My first experience with birth control was when I was 17. I went into the nurse’s office alone without any real knowledge. All I knew is that I just wanted to regulate my periods. She didn’t talk to me for very long; she took my blood pressure and asked me as few basic questions. Then I picked up the prescription and was on my way home.
Looking back now it was almost too easy to get a hold of, but at the time I wasn’t complaining. I was on the combined pill for two years and I thought I was fine. That all changed when I started my first year.
I decided I wanted to join the Officers Training Corps, but I was medically deferred because I had high blood pressure, which meant that I couldn’t join until it was normal again. I was confused, at the time I felt completely healthy. The doctor said I had ‘white coat syndrome’- basically that I was scared of doctors, so my blood pressure rises. I went to three different female doctors and they all told me the same thing, white coat syndrome. One even sent me home with a blood pressure measurer for a week.
I knew I wasn’t scared of doctors, but they were being so dismissive about my symptoms so surely, they must be right?
It was when I finally went to a male doctor that he figured out that it was Rigevidon (one of the cheapest pills the NHS gives you) that was causing my high blood pressure. This really annoyed me because you would think that the female doctors would take me more seriously. Apparently not.
I was never told about the side-effects, and who really reads those pamphlets in the box? I stopped taking them that day and after a week I was back to normal. Its wild that if my blood pressure had been any higher, I could have had a stroke.
Something that I thought would help was actually putting my life at risk.
I gave myself about 6 months before I started looking into something new because surely there was a better option. I started to experience really painful cramps and my periods were becoming heavier and longer. My doctor suggested the Mirena coil, which was quite appealing considering you don’t have to get it removed for five years. There was a long waiting list and to be honest getting it inserted didn’t hurt as much as my cramps did.
I don’t quite remember getting home from that appointment, but my ex-boyfriend somehow got my delirious self-back safe and sound. In the end it’s been worth it, it’s helped a lot with the bleeding over the past year but not so much with the pain.
My ex had to take me to A&E one night before I got it inserted, but they didn’t do anything. They sent me home with a note on the system to my GP that I’d been there. The icing on the cake was when the GP said I couldn’t be referred to a gynaecologist because I hadn’t found a flat yet for the next year. The waiting list was that long.
But the same male doctor told me to stop taking the pill prescribed me loads of codeine for the summer, so I was set for a while. One thing was that those pills made me loopy. Either way I couldn’t win.
Another GP gave me some other meds for heavy and painful periods but that did nothing at all. I was getting so frustrated at this point, no one was taking me seriously. There were so many nights waking up crying and too many stained sheets, it was exhausting. I considered going private at that point, but it was so expensive, and I really couldn’t afford it.
I didn’t want to ask for help from my parents though in hindsight it would probably have been worth it. It felt like I was going through the whole experience alone.
I’ve had really bad cramps since my first period, but I was able to ignore it. But it was when I got to university that the pain became crippling. My Mum and my Aunt have endometriosis so when the pain became unbearable, I started to really consider that I might have it too. Endometriosis is a condition when the tissue, similar to the lining of the womb, starts to grow in other places, like the ovaries and fallopian tubes. There isn’t a cure for it, you just have to treat it with pain or hormonal medicine or surgery. The idea of being on medication for the rest of my life is slightly terrifying. I really hope I don’t have it but only time will tell.
I was eventually referred to a gynaecologist and because of my family history with the condition he booked me in for keyhole surgery, with a waiting list of three to four months. But not before I had to go through an invasive examination and answer the same questions I’d been answering for years. The main thing that is making me extremely anxious about the surgery is that I gave the consultant permission to act during the surgery if they saw any issues that could be fixed there and then.
This is anxiety inducing as now I won’t actually know what happened until I wake up from the general anaesthetic. One thing my brother said to me when I told him was that I’ll end up with some cool scars either way. So at least I’ll have that. I’m booked in for the surgery in February and I don’t know which result is better. I could have endometriosis which I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life. Or I could not have it and then I’m back to square one and wondering what the hell is wrong with me.
This whole ordeal has been tough on my mental health, I felt ignored by so many people that were supposed to help me. I was helpless.
Private healthcare was too expensive, so I was stuck with the waiting and going to different doctors in hope of them actually doing something to help.
The NHS is obviously underfunded and though I have struggled with waiting lists and being overlooked, I still have great respect for everyone working there. It’s not an easy job to have but at the same it shouldn’t have taken so many years for me to be taken seriously. Female reproductive health is something that I’ve become very passionate about and it definitely should be spoken about more widely.
Knowing that someone was going through the same thing as me would have meant so much to me, would have made me feel less alone. Even knowing that my journey isn’t over, I still hope that sharing my story so far can help someone in a way that would have helped me.