Ever since it all started, about a week after my 12th birthday, I knew there was something not quite right. Amongst the blinding pain, fainting spells and too many days of missed school the best advice my doctors could provide was that it was a part of life, that it was normal, and that it would go away after I had children 🙄😑
At the age of 14, this was neither helpful nor constructive.
The doctor did prescribe me the pill (at 14!) to deal with the extreme pain. I took it for a while but had zero relief so stopped taking it.
As I got older the symptoms worsened, and it’s impacts grew more severe. In high school I was able to get away with missing several days each month, but it soon turned into days off university… and then several days off work. Everyone just thought I was making it up, exaggerating or using the pain as an excuse. If only it was…
Of course, it isn’t just the pain, bloating or feeling like crap in general (to name just a few symptoms), slowly my digestive system was also being affected. From about a week prior to my period I would get the 💩s like I’d taken laxatives as if they were gummy bears. And during my period, bowel movements would bring on such blinding pain (which no amount of pain killers could mask) that I’d be bed ridden for the remainder of the day.
Let your imagination run wild about the sheer amount of pain killers I would consume in those few days to just mildly mask the pain 💊💊💊. I tried the Implanon contraceptive, but since having it implanted in my arm I had my period continuously for 3 weeks (mostly spotting, sometimes actually bleeding) so had it taken out asap. I went back on the pill after that.
It wasn’t until 2011-12 when I decided enough was enough and visited a few specialists who would actually listen and do something about it. Endometriosis was the prime suspect by all the doctors given the set of symptoms I was experiencing.
Because endometriosis cannot usually be seen externally, by radiology scans or otherwise, the only other option going forward was to ‘go in and have a look’. In 2013, I went in to have a laparoscopy for excision of endometriosis.
The operation was simple enough and I recovered very quickly. It turned out there was endometriosis tissue (and scar tissue) on the surface of my bowels and some other areas that explained my irritable bowels during that time of the month.
I had arranged with my doctor to have a Mirena IUD while I was under general anaesthetic. In the months to come to noticed the absence of my usual endo symptoms and I was over the moon.
I was finally free!
About 10 months later my husband and I decided we wanted to have a baby and so out came the IUD. About three months later I started to feel those dreaded, familiar symptoms. As a side note, I have not been on any contraceptive ever since and have been feeling better every year.
A doctor visit later I was told that endometriosis can come back and even if I went under again, there was a good chance it would keep coming back again… (#WTF!!!). I don’t remember my surgeon telling me this before the operation - only the risks involved with going under for an operation!!! But I digress…
4 years and 1 IVF cycle later (… and still no baby - but that’s another story) I’ve learnt how to take better care of myself to get by. Read about Travelling with Endometriosis on how I now manage Aunt Flo and all her uninvited guests.
Following my post about Living with Endometriosis I’ve listed the ways I manage the monthly unwelcome visit of Aunt Flo and her endo gang members.
How I manage
My first line of defence is medication - even though it should probably be a good diet and regular exercise 🤫 - but when the pain hits what else can you do?!
For me the fail-proof pain relief is Naprogesic. I make sure to take a full packet with me anywhere I go whether or not my period is due.
Aside from 💊💊s, a hot water bottle is the only, near-instant pain relief. Living in Singapore poses an issue, with temperatures usually above 30℃ the only things I can do is close the doors and windows, crank up the air-con, and place the furnace of a hot water bottle on my aching belly.
If this is a preferred method of pain relief, for travel, bring a small heat pack that’s small enough to stuff into a gap in luggage and pop into a microwave when needed.
For several months I experimented a little with my diet cutting out and adding different food groups. I found the times when I eliminated dairy, red meat, soy and alcohol my symptoms were at their least aggressive. I’m sure there are other things I could have done to further reduce symptoms but that was the extent of my ‘experiment’.
While I’m travelling I’m less likely to obey these rules (and sometimes when I’m not travelling too 😜) but, as always, moderation is key.
I’m not all that active and it’s never really been my forte (t’s always on the new years resolutions list 😏) but when I did regular exercise, particularly during my period, the cramping and stabbing pains felt less severe.
Yoga, I found, eases the pain most effectively, by somehow stretching out and untangling my insides. Yoga is good 🧘
The same month that I had my Mirena IUD taken out was when I began tracking my cycle. I downloaded Glow and started logging the dates of my period and all that other good stuff 😳
I’ve recently switched to using Clue. I find it much easier to interact with and is less pink, flowery, feminine and doesn’t have a forum (which Glow has and is a bit too out-of-control for my liking). I now have 4 years worth of data making my predictions very accurate and has given me an appreciation of the way my cycle works.
I now have 4 years worth of data making my predictions very accurate and has given me an appreciation of the way my cycle works.
Period Care Products
Finally, there are those products I’ve discovered that make those few days a bit easier, namely Lunette Cup and THINX underwear. You can also read my THINX Period Diary for a day-by-day account of my experience with them.
This is an account of my experience with endometriosis and the struggles before realising that was the cause of all the pain as well as how I now manage it. If you’re experiencing pain or any other symptom, seek medical advice.