Padma Lakshmi has been vocal about her experience with endometriosis, which she says made her feel alone, and hugely disrupted her life. In a talk at Tina Brown’s Women in the World Summit on Thursday, Lakshmi spoke about the importance of awareness of the disorder, which is often misdiagnosed or chalked up to normal (but painful) side effects of having your period.
Endometriosis causes the uterine lining, or endometrium, to grow outside the uterus and stick to other internal organs. Sufferers must undergo surgery to have the endometrium removed. For Lakshmi, the disorder went undiagnosed until she was 36. Lena Dunham has also spoken up about her struggle with endometriosis.
“Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong,” Lakshmi said. “It is not okay for you to be bedridden for two or three or four or five days every month because of the fact that you’re a woman or the fact that you have a period. That is abnormal. And I and millions of other women are conditioned to think that it’s just a part of being a woman, and it’s really not.”
Lakshmi said the disorder put a strain on her marriage to Salman Rushdie and contributed to their 2007 divorce. When she was finally diagnosed, she said, “I don’t think we understood it at the time, and I just felt very alone. I couldn’t tend to my marriage and tend to my health and I thought I had to save my health. I didn’t feel supported in my house.”
She described how living with endometriosis sidelined her from her busy career. “For 23 years of my life, for one week of my life, I was bedridden with heating pads and very serious prescription pain medication. I tried all kinds of things, and no one could tell me what was wrong. I don’t want any other little teenage girl to miss an exam, to not be able to go to volleyball practice, to not do all of the things that [make them] feel fulfilled and their best self.”
“I think we all deserve the opportunity to do that,” Lakshmi added.