Sherika Wynter, Voices Of Endo
Being a woman in corporate America is far from easy. Endometriosis does not help. Generally, I’ve chosen to be rather quiet about my endometriosis at the workplace. It’s not because I am ashamed but I do not need or want any other strikes against me. As I become more comfortable at a workplace, I may decide to share some of my experiences with other female coworkers if the opportunity arises. Women always seem to bond over “Aunt Flow”. If you choose this route, be ready for a positive and negative reaction. In my experience, I’ve had women be very sympathetic and show interest in learning more for their own benefit as well as their loved ones. I’ve also experienced the opposite and I’m told, “You are just looking for attention. It can’t be THAT bad.” In either situations, do not ingest those emotions. You have enough to deal with. Unless individuals show a vested interest in your condition, I would advise you not to look for a support system in the workplace.
I’ve never wanted endometriosis to have an impact on my daily activities. In the past, I would always try to push through the pain. But now, I’m now starting to accept I am not superwoman, even though I want to be. I’ll never forget, about 7 years ago, I went to work knowing that I was not feeling well. I wanted to push through because I was tired of being and being treated like I was sick. I was able to get through the first few hours and then things quickly went south. All of a sudden it felt like I urinated on myself. I looked down and blood was leaking out of my pants. I was newly diagnosed so I didn’t have an “exit strategy” in place. All I could do was grab my things and head home.
Since then, I haven’t pushed my body to its limit. My comfort level at that job was never the same. It just felt like everyone looked at me differently. That being said, when I feel pain higher than a 7 (on a 1-10 scale), I will immediately attempt to remove myself from my workplace. I do this because I’m not sure of the level of intensity that’s coming and the excruciating pain can be an extremely emotional experience. It’s also important to remember, you don’t need to explain yourself to anyone.
If you are aware of a procedure on the horizon, please notify human resources (HR). This way, if you need more time off and/or need to work from home, they will be able to discuss it internally with management. For example, when I went through egg freezing, HR made provisions during my treatment. I didn’t go straight to my management team, instead I spoke with HR to advise me on next steps. By law, they are your advocate. Use them. Also, establish your “exit strategy”. For me, I carry anti-inflammatory medications, menstrual pads and panty liners at all times. When I feel an onset of pain, I immediately go to the restroom and triage the situation. If after an hour, I’m unable to control the pain, I begin to clear my schedule so I can make it home safely. I may return to work later in the day, but I can never make any promises. If there is an immediate leave of absence, the next day I’ll inform HR about it. It’s hard enough to go through an episode, so it's easier and safer for me to tell my job about it afterwards.
At the end of the day, it is possible to work, have endometriosis and be successful. It all revolves around proactivity, accepting your condition and listening to your body when it says, “I’ve had enough”.