Women who are diagnosed with endometriosis seem to have an unstoppable drive to operate independently. This drive, which is often combined with an outstanding willpower, makes us appear like some kind of superwoman. A superwoman who is always in control and self-confident. The question arises how it is possible for us to cope with the famous killer cramps which are typical for endometriosis. How it is possible to lead a successful life beside the pain, which demands a high dose of energy.
Women who are diagnosed with endometriosis are often mentally extremely strong. They also appear to have a tendency to set high standards for themselves, are highly competitive and almost never seem to give up physically. It is not very hard to imagine the presence of these characteristics into daily life with endometriosis. We actually are capable to block pain mentally to extreme extends. Many times this pain is blocked until a pain level is reached which makes walking almost impossible. Even then we only take a rest period which is too short and does not correspond with the level of pain and discomfort. Everyday we are fighting against endometriosis, we refuse to let endometriosis take control over our bodies and lives. It is confronting though to see that many other women in our surroundings seem to live an active life without any effort. As a result we seem to have a tendency to create a coping mechanism which makes other people, and ourselves, believe we can do just the same. It also suits us just fine to have jobs and lead lives where aiming for order and perfection, dealing with pressure and taking responsibility often are normal facets in daily life. Ironically our surroundings, for example colleagues, sometimes have no clue about how we battle endometriosis every day.
The question arises how it is possible for us to develop such an extreme coping mechanism which can sometimes suppress the killer cramps for years before we go see a doctor. How it is possible to cope with chronic exposure to pain? Research shows that we use, or more likely abuse, adrenaline. The adrenaline levels are chronically exploited which makes it possible for us to repress the pain and keep on living our busy daily lives and challenge the daily hassle. For a limited period of time that is. It often seems that we have an infinite source of energy which allows us to keep moving forward and that chronic fatigue is relatively irrelevant. Overcompensation of adrenaline levels usually only occurs during a fight or flight response, a response to a perceived harmful event. This response is a physiological reaction that causes adrenaline levels to increase which as a result gives our body a boost. Of course this overcompensation of adrenaline can only last for a certain period of time before there will be a turning point. It’s impossible for the human body to keep operating in a fight or flight state. This "false" energy will cause a hormonal imbalance that causes fatigue. This turning point can many times be seen as a milestone since this is often the moment when a doctor is consulted. At this point the realisation that the pain that comes with endometriosis is not normal often kicks in.
This strong personality that enables us to move on, even though the pain is many times unbearable, is founded by both nurture and nature. Repeatedly we have to stand our ground and fight for acceptance with respect to mental, physical and social aspects. How many times are we not believed by doctors, teachers, colleagues or even friends or family? That people think we complain and exaggerate to get attention? That we try to get away from work or school or that it is seen as a cry for love from family or men. All these experiences go with frustration, anger and the feeling of not being accepted or being believed. These negative experiences could be fundamental for the highly competitive attitude and the tendency to set high standards. It forms our personality and behaviour. When not being believed time after time, the will to prove that the pain is not a cry for attention can take over. A will that appears to be so strong it can push the pain to the background and can toughen you up to extreme levels. When we take a look at nature, research shows that for memory consolidation a brain mechanism called protein synthesis is required. There is an important role of DNA in protein synthesis. When memories are based on experiences that are colored with feelings of anger and frustration, the DNA that is involved through protein synthesis will also contain these emotions that go with the memory.
Women who are diagnosed with endometriosis are often fighting this constant battle since their early teens. Dr. Seckin believes that this battle creates a certain personality. A so called "Type E personality." Out of necessity our personalities become strong and highly-independent. Women are used to fighting endometriosis and everybody who does not take this invisible disease seriously. Over and over. As we all know, it is important to spread awareness. Many support groups can be found in social media, like Endo Warriors. It is of great importance to make this invisible disease visible by talking about the symptoms and how endometriosis influences our daily lives. Also it is important to help each other, give each other advice and share good and bad moments. How a woman becomes a "warrior" driven to spread awareness and help others is amazing. We have to, and we will, keep on fighting, fighting like only a girl can do!
Mandy Smeetz-Klumpkens is a 28-year-old psychologist and endometriosis patient living in Holland. Mandy just joined our team to write articles not only from a psychological perspective, but also from a…
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Your browser does not support the audio element. Endometriosis is an illness that impacts upon women’s ability to become pregnant. Many women don’t even know that they have the illness…
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