I was 14 when it first kicked in, that searing sharp pain in my tummy.
I didn't know what hit me. I didn't realise at that point that, 34 years later I would still be battling the same pain month after month.
I remember going to the doctor and being told that this was what it was like to be a woman, that I should just get used to it. There was nothing wrong.
In fact, 14 years after that I was told by a male doctor that there was "Nothing organically wrong with you".
Previous to that it was a regular occurrence for me to collapse in pain, have several days off work, because I couldn't move, searing pain radiating throughout my abdomen, my ribs, my back, down my legs.
I eventually referred myself privately to have it all investigated, only to find out that I had serious endometriosis; so aggressive in fact, that in their opinion surgery wouldn't work.
This disease, which had raged through my body for nearly 20 years was now taking away my final dream.
But I didn't want to give up hope.
I refused all the drugs that would put me into early menopause making IVF our only option and turned to more natural approaches, diet, acupuncture, reflexology; sadly, they didn't really help with the pain at all and I gave up hope.
But in February, 2004, I gave birth to the most perfect baby girl, conceived naturally whilst we were on the IVF list!
She was rapidly followed behind by her brother, fifteen months later and two years after he was born, arrived their baby sister.
My body finally did work and I was in awe of it! But it was not without a cost to bear.
What they don't tell you about endometriosis is the chronic fatigue that comes with it. The immense drain it has on your body.
Every month the pain drags you down further and further.
I'd had over 20 years of wondering:
Will it ever stop?
I can't believe this is happening again.
My cycles were short and long. It felt like they never, ever left my world, there was no reprieve, no break, no let up.
The damage that it did to me both physically and emotionally was immeasurable.
And with a whole host of other things that were going on in my life at that time, including an incredibly stressful job, a small family to raise. This was a major factor in my body becoming so worn out, and so depleted, that after a bout of pneumonia I developed chronic fatigue syndrome, which finally put the end to my career as a Barrister, a career that I had longed for since the age of 12; had pursued as a mature student, having attended failing schools and not done very well, and had been successful at for the previous 10 years.
The way I had managed my endometriosis was poor, to say the least.
I used contraceptive pills to have months when I didn't have periods. And this worked in part, but what they don't tell you is the side effects of this.
Mood swings, depression, weight gain, sleepless nights always when the kids slept, chronic IBS. The feeling that you are never ever in balance. Coupled with a mindset of hating my body so I didn’t really look after it.
As I tipped over 40, the migraines started and I was told that the pill was now no longer an option for me.
My body was already starting to change and, like, a cruel twist of fate, Mother Nature decided that the time had come for me to enjoy perimenopause.
Well, actually, I was weirdly excited! The menopause gave me the light at the end of the tunnel! Although I'm not quite sure when I'm going to reach that light.
The downside was that it was like being a teenager again.
Every month my body would go into shock. The immeasurable pain. So excruciating, far worse than labour had ever been, and I did labour with no pain relief! I'm not saying that was a badge of honour but just to give you some context as to the level of pain that I was enduring.
So often, I'd have to cancel things that I had planned because I physically could not get out of the door plus with the onset of fibroids it meant that it was also a bit like kind of chainsaw massacre!
I lost count of the times my long suffering husband helped me into bed with a hot water bottle, closed the curtains, gave me pain relief and told me that nothing mattered, apart from me feeling better.
And I knew he was right. But at the start I put so much on this.
The "Why me", "This isn't fair", "When will this ever be over" and "I just got started and it kicks in again, knocking me back down".
I was so overwhelmed with it and it consumed me.
I was so lucky that the line of work that I was in, personal development, eventually introduced me to a simple understanding that helped me with all of this. At first I didn’t see the relevance but it enabled me to understand what that mind chatter was, and allowed me to let it pass without judgement, or critique.
So that even though this utter chaos was raging through my body, I could feel okay with it, it didn't affect me as a person. It was happening but it wasn’t happening TO me.
I quietened into whatever I needed to do would get done at some point, and that everything was okay.
But the physical effects weren’t quite as easy to control. Physically I was becoming more depleted again. After trying what seemed to be everything, I finally opted for a wonderful thing called a marina coil.
It has been a long journey of perseverance and keeping real. If a ‘normal woman’ starts her menopause at level 5 say and the Mirena takes her to level 1, then I was starting at least at level 20! Nearly 18 months and two coils later, I’m proud to say I’m probably at level 5 now! But boy I’m not knocking it! Life is great!
I just feel like a normal woman!
Sadly though, I still have endometriosis in odd places. As so many women do! Although that’s not recognised at all! See, this isn't just a thing that happens around your womb. Oh no, this can ravage your whole body giving you periods in all kinds of places where periods should not be!
But they don't tell you that. Oh, they don't even believe that is a possibility!
Having had years of investigations for all kinds of different things. Finally, it was accepted that the severe pain that I have under my ribs was endometriosis. But sadly, the coil doesn't affect that. It’s literally too far away for the localised hormone to reach.
So I still have this monthly reminder that my body doesn't quite work the same way as everybody else's.
But I'm now counting down the days.
Many women fear the menopause, sad their womanness is ending, their fertile years over, but I'm embracing it. I can't wait for it to happen, it feels to me like it will enable me to finally close a chapter that I really didn't want to start or read.
But I'm one of the lucky ones. Whereas many battle with their teens and wonder why on earth they became parents, I adore mine, every single day. Three perfect walking miracles that are in my life, that shouldn’t be.
The one reminder that on three occasions, my body worked perfectly. I cling on to that. Even though the rest of the time, it doesn't.