This week, we took time to reflect on what our health can tell us about ourselves. In our weekly “From the Editor’s Desk” column and in our newsletter, we asked Verily readers: “When is a time that a doctor’s appointment or a physical or mental health condition helped you understand yourself better?”

Here are a selection of the reflections women shared with us (note: some reflections have been edited for clarity and brevity).

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“When I crashed and burned with COVID-19, I was already burning—I’d just dodged the crash for longer than was believable. But dodging hadn’t saved me from damage. Because I was so thoroughly underweight and drained, because I had used busyness to break the blow of grief and exercise to avoid feeling (it was actually a good coping mechanism, only grossly overused), I didn’t even have a feather, let alone a cushion, when I fell ill. That illness, tied to unattended celiac disease and mental health, reminded me I deserved care before a crash; and restored to me a semblance of both humility and hope.”
– C.J., Boston, Massachusetts

“I always hated my body. It wasn’t until I lost 20 lbs due to a digestive disorder that I realized that thin doesn’t mean happy or healthy. During that time, I would’ve given anything to be able to eat without pain. Now on the other side, I realize I’m lucky to be able to enjoy the food I consume. I care much less about how my body looks and much more about how my body feels. And that’s a good feeling.”
– Meg, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

“I am blessed with a wonderful gynecologist who really cares about my well-being. When I came to her with painful periods, she didn’t try to prescribe a bandaid fix (aka, birth control) or dismiss my pain and tell me to take more medicine (both of these had happened with previous doctors). Rather, she recommended I began charting my cycle. Over the course of 18 months of charting and some ultrasounds, we ultimately determined I was a candidate for endometriosis surgery. I had the surgery and I’m so glad I did. We found out important information about my fertility that is empowering me to make the right decisions on the right timeline now that I am married and contemplating starting a family. Without her care for me from the start, I never would have known about my unique fertility, and I would’ve been flying blind when making family decisions!”
– Rebecca, Houston, Texas

“My diagnosis with endometriosis was a moment in which I began to understand my health leading up to that moment and then going forward it has been so helpful. I always had bad periods, but everyone always complained about having pain or uncomfortable periods so I thought it was normal. It wasn't until one of my roommates asked me if I had ever been checked for endometriosis that I began to look into it. A few years later the pain during my periods and between my periods became really bad… to the point when I realized there was a problem. I started doing research online and went to talk with my OBGYN. From there I had surgery and they found endometriosis. Going forward, I now understand where my pain comes from and I’m learning how to manage it.”
– Mary, San Jose, California

"When I was in the middle of PhD program I was tested and found out I had ADHD. The diagnosis made so much of my life make sense, and knowing why I did things made it easier to function and to explain. I finally knew why I always worked on multiple things at once, or felt the need to move on even from conversations I enjoyed when in a crowd. Knowing more about myself gave me more options for my life."

— Laura, Nappanee, IN

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