Owning my disease (Or why I chose to self-disclose my endometriosis to my university)

So if you’ve been reading along, you know that I have endometriosis. I’ve gone through so many emotions and states of acceptance in regards to living with this disease. For a long time now, I’ve developed this attitude that I would not let this condition define me. Endo was just something that I had, a small part of me, not who I am. I was determined that this disease would not control or interfere with my life.

News flash: this disease totally effects major aspects of my life, and is not something I can just tuck away. It’s not something I can only acknowledge when it’s convenient to me.

Most days, yes, my pain is under control. However, it does flair up. The same with my nausea. And those two factors alone can severely interfere with my day-to-day life. It’s everything from what I can wear, to what I can eat, to even how much sleep I can get that night. This isn’t just on the “bad days.” So as much as I don’t want to admit how much of an influence my endometriosis has on me, I really can’t ignore it.

In order for me to truly live my life, I have to own my disease. By ignoring it, or pretending that it really has no effect over me is allowing it to rule over my life unchecked.

I’m choosing not to be on medication right now. Which means each cycle I’m going to experience terrible pain which will likely keep me bedridden. (Ok, let’s be honest, couch-ridden.) I have found myself more often than not, not wanting to talk to my instructors (or employers) before I’m sick because I somehow always believe that next time will be different. I’ll be able to push through it. I won’t be as sick. Then next time rolls around and I am that sick, and I really can’t push through it. And that’s ok. That’s life with endometriosis. I can’t force it to be something it’s not.

I had another choice to make: self-disclose my disease to the university and get assistance. And you know what, most if not all universities have people there who do nothing but help students in my situation. It’s the department of disability services. Now you may be shocked here, I know, because endometriosis is not considered a disability by the ADA. However, these offices help more than what we consider typical disabilities. I now have a record with the university stating that I have a chronic medical conditions — which is exactly what I have. By having this on record with the office of disability services, it shows that I’m acknowledging my condition, the university is acknowledging my condition, and that we’re taking steps together to accommodate for it in a way that my academic life will not suffer.

What does this all mean? It means that now I have a letter to take to my professors stating, without my medical history detailed out, that I have a health condition that may interfere with my ability to come to class. This letter does not guarantee that I will get absolute leeway in regards to absences, but it’s intended to start a dialogue. It also allows some privacy because I don’t always want to explain to every single professor that hi, my lady parts are messed up. On top of all of this, they can help me get a better parking pass or even use a door-to-door shuttle service if I need it. So on those days when I don’t feel absolutely terrible, but am not able to walk to campus, I don’t have to miss class.

It has taken me a while, but I’m finally coming to terms that in order for me to take control over my disease, I’ve got to first accept that I have it and that it does effect my life, and secondly be big enough to acknowledge that and be proactive in setting up accommodations. I can’t treat endometriosis as something that limits my life, but more as challenges that I can indeed overcome. I can indeed develop a tool box so that I can still lead a full and fulfilling life. And I have to be ok with the fact that I cannot always do this alone — nor should I have to.