If you asked Lara Parker what the weirdest thing about her life is, her experience of living with chronic reproductive health conditions such as endometriosis actually wouldn’t top the list. Rather, it would maybe be what happens when she talks about the reproductive disorder online, and how people react when they recognize her on the street as “the girl with the vagina problems.”
“It’s weird being remembered as the girl who talks about her vagina all the time. I kind of made my disorder part of my identity by accident, since I talk about it all the time—but it’s okay, most of the time. The other day, I was going into my building, and the mail lady stopped me. This was like the first time I’ve ever seen her, but she stopped me, no problem. She just looked me in the face and was like, ‘Did you do a video about putting Botox in your vagina?’” Parker laughs, and you can practically hear her shake her head through the phone. “’Yes, yes I did. I did a couple more like that; have you seen those, too?”
For Parker, talking about her “vagina problems”, as she dubs them, is all in a day’s work. Other people think it’s oversharing, which is an odd sentiment, when you take a moment to consider what we share every day.
When it comes to personal things, most people have no trouble sharing, be it in person or on social media. Usually, you’re just as likely to hear about someone’s life and/or most recent trip to the bathroom as you are to just hearing about how their day went. However, a few topics seem to still be completely off the table for discussion, and most of them are labeled “Lady Problems.”
As such, endometriosis (a disorder where a tissue like the uterine lining, or endometrium, grows where it doesn’t belong, causing a lot of pain and problems like infertility, chronic fatigue and pain associated with sex, etc.) is consigned there. Up until recent years, it has been a hush-hush kind of topic, which, considering that the disorder affects one in ten people with uteri, is a problem. In a world that overshares just about everything with everyone, labeling something that affects so many people as gross, or even irrelevant, is anything but productive.
So, when a casual search online brings up pages after pages of endometriosis experts and sufferers all saying the same thing—that it should be talked about more—suddenly being known for videos about reproductive health issues is not embarrassing whatsoever. It makes you a person on a mission, as Parker can attest. And she’s not the only one on that mission. In the past few years, there has been some major improvement on the talking front. From celebrities to regular women, endometriosis is a hot topic, with communities bonding over shared pain.
Parker, a senior editor at BuzzFeed, falls somewhere between celebrity and regular woman, but that helps spreading the word more than hinders, providing a relatable and credible role model and activist to follow. Another thing that helps? Working at one of the biggest online presences, where she has a major platform and advantage, and she’s not afraid to use it. Though she began her work at Buzzfeed in 2014, she says that she started writing on endometriosis (which she was diagnosed with when she was twenty-one) in 2012.
In her experience, sharing has done nothing but help things along, both in her life and spreading awareness about the disorder. After struggling for eight and a half years to receive an official diagnosis, Parker has made up for lost time by writing—and she has much to say. From advice to other endometriosis sufferers to suggestions and demands for medical professionals to consider women’s health issues, this writer has no qualms about sharing her words of wisdom.
“It feels natural to talk about it now. At first, I was embarrassed about it, because anyone and everyone can find out about what is happening with my vagina—all they have to do is Google me. But now, well, I don’t think much about it. When I first started talking about it, I knew that other women had these experiences, but I didn’t know how many. That, and having the platform that I do [with BuzzFeed], has kept me going.”
“The best way to raise awareness about these kinds of things, to deal with these things, is to talk and not take no for an answer. If you’re not diagnosed, but you’ve done the research and everything makes sense: be your own advocate. It takes forever to be diagnosed because people don’t take you seriously—but they don’t know your body like you do. And if you’re diagnosed, you’re not alone or helpless.”
“Everyone has one. It’s seeing stories from ‘regular’ people that inspires me. Those are my role models and why I keep talking. That’s why the conversation is so important.”