Going to school, and trying to keep good grades, and attendance with Endometriosis has been a very big struggle for me. I am going to write about my experience since getting my period in primary school all the way through to being diagnosed with Endometriosis and studying in University. It’s important for people to understand how hard it can be for women to go to school, and go on to higher education when they’re dealing with difficult periods, and Endometriosis.
I got my first period when I was 11 but thankfully the school year had finished by that time. When I was 12 in my last year of primary school (grade 7), I was homeschooled which made it a lot easier to concentrate on my schooling and being able to relax in my own home if I needed it.
When I was 13 I left home schooling and went to a public high school. My periods were extremely heavy and painful. I would bleed through my pad onto my school pants (all the time) and embarrassingly onto a chair in class. I would find myself having to take days off of school and not being able to concentrate on studying, and assessments when I was having my period. Thankfully I was still passing all my subjects.
Over the years it was getting worse and harder to manage. I would bleed through my pads, be extremely nauseated, had horrific pelvic, and abdominal pain. The doctor diagnosed me with Anemia (iron deficiency), due to this I was experiencing side effects like dizziness/lightheaded, fatigued, difficulty concentrating, and insomnia. This is when I started skipping my periods on the pill, so I wouldn’t have to deal with them and I could just concentrate on my schooling.
I never spoke to my friends or family (besides my mum) about what I was going through. I thought it was normal that women experienced pain and periods like this because that’s what doctors would tell me. Throughout this time in my life I was experiencing a lot of anxiety, and I regret not confiding in loved ones or more importantly my school for support.
By the time I was 16 (in grade 11) my period and pain had gotten so bad that I ended up dropping out. I was also dealing with a lot of personal problems at the time which didn’t help. I instantly regretted it because I always knew that you had to complete grade 12 to get a good job and to be able to go to University. Straight after I dropped out my mum got me a youth worker and involved me in youth connections for support and to help me create a future for myself. My youth worker was an incredible lady. I volunteered in community events and really felt a part of something. The lady that was looking after me spoke to me about my future and where I wanted it to go. I told her I wanted to go to University. She told me about this STEPS program (tertiary program) you could do through University and it would give you a OP/Rank. She took me into the uni and got me all of the paperwork and information I needed. Unfortunately I was too young at the time to apply. You had to be turning/turned 18 to be able to do it. I waited it out and prepared myself for it.
When I was finally 17 (turning 18 at the end of the year) I applied into the STEPS program and I got accepted. I was so happy and excited to be working towards my future. At first I wanted to do Physiotherapy. I was extremely passionate about it and wanted to help people. Dealing with the theoretical side of it though and dealing with my period pain made it almost impossible to move forward with the course. At this time I was also going through a shoulder reconstruction surgery, and rehabilitation. Eventually I had to drop out because my health was out of control. I lost all of my credit from my units, but I kept in my mind that I would go back and complete it.
When I was 18 I was finally diagnosed with Endometriosis! I had surgery to get it removed, went on hormonal treatment, and my specialist gave me a Ferinject Infusion (iron) to help with my Anemia. Finally, my health was sorted and I could concentrate on my goals. A few months before the year ended I decided to apply into the STEPS program and try to go back to Physiotherapy.
In the new year I was 19 and ready to get back into it! I started STEPS again but I realised that Physiotherapy wasn’t what I wanted to do. I loved the idea of it but not the reality. Psychology was what I had always been passionate about since I was young. When I was a child I stole some of my mums psychology books and would read them over, and over again. When I was a teenager I would read more books about certain types of psychology and human behaviour. Late at night I would watch University lectures on the internet about Psychology. People fascinated me so much. I wanted to know why people acted the way they did. I would always find myself observing people, studying them as you could say. I changed my study plan and worked my way towards what I was really passionate about.
In my first term back at uni I was on Zoladex Injections and Livial (drug therapy) which gave me terrible side effects. I was also dealing with pain from my Endometriosis, which the treatment was trying to suppress. It made it extremely hard to concentrate on my full time study load. I would miss lectures due to what I was feeling and found it hard to retain information. Due, to my pain and dealing with uni I started to get crippling anxiety on top of everything and hardly slept a few hours every night. I was also living in a different town to my doctor at this stage and I would have to make a trip every month to see him.
I was studying three units in my first term, and I passed 2 of them. Unfortunately, I failed my exam for my 3rd unit. Which meant I had to study the unit all over again. I was humiliated and disappointed in myself.
In my second term at uni, I decided to just re-study the unit I had failed. I really wanted to concentrate on it and give myself a break. At this stage my Endometriosis had grown back and it was 10x worse then before. Everything started spiralling out of control. I made myself go to every single lecture that term, study all of my material, and complete every assessment efficiently though. During my lectures I would just grit my teeth and deal with the pain. I was determined to pass this unit and get back on track. It started to get to a point where I was collapsing, I could barely walk around, bowel and bladder movements were painful, I was getting endo belly (swollen/bloated tummy), nerve pain down my thighs, abdominal and back pain. This resulted in emergency trips to the hospital. Finally it was enough and I knew I had to move back to the city to be closer to my specialist and professional medical help. I spoke to my Lecturer and explained to her about my medical condition and that I had to move back to the city for medical help. My head coordinator and lecturer were extremely understanding and helpful. They suggested that I could sit in on the last few lectures they had at their other university in the city and send my work via distance. The lecturer contacted the Uni in the city and set it all up for me.
My partner and I moved back to the city. This is when my specialist started me on Visanne treatment (drug therapy) to alleviate my pain, and shrink my Endometriosis. I sat in on a few lectures, and studied my unit material. Due to moving, and dealing with my Endometriosis it made it difficult to study efficiently for the end of term exam. I completed the exam though and I am still waiting for my results.
Currently I am sorting my Endometriosis out and constructing a plan with my specialist to manage this disease. I’m taking time to myself to recover and work on my health.
Having this medical condition can really affect your quality of life and make it hard to achieve goals. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support from work, school, family, friends, support groups and your doctors. It can be beneficial to have a support system, it just makes what you’re going through less hard and easier to reach your goals. Also don’t ever feel ashamed or disappointed in yourself because you haven’t accomplished your goals or aren’t where you want to be. Remember to take care of yourself and good things take time.
I really hope this helps someone out there or someone can relate to this and not feel alone in what they have been experiencing. Also, I hope you guys enjoyed my school photos, haha.
Thank you for taking the time to read this you beautiful souls.