As Endometriosis Patients, Our Mental Health Should Be Our Priority

As Endometriosis Patients, Our Mental Health Should Be Our Priority
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Editor’s note: This column briefly mentions depression and thoughts of suicide. Resources for help are listed at the end of the column. 

As a kid growing up in the ’90s, I knew that any talk of mental health struggles carried the risk of being labeled insane. And if you were a girl, you were called hysterical. So I sucked it up.

I saw my nightmares, circling thoughts, and occasional shortness of breath as damning proof that I was out of my mind. While I kept my struggles private, others, including people I loved, called me unbalanced.

As an adult, writing and talking about mental health is something I do with a lot of pride and zero shame. There is such little embarrassment, I’ve even turned my breakdowns into my private stand-up show. When I say I’ve done over a decade of therapy, I do so without batting an eyelid. Seeing my therapist long-term is something I’m not just OK with, I know it’s a wise, responsible choice.

Nourishing my mental health means caring for those around me, too.

There is an overused, mega-famous quote that many attribute to Marilyn Monroe, who also lived with endometriosis. Yet, while it appears on endless social media posts, there is no proof she actually said it. It goes as follows:

“If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you don’t deserve me at my best.”

I have an issue with that alleged quote. In fact, I’ve never liked it. I’ve been exposed to people who struggled with their mental health, did nothing to manage it, and as result became abusive and very harmful.

Being on the receiving end of someone’s emotional struggles can be excruciatingly painful.

There are many reasons why someone won’t seek help when their mental health becomes severely disruptive. A lack of money and resources limits the help available to them. There is also the stigma associated with these sort of issues, which even nowadays still prevents people from talking to a professional. The fear of what others might say and the horror of being thought of as crazy stop many from reaching out.

Winter is coming. Pass the hot chocolate, blanket, and my therapist’s number. (Photo by Jessie Madrigal)

I’ve been penniless and unable to get private care. At certain points in my life, I became too anxious to think straight and search for help. I struggled with suicidal thoughts, an eating disorder, and strong bouts of depression. Eventually, I realized I couldn’t carry on in such a sorry state by myself, and I gave way to the professionals.

I knew my mental health was something I needed to actively care for.

Having endometriosis cemented that belief even more strongly. This disease affects our mental health, and there is no getting around that. Being dismissed by doctors for years during our search for a diagnosis or an effective treatment clearly influences our state of mind.

As patients, we are repeatedly exposed to endless waiting lists, people who don’t believe our symptoms, and unsupportive partners, and it all adds up.

Additionally, long-term pain associated with endometriosis can cause varying amounts of psychological stress. This can show up as anxiety, depression, and heightened levels of distress. In fact, a study in Norway found that patients who suffer from moderate to severe endometriosis have a lower quality of life compared to those free from the disease.

Oct. 10 Is World Mental Health Day.

I hope that means more of us talking about it more openly. Looking around my social circle, sometimes it feels like I’m the only one who mentions mental health with their coffee. I am aware that things have improved. There is more understanding when it comes to the subject of our minds and emotions. Yet it is not something that is seen as a priority, especially within the treatment of chronic illnesses.

Self-care, the canine way. (Photo by Jessie Madrigal)

If we suffer from anxiety, depression, or any sort of emotional distress, talking about it and getting help is as essential as having our heart rates checked. We need to normalize this kind of talk and improve the support available. Most importantly, we must give our mental health the huge value it deserves.

It’s time we give ourselves the space and love required to reach out and care for our mental health.

If you struggle with thoughts of suicide, please contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the U.S. (1-800-273-8255, available 24/7) or Samaritans in the U.K.

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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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.

Jessie is a writer living in the South of England. She was diagnosed with complex endometriosis in 2016 after two decades of chronic pain, PMDD, and suffering from other health issues since the age of 12. She is a lifestyle and science writer, but has also produced several screenplays and short stories. She is also a lip-synch assassin, a coffee snob, and Madonna’s biggest fan. In 2019 she ran The London Marathon, although her favorite pastime is curling up under a duvet with her two sausage dogs nearby. She writes about periods and endometriosis because she wants to help improve the lives of anyone diagnosed with this disease
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Jessie is a writer living in the South of England. She was diagnosed with complex endometriosis in 2016 after two decades of chronic pain, PMDD, and suffering from other health issues since the age of 12. She is a lifestyle and science writer, but has also produced several screenplays and short stories. She is also a lip-synch assassin, a coffee snob, and Madonna’s biggest fan. In 2019 she ran The London Marathon, although her favorite pastime is curling up under a duvet with her two sausage dogs nearby. She writes about periods and endometriosis because she wants to help improve the lives of anyone diagnosed with this disease

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3 comments

  1. Martina says:

    This is so incredibly true! I have endo and a whole bunch of other conditions that basically translate into unruly hormones, pain and mental distress…when that got topped off with miscarriages (and not 1 or 2 but 5 of them) none of the doctors asked me how I was coping mentally. Nobody thought that something so soul crushing could have any mental repercussions and proposed that I might need to see a therapist.
    Luckily (and I do say luckily even though I am aware the word might sound odd in this context) at the peak of stress and general horribleness my body decided it had had enough of how it was being treated and started bruising like a peach. This brought me to a doctor, who sent me to an occupational therapist, who sent me to a psychologist…who basically saved my life.
    As you say there is a huge stigma surrounding this and even people who are usually reasonable, educated beings sometimes refuse to talk to a professional…probably because they might feel like they are giving in to the fight or making their problem more real (and they are in denial).
    I love your work and keep it up!…and good luck with all that life throws at you xx

  2. Tamia Shung says:

    Truly a beautiful column. So many women, including myself, have very similar stories! Mental health is often overlooked, especially when you look healthy on the outside.

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