A staggering three-quarters of women say that the menopause caused them to change their life and over half say it had a negative impact on their lives. To mark World Menopause Day 2018, we asked Annabel May Oakley-Watson, 24, a film editor from Hertfordshire, to share her first-person account of what going through the menopause early – at the tender age of 15 – was really like.
When I was 15, instead of bonding over periods and pads with my best friends, I found myself sat in a labour ward surrounded by expectant mothers, staring vacantly at my empty ultrasound.
I had never had any periods, and on the 7th of August 2009, I was officially diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI). I was a healthy teenage girl in all other respects, with no obvious menopausal symptoms, yet I suddenly became a ‘rare diagnosis’. Approximately one in 10,000 girls experience menopause before the age of 20, and on that day ten years ago, I “joined the club”.
During the years before my final diagnosis, I was put on a regular ‘contraceptive pill’ to try and stimulate my ovaries, but after a year of trying, it was clear my body was not responding. One of my ultrasounds revealed I had only one ovary that was considerably underdeveloped, and my final set of blood tests confirmed that my once sky-high FSH and LSH levels were now dormant. There was absolutely nothing anybody could do to change, remove or reverse my diagnosis; I was infertile.
The specialists remained baffled as to why my reproductive system had shut down. The ability to carry a child was taken from me at an age where most girls usually begin their journey of understanding their bodies and their fertility. I was once again referred, this time to the leading gynaecologist in my area. I hoped he would somehow be able to help but all he did was robotically hand over another depressing leaflet about infertility.
It was at this time I was introduced to the Daisy Network. At the time, they were an incredibly small charity. I felt embarrassed with how young I was compared to the other older and braver women that were sharing their experiences of premature menopause. After my first half-hearted attempt at seeking support, I shut my diagnosis away and didn’t address it again until I went to university.
At this point, I had been prescribed HRT medication to give my body the hormones it desperately needed. But secretly, I refused to take it. In my eyes, I had no reason to, it seemed pointless to take medication that could not change the situation.
The Daisy Network provides support to women, along with their families and partners, who have been diagnosed with POI. Aside from physical symptoms, the diagnosis can make you feel incredibly isolated, and sometimes confused, alone and unsure of where to go, and what to do next. If I had welcomed their invaluable support before, and medical advice that the charity offers, I believe I would have been able to accept my body and my diagnosis a lot sooner. I would have been able to communicate with other like-minded women in similar situations and realise that taking HRT was vital in maintaining a healthy body and a healthy mind.
Now aged 24, after a lot of conversations and guidance, I can begin to plan what my next steps are. I am now more focused than ever to help continue raising awareness of POI: a devastating diagnosis that most of the population will have never heard about before. Hot Flush, formed in 2016, by two menopausal, frustrated and overwhelmed superwomen, created a colourful platform to positively discuss menopause, and through their #positivepause campaign supported by Kegel8, I gained the opportunity to share my voice and my unique story.
As well the mixture of inspiring and unheard stories, their week-long campaign ending on World Menopause Day (18th October) covers everything from medicinal therapy to the importance of exercise and healthy eating. It’s about bloody (excuse the pun) time, this kind of essential advice and information is provided and executed in such an optimistic and vibrant way, is and delivered by women that really understand it.
Being told that I had experienced my menopause before I felt like I even had the chance to go through puberty was a devastating thing to process, especially as a teenage girl. However, my attitude has changed, and I can now continue to educate myself in the options available.
As much pain as my diagnosis has caused, it has shaped the woman I am today. I now believe I am somewhat ‘lucky’ that I have had this time to grow and take back the control I once thought I had lost. I am now focused on working with Hot Flush and The Daisy Network to help other young women understand and accept their life-changing diagnosis and ultimately be more positive about their pause.
Taken from GLAMOUR UK, read the original here!
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