second guessing

Some of you may have read Elle Griffin’s post The Emotional Causes of Endometriosis. The post, although interesting, and a new way to approach the disease, lacks understanding and credibility in relation to medical and scientific evidence.

For those who want a quick overview,: In her post Griffin identifies three emotional causes of endometriosis: The Dependent, The Business Woman and The Reluctant Woman. She then goes on to say that

“by turning inward, women with endometriosis can discover a wealth of wisdom about what it is she truly wants. And by realigning her life to the wisdom of her womb, she can find healing, comfort, and yes, ease from the pain.”

If you read through the post and specifically the emotional causes any woman who works outside the home, has a close relationship with her family and is pushing 30 without children, can easily be classified into one of the causes, but only of course if you have endometriosis.

If you can identify with one of the causes and don’t have endometriosis, well I’m not sure what to tell you. And if you have endoemtriosis and have turned inward to discover what you want (most people do have some good moments of self reflection every now and again) and you are still living with the disease, then you may be living a lie and should search harder, because your mind and womb are not centred.

It appears that Griffin, rather than provide a solution that women can easily access, merely perpetuates age-old taboos surrounding the topic of menstruation, all the while promoting her services as a feminine vitality coach.

The idea that endometriosis (a disease) can be cured by “realigning one’s life to the wisdom of the womb” is reminiscent of the Hippocratics description of menstruation being a sign of women’s wandering womb (Dean-Jones, 1994, pp. 69-70).  Their solution of course, was to encourage women to stop menstruating all together, but the idea of the womb being linked to one’s mind and having influence is prominent, and as science has taught us, incorrect.

More specifically, when Griffin talks about the cause of both the “Reluctant Mother” and “Business Woman” is she not echoing the discourse of the seventeenth century where Immanuel Kant described the fluid nature of the female body as irrational and warned against taxing the minds and bodies of women with educational or employment training (MacDonald, 2007, p. 345)?

And what about the ideas prevailing from the 19th century when entire books were written warning against what would happen if women didn’t follow through with their reproductive purposes? Melissa L. Meyer (2005), in her book Thicker than Water, draws on Edward F. Clark’s 1874 book, Sex and Education, in which the nineteenth-century doctor states that menstruating women should be excluded from the “mental strains” of learning as these were seen to weaken them, leaving them susceptible to disease (Meyer, 2005, p. 151).

Similar “concerns” were found by the authors of The Curse: A Cultural History of Menstruation (1976) who borrow from the message of Doctor Azel Ames’ 1875 book Sex and Industry, stating that allowing a woman to work “would mean the destruction of their menstrual cycles and thus the end of the human race” (Delaney, Lupton & Toth, 1976, p. 58).

Now we read these and think: really? People actually though these things and put them into action? They most certainly did. And it appears that still today, any irregularity of the menstrual cycle is somehow a woman’s fault and in some cases viewed as a punishment for her being successful, or a working mom, or not a mom at all, etc.

Erin Luyendyk, RHN wrote an excellent response to Griffin’s post, drawing attention to the science behind the disease and the raw reality that unfortunately no matter how hard you try, you cannot will a disease to disappear.

Griffin’s post could have done a lot of good for women with endometriosis and based on the comments some do find comfort in her words. Sometimes your emotions can influence your health, but emotions don’t cause diseases like endometriosis. We wouldn’t dare suggest that emotions cause reproductive cancers, and so why would we suggest they cause a disease like endometriosis?

I would argue that while a horrible disease to live with, endometriosis has taught me to live a much healthier life and to be more in tune with my emotions. It’s taught me to hope, to be patient, to chart my cycle, to sympathize as well as the importance of a healthy diet and exercise. 

I’ve had a reason to research, to investigate and to ask questions when my doctor prescribes medication and treatment. I’ve learned that although just the patient, I can, and often do say no!

So dearest Elle, your formula is simple, but flawed. You assume that women with endometriosis are ignorant of the root cause of their pain and discomfort. You feel the cause can be found deep within, and it can… along my bladder, my bowel and the outside frame of my uterus.

You tell me to state what I am looking for? Well Elle, I’m looking for what most women with endometriosis are looking for: a cure. Many women (not all) with endometriosis have faced our desires and our true selves, we have a profound understanding of reproductive health, are in tune with our emotions and don’t have the energy to (nor would we want to) rage a constant battle with our mind and heart. It is because of these reasons (coupled with sound evidence from the medical community of course) that your post is hurtful.

Here at dropsofscarlet I do on occasion have heated conversations with my uterus. Sometimes I sympathize with my U while other times I’m just plain mad, but either way it’s not the reason for my endometriosis. While everyone hopes to be able to pinpoint the root cause and solution, a lot of grey area still remains.

One things for sure, I am more certain of what I want, what I feel and who I am as a woman because I have endured endometriosis.

And yet, still I suffer.

Does this mean that the life I am living (the life I enjoy) is not the life I really desire?

Provably not the case, but the tone of Griffin’s post seems to suggest that I need to re-evaluate most every aspect of my life, quit my job, maybe have children and possibly move very far away from my family.

End Note: (Written after writing my initial response to “The Emotional Causes of Endometriosis”)

“The Emotional Causes of Endometriosis” is just one post of many written by Elle Griffin. If you take the time to read through the other posts on her site you will probably not respond in the same way to this post. I probably would have still found it offensive, but if I had an understanding of Elle and the work she does, her beliefs, her treatment strategies etc. I probably would have written this post a bit differently. Griffin draws deeply from the spiritual and while her post can be viewed as lacking medical facts, often “medical” anything is seen as disruptive to the holistic healing process. She herself also has a history of disease and cycle problems and so while her treatment may fall outside of mainstream methods, she does bring experience to her writing. 

That being said, it is because of some of the content of her other posts, like the ideas found in Why I Love my Period, that I feel responses to her diagnosis of endometriosis should be called into question and most definitely reframed, removed altogether or rewritten.

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