This Is What It's Really Like to Live With Endometriosis — and Exactly How I Deal With It

There has been an increased focus on endometriosis from the medical community lately, and while I'm happy to see the effort to help women with this disorder, it's time to be really real about something. Endometriosis is a struggle that women do not get credit for dealing with, most times with a smile on our face while busting our asses running companies, busting our asses running our households, and dealing with all the other drama that can get thrown our way in the blink of an eye.

I've dealt with endometriosis most of my adult life, and it started around the time I was 16, about four years into my period. I'm not one to brag, but my pain threshold is pretty high. I only know this because a few medical professionals have pointed this out to me during procedures. And even with a high pain threshold, endometriosis is completely crippling. I have found it to be worse as I have gotten older; terrible when I'm under stress; and almost intolerable if I'm not on any sort of birth control.

In the past, there were days that getting out of bed was a chore, especially if I was going anywhere else besides a hot shower. There were times that I would be in so much pain, focusing while driving was almost impossible. And there were times I would bleed . . . everywhere.

But now, I seem to have found the key to keeping things under control — at least for my body, anyway. Here are a few ways I manage my endometriosis.

I Found the Right Birth Control

Do not be fooled — all birth control is not created equal, but it does help ease symptoms. I tried several different variations of the pill (my preferred form) and dealt with some pretty horrible side effects while my doctor and I tried to get this right. Just like dating, it took awhile, but I finally found the one. It's the one I feel no side effects on. The one I feel the most myself on. And, when the pharmacy gave me a generic because it cost less money than the name brand (I pay $105 a month for these pills — and yes, I have health insurance), I knew something wasn't right in the first two days. Turns out, the fillers in generic variations aren't the same, which caused me to feel off. Find the method that works for you, and stick to it as long as you can.

I Listen to My Body

For a long time, I didn't pay attention to my body because I didn't know how. Now, as I have gotten older, I am more in tune to my physical needs. I often know when something is going on or when there is extra tissue because I can feel it. Sometimes I sneeze, and it feels like something pops. Or when I get up, sometimes I feel a pull. (I have ovarian cysts too, ode to joy, so I really have learned the difference!) And when I feel these things, I know to pay closer attention to what's going on. I take it a bit — I said a bit — easier on my workouts. I try to rest more when I feel something brewing so that I don't get so run-down and hurt myself. And, I drink more water and less alcohol. I'm not sure what that does, but it helps.

I Changed My Diet

This is new for me, but after a few rounds of the food elimination diet Whole30, I realized that my diet definitely had an effect on my symptoms. Adding more vegetables and water while taking in less sugar and dairy not only allowed me to drop a few pounds (OK, OK, 36!), but it really makes a difference in managing pain. I'm not saying this will work for everyone, but it doesn't hurt to try an elimination diet, and add things back in to see what your body responds to the best. I used to seriously eat ice cream all period long, and now I find that sweet potatoes can ease what I'm feeling.

I'm Always Prepared

They aren't always comfortable, but I have resolved myself to wearing the most ridiculous pads ever in the history of pads during my period because sometimes it's like a crime scene. You can say TMI all you want but you know it's true. Ultra-mega-superabsorbent pads are not sexy but have saved so many pairs of decently cute panties that they deserve some credit. I have them everywhere — in my desk, in my glove compartment, in my purse, and in my bathroom cabinet.

I also carry Advil and a Chocolate Sea Salt RXBAR (say what you want about cravings, they are real) with me at all times. Because even though the symptoms aren't as bad as they could be without birth control, they're still bad, and I have deadlines.

I Learned to Make Sex Work For Me

One of the symptoms of endometriosis is pelvic pain, which is worse when you're getting down and dirty. When I was married, I could just look at my husband and he would be like, "Oh, you hurt. No worries then." But now I'm dating again, and things are different. For example, with my last boyfriend, date night — and the sex that came with it — was whenever we could steal one. I never knew if I would be in pain or not, but I also wanted to jump his bones from the minute we kissed hello. See what the problem was there? Yeah, so did I. So, since I've been dating, I have paid closer attention to what positions work when I'm not at my best self, and I either ask for them or take charge and get there myself.

I also have paid closer attention to the, um, fit of my partners. Because, to be honest, if it's going to hurt every time, it's not going to work for me no matter how big your portfolio is. I mean, no matter how nice you are.