Femininity: Having the qualities of a woman; appropriate to the female sex. Including, in a good sense, modest, graceful, affectionate, confiding; or, in a bad sense, weak, nerveless, timid, and pleasure-loving.
I can’t help but wonder that some of the negative adjectives associated with femininity may be strongly associated with gynaecological problems. For instance, historically speaking (when medicine wasn’t as advanced as it is now) women would take to their beds for a week. Were our mothers and grandmothers suffering with Endo? Unable to adequately explain the pain they suffered as a proper diagnosis would be years, decades, or even centuries away, it’s little wonder they were considered weak, delicate, nerveless, timid, pleasure-loving, effeminate and feminine!
But how has Endo affected MY feelings of femininity? I have to point to the things that identify me as a woman: breasts, periods, curves, etc. I will remind you that I was an early developer: I had the beginnings of my breasts at 10 and I began menstruating at the tender age of 12. My pain at that point was so severe that my periods were punctuated with vomiting from the agony. I used to dread my periods. It’s hard enough at that age to carry around womanly accoutrements without the distress that I associated with my periods. There were times when I wished I’d been born a boy. When my mother was pregnant with my baby sister, I felt envious that she was effectively skipping 9 periods. Even as a teenager I wondered how I could go about getting a hysterectomy. Of course, this didn’t happen, but I hope it illustrates the fact that I was in desperate pain – I felt trapped in a body that was fighting my conscious self.
Without a proper diagnosis, I was told my pain was “just cramps” – none of my school friends seemed to suffer like I did. I thought I was unlucky but normal. I became two people: the student and work colleague who is intelligent and competent; the other person is fearful, curled into the foetal position, clutching a hot water bottle and popping anti-inflammatories and painkillers. In the past my pain has been so intense that I’ve given myself 3rd degree burns on my back (complete with blisters) but it felt good at the time as the heat alleviated some of my endo pain.
The fact that I have regular chronic pain, to my mind, means that I’m strong. I’m strong for learning how to cope, I’m strong for learning how to manage my pain, I endure pain and this makes me stronger every cycle I endure it. Like the Rock of Gibraltar, I am battered by things that could easily destroy me, but I endure.
As much as I associate having breasts with being a woman, I also associate pain with being a woman. Being a woman isn’t just about pain, I also feel attractive – my husband first called me Foxy and I took it as my assumed identity for this blog. Truly being a woman is about pain as well as grace, affection, trust and strength.