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Endometriosis: the burden of guilt ENDOMETRIOSIS: THE BURDEN OF GUILT
It is not only women whose endometriosis has been either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed who experience such self-recriminating attitudes. Even when endometriosis is properly diagnosed at an early stage, many women still wonder if there is a psychological cause of the disease and feel guilty that they have developed endometriosis. They often believe that they have "given" themselves endometriosis by subconsciously implanting these renegade cells. In either case, repeatedly having the reality of her pelvic pain denied leads a woman to develop a sense of self-blame.
Rona Silverton, a New York-based psychotherapist with analytic training, is documenting women's emotional reactions to endometriosis and what they can do to help themselves combat the problem. She sees in victims a common trait: self-blame and a sense of helplessness. Dr. Silverton notes: "If you don't have the reality of endometriosis confirmed, or if it's taking a long time to have it diagnosed, it stirs up other fantasies of what might be wrong.
"Some women fear they have a cancerous condition; others believe their pain is imaginary and don't seek further help. Some even think they're being punished for something they've done in the past. One woman—a professional now in her thirties diagnosed with endometriosis—confessed to mc that she had had an abortion when she was younger. She believed her condition was related to her once having aborted a child. Logically, she knew hers was a physiological problem, but inwardly—for her—endometriosis was indisputably related to that abortion."
Personalizing the disease is only one of many reactions. One can almost understand how a sufferer could eventually declare a moral judgment on an illness, especially when she starts out being told the pain is imaginary. Since endometriosis does not present itself tike a broken leg—that is, in an absolute and obvious manner—it allows for a wider margin of self-doubt if the doctor asserts that there is nothing wrong.
While coping with pain the doesn't understand, a woman's sense of doubt can be compounded by the tear of what can happen next.
There's a flood of feeling, especially about recovering and having children. Dr. Silverton reflected, "But there is hope, I feel. Once the disease is legitimized by virtue of correct diagnosis, and the reason she is in pain becomes cleat, then [a woman] can take steps to relieve it. Counseling helps women sort out the physical symptoms and reduce some of the guilt involved.
To restore self-esteem, any woman with endometriosis must be educated about the disease, not only in terms of hard medical information but also with a conviction to heed her own inner perceptions, A woman may know she has endometriosis even though her doctor insists she does not! When this occurs, stories such as the following are common.
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