Chelsea Farrell: ‘If You’re A Woman You’re Told You Just Have To Deal With Pain’
"There is still this taboo."
Chelsea Farrell was often told to just “deal” with her pain – now she’s speaking out in the hope that others won’t have to do the same.
The midwifery student and former Miss Ireland was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), and later endometriosis, after suffering from recurring pain that would sometimes leave her in A&E. Since she was a teenager, she was back and forth between GPs and doctors, often without any kind of explanation as to what was happening to her body.
“I was diagnosed with all sorts,” she tells STELLAR. “Recurrent UTIs, bad periods… My PCOS was diagnosed on scans when I was in A&E for the pain, but I wasn’t officially diagnosed with endometriosis until much later when I ended up in emergency surgery.
“It was such a long journey to get a diagnosis. That’s the case for a lot of people because often you go to your GP, they don’t understand, and they’re putting you on the contraceptive pill to mask your symptoms. I did start to think that I was mad and being dramatic because no one was listening to me. I kept thinking ‘if my doctor is saying I’m grand I will be grand.'”
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Chelsea points to a culture of silence – and misinformation – that regularly stops women from seeking help when it comes to health-related issues, and in particular, pain.
“From 11 and 12 years of age you’re told to be quiet, say nothing, take a Panadol,” she says. “We’re still living in that kind of culture – if you’re a woman you’re told you just have to deal with it. I believed that I was just unlucky and this was something I was going to have to get on with, but I’ve since realised that I don’t have to.
“By speaking out, I want people to realise that these things can happen at any age. I’m hopeful that my story as a 23-year-old will ensure people listen to their bodies more, because women my age do struggle with these conditions too.
“There is still this taboo, we stay quiet until there’s a massive problem that needs fixing. We should be able to fix that problem before it happens.”
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According to new research from Irish Life Health, 51% of women in Ireland are worried about a health issue at every stage of their life. The group have just launched their new female consultation service, a female GP-led service providing support and specialist advice on woman’s health.
They are hopeful that the new service will encourage more women to approach a professional if they are concerned about their health. So is Chelsea, but she is also aware that there is still a long way to go before women’s health is paid the attention it deserves in Ireland.
“It’s a step in the right direction, we’re a long way away from it being perfect but we are getting to a point where advice and support is being given,” she says.
“We need better educational campaigns, and education in general. Boys and girls should be taught about things like fertility and periods and menstruation right up to secondary school. The curriculum needs to focus on that and educate from day one, not when it’s too late.
“As a woman it can at times feel like you’re looking for help and you’re not being listened to. You’re not getting the answers you need. Hopefully this will start to change.”
You can find out more about Irish Life Health’s new female focused GP service here.
If you are ever in any way concerned about changes in your body, always consult a professional.
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