Editor's Note: The woman who submitted this story asked that it be shared anonymously.
I come from a deeply religious household, Christian Scientists to be exact. I was a healthy child, well loved and cared for, but my parents avoided discussing the physical realities of things such as illnesses and injuries. While they did it out of love and care for me, it made me woefully inept at advocating for my health needs.
My period started when I was nine and the pain was excruciating, but I assumed pain was pain and my mother had told me there would be pain. However, as the years went on the pain increased to debilitating levels, causing me to pass out on multiple occasions. Every time that happened I was told that either my appendix had burst or that I needed to grin and bear it because "such is the way of life."
Fast forward fourteen years to me being 23. Fourteen years of being practically bedridden due to pain once a month. Fourteen years of being told to grin and bear it, that it was natural, that every girl felt that pain and I needed to toughen up. I went in to a Planned Parenthood to get an IUD as yet another attempt to ease my menstrual pain. In the pre-implantation exam I mentioned the pain I experienced as motivation for getting and IUD. The doctor perked up a bit and asked a few follow up questions. He then told me that he wanted to run a few test before they implanted.
A pelvic exam, an ultrasound, and a biopsy later I was informed that I had advanced endometriosis and ovarian cysts; I had had them for over half my life. The pain I felt was in no way normal and my doctor was in shock that I had gone this long undiagnosed. My early menstruation was even an indicator of both of these conditions. It was amazing how happy I was at the diagnosis. For the first time in a long while I felt like I wasn't crazy, I wasn't weak, and I could finally get help.