Last week, a caller on the syndicated call-in radio program “Loveline” prefaced his question by listing the symptoms of his fiancée’s endometriosis. The radio show’s host, Dr. Drew, cut him off:
“These are what we call sort of functional disorders. Everything you mentioned, everything you mentioned, are things that actually aren’t discernibly pathological. They’re what we call ‘garbage bag diagnoses,’ when you can’t think of anything else, you go, ‘Eh, it’s that.’ So, it then makes me question why is she so somatically preoccupied that she’s visiting doctors all the time with pains and urinary symptoms and pelvic symptoms, and then that makes me wonder, was she sexually abused growing up?”
Word? Okay. Because this one dude won’t ever experience a condition affecting 5 million American women, that means it’s got to be made up? Some of us might be survivors of sexual abuse. Because you can be a survivor of sexual abuse and have endometriosis at the damn same time. But being a survivor of sexual abuse and having endometriosis are mutually exclusive. Because sexual abuse does not cause endometriosis.
A few days before I underwent an exploratory surgery to determine whether or not I had endometriosis, a friend asked me to describe the pain during my periods:
It’s like that ubiquitous carnival knife-throwing act where the wily magician volunteers a delicate woman to come onto the stage and lock her into binds on a slab of wood — except all the knives are penetrating my abdomen instead of swiftly swooshing into the slab. And the knife-throwing sometimes lasted for hours. And depending on how the magician was feeling, he’d give me a rest. But he’d stand there with the daggers in hand, watching me, and so the “rest” was always anxiety-ridden. I knew he’d strike me again. And he always did. Sometimes it was after one minute, sometimes it was after five minutes. And when he did, I’d wail, writhe and wiggle to get out of the binds and off the wooden slab. But nothing worked. Not a hot washcloth, not a heating pad, not popping six fucking Advil at a time. I made myself throw up, because I knew I was going to throw up anyway, and it’s better do before the pain reached its inevitable apex. And I’d be sweating, and screaming out, I’d really be screaming out in agony in my house, alone. And for a brief moment I’d come to, self-conscious about how crazy I looked, sitting in my room, a ragdoll on the floor up against my closet door with my legs splayed and my comforter acting like a towel. I wiped the chunky, chunky beads of sweat from forehead, laughing deliriously.
And it wasn’t just my period. Sex hurt, too. At first it was dull enough to keep to myself. I didn’t want my partner to think of me as fragile. I’m not trying to be some kind of sack of potatoes in the sack, you know? But after some months it became too acute.
After setting a date for the surgery at my doctor’s office, I called my mom. I began to cry. What if it it wasn’t endometriosis and they’d find something else? But what if it was? What if they discover endometriosis spread all over, to my colon even. What if it spread so much that I wouldn’t be able to conceive a child?
In the weeks leading up to my surgery, I called my mom incessantly to go over the different scenarios. I became fixated, consumed by thoughts of not being able to conceive. Finally, calmly, she said: “That’s what happened to me. I had endometriosis. That’s why I couldn’t conceive. That’s why we adopted you. Still the best thing I ever did.”
Yeah, that shit actually happened.
In mid-March I underwent the surgery. I had the endo. They scraped it all out. It wasn’t so advanced. I can have babies. You know, feeling better feels better than knowing I can have babies. A lot better.
But the whole thing sounds unpleasant, yeah? It doesn’t sound like something anyone ever on the face of the planet-slash-universe would ever want to lie about, right? It doesn’t seem like that thing that so indelibly affected my mother’s life (selfishly in the best way because now I’m her daughter), is something she’d lie about, right? Awno though, maybe all of the other five million American women who have endometriosis are lying. Maybe?
[Image of woman in pain via Shutterstock]