We are taught to feel shame about discussing our gynecological health.
We receive messages in many ways, often by silence on the topic or, as many of us have experienced, being taught to resort to "baby" language, like "pipi" to refer to penis, vulva or vagina.
This teaches us as children to internalize shame around sexual and reproductive health.
I now break the silence in solidarity with many of you on World Pulse working to break taboos on sexual health and reproductive health and menstruation.
As part of breaking my own silence, I share with you a condition I struggle with which is often not discussed called adenomyosis.
Some of you may have heard of endometriosis, which is more well-known, and adenomyosis is in some, ways its sister.
According to the Mayo clinic Adenomyosis (ad-uh-no-my-O-sis) occurs when the tissue that normally lines the uterus (endometrial tissue) grows into the muscular wall of the uterus. The displaced tissue continues to act normally — thickening, breaking down and bleeding — during each menstrual cycle.
An enlarged uterus and painful, heavy periods can result.
Some of the other many symptoms can include:
-Heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding
-Heavy bleeding can result in anemia which causes other health problems
-Severe cramping or sharp, knifelike pelvic pain during menstruation
-Chronic pelvic pain
-Urinary symptoms including stress urinary incontinence, urgency, daytime frequency, urge urinary incontinence
-Pain during intercourse
Some studies have suggested a potential correlation with uterus problems, such as endometriosis and childhood sexual assault, such as I have experienced, but this is not always the case. There is less written on this around adenomyosis and it needs to be talked about more. For me, given my experience, I know there is a correlation.
Risk factors for adenomyosis can include:
-Prior uterine surgery, such as C-section, fibroid removal etc.
For those who have severe discomfort from adenomyosis, medical research has shown that hormonal treatments can help. Removal of the uterus (hysterectomy) is cited as a "cure" (which, for me is not an option). The disease usually resolves after menopause.
Doctors may be dismissive of adenomyosis, as I have experienced, mimimizing the patient's experience as it is not considered "life-threatening', but can nonetheless severely impact quality of life.
For me information has been power, as well as learning how to advocate for myself in the face of medical practioners that do not use a survivor-centred and trauma informed approach. These practioners can be triggering in their dismissiveness (eg: "it is not that big a deal" "just take advil"). These and other "recommendations" can be triggering and minimizing.
Some remedies that have helped alleviate my symptoms include: prescribed iron supplements for anemia, heating pads, pelvic physiotherapy, yoga and mindfulness meditation, talking about it and naming it (!) as well as movement such as dancing. These remedies, more than only pills for pain relief -- or something more invasive that comes with its own risks -- removal of the uterus, have had an impact. As I heal from past experiences, the harshness of my symptoms also becomes more manageable.
This is my experience, and I know the journey will be different for everyone.
More on adenomyosis can be found here.
As I share with you, I heal myself. As I share with you, I hope this heals others.
I welcome sharing of your experiences here, how this has helped or additional questions on adenomyosis.
Hugs to all in solidarity from Montreal,