Abby Norman dropped out of college due to debilitating pain she started experiencing one day, and which doctors minimized for years before she finally was semi-diagnosed with Endometriosis (among other things). The title and synopsis of this book makes it seem like more of a book about the relationship between women and doctors, but really this is a memoir that mostly focuses on Abby’s medical history, and she sort of extrapolates outward (with help from research, yes) how her journey was affected by (or could have been different than) the way that the medical establishment treats women, and specifically, women in relation to their reproductive systems/sexual organs, and as a result, how under researched Endometriosis is as a condition, and how often misunderstood. She does acknowledge that she is a cis white woman, and that cis women aren’t the only ones affected by this, that other people with uteruses (like trans men) are also affected, but again, this is mostly a memoir, and she is white and cis, so that’s the focus.
Going in, I was expecting way less of Abby and more of a general exploration of gender/sexual bias in the medical field. The title is really a problem, I think. Framing it as “women’s pain” makes it seem like that is the actual topic of the book, when it is just a subtopic, something she deals with as a consequence of her medical history. And really, it is a compelling book, but combined with those expectations, and the fact that her experiences kept giving me anxiety (they related a little too much to some experiences I’ve had of my own), and the fact that her experiences are just horrific. This woman is in PAIN the whole book. It doesn’t let up, and she describes it in detail.
Her abusive childhood is also something that she grapples with the whole book, and is gone into detail. She eventually became emancipated from her family, but not before her manipulative grandmother, and mentally ill mother traumatized her for life.
Occasionally she would step away from her own life and do little mini-history lessons. She relates Gilda Radner’s troubles, which horrified me. Gilda knew she was sick for a long time (years) before she was eventually diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer , but doctors never believed her, or minimized her pain. She also goes further back than that. There is a lot of nonsense with Freud, and you know what, I’m done with that guy. He was a fuckhead. These were honestly the parts of the book I enjoyed the most.
So, all in all, this book was a good experience, but it wasn’t what I was expecting, and the subject matter made me anxious, so it wasn’t a super pleasant reading experience.
That cover, though, right?