IDEAS: My painful condition affects millions of women. Don’t suffer in silence.

Angelica Young

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Angelica Young

I cried when I wrote this.

Living with a painful condition is hard enough; sharing it with the world even harder. So here goes.

I knew something was wrong in my late teens.

During my monthly menstrual cycle, I suffered from terrible lower back pain and

migraines that lasted days. I was tired, bloated, and nauseous. After years of pain, my doctor finally found what ailed me: Endometriosis.

Endometriosis affects one in 10 women between the ages of 15 and 49. Moreover, research shows it takes anywhere from four to 11 years for a woman to be diagnosed because, among other reasons, there’s no simple diagnostic test.

Think about that. Years, maybe even more than a decade, in pain.

In my case, I didn’t know what was wrong with me until I had a laparoscopy. I’m now recovering from my sixth laparoscopy, which cleared out the scar tissue that had built up due to Endometriosis. I have stage 4 extensive Endometriosis, so for me, a laparoscopy is like a patch on a tire, I’ll always require constant treatment.

And worse, I can’t naturally conceive a child. That is soul-crushing.

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, and an estimated seven million American women have the disorder. Right here, in our community, there are women reading this in pain.

Here are some of the things I’ve gone through.

I gained 65 pounds, weight gain that can be associated with certain aspects of the disorder. That’s tough to take for someone who’s athletic and participated in, and won, beauty pageants. When I look in the mirror, I don’t feel like I see myself.

I spent days curled up in a ball from horrific pain. I cringed each time someone dismissed my pain as “not that bad.” I felt insecure, thinking I can’t do what other people do, and I felt inferior because I can’t naturally bear children.

Former State Rep. Fred Strahorn was one of the sponsors of a bill that would have required health insurers to cover endometriosis, but it never advanced. I’ve since worked with Strahorn to craft a bill that would add endometriosis coverage.

“I thought it was important to educate people on the impact of Endometriosis and support meaningful policy changes that lead to better health outcomes for women,” he said.

State Rep. Willis Blackshear understands how important this issue is to women like me.

“I look forward to supporting legislation that addresses the issues surrounding Endometriosis. With 1 in 10 women living with this condition, you likely know someone who has Endometriosis-- it may even be you. It’s time that we put forth legislation that protects women that have Endometriosis.”

So why write this now? During Women’s History Month, other women should know they’re not alone. Other women should know what they can do if caught in the same situation as me.

● If you’re in pain, find a doctor. If you’re still in pain, find another doctor. Remember, Endometriosis is hard to diagnose.

● Don’t suffer in silence. There are lots of available hotlines and online communities to help, like this one from the Endometriosis Association.

● Share your story. That’s a good way to make sure you’re not alone.

And most importantly, be kind to yourself. Look in the mirror and see you.

Angelica Young is the Outreach Coordinator for DO YOU ENDO, an online magazine for individuals with Endometriosis. She is the daughter of interim Ideas and Voices editor Ray Marcano.

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