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Interview with Harrie - Womanhood & Hysterectomy

Name & age - Harrie Vickers, 29 years old

What do you do normally for a living? - I’m a Product Specialist for an online care management system. (Not as yawn as it sounds I promise).

What are your hobbies/interests or things that make you smile? - I write, it’s a creative outlet and I often use it as a therapy. I also play guitar (super rarely) but I’m not great at it (probably because I play it super rarely)

What are you passionate about? - Other than Harry Styles? (I mean, my wife…) it would probably be my blog, it’s the first time in a while there’s something I’ve produced that I’m super confident in. I’m also pretty passionate about Harry Styles though too. Particularly his jawline. wow.

How would you describe your relationship with your body when you were a teenager?

I didn’t have one. At the time I can remember feeling like the odd one out constantly. I was one of the tallest girls in my class, I was also one of the heaviest. I was embarrassed 90% of the time.

Did you talk about gynae health with your friends when you were younger? Do you have any memories of these conversations? Were they awkward or fairly open?

This never happened. I started my period when I was in year 7 or 8 I think and before that, I had no real idea of what a period was, who got them and that they were normal. If someone at school found out you were on your period you would be the talk of the class, grossing people out, jokes being made, boys and girls were mean. It’s really sad to think back to that actually.

How would you describe your relationship with your body or your appearance now? Complicated. Forever complicated. I’m in a pretty constant state of general hatred and disgust for the body I’m currently fashioning but there are the occasional moments where I mildly like what I look like. I’m constantly working on improving my self-love, body positivity doesn’t come naturally to me so I have to keep learning!

How would you describe your feelings when it comes to talking about gynae health- this includes your vulva, your vagina, your periods, your reproductive system.

A couple of years ago would have produced a different answer to this but right now, you can’t shut me up when it comes to talking about vaginas (not just because I’m a lesbian) because topics like these are so important. I spent years not wanting to talk about what was happening to me physically, feeling resentment towards my womb, vagina, the works, and would refuse to open up. We have to create safe spaces to share details about these because it’s how we build support networks for each other.

Might seem a strange question, skip it if you want, but what do you think about the appearance of your vulva? Is it something you have ever thoughts about? (Feel free to skip this, if you want, we won't judge you!) I can’t say I’ve ever seen it but, my wife says it’s pretty good ;)

Do you think there is a stigma attached to talking about our genealogical health or women’s health in general? Absolutely, and it’s really sad. People just don’t know how or why they need to talk about it and it’s damaging, and boring. I’ve experienced so much more openness in the past 6 months than I ever did before having my surgery. Things are moving forward and that’s amazing, it’s just slow progress.

Regarding your hysterectomy When did you know something was wrong? Technically I guess I knew something was wrong about 5 years ago but when I really think about it, something had been “wrong” for way longer than that, probably since I started my periods.

-How did you feel about seeing a specialist?

I was super keen because I was getting nowhere with my GP. I really thought seeing a specialist would answer all my worries and they’d wave a magic wand. How wrong I was. I ended up seeing at least 3 Gynaecologists, of varying levels of seniority and all were hard nuts to crack.

  • What was your diagnosis and treatment?

Controversially I didn’t and don’t have a diagnosis of anything specifically. I did at some point get a diagnosis of PCOS from my GP, then the first Gynea consultant said that this wasn’t correct and then another doctor hilariously reinstated that diagnosis a year later so, to be honest, I’m not massively sure whether PCOS is a thing in my body right now, your guess is as good as mine. I kept being told that my womb lining was abnormally thick and was producing quicker than it should have been but the cause of that was unknown. Treatment-wise it was a series of tests, hormones, the coil, more hormones and a lot of crying.

  • Did you talk to friends about what was happening?

Yes, my closest friends knew, some in more detail than others. It wasn’t really until a few months before my hysterectomy was confirmed that I really started to show them how it was affecting me. It was all getting too much and I was just going in on myself a lot more.

  • Please describe how you felt when going through your health condition - did you feel sad, in pain, what was the impact on your life?

