The First Period
I got my period when I was in Grade 6. I distinctly remember going upstairs during dinnertime because I had to go pee and my underwear felt wet, which was really weird. So I went upstairs, pulled down my pants and noticed a bit of blood on my underwear. Cue dramatic tween meltdown!
Keep in mind that this was in the 1980s/1990s and I grew up in an immigrant family. I went to a Catholic elementary school where they talked about periods and sex in a series of textbooks/workbooks called “Fully Alive” BUT we all read it out loud together as a class and it was filled with a lot of blushing and giggling. Suffice to say, I didn’t absorb a ton of information and I thought I was bleeding to death.
I YELLED for my mom and she came frantically running upstairs. I can only imagine the thoughts running through her head when she realized that I had gotten my period. I remember her laughing it off, telling me that it was 100% normal and she handed me a box of pads and closed the door behind her.
I had no idea what to do with the pads but eventually figured it out after I read the instructions on the box. As a backstory, the videos that we watched about pads, etc in our “Fully Alive” class must have been straight out of the 1960s because I remember searching for the “straps” that was shown in the video in the box of pads that my mom had left for me.
For all of you who didn’t grown up in the 80s and 90s, remember that there was NO SUCH THING as a smart phone or tablet or laptop to just Google things on because Google didn’t even exist at the time! I had my school Fully Alive text book or my parents’ massive World Book Encyclopedia series to look things up on.
(As an aside, this is TERRIFYING to me that young girls in the 1980s and early 1990s had NO CLUE what was coming.)
And Then It Started
I’m assuming about a month or so later, I had my second period and that was when I knew I had endometriosis (in hindsight). My second period came with excruciating cramps, severe pelvic and low back pain, nausea and vomiting, and just severe pain all around that I would lie in fetal position on the bathroom floor while trembling and eventually passing out. I would wake up with a mess in my pants and start the whole cycle again until my period would finally end and take the pain with it.
My First Negative Experience with a Healthcare Provider
When I spoke to my pediatrician at the time, he was an older gentleman who had the driest witty sense of humour that I couldn’t appreciate as a young girl. He told my mother and I that I was too young to have anything wrong with me and that it was all in my head. He said that most girls who get their periods have cramps. My take-away from that interaction was that he essentially told me to suck it up and deal with it. He sent me away with a “prescription” for Tylenol. That was the last time I ever stepped foot in his office and I loathed him like any moody, hormonal and misunderstood tween could.
It Just Continued
From then on, every single month like clock work, I would get my period and be pulled out of school for 3-4 days. This happened the entire time I was in elementary AND high school. It became so terrible and regular that the school administrators would barely require a phone call from my parents to just send me home. They would see me struggling to make it down the hallway into their office, white as a sheet and sweating a cold sweat profusely while clutching a plastic bag that I was heave into, and essentially call my mom or grandma to let them know that I needed a pick up asap.
I distinctly remember BEGGING my mom on the months where the pain was particularly excruciating if she could find a doctor who could spay me. (I was obsessed with dogs from a young age, so I assumed a hysterectomy was also called spaying in humans!)
The Family Doctor
Over the years, I found a new family doctor who was female. She sat there and listened to my symptoms and gave me prescription after prescription after prescription to try. The problem with all of these medications were that they required me to take it with food. I basically didn’t eat for 3-4 days during my period because I was incredibly nauseous and would vomit anything that I could eat. So, I will admit that I didn’t really take any of the medications regularly to know if they could have helped me.
I also went to see a few gynecologists. Some of them told me it was all in my head and that I needed to see a psychiatrist instead of a gynecologist. Some of them listened and gave me more prescriptions to try that I couldn’t take or tolerate. And gynecologist that I saw in my late teens told me that I probably had endometriosis and that I should go on birth control or else I’d have to have surgery.
Discussing surgery with a teenager was incredibly scary, and of course I wanted to avoid that as if my life depended on it. My mom was extremely resistant to putting me on birth control because (keep in mind this was the 90s), she was under the impression that if I were to take birth control, I would also all of a sudden want to have sex left, right and centre! So I just continued going through my monthly cycle of pain.
In hindsight, I also can’t believe some of the “crap” that was spewed at me. I had doctors tell me that it would all go away after I had a baby, so they half jokingly said I just had to wait until then. I even had a doctor tell me that once I became sexually active, it would all go away, so I should get a boyfriend. With almost every interaction I had with a medical doctor, I became more and more discouraged that I would ever find a solution.
In university, I saw a gynecologist on my own and she listened to my symptoms, which at this point I rattled off as if it was a regular grocery list. She then told me that if I were to ever become an OB patient, I needed to come and find her because I would be the best OB patient. I had no idea how to answer her. She explained that I had every symptom of endometriosis and was essentially having labour pains for 4 days every single month without any relief during those 96 hours except while I slept or passed out from the pain.
She gave me a prescription for birth control and told me to give it a try for 3 months and see how my symptoms were. I did try the birth control for 3 months but found that it made my moods completely unpredictable. I also just “didn’t feel right in my own skin”, so I stopped it and never went back to see her.
Towards the end of my undergrad, I started looking into what I wanted to do and where I wanted to apply for postgraduate work. I became more aware that my diet and stress levels would impact my period pain, and started experimenting on myself to see what would work and what didn’t. I also started exercising more regularly in order to lose that extra bit of weight that so many people gain when they first move away from home!
That’s when I discovered Naturopathic Medicine. The philosophy behind its medicine where you treat every patient as an individual and find the root cause in order to fix “the problem” really hit home for me. I felt that THIS was the kind of medicine that I had been looking for since I was 12 years old.
I went to see a Naturopathic Doctor for the first time in my life and I feel like it was quite life changing for me. I was already on the path to adjusting my diet and lifestyle, and noticing that specific things would be impacting my pain and bloating. But my ND opened my eyes to all sorts of other things, particularly how big of an impact stress could have on my hormones. I also learned about eating cleaner foods and also using cleaner products on my body that I never even thought about beforehand. It was a VERY long process to determine the exact combination of diet, lifestyle, supplements, acupuncture and IV therapy that worked for me.
Becoming a Naturopathic Doctor
During my work with my ND, I applied to the Toronto Naturopathic school (it was the only Canadian location at the time), interviewed and received my admission letter! I was SO happy to be able to start my own journey towards becoming a Naturopathic Doctor.
I knew then and there that when I graduated, I wanted to help women suffering with endometriosis. I wanted them to be heard. I wanted them to be seen. I wanted them to know that there IS another option other than pain meds, birth control or surgery.
If you’ve gotten this far, one of the most important take-away message that I want you to hear is this: all of those symptoms that you’re experiencing is NOT just in your head. You may have a condition called endometriosis and it’s a BEAST of a disorder. The good news is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There are options out there for you to try – both conventional AND naturopathic. Do NOT lose hope.
If you’re interested in working together, CONTACT ME HERE to set up a complimentary 15 min discovery call/meeting to get started.
What’s a discovery call/meeting? It’s where we get to know each other better to ensure that I’m the right practitioner for you and that you have the opportunity to ask your questions about Naturopathic Medicine before we move forward with an initial Naturopathic consultation.
Here are a few mor articles that you might also be interested in reading:
- Women’s Health
- What To Do If You’re ALWAYS Tired
- Vitamin D and Menstrual Cramps
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
- Birth Control Does What Else?!?
- Endometriosis & Estrogen Dominance
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