To My Teenaged Self, Who Doesn't Know She Has Endometriosis
Dear Teenaged Tracy,
You are not “crazy.” You are sick.
I know. It really, really sucks. I’m sorry you’re sick, and I’m sorry you’ll never be cured.
But please take comfort in knowing that there’s a name for what you have. For the sinking feeling you get when you realize your period has started, completely unscheduled. For the creeping sensation that happens right before the world gets hazy and pain begins to crush your abdomen. For the searing, crippling agony that radiates through your entire body, until you fall asleep from exhaustion. For what’s kept you from countless classes, social events, obligations and a feeling of security. There’s a name. And there are people who have what you have.
Your life with endometriosis isn’t going to be easy, but I promise that a diagnosis will make it easier. You’ll have a surgery and probably more than one, and your scars will just become another casualty of finding solutions to your symptoms.
You’ll take a myriad of pills and have an equal number of doctors, poking and prodding you for the rest of your life. You’ll know more about your illness than some of those doctors will, and you’ll get frustrated and weed some out before you find one you can trust. You’ll argue with insurance companies and become everyone’s go-to person for medical advice. You hate doctors now, but you’ll get used to them.
And you’ll be shocked to know how much you’ll talk about your uterus some day. You’re going to blog about your uterus, and people are going to read it. I’m sorry. Please don’t be embarrassed. It’ll be great. I promise.
I should probably tell you that you might not have kids. You might not be able to conceive on your own, and if you do, you might have trouble carrying that baby to a full term. But I want you to know that you’re still going to fall in love and get married. And your husband is never going to hold your likely infertility against you. “Family” might not look the same to others as it does to you, but it’s going to mean the same.
You’ll have to give up some of the busyness that you thrive on, so that you have energy to do the things you truly love. You’ll have to prioritize reasons to leave the house, so that you can travel that weekend or attend a party without being exhausted or suffering a flare-up. Oh, and please start letting go now because you’re too young to be so stressed.
But you’ll still have fun. You’ll survive college. You’ll move to a new state. You’ll get a job in your field. You’ll make new friends. You’ll be in a band. You’ll go a lot of places. You’ll fall in love with writing again. You’ll save up your energy so that you can unleash all of your emotions at a ton of concerts and music festivals. You’ll have a lot of incredible experiences that not even endometriosis can take away from you.
I know you’re probably scared now and wondering how you’re going to do all of this on your own. But don’t worry! You’re not going to be on your own.
You’re going to have an amazing husband who will make you food or take care of chores when you’re too sick and tired. Who will hold you and watch your favorite TV shows, even if you fall asleep in the middle of them. Who will sit in all of your major doctor appointments and listen to you rant about feeling like crap, despite the fact there’s no distinct point to the ranting. Who will still think you’re beautiful when you spend days in pajamas with no makeup.
You’ll have a great family to be there for you, even though they live in another state. They’ll pick up the phone and listen to you recite the doctor’s orders. They’ll adjust meal plans to accommodate your vegetarian diet. (Yeah, get this. You’ll really love veggies some day. Right?!) They will be ceaselessly optimistic about your health, even when you’re certain that there’s nothing to look forward to. They’ll love you despite that.
You’ll also have the sweetest little dog to curl up next to on the couch. Who will snuggle under your electric blanket and lick away your tears. Who will be a bigger support to you than most humans, even though she has no idea what’s wrong. Even your job will be great! You’ll work for a cause you care a lot about. You’ll have co-workers and managers who will understand that working from home is easier on your body. And when you need to take a day off for surgeries and doctor appointments, you’ll have a great team you can count on.
And you’ll have a ton of great friends who will support you from day one. You’ll even have friends with endometriosis — both at home and across the country! You’ll have shoulders to cry on and people who will listen to your probably-too-graphic recounts of your latest procedures. But they’ll always be encouraging, even if they don’t always understand.
There will be people out there who don’t understand. A lot of people will say cold and callous things. And I know you’ll take it to heart. You’ll wonder how people can be so ignorant, how they can’t sympathize with something they can’t experience.
But please try to disregard the criticism. And please know you’re doing everything right, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.
Endometriosis is going to be one of the most incredible and most terrible things that’s ever happened to you. It’s going to take away a lot that you thought was certain, but it’s going to teach you so much about yourself.
You’ll find out who really cares, what really deserves your attention and how you should take care of yourself. It’s going to be a constant learning experience, years and years of trial-and-error. You’re going to feel like you’ll never get it right, never reach a point of serenity and understanding. But you know, I think those are myths anyway, and you’re going to be OK without them.
Teenaged Tracy, you can do all of this. It’ll absolutely seem overwhelming at first, and sometimes, even years into your diagnosis, it won’t make sense. You’ll get mad and cry and want to give up, but you won’t ever give up. You’ll keep going — not just because you have no other choice, but because it’s who you are.
I’m proud of you already. And the best is yet to come.
The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to your teenaged self when you were struggling to accept your differences. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.