The Day I Realized My Endometriosis Was Back
I sneezed and the pain ripped my abdomen.
My heart lurched — a flashback from my life from “before” — but I brushed it aside and moved on.
That night in the bath, I noticed bruises on my arms and legs — bruises that didn’t come from any bang or bump. As if in a fog, I began to remember all the times from “before” when I had been covered in bruises for no reason. “It is just a coincidence,” I thought, and moved on.
The next day, as I got up from watching my kids play in the sprinkler, my back froze up, and I was brought to my knees in pain. My heart sank. I couldn’t ignore it anymore. My endometriosis was back.
I have suffered from endometriosis since I was 16. As the years passed and I grew from a teenager into an adult, my life became more and more consumed by the pain, the bleeding, the fatigue.
At first, my symptoms lingered for seven days a month. I could manage because I knew I would get a reprieve from the pain. Then my symptoms came more often. My periods lasted longer and got heavier. My pain became a constant companion. By the time I was in my early 30s, my symptoms came 20 out of 24 days a month. I would have to constantly take over-the-counter painkillers to get through my days. Many nights I would quietly cry myself to sleep in pain wondering if I should go to the emergency room. Some nights I went.
During those years, I did my best to keep it in. I did my best to hide it from everyone around me, including my sweet husband. I did my best to live through the pain that I knew was growing inside me.
My life during this time was not only consumed by my physical pain, but by emotional pain as well. My oldest daughter died on July 31, 2004. After having healthy daughter in December 2005, my girl youngest was born in April 2007 with massive health issues. My life was in crisis mode. I hardly noticed my pain because my heart hurt so much worse than my abdomen.
As my youngest daughter grew stronger and I began to learn to manage my bereavement over my oldest daughter, I realized my endo was only getting worse. The pain was crushing. The bleeding was unmanageable. The fatigue was debilitating.
By 2008, I began to try everything I could to stop the physical pain. I had already been through a laparoscopy with my local doctor. She told me there was nothing more she could do. I tried a highly restrictive anti-inflammation diet, Chinese herbs and physical therapy. Nothing worked. I was consumed.
I reached a breaking point in the fall of 2009. I vividly remember the night I broke. It was 3 a.m., and I couldn’t sleep from the pain that shot like fiery-hot pokers in my abdomen every time I moved. I went to my computer, desperate and sobbing to make the pain end.
After hours of searching, I ended up in a suicide chat room. I wasn’t suicidal that night, but as I followed links in other people’s stories, I saw posts about the pain from endometriosis and suicide. Then there was that split second when I thought, “I get it — that would make the pain stop.” And it literally took my breath away — that I even thought about suicide scared me to death.
In that instant, I knew I needed help and needed it fast. I had two amazing living daughters and a loving husband. I became suddenly and acutely aware I was missing my own life.
It was that night when I decided to share my story with family and friends. I realized that “being brave” might kill me. So I told people around me I needed help. I researched my options and found a lovely endometriosis center in Atlanta that promised me relief. The only problem was that it cost thousands and thousands of dollars that I didn’t have — including a $5,000 down payment. Determined to reclaim my life, I did what I had to do and asked my parents for a loan. After a long process with the specialist in Atlanta, I had surgery in May 2010.
And life began again. No more pain. No more bleeding. No more diets. No more bruises. I was free.
Six years after my surgery, my life seemed unrecognizable from “before.” I was happy. I was strong. I was ready to take on the world. And then, one day, two months ago, I sneezed and the pain ripped my abdomen.
So here I am. Today is my eighth day of pain this month. It’s 11 a.m. and I have already taken eight over-the-counter pain pills. My sweet living daughters, now 9 and 10, are begging me to play with them upstairs. It’s almost the end of summer break and I would love to. But I can’t. I hurt. I smile and say, “Mama feels like reading her book today.” The lies come as easily as they ever did. Cover it up. Hide it. Smile and act like nothing is wrong. Hope that maybe tomorrow will begin the reprieve, but maybe not. I know how this story goes. I have lived it before. Soon, I will be consumed.
“I can’t do this again” runs through my head over and over. But, as I sit here and the dread builds, I make a promise to myself. This time will be different. This time, I will be different. I will not cover it up. I will ask for help from family and friends. With that, I am ready to face my endometriosis again.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images