“Let’s talk about sex, ba-by!” … And my lifelong dream of starting a column with a Salt-N-Pepa lyric has just been realized. Now that I’ve got your attention, how about we talk intimacy and endometriosis?
The first time I felt pain during sex was around 2009. It felt like I was being stabbed. The pain took my breath away and wouldn’t relent, making me feel awful for hours. From then on, and until I had my excision surgery in 2017, it hurt almost every time I was intimate. Sometimes I felt a light discomfort; other times, the pain lingered for hours, forcing me to lie down and cry.
Emotionally, it slowly broke me.
I felt like I was letting my partner down every time I said no to sex. I felt alone and misunderstood. If I confided in someone, they’d advise me to make an effort, to consider my partner’s feelings. I was told to try endless things as if my insides did not hurt. If I explained my pain or mentioned that sometimes my skin hurt, I was met with looks of disbelief.
I was only diagnosed with endometriosis in 2016. This meant that for years, I was convinced I was faulty. I wondered whether it was all in my head. I was sure that I was doing “it” wrong — that I was being a rotten girlfriend by not making a real effort to fix my problems.
Except, I wasn’t a bad girlfriend, I was in pain.
Now, I am more aware than ever of every sensation in my body as well as the damage former beliefs have done. I know that my pain is real and, on many days, quite unbearable. Most importantly, I know that powering through painful sex will hurt only me, both physically and emotionally.
When my partner felt let down, I felt heartbroken, worthless, and in pain. When others thought I was not trying hard enough, I read countless articles and books and talked to therapists, who failed to “fix me.”
I betrayed myself so many times. Now, I vow never to do that again.
In any intimate relationship, I will put myself first.
My own comfort and health should be my No. 1 priority. I am the one following strict diets, being examined by doctors, and undergoing surgery. Conversations about intimacy should help me ease my pain and emotional stress.
I won’t explain my disease to every new person I meet.
It is a draining exercise. Yes, openness is the key to any healthy relationship, but it doesn’t mean losing my right to privacy. I can object to something without having to explain myself in detail or share my medical records.
I will not agree to sex if I know it will hurt.
If a partner becomes upset about a lack of intimacy after I’ve explained how much it hurts, they need to deal with those emotions in a healthy and mature way. Projecting their frustrations onto me is a burden on my sanity.
I wish my malfunctioning body didn’t cause others to reject me, but it does.
Being loved as a whole, complex person and not seen as a burden is one of my dreams. I don’t know if that will ever be possible. But this much I know: If someone has an issue with the way I need to have sex, they can let themselves out.
Endometriosis patients don’t need guilt or self-blame.
If someone can’t see past our physical symptoms, or they take our limitations personally, that’s their issue to work through. We never chose this. We all dream of a healthy and enjoyable intimate life. Yes, endometriosis complicates things, but this topic is particularly poignant for those of us living with the disease.
All we want is a happy, loving session with our person of choice, yet our painful insides get in the way. Does this make us broken, difficult, or unworthy of love?
I say a big, fat no to that.
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.