I’m Jessica – I’m a writer, podcaster and endometriosis health coach. I grew up in South London, and moved to Margate about a year ago – but am hoping to move to Europe for a while!
Tell us about your first period. Were you excited? Freaked out?
My entire life and job is all about endometriosis, so this might sound a little strange – but I was pretty repulsed by the start of my period and puberty in general. I didn’t want to connect to my body in that way, and I didn’t have a great relationship with my mum, so I resented the fact that I had to go to her when it started. I was very uncomfortable with my body, and very uncomfortable with female connection in general (though I could talk to my female friends about anything). I just didn’t want to talk about becoming a woman with my mum or anyone in my family, it felt intensely personal and I wasn’t ready to go there, but of course, my body had other ideas.
I totally understand why the girl I was then felt the way she did, but now I couldn’t be more different. I was in the midst of an eating disorder and was deeply unhappy with my body changing. I write and talk about my period for a living, and have dedicated the past six years of my life to helping others have better periods, so it’s surreal thinking back to that girl. Having said that, I think it took that broken connection with my body for me to have experience the passion I have around loving and supporting our bodies today.
What was your period like when you were in high school (pain, etc)?
I was a lucky one in many ways. I had a light, short and pain-free menstruation. The darker side to that is that I had an eating disorder, so I think I simply wasn’t eating enough to have much of a period.
Despite that, I still had a lot of hormonal symptoms. I also had severe bloating, fatigue, allergies and IBS issues, which are all common but less talked about symptoms of endo. I am aware that my eating disorder likely had a large role in the fatigue and mental health issues too. I think I was probably battling a whole host of nutrient deficiencies by that point.
What has changed since then?
My period pain, and pain during sex, kicked in when I was about 18/19. At the same time, my periods became a bit heavier but not heavy – I was beginning to eat more for the first time in years, so that definitely contributed to having a more normal period in terms of how much I was bleeding.
It was excruciating for a number of years until I had my first lap, and then I had about a year or so of no pain before it returned. Once it did, I got on the waiting list for a lap but it was two years until I had it, and so that’s when I changed my diet and learned about managing endometriosis holistically. It was then that I was able to get in control of my periods and actually have pain free periods again!
Were you ever diagnosed with a period related issue (endo, PCOS, etc)?
I’ve obviously raved a lot about it already, but yes – endometriosis! I have some cysts on my ovaries too, but I don’t have PCOS. I have wondered over the years whether I have PMDD, but it seems more manageable depending on where I am with my management techniques, so it could be more to do with low progesterone and high oestrogen levels, which is something I’m working on now.
Have you ever had surgery for period related issues?
I’ve had two surgeries for endometriosis. My first one was coagulation (ablation) as I didn’t know at the time that excision was the gold standard – or even an option! The second one was supposed to be excision, I waited those two years to see an excision specialist on the NHS but for some reason he ended up to coagulation whilst I was under!
Anything you wish you knew 10 years ago?
SO. MANY. THINGS. How long have you got?
10 years ago I was about a year or two away from diagnosis. I wish I’d known that excision surgery was the gold standard because I would have found a different surgeon and maybe the next couple of years of my life would have panned out differently.
I wish I had known how to feed my body a nutrient dense anti-inflammatory diet that would not only help me to heal post surgery, but reduce any returning symptoms if they ever did come back. I totally neglected my body after surgery, I basically ate a lot of sugar, caffeine and alcohol and went into a deep denial about my diagnosis, which meant I was much worse off by the time it returned because not only was I inflamed but I was also unprepared.
I wish I had known about the wonders of curcumin, magnesium and ginger – those guys are my A-team and have made a dramatic difference in my inflammation and pain levels. I think of all the years I was swallowing packets of codeine when I could have been utilising these more nourishing pain management options. Sometimes painkillers are totally necessary of course, but for me, these three really do the job.
I wish I had known about endometriosis sooner and just all the various ways we can support our bodies to cope with it. For years I was told that my only options were surgery, hormones and painkillers and that’s simply not true. I was left in despair believing I was out of options, until I found out that there are other ways of coping – pelvic floor physiotherapy, nutrition, supplements, massage, acupuncture, yoga, etc. These won’t work for everyone, but neither will the conventional methods. We should all have options – every option, so we can find the ones that work for us.
If you’d like to learn more about managing and reducing your endometriosis symptoms, or would like support with making changes to do so, you can book in a free consultation call with Jessica to discuss your symptoms and challenges, and find out how her one-on-one endometriosis health coaching programme could help you. Jessica is currently offering £300 off her regular programme price in honour of Endometriosis Awareness Month, as well as single two-hour one off sessions throughout March. Head to her site to book in.
Jessica Duffin is a women’s health coach specialised in endometriosis. She is the founder of blog and podcast This EndoLife, and is a writer at Endometriosis Net and Endometriosis News.