Can We Talk about Anything Else

A year into this blog, I wrote about my lifelong dance with bipolar disorder. Clawing my way out of a deep depressive episode at the time, I was writing nothing and had nothing to lose. Even in 2013, coming out as bipolar was something only celebrities did in public When you’re not famous enough to announce it on Letterman, people look at you funny, and I was anxious about hitting “Publish” that day.

That’s nothing compared to the angst I feel as I click the publish button today.

Five years ago I was trying to move from IT to teaching. I’d found a teacher prep program. I got a part-time job as a para-educator at a place to get experience and student teach while keeping my old job. 

I’d forgotten, however, that my work at home mom status (WAHM) had not been entirely a matter of choice.

A few weeks into the new job, we were trying to get a group of preschoolers out for a walk, when I started to pass out. The other teachers in the group covered for me as I tried to recover, but I had literally fallen down on the job. I left to go home but passed out when I got to my car. 

When I woke up, I decided that an ambulance would scare kids at the school and stupidly drove myself to the emergency room. The ER staff ran bloodwork, and, discovering I was severely anemic, told me I needed rest and no driving. I said I’d always been anemic but never knew why. 

I was having my period and asked to go to the bathroom during the first hour. Having learned years earlier that ibuprofen could stop bleeding, I’d taken a pile of pills in the morning. They were wearing off, and about 20 minutes later I asked  to go to the bathroom again, and the nurse asked me about it. 

I don’t know why, but even wearing a Johnny that left little to the imagination, with wires and tubes attached to and coming out of me, I had to whisper when talking about my “period” (I cringed when I typed it just now). Most people – including me – would rather talk about anything else.

As I talked with the nurse and then the doctor, they realized I wasn’t having a normal period. I never had a normal period. I single-handedly kept Tampax stock prices afloat. I was the mother of the Mississippi.

For almost 20 years, I had mentioned “heavy” flow to various doctors or midwives, usually getting a pat answer like “everybody’s different,” so I accepted that anemia was normal. Going through a small bottle of ibuprofen every month to be able to leave the house for a few hours was normal. 

I never talked about it with anyone else because most other people would also rather talk about anything else. The very thing that makes it possible for women to have babies is also a subject that is most taboo.

The ER docs gave me a prescription and a referral. My regular GYN had retired, and the referral connected me with a new one. He got my health history and scheduled an ultrasound, quickly diagnosing me with a condition called adenomyosis, similar to endometriosis. The then-new doctor explained there were minimally invasive options to manage the condition but only one foolproof cure. 

Why am I bringing this up five years later when there are so many other things to write about?

Because the only cure for adenomyosis is it hysterectomy, which I’m having a week from today.

I’ve had enough surgeries over my life that I’m not particularly nervous about this one, but I am annoyed with myself. I’m haven’t let convention dictate my writing or conversations much in recent years. This topic maybe a doozy, but I realized convention had kept me from talking about adenomyosis and from finding answers years earlier. Period silence creates fewer places to get information and help  — online and off – for many women.  For me, silence caused multiple miscarriages, kept me working at home because I was terrified to be more than 10 feet from a bathroom five days out of every month, and nearly cost me the opportunity to do something useful.

So, while it’s not something I want or plan to talk about all the time, I’m no longer willing to tip-toe around it. 

7 thoughts on “Can We Talk about Anything Else

  1. Thank you for sharing. I’m glad you are going for the cure. Another ailment folks don’t talk about is IBS . I’ve had it for about 5-6 years and there are times I don’t want to be too far away from the bathroom. I shared this because of all you have shared. Your courage gave me courage to share something most folks rather not talk about. I will send positive energy your way for no complications and a good recovery.

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  2. An article in today’s NY Times discusses the Western doctors attitude to menstruation and how it has harmed women over many decades. The best to you with your upcoming surgery, you will feel better!

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  3. I never wanted to talk about it either. My mother always treated it as if it was something to be embarrassed or ashamed about. And I suffered awful pain, but not like you. I had a hysterectomy about 5 years ago. At least today it’s pretty painless. I wish you the best.

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  4. I had a complete hysterectomy when diagnosed with ovarian cancer 23 years ago. Setting the whole cancer treatment aside, my initial reaction to the hysterectomy was a feeling of freedom. No more periods, no more birth control, and no having to deal with erratic fluctuations in menstruating as menopause advanced.
    Since then I’ve noted the gradual changes my body went through as a body without hormones. Dry skin, zero sex drive, loss of bone density, and general aging. All about 15 years earlier than I would have experienced with “normal” menopause.
    Despite the negatives of aging before my time, I still feel the freedom, and I’m pretty sure you will too. Will your surgery leave your ovaries intact? If so, you won’t need the bottle of Astroglide lubricant that I’d recommend. Will you have the minimally invasive belly button method? It makes recovery incredibly easy.
    I hope it all goes well and that you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. Best wishes for your new found freedom!

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    1. It will be minimally invasive but still, hopefully, keep the ovaries (which have been misbehaving and could go if the surgeon sees anything seriously sketchy). Most people who’ve responded here or via email have said they didn’t regret it.

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  5. Thank you Rachel for talking about a difficult subject. You will probably hear from many women about this, my story is that many, many years ago I had problems with heavy and frequent periods which also caused intense pain. The first doctor I saw about it told me that it was just my body preparing to have babies in the future!! When I finally got referred to the Yale New Haven women’s clinic the young doctor there told me immediately what the problem was – endometriosis. I was treated and was able to give birth to two children before the endometriosis came back and then I had a hysterectomy. I think you will be very glad you had the surgery, I know I was!! I’ll be thinking of you and hoping it all goes well.
    Sincerely Sue Martin

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