Being asked repeatedly what is wrong is hard enough, but what’s worse is not being able to give an answer. I’ve been in pain physically and mentally for years and finally, at almost 21 years of age, I am being referred to a specialist at the hospital, regardless of seeking medical advice since the age of 16. This blog aims to highlight a link between mental health and Endometriosis and my experiences of living with this condition.
Have you heard of Endometriosis? I hadn’t until I was passed to the 4th Doctor who suggested that this was the likely cause of the issues that I had. So what is it? “Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes. Endometriosis can affect women of any age and is a long-term condition” (NHS, 2019).
Statistically 1 in 10 females have endometriosis. However, on average, it takes a woman 7.5 years to finally reach a full diagnosis and get a treatment plan in place. So it is curable? No. There is not a “cure” as such in place for the condition, just treatments along the way which may ease the pain such as pain relief, surgery to remove some of the tissue or hormone replacement therapy. What’s the cause? Again, no one really knows. Most likely causes are genetics, endo being hereditary or simply just the way your body has formed as a tiny foetus when forming cells.
All Ears is a mental health awareness page, so how does this have any links to Endometriosis? I know, I didn’t think a physical condition could be a CAUSE of depression and/or severe anxiety. However, one common symptom of Endometriosis is depression, in which the majority of endo sufferers are also put on antidepressants in order to increase serotonin, a feel-good hormone that keeps a person happy. However, endo sufferers have a chemical imbalance within their bodies and thus are less likely/not able to produce enough serotonin naturally, leading to depression and low moods.
My moods have been up and down since I first reached puberty, in which the extreme highs and lows started. My parents often described me as being such a “happy little girl” in my childhood, yet from 11/12 years old the famous “attitude” developed. I remember crying for no reason, feeling angry and hurt and extremely shy, feeling worthless and as if I was going nowhere. It was hard for the close ones around me to understand. I had a great childhood, supportive parents and a great education– why was I so angry and tearful and why when I cried was it never just a few tears but a full on breakdown?
As you can imagine, this created a lot of misunderstandings within the family. I wasn’t badly behaved, but I acted as if the world was against me and I would wake up some days feeling as if I didn’t want to get out of bed. However the extreme highs would come, I’d have so much energy I’d play fight my Dad and brother, run around at my netball and let out my aggression at Judo. I could be unnecessarily annoying with my energy and hyperness and I could laugh a little too eagerly or simply “play up”. But what goes up always comes back down, right? Yes. When these lows came I could hide myself away in my room for hours, be dismissive and cross and hurt.
Only at 20, having completed my first year training to be a Counsellor/Psychotherapist did I finally get to the point where I couldn’t take the extreme moods anymore. It was as if I had run out of “highs” and was stuck in one big, constant low. Nothing excited me. Things that would bring me huge joy in the past like painting or socialising brought me no pleasure. I would break down, have panic attacks and cry myself to sleep and it was only after I saw my GP and a mental health specialist that I was diagnosed with clinical depression. But isn’t depression just from a bad event happening that makes you sad or a bereavement or a trigger? It can be those things, but it can also relate to your physical health. Having been put on 100mg of Sertraline and being told that I should have been on these tablets at my first diagnosis of Polycystic Ovaries at 16 due to not being able to produce enough serotonin, I have noticed a huge change. The highs are returning. Now I’m not saying the tablets have “cured” my mental health, not in the slightest, but simply given me a kick up the backside to get my endometriosis sorted, to finally start being told about a treatment plan and to stop being in pain. The physical pain with this condition means that most days I am either in mild pain or severe agony. My stomach aches, I’m bloated, when my period comes I am in excruciating agony, my legs feel achy, my back feels broken and sometimes I’ve struggled to get to class because of the pain I’m in.
So why have I decided to share my story? If you are a woman who has experienced a story similar to myself, involving uncontrollable moods and pains such as cramps and extreme period pains, then I URGE you to see your GP. If you’re told it is probably just a heavy period and is very common, insist that it is not just that, share the agony, hurt and distress you are in. Because endometriosis has tried it’s best to take over my life, but I won’t let it any more. With the path that I am on, training to be a Counsellor, having Doctors and hospital appointments in place and finally reaching the drive to get my physical and mental health back, I will not let this condition beat me, and neither should you.
Thank you for reading and feel free to message me in relation to endometriosis, mental health or any questions you may have for me.