How Endometriosis Changed My Life & What Happened Next
Jan 18, 22
The first time I noticed I was hairier than most of the other kids, even the boys, was pretty early into primary school around the age of 8. I was an early bloomer, with thick dark hair thanks to my Spanish French heritage. I don't remember feeling shame about the hair growth initially, but that didn't last long.
It's interesting how something doesn't feel like a problem, until it gets brought up by others, and unfortunately kids aren't the most tactful in their approach. My hairy arms and legs became quite the thing to joke about during school hours. It got to me. I begged my mum to let me shave, we settled on bleaching.
Now if you have any experience with bleaching, you'll know what I mean when I say this didn't exactly help my cause. Bleach made my already thick hair stand out in a different way against my olive skin, it looked unnatural and I was shiny in the sun. I can laugh about this now, but at the time I felt humiliated when I realised I had just given the kids something else to laugh about as they were all getting over the hairy arms and legs. Thankfully hair removal has progressed a lot these days and bleach is not as commonly used now, not that it's a terrible option, but there are alternatives.
When I reflect on this I realise how fascinating it is that in our western culture we are often judged for trying to find a solution to something we struggle with. That feels somewhat counterproductive to me.
To make matters worse, as soon as I hit puberty, my skin broke out. Gosh those primary school, early adolescent years can be so awkward and unkind can't they? It's safe to say during those years I wish the earth would have opened and swallowed me up.
My skin brought about even more insecurities so I started seeing a beauty therapist before I even got to highschool. My mother did the best she could to try and take my pain away and we spent many years in doctor and naturopath offices, beauty salons, and other specialists.
The terrible suffering month to month after my periods began was debilitating, yet we kept being told this was “normal”. The pain, blood loss, and breakouts were a lot to deal with. I missed so much school and my mental health began to slide down a slippery slope. I got to the point where I wouldn't leave the house without a full face of makeup because it was the only thing I felt would disguise what I felt was skin that needed hiding. When all I really wanted to do was stay in bed and hide from the world, and when I did, Robin Williams movies and dog flicks became my escape.
After a couple of years of this we eventually found a doctor who would listen. I was sent to a gynaecologist, put on antidepressants, pain relief, antibiotics, and other medications while being put on the waiting list for laparoscopic surgery. Finally some answers, I thought. This was a huge relief.
At just 14 years old I was diagnosed with stage four endometriosis. Everything began to make more sense. I had answers and support to manage my health and wellbeing.
Endometriosis was considered relatively uncommon and little was known about it in the early noughties. I'm relieved to see that today there is a lot more awareness and knowledge about the condition. However, if you don't know about it, it's a disorder where tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus. With endometriosis, the tissue can be found on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or the intestines. The most common symptoms are pain and menstrual irregularities, however the condition can affect your body and emotional health in many other ways. Effective treatments, such as hormones and excision surgery, are available, but unfortunately for most women it provides only temporary relief before additional surgeries and treatments are needed.
I could write a book on my journey with Endo, and perhaps some day I will. It has been one of the single most painful and life altering experiences I've endured and also one that has initiated the most healing. I’ve come to believe that often our greatest challenges in life can become our greatest strengths, if we allow them to.
If it wasn't for my rather traumatic experience with excess hair, skin issues, and women’s health issues, I wouldn't have become a beauty therapist at the age of 17; to help other young girls and women feel better about themselves. A career in which I have spent many years making such beautiful and personal connections with others. I've been let into people's private worlds and have been lucky enough to not only make an impact on how they felt externally, but also internally.
I've been involved in support networks for young women recently diagnosed with endometriosis, and have been able to be a source of comfort in those crucial early days where you feel so alone in your struggle. I’ve been able to hear stories and see symptoms in my clients and validate their concerns, so they could feel inspired to return to their doctors and insist on more tests to find the answers for themselves.
Most importantly, I was able to do a lot of healing during this journey. For me the path hasn't been easy, but it's been more rewarding than I could ever have imagined. I've challenged myself a lot over the last few years and really made peace with many of those insecurities that arose so long ago.
It has also forced me to take my health and wellbeing seriously, and I now know the power of the mind and body. There isn't much you can't improve with a healthy diet, exercise, and emotional work. Not that there isn't a place for western medicine, there is, but there’s also much you can do with the aforementioned. I'm very grateful for the medical industry when I needed it most, and we are so privileged to have that as a resource.
In saying that, I can now proudly share that I haven't been on any medications for six years. I am able to maintain my health naturally and with minimal holistic support. I’ve rarely worn makeup over the past year. Disclaimer; there's nothing wrong with makeup, but for me it was something I relied on, and used to hide myself (as opposed to something creative), so I gradually built up the courage to take time off from using it.
After years of feeling insecure about my “extra” hair, I am now at peace with what I have, and remove only what feels necessary for me, not to satisfy anyone else. Another big change for me is what I use on my face and body, which after years of working in the beauty industry, used to consist of far too many products that I would change continuously, and routines that took me hours to complete. I now only use two products. I love the Herbeauty Hemp Mask (that also acts as a cleanser), and Hemp Serum. My skin has never felt and looked better, even through my current pregnancy and postpartum hormones.
I now love supporting women through their journeys to radical self acceptance as they work to improve their health and wellbeing from the inside out.
Sometimes our greatest challenges can be our greatest path to healing.