Guys, I think we all can agree that adverts about sanitary towels and tampons are beyond patronising – nobody really feels like jumping and dancing and, er, skydiving when they’re on their period – but for around 7 years, even walking while I was on my period was agony. So no leaping, dancing or skydiving for me. If I could help it, there’d be no getting out of bed lest my insides felt like they were being pulled backwards.
I actually PRAYED for my period to come when I was 10 years old. I’d just read Judy Blume’s book (judge me all you like, I do) called Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret in which, in case you were in the 1% of teenage girls who didn’t read it, a girl prays every day for her period. Or something like that. She really, really wants it because she thinks it’ll make her a woman. Which meant that the impressionable 10 year old me ALSO really wanted her period. I sat down in front of one of our kitchen cupboards and prayed (because the church was too far away and what’s more amazing than food? Nothing. I figured it was second best). I prayed for my period to come and a few weeks later it did. Of all the things I’ve resented in my life; Crocs, Dane Bowers’s smug face and serious shit like wars, periods are still the biggest chip on my shoulder.
When I was around 14, I started getting extremely heavy periods. At one point I was wearing two towels and a tampon to bed just so I wouldn’t spoil my sheets. I wore trousers to school to save any kind of ‘leakage’ embarrassment but unfortunately, I often did bleed through them. I’d clutch my stomach in class just to put some pressure on and I lost count of how many times teachers took me aside and asked if I was pregnant. I guess a slightly bloated, sweating, gently weeping teenage girl clutching her stomach did give off preggers vibes.
When I spoke to my doctor about it, he put me on the pill. It didn’t work but I did get some LOVELY spots. Really enhanced my features. He put me on a different pill, which also didn’t work. Didn’t make a difference at-all but it did really bring home to me how much I hated responsibility. One tablet at the same time every day?! I couldn’t even remember when the soaps were on.
Eventually, I gave up speaking to doctors. I moved away from home and even 40 miles away, my doctors thought I was being overdramatic and hysterical about periods. One even said ‘well, dear, periods DO hurt’. I FUCKING KNOW THIS, THANK YOU. Sex was agony, I had to grip my stomach just to stop it being as sore. Afterwards I’d cry and there’d be a bit of blood, every time. My periods just got somehow worse, I was getting through an inordinate amount of towels a day. I just couldn’t face seeing a doctor again, though. I felt like I WAS overreacting.
Last year, I got a hell of a lot worse. Along with painful periods, painful sex and so much blood loss, I also couldn’t handle any foods. At any time of the month. I was always tired, always sore and it depressed the hell out of me. I mean, obviously it did. No food, no sex and not enough hot water bottles in the world. I went to my new doctor who had been lovely in the past and I told him everything. Every little disgusting detail. I cried as well because I thought he was going to put me on yet another contraceptive (I’d also been on the implant at this point- STAY AWAY is my advice). I had the coil in, the copper coil and it was grand. I didn’t need more contraceptives, I needed somebody to listen and he said quite simply ‘I’m astonished that no other doctor has recognised these symptoms as Endometriosis before’. He referred me on to a gynaecologist who booked me in for a diagnostic laparoscopy (this is abdominal keyhole surgery involving a small tube with a camera on it).
It was fine. It sounded scary but honestly, the procedure itself was a doddle. I actually liked going under, it felt amazing. Once I came around though, the surgeon told me that I did have Endometriosis. The tissue from the lining of my uterus was covering my bowel, womb and ovaries. It couldn’t be removed with lasers because there was too much and I was infertile. Well. Not infertile. I can create babies but I can’t carry them. Rather me than someone who desperately wants them, I thought. I’m a cat lady and I love my kitties. I can cope with just having them around. I’ll deal with the future when it comes, I thought. I still do think that way, really. What I was more concerned about was what came next. What did I need to go through to have this fixed?
Two months later, I got my answer- more surgery. This one would be invasive and would be removing all Endometriosis tissue as well as fitting another coil, the Mirena coil because it minimises periods apparently. I was nervous about this surgery. I didn’t know how sore it’d be, I didn’t want to stay over in the hospital and well, I didn’t want to die during it. (I prayed for my period, we can conclude that I’m a little dramatic.) The surgery went fine. They found a cyst on my ovary that was actually dragging my ovary down which meant I had to have a drain fitted. The nurses were absolutely lovely and helped as much as they could with anything I needed. There’s nothing dignified or nice about being helped to the toilet while you have a drain hanging out of you but they somehow made it simple and Not A Big Deal. Staying over was traumatic but only because I couldn’t get to sleep for all the machines and did’t know I could ask for sleeping tablets.
Two months later, I’m recovered. I have no stitches left, I haven’t passed out from the pain of any period I’ve had and I can eat now without running to the loo straight after. The most upsetting thing is still that I can’t have children but not being taken seriously comes a close second because had I been taken seriously when I was younger, I might still be able to have children and wouldn’t have lost years of my life to such a horrible disease. Endometriosis is extremely common but rarely spoken about and I wrote this to raise awareness, really so that other women who recognise these symptoms as their own can get help.