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Emma Maxwell, from New Hampshire, USA, had often struggled with period pains when she started menstruating at 13.
But the 21-year-old suffered far more than the odd stomach cramp, with increased heavy bleeding, bloating, lower back pain, and exhaustion that left her bed bound for up to seven days at a time.
However, when Emma went to see doctors aged 15 to complain about her worsening symptoms - which saw teachers accusing her of skipping school, as she was absent so often - doctors were dismissive of her complaints.
"I was in pain all the time and I always looked like I was six months pregnant and I was unable to eat or drink without pain," she explains.
After MRI scans and ultrasounds failed to show anything abnormal, Emma's doctor told her that bad periods were just a 'natural part of womanhood.'
But despite taking a total of 10 different contraceptive pills to try and alleviate her symptoms, Emma's pain steadily worsened - leading her to conduct her own research in her mystery condition.
While she became convinced she had endometriosis, a condition where the womb lining grows in ovaries and fallopian tubes, doctors again dismissed Emma, being told to "let the doctors just do their jobs."
And things just became worse for Emma - after being put on medication for irritable bowel syndrome and was put on medication to help with this. Unfortunately, the medication once again made the pain worse and the diagnosis didn't explain her fatigue, back problems, and the excruciating pain Emma was suffering from during sex which was so bad that she felt paralysed. Even the thought of sex can cause Emma to experience shooting pains.
"I lost hope in the doctors," Emma continues. "I fell into the mindset that it was all in my head so my medical progress came to a halt for over a year.
"I felt hopeless - like my pain wasn't real and like I was just being over dramatic."
It was only in 2019, when Emma saw a gynaecologist, that her endometriosis was finally diagnosed.
Emma received answers after laparoscopic surgery - in which a small incision is made in a patient's abdomen and a tiny camera is inserted.
"My surgery two weeks later proved I did indeed have endometriosis - and quite a bit of it. I learned I had adhesions attached from my bowels to my ovaries, to my uterus and to the sidewalls of my belly," she says.
"It explained why I had such severe constipation because my bowels were kinked and twisted due to the endometriosis.
"After years of doctors telling me to stop trusting my gut, I am so glad I kept trudging along. Now, here I am with a diagnosis of endometriosis which validates those years of pain."
And while Emma still suffers pain - even needing a cane to walk outside, and finds sex difficult, she's looking to raise awareness about the condition. She adds her boyfriend, 22-year-old Jake, has been particularly supportive.
"It's tough because I want to be intimate in that way but I just can't be. I've cut it out of my life for a very long time," she says.
"I feel like less of a woman because I can't give that to someone. Even if I'm just thinking about it, it hurts."
She continues: "The more people that I meet, the more I realise how widespread this is and how many people have to deal with this issue.
"There really isn't enough awareness for a condition that affects one in ten women.
"I created my Instagram as a means for me to cope with my diagnosis, to spread awareness, to share my story, and most importantly, to let people know they are not alone."
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