Endometriosis and Mental Health

One of the areas that Endometriosis affects women in a great way is in mental health. Endo warriors fight many psychological battles. These have to do with living with chronic pain and reduced effectiveness, infertility, miscarriages, missed opportunities especially career wise, relationship issues sometimes leading to divorce, body image concerns such as weight gain or scarring from numerous surgeries, mood problems caused by hormones gone berserk or by some of the treatments we get to manage the condition. The list is endless.

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Endo Warriors find that these issues sometimes leave them in a dilemma regarding their identity. Wondering “who am I?” A mum in waiting? The sickly one? The divorcee? The fat one?

Generally, people tend to answer the identity question – who am I – with roles we play such as: I am a wife/ mother of two/ nurse/ divorcee/ the clown in the family. But is that really who we are? The problem with these descriptions is that they are all determined externally and could change any moment. The wife can become widowed or divorced, while the divorcee can get remarried. This is bound to create an identity crisis every time there is a change. Secondly, these roles come with society’s perception and expectation of how they should be played. This can also create disillusionment when we try to do things differently from the norm and the society rejects it. For example, in many of our African societies remarriage of a woman is still frowned upon even following the death of her husband.

So, what if we looked at our identity from a more intrinsic perspective? That instead of waiting for society to tell us who we are, we look inward and see what we are made of – those things that we have control over. Identify ourselves by such things as our values, our thoughts and beliefs, our likes and dislikes. For example, even though the society may mount undue pressure on an Endo Warrior married for a number of years but still trusting God for her miracle baby, she can still walk with her head held up high telling herself that her value as a person is not dependent on being a biological parent.

To achieve this level of self-awareness and confidence, our beliefs play a big role. Our thoughts and beliefs are the lenses through which we interpret the world They affect how we feel and act. Negative thought patterns will certainly make us feel sad, depressed, frustrated, overwhelmed and are likely to make us act irrationally. Some Endo Warriors end up giving in to negative thought patterns and end up feeling overwhelmed while others in the same boat rise above the struggles and end up excelling in their spaces of influence.

One healthy habit that Endo Warriors need to cultivate is guarding their thoughts. This needs to be a daily intentional action. Eventually this forms a habit and it becomes more natural to think rationally. Some of the ways to achieve this is through:

  1. Scheduling some down time – Incorporate quiet time as part of daily routine. Even better if this period includes spiritual nourishment like some uplifting worship music.
  2. Differentiate between what you have control over and what you do not – change whatever needs to be changed and quit worrying about what is not in your power to do so.
  3. Be kind to yourself – Acknowledge the struggles and respect the limitations that come with endo. Remember you never wished this on yourself – you just happen to be one of 176 million strong soldiers worldwide on this assignment.
  4. Self-Awareness – Begin to be aware of when your thoughts start to spiral down the abyss, then stop them. One trick of stopping these thought is to have a rubber band around the wrist. Each time you find yourself thinking negative thoughts, snap the rubber band and the slight pain usually jolts one to the present moment and away from the unhelpful thoughts. Try it!

Faith Osiro first shared this with Endo warriors at the March 2018 Endometriosisis Foundation of Kenya Endomarch event. She is a counsellor based in Nairobi. If you would like to get in touch with her, please reach her on 0737 861671.

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