Thank you, Lena Dunham, for being famous

I don’t normally keep up with celebrity gossip, but when I saw the headline about Lena Dunham taking time off for a “health condition,” I got curious. Usually we state which health condition right there in the headline. Why not Lena’s?

I shoulda known it was a period thing.

The article discussed, in hushed tones, Lena’s endometriosis. I’m always interested in how the media handles my main health issue, so I turned to Google. There was the usual assortment of coy deflections (“health reasons,” “disease,” “health crisis”). But there were also many that stated, bold as brass, that Lena has endometriosis.

Thanks, Lena, for giving the media a reason to talk about endo. It warms my heart. Really! Because my whole bleeding life, I’ve dealt with people acting like I’m blowing my periods out of proportion. (Even – no, especially – other women. Even women with menstruation problems of their own.) Since I received my diagnosis (which typically requires abdominal surgery), I’ve had to explain to people what it means. And they still act like I’m overreacting.

Having children has been the greatest thing that’s happened to my reproductive system, because it’s thrown me into remission. With Anya, the relief was short-lived, because my periods returned three months postpartum. (For those of you who can’t count, that means I went nearly a full year without periods.) I had about a year of respite after that until my symptoms returned full force. It’s been nearly 11 months since I had Kai and my periods have yet to return, because I am breastfeeding and because I am very, very lucky. I am hoping that this extended break means the relief will last longer once I start menstruating again. (It’d be nifty if the effects would carry me to menopause, but I don’t expect to be that lucky.)

If I had cancer, even if it were somewhere embarrassing, I’d get more sympathy and accommodation. But because I have an icky period condition, it’s all in my head, not really so bad, is it?, just push through the pain, fake it til ya make it, did you know exercise cures cramps? No, really, they cut me open with a knife and burned parts of my body off with a laser, and I only got 3 months of relief. I was on the pill for nearly 20 years – roughly half my life. When I became a mother, I stopped having periods entirely for a year, two years, and still it keeps coming back. Will keep coming back until I go through menopause…and even then I may continue to have symptoms. Until I let them cut out the offending organs, or until I die. (Death is, to date, the only guaranteed cure for endometriosis.)

And so long as I keep my mouth shut about it, everyone will be happy.

So thank you, Lena, for being famous, and for being famous for saying things that gross other people out. Maybe now we can start having a real conversation about this real medical condition that causes some extremely real suffering for way too damn many women.

Now go get some rest. I hope this break brings you some much-needed relief.

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