These days I have to take a holiday from work, not when I fancy going abroad (like many people who book holiday), but when my body needs a break.
My energy levels are tangible not just each day, but each month. Working full-time with endometriosis means getting a sense for when my body is running on its lowest ebb, and needs a break.
No one enjoys illness, but nothing frustrates me more than becoming ill with something else when I am trying to recuperate from how endo drains me.
Piling more illness onto our tired bodies
Becoming ill is frustrating. Even if it’s something as simple as the common cold. Not many people without a chronic illness really appreciate how much of a balancing act a chronic illness is. A finite balance. How trying to add more to that careful balance of health and illness – something like a cold – can lead to us feeling worse than the average person.
Something as simple as a cold utterly flattens us. We could be stuck in bed for days, with a fever or temperature unable to move. Someone else has the extra energy (afforded by an otherwise healthy body) might be able to work. They still have the freedom and choice about whether or not to take sick leave to cope with the strain of a cold.
Endometriosis sufferers do not get that choice, and that persons decision to keep working increases the chances that we will get sick, and have to take more precious sick leave.
Endometriosis making things harder again
Also it’s quite rare to get respite from your endometriosis symptoms while you are sick with something else. You’ll still experience endometriosis pain, and fatigue, while you’re trying to cope with this new aspect of illness. As if coping with endometriosis wasn’t hard enough. Another illness on top of that can lead you feeling utterly miserable.
This isn’t helped by the fact that endometriosis still isn’t taken particularly seriously by many doctors not specialised in its treatment. Few understand it beyond the medical definition of the illness. When prescribing treatment many will leave out the day-to-day toil of living with endometriosis, how hard coping with it is, and how it can make you feel.
As such, this lack of awareness of endometriosis means many women are not in high risk groups which allow them to receive free or additional treatment to avoid other seasonal illnesses such as influenza.
So as Autumn draws in (with Winter not long behind) many of us start to dread what the seasons will hold. This is because the fatigue caused by endometriosis causes our bodies to be more susceptible to illness, affecting our bodies ability to combat illness adequately through our natural immune system. We’re all run down and tired, and that’s before other illnesses come into the equation.
Other chronic illnesses
Living with endometriosis means you end up feeling a bit like a venn diagram, because many women with endometriosis share many other underlying conditions. Endometriosis probably isn’t the only condition that we struggle with, because of the high links between endometriosis and other chronic illnesses.
Conditions including, but not excluded to:
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
What can we do to fight off seasonal illnesses?
Here are some quick tips for how to fend off seasonal illness.
You may not be eligible for free seasonal flu vaccinations through your GP for the reasons discussed above, but I would encourage anyone who is able (and without vaccine allergies) to pay a small fee to receive one. Here in the UK many pharmacies and even supermarket pharmacies provide a cheap seasonal flu vaccine during the Autumn and Winter. This can improve your immunity to flu for up to six months. You’ll need to get a new one every Autumn, so add this to your list of planned treatments for the Winter.
Practice perfect hygiene
This one seems obvious, but keep your hands and body clean and keep a keen eye on the sick people around you. When I spot someone that is unwell or is coming down with something I try to work from home to avoid contact with them. If working from home isn’t an option for you I always keep an alcohol-based gel at home and on my desk (this is the same stuff they have at hospitals) to disinfect your hands. I carry around a small pack of this around with me so I can disinfect my hands again if I come into contact with someone who’s sick.
This isn’t a substitute for washing your hands of course, but should be used in combination – I tend to gel my hands after cleaning them thoroughly.
Don’t slack on your vitamin intake
I’m sure we’re all on a whole host of tablets already, but during the cold times of the year I do my best to keep on top of making sure I’m taking all the vitamin supplements I can to help my body.
Preventative cold medicines
I’ve also had mixed success with preventative cold treatments, such as nasal sprays. These are sprays that you spray into your nose when you feel like you’re coming down with a cold. The idea is that they fend off the symptoms of a cold. So far this year I’ve successfully fought off two colds using this treatment. It’s by no means perfect and doesn’t always work for me, but it’s the difference between getting sick and not being sick so I try it as a last resort.
