I was still in grad school, in the midst of finding a new apartment and planning a wedding. To say the stress was overwhelming would be an understatement.
I quit the first job out of pure humiliation. Thanks to my Endo — a chronic condition in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows on the outside of the uterus — it’s a memory I’ll never forget.
I’d finally snagged an editing position with an online magazine for college women. I was ecstatic and filled with new ideas to take their content (and their social channels) to the next level. What I wasn’t ready for, however, was the random sudden bursts of pain that lit my urethra on fire.
It was gradual, at first. A little bit of pain here, a few bathroom breaks there. But before I knew it, I was spending the wee hours before work hunched over in the shower praying that the burning would subside long enough for me to get onto the subway and into my desk chair before 9 a.m.
When I did manage to get in before anyone else, I ended up spending the morning crying in the bathroom because I couldn’t urinate — just a few drops of blood and an intense burning sensation. It was almost like I had a never-ending UTI. But dozens of visits to the nearest CityMD and a variety of antibiotics confirmed that I didn’t have an infection.
I’d become a regular at my local CityMD; the receptionist knew me by name. And yet, no one knew what was wrong with me. It took one month of non-stop emergency visits to receive a referral to a gyno-urologist.
Two mornings out of the few months I worked for the magazine, I came in late. The second time this happened, it was around 10 a.m. and I was terrified I would lose my job. I rushed to the subway and made it in, only to be shocked by my oh-so-unprofessional boss.
“Do you have a drug or drinking problem? Who else sleeps until 10 a.m.?”
I was mortified. Not only did he single me out in front of the entire team, but he accused me of being a drug abuser/alcoholic.
Unbeknownst to him, I had spent the weekend in the hospital trying to figure out what was wrong with me. It was the first time I had a cystoscopy, and unfortunately, it wasn’t my last.
Instead of standing my ground and telling the room full of men (not one woman worked there, how ironic is that?) that I was having bladder issues, I ran with my tail between my legs. I apologized several times and promised that it would never happen again. I told them I was stressed with homework and classes. I told them I was under a lot of pressure because of my upcoming wedding. I told them I was sorry.
I went back to my desk mortified, humiliated, dumbfounded. And then I snapped. I stood up and said, “I quit.”
I spent the next few days scrolling through Indeed and re-scheduling appointments with my gyno-urologist. He still hadn’t figured out what was wrong and I was beginning to lose my patience. He shrugged off my theories and completely ignored me when I told him I thought I had endometriosis. His response? “This has nothing to do with endometriosis.”
Fed up, I decided to find a new doctor. In the meantime, I stocked up on cases of Phenazopyridine — a temporary OTC pain reliever that affects the lower part of the urinary tract.
In between finding another doctor, I’d found a position as a copywriter for a well-known microblading boutique. Thankfully, the Phenazopyridine was doing its job well enough for me to go to work. (Even though the high dosage made me nauseated.)
Unfortunately, my quick fix didn’t hold up. I was going through an entire box of pills every week and my quality of life had massively depreciated. Instead of apologizing, I sent an email to my team explaining that I needed to focus on my health.
One month later, I finally found a urologist who listened to me. He didn’t roll his eyes, sigh, or stop me while I was speaking. He acknowledged that endometriosis could be the culprit of my pain. He then gave me an official diagnosis via cystoscopy – I had interstitial cystitis.
Figuring out even a small piece of my medical puzzle gave me hope. Following that diagnosis, I swallowed my fear and went to see an endometriosis specialist. I was officially diagnosed with endometriosis in April 2018.
If you or someone you know is struggling with endometriosis, check out Tabitha’s online magazine DO YOU ENDO.
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Photo by JoelValve
Tabitha is the founding editor-in-chief of DO YOU ENDO – the first BS-free magazine for individuals with endometriosis by individuals with endometriosis. You can find her byline in a variety of publications, including CBS NY, Taste of Home, Luna Luna, First for Women, and Elite Daily.