The impact of endometriosis on a woman’s education

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Becca was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2010, after suffering throughout her teenage years. She is co-leader of our Southampton Support Group and talks about how endometriosis impacted on her education.

“Having endometriosis throughout my education was difficult. In school and college I suffered from heavy, irregular, painful periods. Often I would pass out and be sick when I came to but I was very shy about periods and assumed this was a normal reaction. I remember being in a Science lab and telling the teacher I needed to go to see the nurse as I was going to pass out. Her response was “wait until class has finished”! So unsurprisingly I passed out in class and hit my head on the table! I think school would have been easier to manage if I could have spoken to someone about my symptoms, maybe the school nurse. At the time my GP was dismissing what I was going through as normal.

In college the symptoms progressed with pain shooting down my legs and bowel related issues such as IBS and rectal pain. I was on a performing arts course and had to be alert and active most of the time (especially with performances), so I tried to get on with things and not say anything. Once, the college had to call out an ambulance prior to a performance due to me passing out - I didn’t think to mention the painful periods and was embarrassed enough. One time at college, I really couldn’t bear it any more, I remember feeling like I couldn’t sit down or stand up and I was crying. I was taken to one of our teachers and I remember her looking at my boyfriend who was with me and saying “see, periods can actually be awful, you’re lucky you don’t have them”.  For that moment I felt validated and like she understood. That really helped.

When I went to my first university I studied dance and at the start of my second year I finally got a diagnosis. I spoke with the staff in the faculty and they were understanding and were able to give me time to recover post op and extensions on my work whilst I was on a GnRH due to the hot flushes, insomnia and lack of concentration that came with it! I was really lucky to have supportive staff there.

I then trained as a nurse, and I’m pleased to say that the lecturers were very supportive, even looking at reducing some of my placement hours to accommodate me when the pain was very bad. They also offered me extensions on work when I, again, was dealing with the side effects of GnRH.

I think being honest with people is vital. It doesn’t mean you need to tell everyone that you have endometriosis, but when you’re studying it is a good idea to have a close friend on your course who is aware of it and can help support you. It is also worth making your school, college or tutor in university aware of your diagnosis if you feel that the symptoms may affect your studies. I think it is better to say something and get support then to struggle on and achieve lower grades than you think you are capable of.  With the support of my friends, my partner and the lecturers I was able to finish the degree with a First – a grade that at times, I thought I wouldn’t be able to achieve.”