Saturday, April 21, 2012

What do I do?

What do I do?  Many people ask that question.  In our society, when someone asks you that question, they want you to tell them what your occupation is or what you do for a living.  What is it that you do that makes you worthy of numbers appearing in your bank account so that you may have a place to live, food to eat, clothes on your back, and perhaps a little left over to do something for fun?   When most people I don't know ask me that question, I tell them I am a professor.  They seem quite impressed and often shocked as I do not look like the typical professor.  I look relatively young.  I am a woman.  And, I don't wear a tweed coat or smoke a pipe.  I am always taken aback by how impressed or shocked they seem.  I'm not that impressed.  Like David Byrne, I often wonder how I got here.

They typically follow up by asking what I teach.  I say sociology.  That is when many stop being impressed.  Most do not know what sociology is.  Hell, most sociologists don't know what sociology is.  If they do have some vague idea about sociology, most assume that I am a card-carrying communist and worship at the altar of Karl Marx.  (As a side note, I do love me some Karl Marx.  He is one of the reasons I was drawn to sociology.  He saw suffering and injustice and imagined a utopia free of suffering and injustice.  I don't know what is so wrong with that.  Without the imagination for a new and different world, nothing will ever change.)  If they don't know what sociology is, they usually ask if it is like psychology.  I say, yes, in that both disciplines study people, but sociologists tend to focus on groups of people rather than individuals or individual states of mind.  I then try to divert the conversation away from that topic because, quite frankly, it is quite difficult to explain what I do.  And, most people in our country equate Karl Marx with communism and communism with totalitarianism.

I have a PhD in sociology.  When I am feeling well, I teach "sociology" at a liberal arts college.  I chose sociology as my discipline because I am easily bored, and I figured I could study anything I wanted to with a PhD in sociology.  It is also the discipline that spoke to my lived experience as a young woman from a white, working-class family, or what some might see as "southern white trash."

Sociology is not much of a discipline as it is an approach to critically examining the world.  I try to get my students to be THINKERS more than anything else.  I think I frighten many of them.  If I reach a few, I feel I am doing my job. More than anything I want to write about mine and others' experiences with endometriosis to expose the atrocities that women with endometriosis, and women in general, face in nearly every place around the globe.  I am working on this.  You will see a link on this blog and elsewhere for a study I am conducting on those with endometriosis. It is under construction. I want to give voice to those who have been silenced for far too long.

I am unabashedly a feminist.  When I say this, most assume that I am also a butch, lesbian man-hater. Some who call themselves "feminists" do hate men.  I think those people are just as uninformed and narrow-minded as those who label me a lesbian pinko commie when I tell them I am a sociologist.  

I am also a troublemaker when I am feeling well.  Troubling people makes them evolve.  I am constantly troubling myself by reading anything and everything I can get my hands on.  

Telling you what I am, however, is not the same thing as telling you what I do.  If I were being truthful, what I do now is go to doctors and pharmacies.  The number of doctors are staggering.  I have a primary care physician, an endometriosis excision specialist, a gynecologist, an endocrinologist, a cardiologist, a urologist,  a neurosurgeon, and a physical therapist on my payroll. In the past several months, I cannot remember how many times I have had my feet in those stirrups. I don't have a horse, but I ride that examination table like a filly.  I sleep a lot, once I fall asleep. Falling asleep is difficult for me these days.  I dread waking up.  When I wake up, I am in pain.  When I am asleep, at least I am not aware of the pain.  

What do I do?  I have been asking this of myself lately.  It is quite a different question when you ask others, "What do I do?"  They can suggest.  No one can really decide for you.  I know I cannot keep sleeping to avoid pain.  So, what do I do?  I am preparing for my fifth surgery (one of them a back fusion surgery) in less than two years.  Unfortunately, there is no way to tell what endometriosis is doing to the insides of your body other than to cut you open and find out.  There are no treatments other than to suppress your ovaries with GnRH agonists like Lupron (which I refuse to do...check out the side effects and the lawsuits regarding this drug) or trick your body into thinking it is pregnant with birth control pills. I took birth control pills for fifteen years. They helped keep the endometriosis at bay but ravaged my body and mind in other ways. I now have hypertension and am too old to take birth control.  Unless there is an endometrioma on your ovary or a large lump on your uterus (which I no longer have anyway) indicating adenomyosis, you cannot see endometriosis on an MRI, CT Scan, ultrasound, or X-ray.  So, under the knife...err laser (my endometriosis surgeon does not use a scalpel)...I go again.  I hope this time it will be the last. There has to be hope for a utopia for me anyway.

I do know that I cannot let keep letting the days go by wondering how I got here.

And, that is today's crotch report.  
Signing off,
Jen Pem


  1. Thanks love. ;) Now I just need to figure out how to link to your blog.

  2. Welcome to the blogosphere!