As I write this, I am 23 years old, and a year ago—I was diagnosed with endometriosis. This diagnosis was the explanation I needed to make sense of all the pain I’d been enduring.
For those that aren’t familiar with endometriosis; it is a painful condition in which the tissue that makes up the uterine lining grows on other organs in the body. During menstruation; it causes extreme pain, hormone disorders, tiredness, pain during sex and others symptoms that differ depending on the individual.
From the first time I had penetrative sex, my sexuality had always been linked to pain. Experiencing pleasure wasn’t easy. Not having the answer as to why I kept feeling so much pain also meant that my first long term relationship was hard.
I would constantly ask myself a ton of unhelpful questions whilst trying everything I could to stop the pain, like using anaesthetic creams etc. Later on, I realized just how extreme that had been. It showed me that I’d been prioritizing my partners pleasure, instead of my own.
At that time, I wasn't even thinking about pleasure. I was only thinking about what I could do to save my relationship. After this relationship ended, I went through a long period without being with partners—and I used this time to re-discover myself and re-connect with my sexuality.
The pain was still there but I was desperately trying to let go of the pressure I’d been putting on myself. Casual sex then became an attempt for me to hide the pain, because the way I saw it—the person I was lying with wasn’t going to see me on a daily basis.
Despite this, the pain remained part of the picture, sometimes manageable and sometimes not. But one thing that was certain, was the fact that orgasm was not something I could speak about from experience. I was still not at peace with my body and the act of sex itself was so intrinsically linked to suffering for me.
The pain and symptoms of endometriosis just kept increasing which was making my day-to-day life more complicated.
About a year later, I met my current partner, and with him came a new approach to my body and my sexuality. I got diagnosed a few months after we met and I finally pieced everything together, everything I was suffering from FINALLY had a name. I began treatment right away in the form of a pill I had to take every day. I would later discover that this pill was giving me chemical menopause, at the age of 23.
This meant; hot flashes, tiredness and even more hormone disorder, such as rapid mood shifts (i.e. switching from tears to anger quickly). All of this combined with the extreme pain and extreme bloating (my belly always looked like I was 3 months pregnant)–made going out and long distance travelling an issue.
This was all quite difficult to handle in a new relationship because it was hard for me to feel sexy or to even be comfortable in my body. It took me a while to let go, to show my partner my belly when I was suffering, instead of hiding it with shame.
Today I consider myself lucky that I’m with the most patient person ever. Someone who allows me time to go through this process without pressuring me, sexually or otherwise.
Seeing how patient and caring he was, I progressively started to let go and accept it. Yes, I have endometriosis, no it is not a shame, and yes, a fulfilling sex life is still possible. I am now on the good path. Orgasm is not a blurry concept anymore but an amazing way to reconnect with my body and slowly erase the pain that my body had become so used to.
To all those suffering from endometriosis and convinced that it will make intimacy complicated; I want to say; don’t let the pain define you. And if you are in relationship, gently allow yourself to let your partner be there for you, share with them what you feel, give them a chance to understand. And give yourself permission to discover the many ways you can enjoy pleasure and carefree sexuality.
- Emma Boittiaux
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