There’s a lot I wish I could tell my younger self: do not get bangs, stop investing all my savings in DuctTape, and maybe spend less time planning my wedding with Zayn Malik. But if I had one thing to tell 11-year-old Bridget, I’d want her to know to trust in herself.
I am chronically ill. More than just a cold every now and then or the stomach flu once a year. It’s years spent bent over in pain, fainting, sobbing, just wanting an end to this pelvic aching.
When I was in sixth grade, my first period came with more pain than I could have imagined. I fainted, threw up, and had to miss school because of the intensity of my pain.
After telling my mom, I went to see a doctor. Immediately, I was met with uncertainty from this professional I was supposed to trust. They believed that my pain wasn’t there, or not there to the extent that I said it was.
As a socially awkward and all-around terrified 11-year-old, becoming an advocate for myself felt like the worst possible option. But my pain was too much for me to keep living without treatment, let alone validation that my pain exists. So, I began fighting for a diagnosis.
After years of being told that my pain is a product of my anxiety, I stopped believing in myself. I allowed my pain to continue without a second thought. I convinced myself that if my physicians don’t believe me, why should I believe myself?
Six years went by, and my pain was getting worse. I continued to miss school and my condition still wasn’t being taken seriously. Finally, in the fall of my senior year, I got the confirmation of my suspected diagnosis. And this somehow scared me even more than the years without a cause.
Being diagnosed, while validating, confirmed everything that I had feared for the past six years. This pain is real, it’s incurable, and it’s sticking with me for the rest of my life.
I have endometriosis. Endo-me-tree-oh-sis. A chronic pain condition resulting from the growth of endometrial tissue outside of the uterus. Because the excess tissue has no way to exit the body, it becomes trapped and causes excruciating pain. Other side effects include infertility, heavy and irregular menstrual cycles, and gastrointestinal issues.
Frequently, I romanticize what my life could have been. Of course what it could have been if I wasn’t born sick, but more frequently, what my life would have been like if I was listened to. If the medical world trusted me; if I could have trusted myself.
However, this isn’t just my struggle. Women’s pain isn’t being listened to. In fact, according to a 2008 Sage Journal study, physicians are more likely to interpret men’s symptoms as organic, and the same symptoms in women as psychological. And data from a SpeakEndo article states that although 1 in 10 people of menstruating age have endometriosis in the United States, it takes approximately 6 to 10 years to receive a diagnosis.
Every March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. 30 days spent validating the struggles of the people living with this condition. 30 days to support and uplift people with not just Endometriosis, but all invisible illnesses, who have spent years being told that their claims are fabricated. 30 days to learn how to advocate for yourself and others.
I am 1 in 10. One of the ten people in the United States living with Endometriosis, living with constant, incurable, and sometimes debilitating pain. I am one of the ten people who has been ignored and belittled on the exam table, and I am one of the ten people who is choosing to continue fighting every day.
So, middle school Bridget. I wish you could have understood that what you’re feeling is real, despite seemingly everyone telling you that it isn’t. However, I think this experience has shaped you into the outspoken advocate you are. Don’t lose hope in yourself yet- but maybe stop waiting for Zayn Malik to marry you.