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The One Word People With Adenomyosis Are Tired of Hearing

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Stress. It’s become somewhat of a buzzword in our society recently, which is a wholly positive thing as mental health is finally being recognized as important as our physical health.

However, if you struggle with adenomyosis, a common but ill-understood chronic gynecological condition, you’re probably sick to death of hearing the word “stress” by now.

It’s not to say that stress doesn’t have an impact on physical health, because it has been proven time and time again that the way we feel emotionally effects the way our body feels. But, if you’re dealing with an extremely painful long-term condition like adenomyosis, it isn’t helpful when this word is used as if it’s the miracle answer we’ve been looking for.

My journey to diagnosis has been a long one. Struggling with chronic, debilitating pelvic pain from the age of 14, which developed slowly into a whole host of other symptoms — digestive issues, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, anxiety, excruciating periods and hip, thigh, back and leg pain — that I now know are all the symptoms of adenomyosis (sometimes shortened to “Adeno”).

It took 10 years of being fobbed off by countless doctors, who all insinuated that my troubles were due to “stress” in its multiple forms. In my teens from exam and school stress; my early-20s from university stress; and in my mid-20s from life stress.

Other women with adenomyosis and endometriosis (a similar, but different gynecological condition), will understand the frustration of being told your problems are effectively self-inflicted, even when we know this is not the case.

I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at age 21 after I began experiencing panic attacks. I know now that the pains that preceded these attacks were actually my Adeno symptoms, with my body reacting to the severe pain with anxiety.

I only received my diagnosis last year, after years of suffering and when the damage to my mental health had already been done. Years of not being listened to, of incorrectly prescribed antidepressants and therapy when the issue was not, in fact, “stress.”

Since my diagnosis, I have only told a few people what’s been going on. And frustratingly, I was met by some people who used my favorite word again — “Are you sure it’s not ‘stress?’”

I am the first to admit that being under any kind of emotional or physical stress exacerbates my symptoms, but exacerbates is the key word here. Stress is not the cause of my condition. I have not used the power of my mind to encourage the cells lining my uterus to grow into the muscle wall.

What I want people without the condition to understand is, when you suggest that I’m unwell because of stress, it lays a heavy suggestion of responsibility at my door. That I’m somehow to blame for what’s happening inside my body.

No matter how much yoga I do, how many herbs and supplements I take, how many hot baths I languish in, I will always have adenomyosis, until I’m old enough to have a hysterectomy. Yes, these natural remedies for stress are amazing, and I will always advocate for their use in symptom management, but the reality is, there is an underlying physical cause for my pain.

This is not just a message to doctors, who don’t yet recognize the symptoms of Adeno, but to anyone who comes into contact with someone who is struggling with this condition. All we want is to be acknowledged and for our pain to be validated.

Photo by AndriyKo Podilnyk via Unsplash.
Originally published: March 3, 2020
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