A BORDERS woman has shared her experiences of living with endometriosis.

As March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, this newspaper spoke with Peebles-based Bronwyn McGlory about living with the condition.

Bronwyn, 24, was officially diagnosed with endometriosis in January 2020 after a laparoscopy, but she has suffered with the symptoms of the condition since she was around 11 years old.

“I experienced severe pain, but obviously when you’re that young it’s obviously seen as normal – and I thought it was normal as well," she said.

"It was just seen as a period because you can’t really digest it as anything more at that age.”

Bronwyn was put on the pill when she was around 13 years old in an effort to regulate her periods – but the medication didn’t ease any of the side effects of endometriosis.

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Since she was young, Bronwyn explained that her pain had been boiled down to IBS, damaged nerve endings, and even that her pain “wasn’t that bad”.

It wasn’t until she was forced into hospital while travelling in New Zealand when she was 18 that a nurse suggested the root of her problems could be endometriosis.

“She [nurse] sat and explained it [endometriosis] and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s absolutely crazy’,” said Bronwyn.

“You know your own body more than anyone, and I knew something was going on.”

When she returned to the Borders at the age of 20, Bronwyn sought help.

She says her pain was continuously dismissed until Dr Maude Donkers (of the Neidpath Practice) listened and agreed – Bronwyn did in fact have endometriosis.

Border Telegraph: Photo by Helen BarringtonPhoto by Helen Barrington

The condition, which sees lining similar to that of the uterus grow in other parts of the body, affects sufferers differently. Some, like Bronwyn, experience severe pain, while others have no pain at all.

“People just don’t appreciate how severe it really is,” she said. “The pain ranges, so I can get excruciating cramping feeling in my pelvis, but it’s almost like a hot poker going up.

“It’s like my insides are heavy, trying to come out. I get a lot of internal bleeding with it.

“You can have endometriosis and don’t even know you have it because you don’t have pain.”

Bronwyn also shared how endometriosis affects her day-to-day life.

She said: “I suffer quite badly in my bowel – it flares up quite a lot with it [endometriosis].

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“A little bit of my bladder and bowel have it.

“My legs seem to be in excruciating pain.

“So, in a flare up, it usually builds for about two days – I can feel it coming – it’s like a rumble.

“You just know that your body’s about to be in excruciating pain. If I need to leave my bed I need to crawl.

“I constantly have fatigue – I could sleep for about 13 or 14 hours and wake up the next day, and I’m knackered.

“My stomach swells. Right now my stomach looks like I’m about six months pregnant. And it’s so uncomfortable.

“It’s just a constant cycle.”

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Bronwyn, who works as a work coach for the Job Centre in Edinburgh, is also a moderator for the Endometriosis Awareness in the Scottish Borders page on Facebook.

The page gives people with endometriosis and their families information about the condition and what support is available.

It also has a private group dedicated to being a safe space for sufferers to ask questions, seek advice, or just vent about their issues.

Bronwyn added: “I can’t stress enough, from a personal point of view, how much endometriosis and mental health go hand in hand.

“Purely because of the time that it takes to get diagnosed.

“All the self-doubt, all the different appointments getting pushed back, not knowing what’s wrong with you – of course that’s going to play an impact on your mental health.”

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One of the things Bronwyn hopes will change post-lockdown is that more people will know about endometriosis – the condition affects one in 10 people.

“There are so many different ways it can affect you and I think it’s sort of been lost down the grapevine what we actually go through,” she said.

“For me I’m not doing it [speaking out] because I want people to feel sorry for me or compassion. The reason I want to do it is because I want all these young women who are about to come up to this time, they need to have a plan in place so they don’t have to be affected by what we went through.

“If we can save their mental health before getting to that point, if we can save them having to go through all these hospital appointments.

“I think this whole stigma that it [pain] is just your period or it’s painful, then things are getting lost in translation and there could be something a lot more severe going on.

“I think it should be a disability. I think it’s something that needs to be recognised because it does affect your day-to-day life, it affects relationships, it affects your movement – it’s a massive impact.”

For more information on Endometriosis Awareness Month and the support available in the Borders, visit the Endometriosis Awareness in the Scottish Borders Facebook page.