Working and going to school with endometriosis can be extremely difficult. For some women it is impossible. It is a constant struggle of trying to balance your limits and what you want to accomplish. Constant pain requires constant analysis. Every hour can be a question of whether or not you can handle the next activity. This constant analysis makes it hard to thrive in a typical school or work situation.
Finding the right job can be hard with chronic pain. Flexibility is necessary. Taking off work is not always an option and living in pain means it is harder to get work done. Some women also need a close bathroom or a standing desk in order to deal with the symptoms of endometriosis. It can be difficult to find work you enjoy that also takes your endometriosis into consideration. Women with endometriosis often get paid less and have fewer opportunities to advance because they have to miss work.
Work and school are more difficult for me to navigate with endometriosis. My high school had a rule that you could only miss 5 days of each class. I would often be in extreme pain but had to stay in class anyways. A few times I even threw up from my pain and then went back to class. This also meant that days I was sick and contagious from other illnesses I was often at class. It was easier to work with a fever than it was with stomach pain. I kept careful account of how many days of each class I had missed and left school during my worst days according to this schedule. It was hell trying to constantly analyze how bad my pain was and if I could make it through another hour. Paying attention to my work was less important than paying attention to my pain.
In college I continue to struggle. You can only miss class so many times before you fail. I have also noticed that some professors are more understanding than others. I have told a few of my professors at the start of the semester that I have endometriosis, but when I email them and say I have to miss class they are suddenly much less understanding. It is hard to get a degree when you struggle to make it to class.
When it comes to employment, I have had good jobs and bad ones. I worked at McDonald’s my junior year of high school. I was an employee, not a person. If I felt sick I either had to show up or find someone to cover for me (which no one ever wants to do). It was a job where I had to constantly keep moving or risk losing my job. I spent many breaks crying in my car from the pain and then going back into work like nothing happened.
My second job involved me working for a small family-owned business. It was during my senior year of high school, still before I had my diagnosis. On my first day I had severe cramps and threw up multiple times before I called my mom so she could take me to the hospital. I happened to mention to one of the owners that I was on my period and I tended to have terrible cramps during my periods. When I came into my second shift one of the managers said she was unsure if I would be able to keep working there because they did not want to have to let me off each month. I lied and told them that I was on new medicine that would help so that I could keep my job. After that, I never told them when I was feeling ill. I was just thankful to have a job.
My sophomore year of college I had my diagnosis and a new job. I was now working at the First Year Center on campus. I told them about my diagnosis and for the first time I had people who genuinely cared about how I felt. When I told them I couldn’t come in because I was in too much pain, they were extremely understanding. They often checked to see how I was doing and made an effort to offer food to me that I could eat when lunches were provided. I’m so thankful that I have had the opportunity to work for a group of people who care and are flexible. It has given me new hope for my future employment prospects.