Rebel Belle rants: endometriosis is hell

I never wanted this blog to become some adult substitute for DeadJournal stream-of-consciousness rants. But man, do I fucking need to rant. And it's going to be sweary.

 Hillary Johnson,  my new uterus , via  Flickr

Hillary Johnson, my new uterus, via Flickr

I am one of the one in 10 women with endometriosis. I have been for half of my life, but these days it's a much bigger pain in the arse. It's genetic. My grandmother had it, and (we suspect) she missed the early signs of ovarian cancer because she was so accustomed to the pain. The pain blows. The pain... Fuck the pain. 

Endometriosis is a female disease, and by its nature, it all too often makes me resent being a woman. It makes me loathe the genetic necessity to sit down to pee, since sometimes that means getting stranded for half an hour with indescribable twinges of pain taunting my bladder. It makes me angry that the only non-surgical treatment (birth control) promises a burst of estrogen withdrawal, which presents very much like major depression, every fourth week; my own thoughts become terrifying, and knowing why it's happening is scant comfort. 

Most of the time, I try like hell just to cope with it. My mom's an employment lawyer, so I grew up eavesdropping on horror stories of hypochondriac types milking stubbed toes and sniffles for paid leave. People who learned to cope with their challenges, to overcome - they were celebrated. People who blew their challenges up to proportions large enough to hide behind, who made excuses and evaded responsibility - they were life's losers. And those people would never be happy, I was told, because they didn't want to be.  

So I went to school when I was sick, even with mono (though the school put its foot down on that one). I only missed home room the day a sedative was injected into my abdomen, to stop the uncontrollable shaking caused by an antidepressant they've since learned not to prescribe to 13-year-olds. (At least I've been clear of those for over a decade.) When the endometriosis started getting worse, the pain became an excuse to stay longer at work. Sure, I might be seeing spots and fighting back nausea. But another hour or two behind a desk at least delayed the agony of standing up. 

 Tom Simpson,  Uterus and Testicle , via  Flickr

Tom Simpson, Uterus and Testicle, via Flickr

I hate endometriosis because it seems unmentionable. It's not polite to bring up your reproductive organs, or y'know, the tissue normally found in them that can start growing elsewhere. The source of the problem is my fucking uterus. And when you think uterus, you think lady parts. When you think lady parts, you think vagina. So when I'm holding in a grimace of pain and a colleague or a dude friend or a concerned flight attendant asks what's wrong, what honest answer can I give without conjuring up my bikini area? 

So I try to ignore the pain. I dismiss it. I lie. I initiate evasive manoeuvres. And that's fucking ridiculous, because ONE IN 10 WOMEN is dealing with this. At the very bloody least. Who knows how many more tell themselves to suck it up when their period cramps make them black out or vomit, or blame last night's takeout for the sensation of fan blades churning through their lower abdomens. Can you blame them? None of us want to be life's losers. 

It pisses me off that my gender-specific organs can deliver new and unexpected symptoms that make me squeamish, nauseous, disgusted by my own body. It's an unfair liability of being female. There is so much I love about being a girl, about being a girly fucking girl. I love buying high heels I can't walk in. I spend a disturbing proportion of my income on skincare. And while we're dancing around taboos, why don't we just admit it: the sex thing can be pretty great for us, ladies. I mean, I've never done it as a guy, but I'm pretty sure the word "climax" gets used because they don't have the luxury of a five or 10 minute denouement every once in a while. Hello, does that not make us winners of the genetic lottery or something? I guess all good things come with a price.

So here it is. I'm putting it all out in the open. I am a woman suffering from endometriosis. It's not life-threatening. It doesn't make me special. But acknowledging it doesn't make me one of life's losers. By hiding my endo, by feeling ashamed of my pain, I've been perpetuating some seriously messed up ideas about femininity - and doing a disservice to all my fellow ladies living with this bullshit condition. I am a woman suffering from endometriosis, but I can still kick ass. One woman out of every 10 is living in debilitating pain, and no one has even bloody noticed. This is not an embarrassing chick disease. It's proof that we are already so much stronger than we give ourselves credit for.