While endometriosis affects approximately 176 million women worldwide, 33% of women do not know what endometriosis is and 45% cannot name any of its symptoms. And unfortunately, since so many women experience painful menstruation cycles, endometriosis is one of the hardest conditions for medical professionals to diagnose.

Olivia Culpo, actress, model and former Miss Universe, experienced this firsthand. Suffering from painful symptoms and going from one doctor to the next, her battle with endometriosis has been a long and challenging one. But she has learned many lessons along the way and hopes to help other women by sharing her story.

In an exclusive interview with Thrive Global, the actress, model and entrepreneur speaks about her endometriosis journey, how it’s affected her mental health and raising awareness to drive change.

As part of your involvement with Midol’s “No Apologies, Period” campaign, what would you like to say to those who are currently struggling with period shame?

I think it is important to find a support group and normalize the conversation around periods. Remind yourself that there is nothing shameful about such a beautiful human experience. I love that Midol is pushing this objective with their “No Apologies” campaign.

What inspired you to open up about your battle with endometriosis?

I relied heavily on the internet when I was going through my experience with Endo, not only to get answers but to feel less alone. I felt like it was my obligation to be that support for others in the same way.

Getting the diagnosis was a long, difficult road – on top of all the physical symptoms you were experiencing, doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Can you share what this journey has been like for you?  And how are you feeling now?

It’s been a very challenging journey. There were not only times of extreme pain but fear for the future, loneliness and unanswered questions. I feel so much better and I am so grateful for my doctors. It was a huge relief to finally have answers and take action to take care of my health. I documented all of the journey and I hope to share it soon. 

Struggling with any disease can take a toll on your mental health. Can you talk a bit about that? How has this experience changed you as a person?

I think there is a correlation between chronic pain and depression and anxiety. I definitely had my low moments and I empathize with anyone else out there struggling. I want them to know that they are not alone and they are so strong. It has given me a whole new perspective on people living with pain and a real admiration for my doctors and for all the people advocating for Endo awareness. 

Sharing your story has empowered other women to come forward and advocate for their health. What ways can we continue to raise awareness and drive change?

I have been getting involved with organizations that fight for change in this space – like EndoFound. The more we talk about it and the more we organize together, the stronger the action and impact. 

To learn more about endometriosis, click here.