No matter how meticulous we are with our planning, life always throws a few surprises. With a debilitating disease like endometriosis, things can get quite complicated — not only in respect to diagnosis and treatment but also in being emotionally strong during this journey. Emotional resilience is an important coping mechanism for endometriosis patients.
Understanding emotional resilience
Emotional resilience is the ability to withstand and adapt to the various stressors of life. Resilience is the process of adapting to the trauma and stress associated with disease, a personal event, or financial circumstance. Resilience enables you to “bounce back” and can be a source of personal growth.
However, emotional resilience does not mean that you won’t be experiencing stress. It is about building healthy coping mechanisms that don’t allow these stressors to determine the outcome of life. Building emotional resilience takes time, effort, and the willingness to succeed.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a chronic, progressive, inflammatory disease characterized by the growth of endometrial-like tissue outside the uterine cavity. Endometrial lesions can grow at several sites in the pelvic and thoracic cavity.
The main symptoms of endometriosis include chronic pelvic pain, painful menstruation, pain during intercourse, heavy menstrual bleeding, and fatigue. More importantly, the unknown cause of endometriosis and the likelihood for it to be misdiagnosed results in treatments that aren’t effective. This contributes to increased stress and decreased quality of life.
Endometriosis-related pain and possible infertility can lead to emotional distress and increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety. This may affect the personal and professional life of those suffering from endometriosis.
Endometriosis can be an emotional rollercoaster
The emotional impact of endometriosis is often felt from the onset of puberty. Many young girls are told that the menstrual pain they experience is “normal”. They are told that it will go away on its own and to temporarily manage it with pain killers. This delays proper diagnosis and treatment but also means patients have an agonizing experience during the days of menstruation.
Finding expertise in the identification and treatment of endometriosis is difficult and can complicate the road to treatment. Sometimes, it can take decades before a conclusive diagnosis is made. Many general practitioners(GPs) further exacerbate the issue by not acknowledging legitimate symptoms of endometriosis.
The difficulties in the identification and diagnosis of endometriosis are strenuous enough, but the real emotional rollercoaster can start during treatment. A common trend among GPs is to administer combined oral contraceptives (COCs) as a means for temporary symptom relief. However, COCs can potentially speed the progression of endometriosis due to estrogen dominance.
Endometriosis can also be draining when it comes to relationships. Many healthcare providers may not provide the best advice for patients in this area– some may advocate abstinence from sex or, even worse, advocate a complete removal of the uterus (hysterectomy). All this leads to a feeling of uncertainty and unpleasant emotional and sensory experiences.
Developing emotional resilience for endometriosis patients
Endometriosis affects a woman’s functioning with a large impact on emotional health. While common symptoms may be seen in patients, each person’s emotional journey and coping strategies are unique. Specifically, there are large differences between how people cope with pain and express themselves.
This psychopathological aspect of endometriosis often ignored. As a result, individuals come up with resilience measures of their own. Remember that it is always a good idea to seek professional help if you need more assistance.
Build relationships and networks
Not everyone you interact with may be empathetic towards your condition. This is where having a group of family members and friends who are understanding and supportive plays a crucial role. It’s not only about showing empathy. A support network can give you some much needed words of encouragement. Additionally, they can prevent you from isolating yourself during your worst symptoms. Having understanding co-workers can also help you not worry as much about the daunting aspects of work deadlines and targets while also standing by you to convey your needs to management, for example.
Relationships need not be only about family or work. They can also be cultivated in social gatherings either in-person or virtually. Knowing there are people who have your back can offer you relief and give you the confidence to cope with symptoms.
Keep a tab on your mental and physical health
Endometriosis can wreak havoc on your mental and physical health. Feelings of desperation and helplessness can be demotivating and may even lead to anxiety and depression. Not feeling at your best can lead to episodes of brain fog, disturbed sleep, and an overall lack of interest and concentration in doing things.
Acceptance of these symptoms and coming to terms with them is important. In particular, keep in mind that you do not have to feel like this forever. There are solutions out there. Thus making appropriate lifestyle changes can help you cope with these issues. Keep your mind and body active whenever possible. Additionally, avoid negativity as much as possible, and try to look for a sense of purpose in your life. You can take inspiration from other patients who have traversed tragedies and learn how they have emerged stronger. Aside from that, you can be your own inspiration. Techniques like mindfulness, yoga, and meditation can have a calming effect on the mind. Recreational therapy can help you mentally and physically therefore increasing emotional resilience.
Set life and career goals
It also helps to establish a proper work and rest routine so that you feel comfortable while taking it slow and easy. It is easier said than done, but it is important not to get demotivated if endometriosis seems to be gnawing away at your life goals. With a calm mind, plan what you intend to achieve without factoring in any disability. It could be anything related to your personal or professional life. For instance, you may wish to travel or have entrepreneurial ambitions. Knowing that you have goals in mind and are willing to achieve them is a great way to build emotional resilience for endometriosis patients.
Once you have thought of your goals, break them down into smaller, easily achievable targets. Completing smaller tasks gives you a sense of accomplishment and helps keep irrational and negative attitudes at bay. Remember, if you can dream about it, you can probably achieve it.
Eat well and stay hydrated
A healthy diet is crucial for a healthy body and mind. Since endometriosis is an inflammatory disease, a balanced anti-inflammatory diet can help. It is good to consult a qualified nutritionist or a healthcare provider with proper knowledge of endometriosis. They can help you with finding a healthy anti-inflammatory diet.
It is important to note that dietary changes alone cannot treat endometriosis. Laparoscopic excision surgery is the gold standard treatment for endometriosis. However, incorporating changes to your diet and keeping yourself well-hydrated will help in managing the disease and reducing symptom flare-ups. This can help reduce pain and inflammation and give you the confidence to tackle endometriosis head-on.
Do not hesitate to seek and give help
There is absolutely nothing defeatist in seeking help when needed. This help can come from family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, doctors, or local support groups. The important thing to remember here is that you are not alone in your journey. Experiencing discomfort or pain? Ask someone to run an errand for you. Need more information about a particular clinic? Ask patients who use those services. Want to know more about a particular drug or clinical trial? Enroll in support groups and patient advocacy campaigns for more networking opportunities. Feel like something is not normal? Make an appointment with a doctor for a second opinion as well.
Giving back to your community can be just as rewarding. Whenever you feel good, volunteer to help a friend or a charity. Share your knowledge and experiences about endometriosis with fellow patients. This helps foster a sense of self-worth and it can be a learning and resilience-building exercise.