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The Sick, Unreliable & Unrelatable Are Expendable

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By Kelly R. Thompson

When you are sick, unreliable and don’t get along with other people you become expendable. That was me. After earning a Bachelors of Science in Psychology from Oral Roberts University and then my Masters degree in Counseling, I was excited to serve the community in the area of mental health, as a crisis interventionist and behavioral health professional. For over twenty years, I have served, in health care and all my life I served in ministry, helping people who could not immediately help themselves and working with them through support to empowerment, until they could do life on their own.

How does one with change agent innovation, passion to serve, degrees, certifications and seniority become expendable?

Maybe this has happened to you or possibly you’ve watched it happen to someone you know. It happens all the time. And it happened to me.

I was excited the decade was changing. I had been building my vision, with active work and continuing to dream forward. Two years prior, I had just received my Master’s degree, had a new little baby, and now had two young children, when my first marriage crashed. I had no idea, while attempting to rebalance my life and look ahead, that I would inherit a new crisis. A sick parent became my main focus of care taking. During this time, I had very little support.

After a year and a half of round the clock reliable care taking on perpetual life threatening levels, compassion fatigue set in and a report from the doctor for my own health dramatically changed my life.

A little scan showed fluid on my fallopian tubes. I have pushed through a great deal in life so I would have thought this matter would be of no significance. My OB/GYN reported a minor surgery would correct it. However, it felt ominous, heavy and I was shaken on the inside.

I remember it was cold the day of the surgery. It was an outpatient procedure. My mother who was still ill herself took me to the appointment with my young son. Not having had surgery before, I foolishly wore high heeled boots to the procedure. What was I thinking? I walked out of there the same day, after what should have been a quick procedure became several hours later. Surprisingly, the doctors found my whole abdominal cavity filled with endometriosis with organs improperly placed from mass adhesions. That day, a partial hysterectomy was the beginning of my healing journey from endometriosis, after years and years of pain with no “proof” anything was wrong. It was also the beginning of menopause.

Who knew a healing journey would result in me being expendable. Menopause isn’t considered a sickness by medical communities but I was definitely sick and completely unreliable. This time because of my own health issues, where before admittedly others were the focus in my inconsistencies. It’s no coincidence, I wasn’t good at balancing and it seemed all my cards had played out. Six months later I had to have an (almost emergency) total hysterectomy because of complications with stage 4 endometriosis. I had been in the beginnings of menopause after the first surgery but this time I would go into complete and immediate full blown menopause, at the age of 36.

Some women go into menopause so gracefully. Aside from a cessation of menses, they don’t even realize they are in it. But there are other cases that are as horrifying as a deterioration of mental health. Each woman’s encounter as her estrogen declines is different. Additionally, there is a significant difference in women who naturally and gradually go through menopause versus those who are forced into an abrupt and complete menopause that is surgically induced.

There are women of various ages, with families and careers, with significant professional reputation and goals who have experienced the derailing effects of menopause. When this is the case, there are no words to explain what is happening, there is very little social awareness and support and most cases there is no preparation given, to know to seek out what is not even spoken of within our society. Endo Meno Matters is one of few organizations created to change this reality.

Menopause is more than a hot flash. When those hormonal levels significantly drop the mind can’t think, remember or understand and the mouth doesn’t hold words to describe what is happening and people just tend to fade away. Just as in mental illness, the mood swings that come as hormones shift abnormally drive people away. The incredible decline of metabolism can rapidly increase weight gain and once youthful and attractive women blow up, dry up and age considerably. When menopause effects women in this way, aching bodies and numb minds cannot drive departments, research initiatives, and other professional and personal responsibilities. It’s not that menopausal women can’t lead. Menopausal women without these symptoms can absolutely lead. But to not have these symptoms, possibly genes and health must be on your side or proper treatment must be established early and well.

I know what it is like to have people depend on you and not be able to rise to the occasion. I understand what it’s like to not be able to articulate symptoms and not be able to figure it out because of what is happening on the inside. Having information before hand is key. That is why I advocate. Building support early is important. Knowing the options of care that are best suited for your personal journey is a must. That is why Endo Meno in all of it’s capacities exists. Being expendable doesn’t have to be your experience. Having a sister further along in the experience to explain worse case scenarios and coach through the new terrain will help to navigate your course through to optimal health and avoid career sabotage.

Thankfully, years of sowing into others through ministry and clinical support has garnered me the ability to take my hardships and forage a pioneering path for others to benefit from in their own personal and professional lives. You don’t have to suffer like I have suffered. Whatever level of discomfort you are experiencing can be combatted with education, conversation and a coaching relationship.