Endometriosis Awareness Week 2022 (28 Feb – 6 Mar)
By Adele Phillips, Customer Contact Team Manager, Operations
[vc_separator color=”custom” accent_color=”#164c48″]About 1.5 million women and those assigned female at birth in the UK suffer from endometriosis, a painful and debilitating condition that can affect every aspect of life.
The condition causes tissue similar to the lining of the womb to grow elsewhere – including in the ovaries and fallopian tubes – and can result in severe pelvic or period pain.
Treatments for endometriosis include painkillers, hormone medicines and contraceptives, and surgery (laparoscopy and hysterectomy). But some women find these ineffective and abandon medical treatment or seek alternative therapies.
In the UK, women also wait an average of eight years for a diagnosis.[vc_separator color=”custom” accent_color=”#164c48″]
Having a bad experience with endometriosis
My experience with endometriosis, unfortunately has not been a positive one.
My symptoms started when I was around 15/16 and since then it has been an uphill battle to get the right help from the NHS and my GP. I was given a lot of different contraceptives and when I asked for further investigation, I was medically gas lighted with terms such as ‘it’s in your head, ‘it’s just a bad period’ ‘have a baby and it will go away’ ‘you just need the pill’.
Since then, my symptoms became worse and recently become chronic. Some women may not know they have it, but the common symptoms are:
- Chronic pain
- Brain fog
- Anatomic distortion
- Organ dysfunction
- Non-menstrual abdominal
- Pelvic pain
- Infertility, pregnancy loss, bowel and bladder pain
- Dysfunction, lower back and leg pain, severe bloating, crippling fatigue, and
- Debilitating period pain among those who menstruate
- Even, in extreme cases, lung collapse
Every day, I put on a brave face and just cracked on with the day job. Most days, I’d go home and go straight to bed as I needed rest and sleep.
The stigma around menstrual health is always an awkward subject
For a long time, no. I didn’t talk to anyone about endometriosis symptoms and kept how I was feeling to myself.
I was like this for a good 12 years, as no one understood how I was feeling. I just kept it all in. Society has made the subject taboo when we should be able to talk openly about the subject.
I am a lot more open now and try and speak out about living with endometriosis as much as I can.
I have connected with a community of women who also suffer with the illness. This has given me a support network I never had before. Some of these brave women share their own stories online. This includes the gruesome parts of the pain and the ‘no holds barred’ approach has helped me to see I am not alone.[vc_separator color=”custom” accent_color=”#164c48″]
I was very Lucky to have a great manager when I first started at Fletchers
My manager, at the time, allowed me to confide in her when I got my diagnosis last year.
She supported me, and gave me the time I needed to process the diagnosis.
She also pointed me in the direct of our HR representatives and Mental Health Champions. The in-house champions provided me with me fantastic advice. They supported me and made me feel validated in my struggle.
Without the help, I don’t think I would have handled the news as well as I did. So, for that, I can’t thank them enough.
Speaking with them immediately made me feel better. Speaking out made me know I wasn’t being over dramatic, or exaggerating a bad period, just as I had been made to feel for years.
It was the first time I felt supported. People cared about what was happening.
I recommend talking about the symptoms of endometriosis
I have team members who also suffer with the illness and talking about my experience has given them the confidence to discuss their own experiences.
I have tried my best to support them with the knowledge I have from my own research and from a personal understanding of how they are feeling.
They have told me how great it is having someone who is understanding and genuinely understands, from experience, how overwhelming the illness is.
I don’t hide my symptoms anymore. I am very open and encourage others to do the same so that there is more education and funding put into beating the illness.
The reason no one has the support we need right now is because women are so strong, for hundreds of years we have just kept calm and carried on and dealt with the pain.
To increase the chance of better research and funding, it is now the time for us to speak out about it.
Endometriosis support and further signposting
For colleagues at Fletchers, we have a network of Mental Health Champions, who are there for a non-judgmental and confidential chat about this topic and others. They are also able to sign post to support services.
I also offer to all colleagues at fletchers my time to chat about endometriosis.