I have often said that people with endo should be exempt from all other illness. It just doesn’t seem fair! I have trouble accepting that endo isn’t somehow my own fault – I can think of so many reasons I deserve it. But give me a cold and I’m VERY quick to cry “I DO NOT DESERVE THIS!!!1!!1”
There’s the line!
I completely agree. That’s about the point at which I flail my arms around like a baby. 🙂
Have you found that other illness (flu or cold) can make endometriosis symptoms worse? This month I had the flu right before my period and I’ve had some of the worst endo pain in months. I was struggling with mobility for days before my period.
Everyone’s different I suppose. These days my pain is quieter when I am recovering from a bug because I completely rest. I no longer have periods though so this may be a contributing factor.
Oh, I see. Well, I typically only have endo pain shortly before, during, and after my period. I don’t know how I would feel if I no longer had a period. Resting is not an option for me when I am sick. I’m sure it makes a difference.
I just went through that, talked about it with my amazing naturopath, Googled it and found this site. Yes, for sure, just like allergies make colds worse and colds make allergies worse, sore throat inflammation, etc. makes my endo pain worse.
This is one of the main reasons I require my tutoring students to have the basic respectfulness toward me of canceling their tutorials with me when they are contagious with fevers, flus, strep throat and even bad colds. I just recovered from catching strep throat from a contagious tutorial student that became one of my worst endometriosis and arthritis weeks. Endo is already horribly exhausting and my joints all ache along with it. I already can’t move for a few days. To throw in an unnecessary aching sore throat that causes extra inflammation in my autoimmune disorder makes me question the viability of tutoring for a living. When I ask people to cancel when contagious, it’s absolutely imperative. Otherwise, it’s simply not realistic for me to take on tutoring students. I edit and write from home, so I’m lucky in that regard. But even just three regularly contagious students a week means I lose tons of writing time and suffer incredibly more than I already would. I work for myself so I can control my work schedule around my endo, but I really have to question whether or not it’s realistic for me to tutor as part of my income when so many students fail to cancel when obviously contagious. I love them as people, their energy, teaching, literature and being of service, but this week has made me question how many more flus and sore throats I can handle when it intensifies the already very severe endo and arthritis that I already suffer from. I can’t expect to never get a cold living in a big city, but I shouldn’t be knowingly given sore throats and fevers that knock me out for weeks just because students don’t honour my request to cancel when contagious. I have found relief in setting up a life of working from home as an editor and writer and teaching mostly online and I may need to back to that during the winter cold and flu season. I wish people understood the magnitude of what they are doing when they knowing infect those who suffer from autoimmune disorders. It’s already guilt-inducing and disappointing to have to cancel appointments and miss out on activities, to be exhausted all the time – we just don’t have the capacity to take on extra, especially when it can be avoided. I tutor because I care about students and enjoy their energy. Real life interaction is wonderful. But being sick all the time is not. Anyway, thanks for this wonderful support site! Other things I’ve found helpful for me personally are changing my diet to avoid night shade vegetables and taking naturopathic herbs to reduce hemorrhaging, but the most important thing others can do for me is honour and take seriously my need for them to cancel tutorials and activities when they are contagious with sore throats and flus that will inevitably make my monthly labour pain even worse.
Thank you for putting your voice out there. As you mentioned in your article our immune systems are much weaker. I would like to share a story from someone on the opposite side of the world. I am in the United States and unfortunately i have no health insurance, no money, and my boss at work got me sick. We do not have the luxury of working from home as we are easily replaced. So no doctors, fortunately i was in the hospital earlier this year so i got a flu shot. Guess what it didn’t work. I caught the flu from my boss and my stepdad caught it at the same time. Probably from me. While neither my boss nor my stepdad encountered gastro problems with it because of my endo i did. So here i sit on my 4th day symptomatic and i get called in early for work. You are lucky that you can take a holiday every month and work from home but do not just limit others with endo around the world to just a few snippets when you are blessed. Not trying to attack you just giving you a better understanding of how the lowest income bracket in the USA deals with this problem. News flash: we don’t, we ignore the pain and keep going, if we get sick we keep going, if we get tired we keep going, and if somebody actually understands our illness thats great.
Someone who has suffered from endometriosis since she was 13 and is about to celebrate her 30th birthday.