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"I thought I was going crazy when the doctor said that the burning pain was in my head – but it was endometriosis."



A young woman who is told "pain is in her head" must finally take an antidepressant before knowing she has a chronic condition.

Chanelle Urquhart began suffering from endometriosis at the age of eight.

Over the next 15 years, he underwent tests for sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and had to take prescription painkillers.

The pain was so unbearable that he relied on tramadol and morphine every day to fight it, but the doctor told him that it was "all in his head" after they could not describe what he was suffering from.

She was finally diagnosed with endometriosis at the age of 23 when the doctor found her uterus and ovaries "sticking together".

Endometriosis occurs when pieces of tissue lining the uterus grow on other organs such as the ovaries or fallopian tubes, often causing cysts.

Chanelle, now 24, has made the courageous decision to undergo chemical menopause to regain her life.

Chanelle has taken menopause injections and has menopause chemicals through nasal sprays
Chanelle has taken menopause injections and has menopause chemicals through nasal sprays

While it was still undiagnosed, on several different visits to the general practitioner, Chanelle was told that she had to get pregnant or have an STI rather than a chronic condition.

"When the tests come back negative they will only bother me," said BioMed students.

"I have asked the doctor to say that my pain is in my head – that I must be making it up.

"I think I'm going crazy, I think I'm just too dramatic and every woman has this pain, that I'm just being a coward and can't handle it.

WATCH: What is endometriosis?

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"I became depressed and ended up with an antidepressant."

After asking for a smear test, Chanelle hoped until she later discovered that they had screened for chlamydia instead, and she ended up becoming anemic due to blood loss.

However, Chanelle survived and was finally diagnosed with endometriosis – a long-term condition without cure.

During Chanelle's first operation to officially diagnose her illness, doctors were able to see the extent of her condition.

Chanelle had to take various medications every night to help endometriosis

"I have many cysts in both ovaries," he said. "My ovaries and uterus all stick together. But the worst that he found was in my intestines."

While endometriosis cannot be cured, there are temporary treatments available, including surgery that can burn endometriosis at this time.

The side effect of surgery is that it can grow back and spread further.

Another recommendation is to start the Zoladex series – injections that start menopause chemically.

Although her pain was relieved through the last treatment, Chanelle experienced thoughts of suicide so the injection had to be stopped.

'You are not alone – you will not be angry'

Now, he is recovering from his latest operation and hopes the pain relief will last a long time.

But the student stressed his condition could be found faster if there was awareness around his condition.

"I want all young girls who suffer with unexplained pain and heavy menstruation to know, you are not alone and you do not become angry," he said.

"Cover your feet until a doctor listens and keeps your head high. The stigma about this needs to be changed."

Endometriosis is just one of many gynecological conditions that are often silent in daily conversation, for fear of embarrassment or shame.

But as more and more people come with their own experiences, many are calling for better awareness and education around painful periods and other conditions.

With this awareness, there is hope that more girls and women will seek help – without the veil of unnecessary shame.

One of the symptoms of endometriosis is severe menstrual pain
One symptom of endometriosis is severe menstrual pain

The British government is currently preparing to launch an investigation into the experience of women with endometriosis, which is one of the most common gynecological conditions in the UK.

According to leading charity Endometriosis UK, 1.5 million women in the UK are affected by long-term conditions.

Although this condition greatly affects many people, there is a little different research in this field – making many people confused and lost when finally given a diagnosis.

Other people suffering from chronic conditions

Shaunagh McClean, 26, first started experiencing symptoms at the age of 14.

Similar to Chanelle's situation, she said she was told that the problem was in her head.

"I was told that was very normal and I made it a little worse," he said. "They said that in my head, so I started to trust them."

After her mother underwent hysterectomy at the age of 46, endometriosis was discovered in her organs, and that's when Shaunagh said her experience became clearer.

Shaunagh McClean, 26, said there had to be more awareness around endometriosis
Shaunagh McClean, 26, said there had to be more awareness around endometriosis

Last year, she underwent her first operation, which was when she was told that her ovaries were stuck to her uterus, and had been told that she might enter temporary menopause.

"Everything's a bit messy," he said. "There is a constant level of pain, and it doesn't just affect my stomach. I can feel it in my legs.

"I'm still young and haven't had children, and I know my infertility risk is far higher than just endo, so I'm worried that menopause will have more impact.

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Real life story

"By the time I have it, I will be 27. I don't really want to experience menopause at that age."

Despite his worries, Shaunagh was willing to try anything to suppress extreme pain.

"I think – at this point – I am willing to try anything that will make me feel better," he said, "so whatever is needed."

American expat Valerie Pate is another woman who has been diagnosed with endometriosis, and has lived with this condition for 25 years.

Valerie Pate, 41, has lived with endometriosis for 25 years
Valerie Pate, 41, has lived with endometriosis for 25 years

He has had countless surgeries to burn endometriosis but the pain is still constant, which he says has a significant impact on his mental health.

"I experience depression in the same amount as when I was dealing with endo," said the 41-year-old man.

"I think, it's not only difficult to feel pain all the time, but it's also hormonal and you can get really confused.

"I've been through a lot with it and I'm rather tired of it all."

In an effort to fight pain, Valerie returned to the contraceptive pill earlier this year.

"One of the side effects is depression," he said.

"My depression has risen sharply this summer, I really want to kill myself.

"I had to get out of the pill because it was so bad. So now I'm back in pain."

Symptoms of endometriosis can vary. The main symptoms include:

  • Pain in the lower abdomen or back (pelvic pain) – usually worse during menstruation
  • period pain that stops you from doing your normal activities
  • pain during or after sex
  • pain when urinating or defecating during your menstruation
  • feel pain, constipation, diarrhea, or blood in your urine during your period
  • difficulty getting pregnant
  • heavy periods, where you use a lot of sanitary products and can bleed through your clothes
  • For some women, endometriosis can have a big impact on their lives and can sometimes cause feelings of depression.

This week, Valerie began with her first menopause injection, which she hopes will calm endometriosis.

Before starting, he said he found solace in asking for advice in the Facebook support group, Endometriosis Support Hull.

He said: "It's nice to come in and see people asking you the same questions, everyone is very kind.

"I have heard there that many people who have been injected still have a long process ahead, so I know I haven't come out of the forest, and I might still have some operations in my future.

"But, for the first time, I hope I won't wake up every day in pain."

These three women hope that by moving forward, more awareness and education can occur not only around endometriosis, but also other common gynecological conditions.

To learn more, click here.

Help channel and support group

The NHS Choices website includes the following help channels and support networks for people to talk to.

  • The Samaritan (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you feel, or if you are worried about being heard on the phone, you can send an e-mail to the Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org.
  • Childline (0800 1111) runs aids channel for children and young people in the UK. Free calls and numbers will not appear on your phone bill.
  • PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is an organization that supports teenagers and young adults who feel suicidal.
  • Mind (0300 123 3393) is a charity based in the UK providing advice and support to empower anyone with mental health problems. They campaign to improve services, increase awareness and promote understanding.
  • Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or have thoughts of suicide.
  • Bullying UK is a website for children and adults affected by bullying.

Sophie Atkinson is a community reporter for Hull Live and Hull Daily Mail. He is responsible for covering the news in the eastern Hull area.

You can follow all the latest news on his Facebook page here, his Twitter page here or on the Hull Live website here.

You can also call her at 01482 315 235 or email sophie.atkinson@reachplc.com

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