Endometriosis is a right pain, there is no denying it. It is the number one cause of pelvic pain and gynaecological surgery, and it impacts hugely on fertility issues. Not to mention the emotional toll, for me that's been the hardest part. It's very common and impossible to treat and control, generally the only way is surgery. There is no cure. The exact cause is unknown. It could be retrograde menstruation, genetics, immune system issues, environmental, or lymphatic. Endometriosis is when endometrial tissue appears outside of the womb causing havoc to wherever it ends up. The pain can be sudden and short lived at times, ongoing at other times and really emotionally draining. I used to get shooting pains and would quite comically launch into a jump into the air randomly. It's all very tricky and the hardest part is the not knowing what will happen.
When you first get diagnosed you may feel some relief, finally you realise that you were not a hypochondriac who had to go home from school in agony whenever your period started! However, as time goes on the emotional side to this disease can be tough. The pain and irritation can lead to all kinds of feelings. Perhaps worries about the spread of it, worries about surgeries, fertility, chronic pain, career, body image, and relationships. I think the list is endless. Any worry and distress makes the pain so much harder to deal with.
When considering the pain pathway in the body we know that the extent and experience of the pain felt is influenced by mood, emotion, concentration and thoughts. A vicious cycle often develops, more worry - more pain - more worry. I have personally found that mindfulness has changed my relationship to endometriosis and pain. Oh yes I have bad days but they don't last like they used to. Engaging in a focus on the breath, compassionate meditation or acknowledging the discomfort and allowing it to be explored has all led to a change in the pain that I experience from endometriosis.
Compassion is key when we consider pain, bringing kindness and understanding towards ourselves when experiencing pain can make a difference. Studies show time and time again the variance in pain experience when mindfulness and compassion are introduced.
1 Firstly you may become aware of secondary suffering. This is suffering as a result of thoughts about the impact of the pain rather than just the suffering resulting from the pain itself. So, mindfulness enables us to stay with the sensations themselves and reduce the chatter about them in our heads.
2 Our resistance reduces with meditation too, less resistance often leads to lower pain intensity. We are less tense and rigid, which eases discomfort.
3 We become more aware of the little things that bring us happiness, rather than missing them due to being in pain and focused only on discomfort.
4 We start to have more choice about how we will react towards ourselves and the pain. Compassion encourages us to treat ourselves as we would others in pain, with patience and kindness.
5 Awareness grows and we start to be able to develop ourselves again beyond the tight restrictions of all of the associations of being in pain. We can start to enjoy the moment again.