I had a partial hysterectomy 12 years ago at the age of 36, having suffered from years of painful periods that were preventing me from having any quality of life. At the time doctors were reluctant to suggest having a hysterectomy as I was relatively young and could have had more children. Comments such as, “You only have 2 sons, don't you want a daughter?” and, “What happens if you split up from your husband or if your children die?” were put to me. The fact that I am blessed with two incredible children, and am fortunate to have the most supportive husband imaginable, and was spending 3 weeks every month in so much pain that I was physically sick, (not to mention the heavy bleeding) made the decision to have a hysterectomy an easy one.
My work as a primary school teacher was also suffering. I was having to take time off not only due to period problems but also for constant hospital appointments. The day of my operation, despite the obvious nerves, I actually felt relieved at the thought of getting my life back. During the operation the surgeon decided my ovaries should be saved and so no immediate menopause!!
Despite complications from the surgery, once I was fully recovered I couldn't believe how much better I felt. Holidays could be planned and looked forward too, I was there for my boys and enjoying work. Over the years I had the odd hot flush but thought that I had finally been given a break from hormones and the problems they had caused me. Until this year when it was like hitting a wall at full speed.
The school year had begun with a new year group; in 20+ years of teaching, I had specialised in Early Years and Key Stage 1, but due to budget cuts and numbers, me and my job-share had been asked to move into Key Stage 2. Having got over the initial shock, it was me who took on the positive role, thinking we could do this - after all we were experienced teachers, the children were lovely and yes, planning would take longer but we could do this!
Things started ok, but I was starting to doubt what I was doing. Lessons that I could teach easily became daunting and planning was taking over my life. Instead of working two-and-a-half days at school and one day at home planning as usual, I was spending seven days a week going over and over lessons. Hot flushes were also back, not just every now and again, but every night time would see me getting up for a cold shower. Sleep deprivation became a major issue; I was exhausted by 9pm but would still be wide awake at 2am, then be woken up with the night sweats at 5.30am I would finally fall asleep exhausted, only for the alarm to go off at 6am. Panic then started that I was tired. I still kept going at work until I was due for my termly lesson observation. I have never enjoyed these, and I always get nervous, but this was off-the-scale.
I went over and over the lesson but as I started teaching, I didn't know what I was doing. The children were great, but I couldn't get the simplest of explanations out. As the lesson ended I broke down, the tears wouldn't stop, I was hyperventilating and generally a mess. It was only then that I admitted to my head and more to importantly to myself what was going on. The lesson was binned and was told that I needed to speak up when I felt like this.
It was then that I plucked up the courage to go to the doctors. Unfortunately the female G.P only sees emergencies, so I declared this was an emergency and went to see her. She listened, told me that I was not going mad and offered me HRT, which she told me should help with the sweats and anxiety, which should help me sleep. I, like a fool, went straight back to work, and by the Friday morning, I was sat down in my bathroom at home in pieces. I couldn't do this anymore - I was hopeless as a teacher, wife and mother. My husband rang into school for me and I took the day off to try and sleep and calm down.
The anxiety just got worse I couldn't see how I would ever function again, and so on Monday with Steve's support I made an appointment to see my head and offered to hand my notice in. Fortunately, she refused and told me instead to take as long off work as I needed. I was not allowed to do anything, despite my protests that I would still plan and make resources. Back home I literally collapsed, exhausted, the lack of sleep finally catching up. While I knew I had the support of work, and as always my brilliant husband, I was determined to hide it from my sons and my mum. Foolish, but as I saw it as a necessity - my mum had her own health issues and didn't need to be worrying about me. My oldest son was in his first year of university and there was no way I was having him stressing and thinking he should come home when he was settled in so well. My youngest son was about to take his GCSES as well as perform in one of his many shows. Instead I told them I had a bad dose of flu and just needed rest.
If only it had been that simple. The HRT stopped the flushes, sleeping during the day was easing the exhaustion, and work was on a back burner, but I was now suffering from migraines. I went back to the doctors and as I suspected they were down to the tablets. I had struggled finding a contraceptive pill that suited me back in the days when I needed them, and migraines and depression had resulted from these too, so the HRT had to go.
I finally confessed to my mum, explained a bit to my son and agreed to let work know if and when things were getting too much for me. My true friends have been brilliant, as of course has my husband - I couldn't have survived any of this without him. It was him who came across this website and bought me your book when he was researching how he could help me.
Thank you for helping me realise that I can get through this. My brain fog and panic attacks are normal, and some time in the future I will get through this. Just like when I had my hysterectomy all those years ago to give me back my life, I will get there again.
by TGIOF Reader