Suffering from endometriosis left me feeling depressed, sad and just really sorry for myself. Most days I would suffer from chronic pelvic pain, lower back pain and excruciating painful periods that would make it difficult for me to work or focus and concentrate on tasks effectively. The cause of my debilitating pain was diagnosed to be related to endometriosis. Every month I would have anxiety because I would once again have to let my manager know that I am unable to work because I am having bad pain management days. Often times I would need to take several days off around the time of my period. I love my job and I needed to find a way to better manage my symptoms and get my life back. What's more, the physical pain was impacting my mental health, self-esteem and ability to manage my full-time job effectively.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a chronic illness. A health condition that affects about one in every 10 women. And in women who experience very painful periods, endometriosis could affect as many as six out of 10. It is a chronic illness where cells from the lining of the uterus grow elsewhere in the body. As with menstruation, the cells break down and bleed each month, except that they cannot escape. This can cause debilitating pain, heavy periods and infertility. Endometriosis usually disappears after menopause.
An endometriosis flare-up can be debilitating to people with endometriosis, worsening pain, heavy bleeding and interrupting their sleep. Flares intensify symptoms of endometriosis and eventually subside after a while. Sometimes the changes in the intensity of symptoms are predictable and other times they can come without warning.
There is no known cause of endometriosis, nor is there a cure. Surgery, hormone treatments such as the contraceptive pill and pain-relieving medication help to reduce or relieve the symptoms.
Impacts of Dealing With Endometriosis At Work
Everyone's endometriosis symptoms are different and managing symptoms of endometriosis in the workplace for everyone is different. From my experience working through an endo-flare can be incredibly distressing. As a consequence, women in the workplace are often forced to take sick days, ask for flexible working arrangements, or just endure their pain as best they can. In other words, managing endometriosis and managing a full-time job is extremely challenging - emotionally, mentally and physically.
We need to explore the best ways in which we can make the impact of endometriosis more manageable. As well as look at small things we can start doing to make work life that much easier.
Some of the impacts of dealing with endometriosis:
Frequently calling in sick
Dealing with brain fog
Fatigue and depleting energy levels
Having to push through the pain to get work done
Wishing your period would start on the weekend to avoid working in pain
Trouble sitting for long periods of time, because of leg or back pain
Taking pain medication to get through the day
Less productive and feel slow
Leaving work early to go home due to intense pain
Immediately crash when home because of exhaustion
Tips For Managing The Symptoms
If you like myself have received an endometriosis diagnosis you will need to learn how best to manage and cope with endometriosis at work. Endometriosis can be a debilitating condition that can leave you feeling depressed. However, there are things you can do. There are three key areas to consider. By following these three tips, you can take back control of your life and work.
1. Proactive planning:
Identifying what you can do to prepare for an endo-flare and by doing so potentially avoiding pain and symptoms.
Think about how you can prepare in advance, so if you do get a flare-up during working or at the office, you will have all the essentials at hand to manage as best you can. For example, have a drawer in the office, or take with you, your essential endo-flare kit items. I like to have supplements such as vitamin D and magnesium and turmeric supplements. Stick-on heat pads, a hot water bottle, pain-relief medication, and sanitary pads. Herbal teas and some essential oils to help keep me calm and relaxed.
Additionally, I make sure my desk area is as comfortable as possible when working from the office. I have a good chair and a rest for my feet. Having these make a big difference. When I didn’t have them and the pain kicked in, the lack of support on my back worsened the aching and stiffness. At home, I invested in an electric heating pad. I use it most days to keep my pelvic area warm and it helps me relax.
Identifying what will assist you to stay well whilst managing a chronic condition.
Once you can identify and recognize what sort of things or circumstances could trigger a flare, you can start thinking abou