HELEN BURTON: Breaking down the taboos of talking about health problems

Helen Burton SUS-160113-100959001
Helen Burton SUS-160113-100959001

This week I must say a big thank you to the NHS, who not only saved the life of my best friend but also unexpectedly diagnosed me with a condition I have apparently been suffering from for years.

A bit like discussing money, we tend not to discuss the true state of our health in public. There are many subjects we are still expected to talk about in hushed whispers such as mental health issues, childlessness, miscarriage, cancer, ‘women’s problems’ generally. These taboos about discussing the state of our health are slowly being broken down though, and I believe that this is the way forward, because when we share our experiences we can learn from, and support each other. One of my friends has bipolar disorder, and by being open about her condition I have developed a new understanding of it. I learnt about the condition when I studied psychology, again when I undertook my counselling training and also during my degree, but it’s one thing to have learnt about a condition, it’s another to understand it, and that only really comes from living with it or sharing the experiences (as much as is ever possible) of someone who is living with it.

I have been diagnosed with endometriosis. It’s a nasty condition where cells from the womb lining attach to other parts of your body. At times its excruciatingly painful and leaves you exhausted. It is probably the reason I was never able to have birth children, and that is something that I will need to come to terms with. I thought I had dealt with that years ago and moved on, but when you find out the probable cause after such a long time it’s amazing how it can kick you in the gut. I love my life now and wouldn’t change it for the world, but of course I can’t help wondering what might have been. This is a hugely painful subject for many women, but there is a lot of support out there to help. My best friend is recovering from a hysterectomy having been diagnosed with womb cancer. She has found a support group online which has been a great source of comfort and advice for her. You can join the group at www.wombcancersupportuk.weebly.com or on Facebook. Another group which is becoming established in the UK is Cysters. www.cysters.co.uk Established in Birmingham it aims to promote gynaecological health and is looking to establish ’ambassadors’ in every community to make sure women are supported with gynaecological issues. If you would like to start a support group in this area or become an ambassador then please email them at info@cysters.co.uk with a brief introduction about yourself and why you would like to do it. Whatever health problems you have there is support out there for you, but let’s create an open dialog about it because when we do it’s amazing how many others are struggling with the same issues. If you want to get in touch you can email me at ethicallifestyle@btinternet.com