Over the past 4 years, I have been through many ups and downs with my health and at age 23, I have finally come to the realisation just how important it is to assert yourself when it comes to doctors when it comes to the female anatomy.
4 years ago, my period became very irregular, sometimes occurring twice across a normal 28 day cycle and sometimes lasting up to 2 weeks. The cramps I endured were so debilitating I was unable to work, attend my classes at Uni, eat or even get out of bed. I had never before had PMS, but all of a sudden the mood swings hit me like a freight train. During my many appointments with my GP, I undertook pregnancy tests, STD tests, blood tests, my partner was accused of cheating and I was accused of cheating. Upon external examination of my stomach, the doctor felt very hard lumps that were painful to the touch. Given that this was a female GP, I thought there would be a more sympathetic approach taken. I explained that I would wake up with severe stomach cramps and nausea and that I was experiencing severe pain during and after sex; this would last up to 4 days. After many tests, the doctor concluded that I was experiencing a stomach bug even though these pains had persisted for 4 months and nothing showed up on my blood work. When the pain persisted, I was finally sent to get an internal pelvic exam and upon examination, no conclusion was made. Around this time, I started to go through severe depression and anxiety; the doctor said this was likely due to PMS, even after I informed her of audible and visual hallucinations. A few months later, I felt a large, painful lump on the outside of my vagina which the doctor told me was a Bartholian Gland cyst and to go home and take antibiotics. It was only when the pain grew to be unbearable and it had swollen to the point where I was unable to urinate was I sent to the emergency department to undergo surgery. The doctor concluded that this was all a bout of bad luck. The pelvic pain was only worsening as time went on and it had spread to my anus and back; after another internal pelvic exam, I was told that it could be because I have a small bladder.
My depression, anxiety and panic attacks had worsened to the point that I was catatonic for points of time. I was finally given a referral to see a psychiatrist and I was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder, not PMS. If the doctor had look at my family history, she would have picked up on the pattern.
Three weeks ago in the middle of the night the pain in my side and lower back that had persisted for a few months which was pegged down to period cramps worsened to the point where I thought I had appendicitis. After another trip to the doctor, I was told I was experiencing cramps and to take some naprogesic and go home. I finally started seeing a new doctor a week later and she sent me to get another IPE; she must have actually looked at the scans as she told me a large ovarian cyst had burst and I have endometriosis. She also told me that I have dysmenorrhea. I was informed that this has been left for a long time and that I will most likely need keyhole surgery to prevent infertility, which has likely already occurred.
Whilst I am sitting here writing this blog, I feel angry at my doctor for not taking my pain seriously and pegging it down to PMS and cramps. I was also very angry that once I was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder, this doctor pegged my problems down to being “all in my head”. Mostly, I was angry at myself for putting so much trust in this doctor because she is female and I had been going to her for years.
I now know how important it is to assert yourself and put your foot down with doctors and to trust your gut. If you feel like your problems are not being taken seriously, shop around for another doctor. Unfortunately, they don’t know everything and typically they turn to medication as a first resort rather than a last response; this is simply a bandaid solution. For those of you with a mental health disorder, get used to doctors adamantly concluding that your aches and pains are “all in your head”, and let them know where they can stick that assumption.
Trust yourself and the doctors that have your best interests at heart. As far as gender equality has come, the preconceived idea of women as weak, emotional is still rampant. As females, the derailing of this ideology starts with us and not one of us is alone.
Stay strong, stay sharp and above all stay positive. Trust yourself as you and your vajayjay are in this for the long haul.
With love and support from afar,