MEMBERS' MONDAY: Endometriosis, Bipolar Disorder & Everything In Between

Hi I'm Leanne (age 32) the short version of my story is I have many chronic illnesses and a serious mental health condition. Despite all this I have decided to live a life of peace, accepting what is and learning to find joy in the now. I use my experiences to help others where possible. I have learned that all we need is to feel heard and not alone. If you have a spare moment then feel free to read the full version of my story below.

OK let's start at the end. No not the end of the story unfortunately I mean the end of me, my bum! I developed piles at the age of 12. Normally you wouldn't suffer from them this young unless it is down to genetics. I remember going to the toilet at school and thinking a wasp had stung me as I had no idea what they were! 20 years later my poor bum has endured many treatments and 8 failed operations, but hey not all life can be peachy.

Fast forward to age 14 where I suffered from insomnia and had the worst episode of depression losing even my ability to form words. My mental health condition was ignored and would remain undiagnosed until I turned 30.

As the years progressed, I experienced terrible pain in my pelvic area, rectum, back and legs which I was told was normal for women as period pains are bad. I carried on with no answers and tried to live life to the fullest, travelling around the world at the age of 22 despite the ongoing health issues.

I began to experience some very weird symptoms ranging from chronic fatigue to shaking. After numerous blood tests and scans I was diagnosed with an auto-immune deficiency Graves Disease and now have hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). I manage this with daily medication.

My piles had become passed the point of non-surgical treatment, after many attempts at banding, my colorectal surgeon performed a partial haemorrhoidectomy. He ended up being a godsend as he suspected I had Endometriosis and he referred me to his colleague who was an Endometriosis specialist (and is still my surgeon to this day). I had various scans and it was confirmed I had Endometriosis. An adhesion was attaching my rectum to the back of my vagina. I had a laparoscopy to remove the Endometriosis and the surgeon also diagnosed Adenomyosis. These 2 operations were the beginning of many and as a booby prize I developed a chronic anal fissure. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the term it is a tear in your sphincter muscle which basically means my bum hole is broken! It hurts to sit, stand, yawn, cough, laugh and the obvious one; yes, it is agony going to the toilet! I have never been one for plastic surgery but I have now had more Botox injected into my bum hole than most celebrities have used on their face!

I began to make lifestyle changes such as my diet. I ended up going Vegan eventually as the health benefits were worth the sacrifice and I have ended up enjoying cooking new recipes and discovering new foods. I went to therapy for the pain as it was driving me insane. I begged the pain management team not to give me any more pain killers as the morphine patches they prescribed me had made me allergic to morphine and adhesives so I can now no longer wear plasters. I even paid £2,000 to have a Hypogastric Plexus Block injection through my spine to cut off the pain receptors. But you guessed it I'm in the rare percentage that the treatment did not work for.

Enduring all this pain meant my biggest fear was losing my mind. After an operation for the chronic anal fissure failed (Advancement Flap - Plastic Surgery) my relationship with my long-term partner broke down as he could no longer witness my pain. My life was crumbling all around me, at age 28 I was too unwell to go to work so was working from home. I was stressed trying to see friends and attend social events. I developed sepsis and finally I snapped. The combination of triggers caused me to suffer from psychosis. I ended up going to hospital given an IV of antibiotics to get rid of the sepsis but in the process I was sectioned for 2 weeks in a mental health hospital due to my erratic behaviour.

You would think given I was showing all the signs of Bipolar Disorder the professionals would have diagnosed me and put me on a treatment plan. Wrong! They apologised to me for falsely sectioning me and sent me on my merry way. I spent an entire year wrecking my life, quit my job, spending money, meeting strangers, suffering from religious delusions of grandeur and spiritual enlightenment. To finally come crashing down into a dark pit of depression plagued by suicidal thoughts and torturing myself for acting like a different person. So began the journey of accepting I have Bipolar Disorder Type 1. I attended Bipolar Support Groups and therapy. I accepted my illness and I made lifestyle changes once again to manage it.

So here I am 10 operations later (8 of which have failed which is a real bummer). I have been diagnosed with Endometriosis, Adenomyosis, Fibromyalgia, Graves Disease / Hypothyroidism, Piles, Chronic Anal Fissures, Hypermobility and countless other things that the doctors keep unearthing. Despite the roller coaster my life has been thrown up and down on I am grateful for where I am now. I have a calm mind and manage my life better than I ever have done. I no longer fight my illnesses but accept them and manage them accordingly. I live for the good days and endure the bad. 

A week before my last laparoscopy in February 2020 I went skiing. I opened my arms wide, feeling the air rush passed me and I felt free. My mind is my own again and that is the best feeling in the world. I will never take the simple things such as enjoying a sunset for granted again. Perspective is everything and I have learned to enjoy today because we are not promised tomorrow.

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