxins, which activate neurons that can increase sensitivity to pain,” says Health.com. Try drinking diet sodas sweetened with other artificial sweeteners, but if you find that you are not feeling any better, stick to water.

Start with moderate exercise 
Many chronic pain sufferers feel as though they are in too much pain to get up and exercise, even when exercise is the very thing that could make them feel better. Break out of the unproductive cycle by easing into exercise. Find exercise scenarios that put less stress on your muscles and joints, such as stretching, yoga, pilates, and other low-impact (but still somewhat strenuous) exercises. Also remember there are the “lifestyle exercises” like gardening and swimming.

Listen to your body
Whatever exercise you do, don’t push yourself to the point of extra pain. Listen to your body and know your limits. In the end, any exercise you get — however minor — is going to help. There’s nothing worse for chronic pain than being sedentary.

 

About the Author

Jackie Waters is a mother of four boys, and lives on a farm in Oregon. She is passionate about providing a healthy and happy home for her family, and aims to provide advice for others on how to do the same with her site Hyper-Tidy.com.

“But what if…”: Insight Into the Mindset of Those With OCD

Author: Alli Jean, Real Life Stories

My story aims to bring insight into the mind of someone who has been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD. But first, a little background.

The National Institute of Mental Health Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder defines (OCD) as a common, chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over. People with OCD may have symptoms of obsessions, compulsions or both. These symptoms can interfere with all aspects of life, such as work, school and personal relationships.

Obsessions are repeated thoughts, urges, or mental images that cause anxiety and often include fear of germs or contamination, unwanted forbidden or taboo thoughts involving sex, religion, and harm, aggressive thoughts towards others or self, and having things symmetrical or in a perfect order.

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that a person with OCD feels the urge to do in response to an obsessive thought. Common compulsions may include excessive cleaning and/or hand washing (I mean to the point when your hands are red and cracked they’ve been washed so much, even in the middle of the summer), ordering and arranging things in a particular, precise way, repeatedly checking on things, such as repeatedly checking to see if the door is locked or that the oven is off and compulsive counting.

Not all rituals or habits are compulsions. Most people have moments in which they can’t remember if they unplugged their hair straightener or take an extra-long shower if they have completed a grimy task (gardening for example). But a person with OCD perseverates and focuses on such thoughts long after an average person would have moved past it…to the point he or she can’t think about anything else (did I turn that off, what if I touched that thing that was dirty, etc).

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Obsessions and compulsions can often appear to be contradictory to someone who does not have OCD. For example, my car and room can be a complete mess but when friends and family come over to my condo, I won’t let them wear shoes past the mudroom.

My desk can be completely disorganized. Meanwhile, I will re-check the work I just completed multiple times even when I know it’s been entered correctly. I will wash my hands longer than is necessary even if I’ve had a conversation about something that is gross.

Bottom line: OCD isn’t rational. And just like any mental health disorder or condition, it can get worse due to stress or your surrounding environment, but it can also get worse for no apparent reason at all, as your brain chemistry can strongly impact symptoms.

Treatment can include therapy, medication, or a combination of both.

For me, symptoms began to be very apparent when I was about ten years old — and included excessive hand washing, worrying about germs, checking things multiple times and worrying I’d had a bad thought about something and having to pray about it (yes, really). I was afraid to have friends over, I wanted to take multiple showers a day, I would freak out if I thought something mean about someone…to the point that I was worried and anxious all the time.

I thankfully have very supportive and understanding parents (who, like most of my family, also have OCD). My parents took me to therapy, where I was able to learn to control my repetitive and obsessive thoughts. I have personally never needed medication to manage my symptoms and although OCD is not something you ever get over, at this point it does not impact me greatly on a regular basis (But I still hate using public restrooms. Why isn’t everything on an automatic sensor so you don’t have to touch anything?).

In general, I have learned to recognize when I am focusing on something irrational and move past it. However, I am also aware that if that changes, there is help available.

Like any mental illness, lack of understanding prohibits those who need help to obtain it without fear of judgement and stigmatism.


If you or someone you know has or suspects he or she has OCD, speak to your primary care doctor and they can recommend a counselor or therapist for you to talk to. Getting referred to someone who specializes and understand this disorder can guide you in coping mechanisms and if applicable, medication to help you so that symptoms do not negatively impact your day to day life.

For more information about OCD, visit www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml.