The Unspoken Side Effect

Since March is Endometriosis Awareness Month I thought would shed light on a side effect that rarely crosses the mind of someone without endometriosis: depression.

Conspiracy theories aside, many biographers think that Marilyn Monroe’s life long battle with depression was caused by her endometriosis, and that her eventual suicide was an accident from her merely trying to escape the pain of the disease that night. People around me generally consider me a positive, upbeat person, but even I can’t escape this side effect of my illness. For me personally there are a few reasons why I occasionally struggle with depression from endometriosis.

1. You can’t escape it. You can leave a shitty job or a bad relationship when you’re unhappy, but there’s no escaping your own physical body. There’s no cure for endometriosis and very few effective treatments, you have good days, you have annoying days, but when it’s bad, it’s bad and there isn’t a pain killer strong enough or a heating pad hot enough to give you relief. 

2. People don’t believe you. You don’t look sick on the outside (totally exhausted, yes, but “sick” no.) As someone who hates to dwell on my illness and downplays my symptoms anyways, people just don’t get it. My first experience with depression came after my original gynecologist flat out did not believe that there was anything wrong with me. (You can read about my struggle to find a diagnosis here) I felt crazy, and the depression from that lasted nearly a year. When I think that the average length of time for a proper diagnosis is 7 years, I wonder if I personally could have made it that long, and am in awe of the women who do.

3. It’s isolating. One in ten women have endometriosis, and although I am grateful for the support I receive from my fellow EndoSisters, it isn’t the same as your loved ones around you just “getting it”. You have thoughts like “Why me?” and “Did I somehow cause this?” but you don’t want to say them outloud and there have been times I’ve completely shut down to the people around me, which as you can guess is not good for relationships. There is a jealousy that happens when you see your loved ones living their unaltered lives, pushing themselves and eating junk with no immediate consequences. Not to mention all the social occasions you miss out on from not feeling well enough to go to. 

4. You feel like you’ll never reach your full potential. I’ve accomplished a lot in my young life, more than some totally healthy people, which begs the question “What could I do if I were totally healthy?”. I have a body that occasionally likes to hold me back, and no matter how hard I push it, it will catch up and knock me down for a few rounds. You can’t rule the world plugged into a heating pad on the couch in the middle of your messy living room you’ve been too exhausted to clean. For the overachiever in me, this is the worst part. 

This is a much more complicated disease to cover in one blog post, but with all things considered how do you keep yourself going? I have a few ways I personally try to deal with it. 

1. I give my body it’s best chance for success, between my diet, the lifestyle changes I have made, and my work with a holistic practitioner, and I hope that my body returns the favor.

2. I treat myself. If I have to spend some downtime with a heating pad in my bed, you can bet it’s going to be the nicest damn heating pad, in Egyptian cotton sheets and the softest pillows money can buy. If I feel like crap I can at least feel that way in clothes and makeup that make me happy too! And if I want an occasional chocolate milkshake, I’m going to get one.

3. I do things that make me feel good. I get a massage every month and a reiki treatment when I feel especially drained. I take baths several times a week while I enjoy a glass of wine, and I turn the music up and sing along in the car to and from work because it makes me happy. I recently did a pin up shoot with photographer Laura Dark, just because it sounded fun. I have to say a few hours of ladies pampering you, doing your hair, makeup and dressing you up does wonders for your attitude. It also helps that when I feel like crap I can look at the pictures and think “Yeah but look how hot you are”. I highly recommend it. (If you’re ok with seeing a little skin my shoot it here!) As long as something makes you feel good at the time, don’t feel guilty for indulging a little. 

4. I surround myself with people who love me. I don’t have time for negativity, if you’re not good for me you have no place in my life. The people around me motivate me to keep going. It makes a huge difference when I can go over to my sister’s house to watch Golden Girls with no expectations from her to be in a wonderful mood. Don’t even get me started on when my husband hands me a cup of bone broth, my heating pad and turns my favorite show on Neflix. That’s what real love looks like. 

5. I allow myself to feel sad. I have a chronic illness, every day isn’t going to be sunshine and rainbows and I’m not going to be hard on myself for not being happy all of the time. If I need to take some time to sleep too much and feel sorry for myself, I will. Life is hard, it’s ok if it gets to you, just don’t unpack your bags and live in that feeling.

If you ever get to the point where you are considering doing something drastic, I urge you to get help. You have survived 100% of your worst days up to now, there is no reason to ruin that perfect track record.