Be brave. Be bold. Be pain-free.
Let’s be clear – burnout, exhaustion and hormonal disharmony are not normal. It’s not normal for women everywhere to be experiencing PMS, period pain, endometriosis, PCOS, adrenal fatigue, sympathetic nervous system dominance, depression, anxiety, insomnia and more. So why are we accepting it?
Firstly I think – actually, I know – there are times when, as women, we feel pre-programmed to put the needs of others before our own. That’s the role we play, right? The carer. The nurturer. The mother. And while that is of course a big part of many of our lives, it does not and should not mean that our mental and physical wellbeing suffers as a result. We put on a brave face and tell the world ‘we’re fine’ – when in reality it can feel like we’re falling apart at the seams.
Guess what? It feels like that because we are.
In the course of a lifetime, one in five Australian women will experience depression. One in three will suffer anxiety. One in 10 will be diagnosed with endometriosis and adrenal fatigue is a growing epidemic – one that is particularly prominent among women. The symptoms of all these things and more can strike at any age and often go undetected – but it’s worth noting there’s an increased chance of a woman suffering from depression and anxiety during pregnancy, as well as the year following the baby’s birth. So be kind to yourself, and your fellow mama friends, especially during this transitional time in our lives.
As for feeling like we’ve been hit by a truck all those other times – I’m in no way surprised. Is it really any wonder our bodies respond in this way with everything we’re trying to juggle? We want to be the perfect mother, partner, friend, daughter, all the while kicking some serious career goals, challenging ourselves daily, being well read, exercising regularly and ticking all the must-have nutritional boxes with every single meal – which will no doubt be eaten on the run.
So let’s stop today. Let’s try to redirect this vicious cycle we’re in and give ourselves permission to focus on just one thing – how about sincerely addressing any period pain and pain from gynaecological conditions? Up until this point there are hundreds of us undoubtedly ‘making do’ with the odd Panadol or Naprogesic, when in reality we need to seek professional help.
Dr Raelia Lew from Women’s Health Melbourne speaks to women who have been suffering in silence, for far too long, daily.
“Periods are physiological, and while most women function well through them, others genuinely need to accept that pain isn’t normal,” she says.
“Period pain and pain from gynaecological conditions like endometriosis is very real and can intensely disrupt women’s lives. It is time for women’s suffering to be acknowledged, just as we acknowledge discomfort caused by any other physical illness.”
That’s the key right there – “just like any other physical illness”. Long ago this kind of pain was too swiftly swept into the ‘women’s issues’ basket and left us feeling like this is just our lot, this is what we have to deal with being women and mothers. The single benefit born from this act is simple: we grew tough. And brave, and bold and determined and now we’re so strong we’ve found the strength to speak up about the pain and say: it’s not normal. We should not have to deal with this, and we’re not going to anymore.
Dr Raelia agrees, “women are brave – but that doesn’t mean severe pain doesn’t deserve to be acknowledged with sympathy and kindness.
“When the experiences of some women are extreme we should be empathic and not diminish it and brush it off as nothing. As a doctor, performing and recommending treatments to alleviate this pain brings real satisfaction as it changes people’s lives for the better.”
So if you’ve been suffering in silence for too long, please stop. Now’s the time to change your life for the better.
Dr Raelia Lew is a fertility expert. She is a subspecialist gynaecologist and reproductive endocrinologist. She holds a PhD in preconception health promotion and is an Australian leader in the field of egg freezing, IVF and menopause.