Over the last few months I have been following the posts and articles about Lena Dunham. She is a director, actress and the creator of the hit TV series Girls.
Her story resonated with me on so many levels. Perhaps because it sounds so similar to mine, the shame and the horrendous levels of pain, along with years of taking painkillers and hormone treatments. Then again, this is perhaps why her story has touched so many of us with endo… it is how we have all felt on some level at some point in our journey.
I particularly loved this quote, when Lena Dunham referred to her doctor who found her endo, “I could tell I wasn’t the only woman he had seen through the discovery of her own sanity. It’s a sad and beautiful moment when you realize just how much you have let yourself endure.”
I think the key message that touched me about Lena Dunham is her desperate desire to be well. To be a healthy and balanced woman. She speaks of strength in a very real way. Of not being defeated and being all that she can be.
Here is a wonderful exert by Lena Dunham: “But I am strong because of what I’ve dealt with. I am oddly fearless for a wimp with no upper-body strength. And I am no longer scared of my body. In fact, I listen to it when it speaks. I have no choice but to respect what it tells me, to respect the strength of its voice and the truth of my own.”
I think these words particularly resonated with me because I too came to a realization that I had to stop and listen to my body. To take time. To respect it and to give it what it truly needed. The trouble is, it took me another ten years before I really knew what that was. I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought, going to see the best specialists, having surgery, taking hormone treatments, painkillers and living on the contraceptive pill was all that I could do. I can see that Lena believes this too. She believes that these treatments are her only option and I wish I could share that there are ways to treat endometriosis that don’t involve so much aching, bruising and toxicity for her body.
It is about taking care of our bodies in a different way. It goes beyond resting and taking time out but really knowing how to nurture and provide for the body. It is about making choices that support what our bodies need. Our bodies don’t operate in a vacuum. Everything we put into it and do to it has an effect. I never got this. I would feel pain, eat a slab of chocolate, a bunch of painkillers and sometimes even a glass of wine to numb the pain and hope it went away by morning.
Here is what I would love to share with Lena Dunham and women who have endo who really want to support their bodies:
1.What you eat fuels your body and either supports endometriosis growth or reduces it. We eat sometimes 3–5 times a day. Whatever we put into our mouths is broken down by our bodies to be used as fuel. We can choose what kind of fuel that is. It can be super powerful energy fuel or it can be sugar laden, just fill-me-up kind of fuel. There are foods which contain more of the nutrients our bodies need to allow it to reduce endometriosis symptoms such as pain, inflammation and all the associated digestive symptoms. We can choose the right kinds of foods which can help us manage endometriosis better. Those are the healthy options. The ones that are fresh, don’t come out of box or out of a bakery and they provide our bodies what they really need. Shifting to those kinds of foods can truly shift your experience with having endometriosis. Food can be used as a source of medicine.
2.Breathing and connecting with our bodies gives us strength. I never valued the importance of breath. It was only when I began doing regular breathing exercises and noticed the significant difference in my stress levels and how my body felt, that I realized its value. We need oxygen for our brain and for every cell of our bodies. Without it we die. However, most of us breathe with an incredibly shallow breath and don’t get to truly oxygenate in those stagnant areas of the body, particularly the abdominal area, which is where we need to get more oxygen and blood flow. I would highly recommend doing at least one breathing exercise per day for a period of a month. Test it out. See how you feel.
3. The toxicity connection. Our bodies have a defence unit, an army to protect us. Trouble is, when that defence unit gets broken or weakened, it causes all sorts of imbalances. This can be due to previous infections, chronic stress or an exposure to toxins from our environment. It is important to explore these and to test and measure what could be going on for you. You may have high levels of mercury or lead in your body, you may have an infection (like Lena) or you may have such high levels of stress that your body is unable to defend itself as it has simply run out of steam. There are tools such as herbal remedies, supplements, foods and mental shifts we can make that can protect us from being invaded. Drugs and painkillers sadly only weaken these defences.
4. Support and understanding by other women is really important. It is wonderful that Lena has shared her story with the world and is being open and honest about her experience. I truly hope she has also received some support from other women who have endometriosis so she doesn’t feel alone with it. I believe this is really important. Endo can feel like a mountain. A scary lonely place and without support and sisters around you, who truly get it, it can be incredibly isolating. There are not many people we can talk to about blood, period pain and pain during sex! I encourage women to join a support group like ours or a local one in your neighbourhood.
It is sad that so little emphasis is placed on using the most logical sources of healing for our bodies: what we eat, how we move, how we think and what toxins may have influenced our health. It is sad that we simply add more toxins in with hormone treatments and painkillers. It is sad because I too lived through this. I endured fifteen years of it and I didn’t feel like I was ever truly myself. I was a half alive, drugged up version of me who suffered with depression, weight gain and a never ending cycle of pain. I wasn’t living.
I desperately want women to know that this isn’t their only option and that our bodies are wiser than we realize. That when it comes to endo, we have an ability to take back some control by choosing what we eat, how we move and how we think. We all have a right to know that these tools are available to all of us and that they truly make a HUGE difference in successfully managing endometriosis.