If you have endometriosis, or know someone who does, then you probably know that the condition can be extremely difficult to deal with at times. It's not just the physical pain of endometriosis itself that can be challenging; it's the difficulty that comes with figuring out the diagnosis, and the misunderstandings that surround the symptoms and how to address them. Jessica Williams' Instagram post about endometriosis touches on so many of these things, but perhaps most importantly, it emphasizes how crucial self-care is for those experiencing the condition.
According to Endometriosis.org, endometriosis affects approximately one in 10 women between about 15 and 49 years old (i.e. basically your childbearing years). This means that as many as 176 million women in the world are dealing with endo, which is a condition that happens when something called endometrium — aka tissue that's similar to your uterine lining, but isn't actually the lining — grows and moves outside of the womb, "where the tissue should not be," as per the Endometriosis Foundation of America, and the result is inflammation — i.e. lots of pain and discomfort, including painful periods, painful ovulation, heavy menstrual bleeding, pain during or after sex, chronic pelvic pain, and/or fatigue.
There's no doubt that endometriosis is a serious condition, one that, according to the Endometriosis Foundation of America, has no cure. (Treatment of the condition centers on alleviating symptoms, as per the foundation, through things like birth control, hormonal therapy, painkillers, diet changes, etc.) But the silver lining is that awareness about endometriosis is on the rise, and celebrities and influencers — like Jessica Williams — are speaking out about their own struggles with endo.
In an Instagram post this week, the The Incredible Jessica James star added her voice to the conversation surrounding endometriosis, describing her intense period pain and how she deals with the symptoms of endo in her own life. "In general I’m trying to get better at acknowledging that I am feeling pain and that it is okay and that I can be like 'ohhhh okay I guess I’ll go home and crawl into bed and play Switch then,'" the 29-year-old actress wrote in her post.
Williams also admitted in her post that she suspects she's "probably had [symptoms of endometriosis] for 10 years," though she wrote she was only diagnosed last month, "and even that was after I went to the ER AND two different doctors before finding the solution," she added. For years, Williams explained, she ignored her pain (many women do, according to Harvard Health, and sadly, so do many physicians when it comes to their patients' endometriosis pain, as per The New York Times) and "set aside for so long."
Now, Williams wants you to know how important it is to admit to yourself, and to others, when you're experiencing pain. "People have a hard time believing women are in pain and they ESPECIALLY have a hard time believing that women of color are experiencing pain," she wrote. "So it may take multiple doctors to even get an endometriosis diagnosis- which is banãnãs. I felt relief when a doctor was finally like 'oh this is really advanced endo you must be in a ton of pain' but I also felt really sad for all of the pain that I had ignored and set aside for so long."
Williams raises a great point about not just the importance, but the necessity of advocating for yourself when you're communicating with your doctor about any health issue, especially as a woman of color. To put things in perspective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "racial disparities persist" in the number of pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S., as black women are three to four times more likely than white women to die during pregnancy. Moreover, the results of a 2016 study from the University of Virginia suggested that people of color are more likely to be under-treated for pain in general, "not only relative to white patients, but relative to World Health Organization guidelines," as per a press release from the university.
Bottom line: Endometriosis is a really complicated health issue. Diagnosis seems like it's always a difficult and time-consuming process, regardless of the circumstances, but it doesn't help that many patients and doctors alike don't pay enough attention to the pain that so many are experiencing.
As for Williams, now that she's officially been diagnosed with endo, part of adding her voice to the conversation on social media involves learning more about self-care and how other women tackle their symptoms. "Anyhooch, LOTTTTS of women have this and I’m learning all about it," she wrote. "Any endo ladies have any self care tips out there?"
If you want to add your voice to the conversation, too, be sure to check out the comments section of Williams' Instagram post.