In her hit single “Work,” Rihanna says the word “work” close to 80 times. If that song were a metaphor for life with endometriosis, the singer would be OK with the first “work,” would struggle with the second, would barely mouth the third, and would give up altogether by the fourth.
A chronic illness makes regular work extremely tricky. It might involve life-altering symptoms that are present daily, sabotaging any full-time job. It can also manifest in a way that will include a string of good days, followed by a flare-up that renders the sufferer unable to function. This is why a successful career is one thing many endometriosis patients don’t have.
A recent survey revealed how one in six endometriosis patients end up giving up work. Additionally, 54 percent of patients with the worst forms of the disease experienced a loss of earnings due to their symptoms.
I read news like this and immediately identify. My working life has been a struggle ever since I can remember. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned was that there is no use in fighting against a body that is in constant pain.
When you are dealing with illness and physical limitations, sometimes the healthiest thing is to give up the fight. In my case, it meant quitting a job I loved and trying to make working from home a reality. Yes, I can easily submit my columns in my pajamas and eat gluten-free cake all day, but I also lack job security, and my income is very limited.
Endometriosis is an invisible disease. Most patients put up with harrowing levels of pain and symptoms that employers and work colleagues can’t see. With so many women dropping out of work, it is essential that companies become more endometriosis-aware.
We need more work flexibility and for employers to think differently.
One company has made some positive moves. In 2016, a small firm in Bristol introduced period leave. Some countries, like Japan and South Korea, have protected period leave by law. Not everyone takes this leave, however, for fear that they might appear weak to their employers and colleagues. In addition, some argue that laws supporting period leave would make employers less likely to hire women.
It is not news that the world is imbalanced and full of inequities. Women are expected to be good mothers, carers, and career-driven individuals. We have done this for a long time, working as hard as — and many times, harder than — our male counterparts. All of this while bleeding.
Yet, with illnesses like endometriosis, periods are not only disruptive, they can be major, horrific events.
Endometriosis patients can be resilient, resourceful, and highly motivated. Women suffering through debilitating periods are anything but weak. Still, the professional world doesn’t seem to want to see that.
Workplace gender bias and the ignorance surrounding endometriosis indicate that the problem is not with the women being forced out of work. The problem lies within a system that supports looking the other way and letting us fall between the cracks.
Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.