Whilst going through it you don’t really see the magnitude of whatever it is that is happening and in my case, the fact I was too afraid to leave my bathroom let alone my apartment just became the new normal and therefore, was having minimal impact. Looking back on that now, wowee, I had no life for there to be an impact on. I was a hermit, a sad sad little crab hiding away. The chronic pain whilst the coil was implanted was the worst, having your wife dress and undress you because you’ve lost the ability to stand without collapsing in pain was a particularly low point.

  • What was the impact on your physical and mental health?

Physical health wise, I gained a lot of weight. Reasons for which are layered…1) hormonal weight gain is a bitch. 2) Because of the chronic pain during the coil, I couldn’t walk further than 10 steps without needing to lie down so, physical exercise was just a funny story to me. 3) I was so sad that the comfort eater in me just had the best time and never gave up.

My mental health was really put to the test, I spent most of the time not being sure if my mind was strong enough to compensate for the shit my body was putting me through. I prayed (which was confusing), prayed for it all to end, I don’t really think I knew what I meant by that at the time though. I look back now and realise I underestimated how strong my mind can be and I’m really really grateful for that.

  • How did you cope and how do you cope now?

“Coping” is world’s apart from what it was before, I’m actually so thankful for my wife encouraging me to push myself every day.

  • How do you feel now?

Like a weight has been lifted from inside and out, cliche or not I genuinely feel free. There was a part of my body that felt alien to me, I resented it, it made me sad and angry. It had to be cut out. So yeah, I feel pretty good about it.

  • Is there a message you want to spread to other women?

The main thing is, know your body. Feel it and know when something is wrong. Don’t let anybody tell you there is nothing wrong. You have to stand up for what you are experiencing and make them hear you. I kept quiet for too long and was walked over by many. Just because they were doctors, I thought I had no place in questioning them. Wrong. If you are hurting, in whatever way, you have to tell someone because what you’re going through is legitimate and you owe it to yourself to speak up. Don’t let any worthlessness come in because that’s when you start to give in and, you don’t want to regret that. If your body is giving you warning signals you have to listen to it.

- Is there anything else you want to add - maybe a poem, a quote, a final part of your experience? Maybe something about your future following your journey?

The most amusing parts of this entire journey, which I always look back on and smile were the multiple occasions a doctor or nurse would tell me they need to do a pregnancy test and my wife sitting there trying not to say a sassy comment. Every single time I did one and they said it was negative we would both say under our breath “no shit” and my wife would exclaim “ah man, no second coming this time Mary dear, we’ll try again next time”.

Continuing general questions that can be written:

13. mental health- do you have any experiences with mental health than you’d like to share? Have you suffered yourself? Why do you think the conversation about mental health is important? I do have experiences with mental health, elements I still keep very private because there are things I am yet to understand fully. One side-effect of this period journey has been the development of anxiety. It’s exhausting every day to keep on top of it and I know it’s something that will always be with me, I will just be managing it better in the future.

14. Do you think women are treated any differently? Do you have any thoughts on equality and would you call yourself a feminist?

I think there is clearly a disparity between all genders and sexes. I have been fortunate enough to never really be treated any differently because of my gender. I work for a company whose gender split is fairly even, if anything there are more women! I think feminism can be a really powerful tool but it loses its impact and ability to change things when someone throws the term around without truly knowing what it stands for. I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, particularly as I frequently ask my dad to do things I am perfectly capable of sorting out…I’m not sure if that’s an insult to feminism or merely an “only-child” thing…

15. What does your future look like?

Interesting question….and a tricky one…this is one topic my wife and I mildly disagree on so in order to protect my marriage all I’m going to say is, we would both be happy if we won the lottery and bought a house so huge that it has wings. She’ll be on one side adopting a Von Trapp size amount of children and I will be in the other wing with cats, cake and a Ferrari.

16. WHAT BARRIERS are in the way of you full-filling your dreams? Confidence.

I often use humour to mask my confidence but take that away and I will find it hard to believe in myself. I have a lot of self-doubt in me so it’s the biggest barrier I can see at the moment.

16. If you could give your younger, teenage self, ANY advice or leave them a message WHAT WOULD IT BE?

To be true to yourself sooner, don’t worry so much about what others think about you and for fuck's sake, realise you’re gay asap because girls are way better than boys. Fact.

17. What does WOMANHOOD mean to you?

Strength. Boldness. Resilience. Beauty, inside and out. We are powerful even if we don’t believe it all of the time.

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