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Bella Valentini Opens Up About Living with Endometriosis


With raw honesty, Model & Actress Bella Valentini sheds light on the profound impact of endometriosis on her physical, emotional and mental well-being.

Name: Bella Valentini
Day job: Model, Actress and mental health worker.
Home: Dharawal Country / Wollongong
Flow: Heavy
Length: 7 days


Tell us a little about your background…

I work in the modelling and acting industry, I also work part-time as a mental health worker (interesting mix, right?). I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology and I’m currently studying a Master of Counselling and Psychotherapy. I have always been passionate about mental health, and I think mental wellbeing is equally as important as physical health. I am particularly interested in the impact that chronic illnesses have on women and gender-diverse individuals’ psychological and emotional well-being. It’s a very complex area that needs a lot more research and attention.


When were you diagnosed with endometriosis?

I was diagnosed in August 2023 at 27 years old. After over a decade since my first symptoms started, I was fed up with the debilitating pain each month, so went to a new female GP to find answers. My GP organised for me to have a pelvic ultrasound, which showed signs of adenomyosis but not endometriosis. Although they are separate conditions, there is a high prevalence of endometriosis in patients with adenomyosis. I was referred to an endometriosis specialist, and then booked in for a laparoscopy and hysteroscopy which confirmed I had stage II endometriosis, as well as adenomyosis. It was a painful, time-consuming, and disheartening process.

Part of me was relieved to finally have answers, but the reality of being diagnosed with a chronic illness with no cure was hard. It also made me realise the lack of information, awareness, and education surrounding endometriosis and adenomyosis.


Tell us more about the process to get a diagnosis …

Before my diagnosis, I went to countless doctors for help. The first time I went to a doctor for my symptoms was around 15. There was no dialogue about endometriosis, and the solution was to put me on the contraceptive pill. Looking back, I was too young to understand how the pill worked but was desperate to have some relief.

This experience pretty much set the tone for the next decade. I went to lots of different doctors, but the underlying issue was never investigated or treated. Most of them would just recommend different pain medications or hormonal contraception options. A lot of doctors were quick to attribute this to mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

I got a referral to see a gynaecologist in my early twenties, and I remember him telling me I might have a condition called endometriosis, but the only way to know for sure was through elective surgery. That was the first time I remember discussing endometriosis with a health professional. It was a brief discussion, and I didn’t have the knowledge I have now. On top of that, I was a full-time university student, living on my own and struggling to make ends meet. I didn’t see surgery as a feasible or practical option.

So, over the years I continued to try a concoction of different pain medications, supplements, diets, hormonal contraceptive pills, implants, and injections. Most of the hormonal contraceptives messed with my mental health, and either did nothing at all or made my symptoms worse. I felt disheartened, exhausted, and let down by the whole process.

Finally in 2023 I found a wonderful GP who listened to me, validated my concerns, and pushed for further investigation. She referred me to a local OBGYN who specialises in endometriosis. I had one appointment and that was all it took for him to book me in for laparoscopic surgery.


Was your period painful from the get-go?

My very first period was excruciatingly painful, uncomfortable, and heavy. It felt like nothing I’d ever experienced before. I was cooped up in bed with a hot water bottle, unable to move. The pain would alternate between a dull achy sensation to sharp stabbing pains. It felt like rusty knives plunging into my abdomen. I just assumed this was what all women had to endure.

I experienced very heavy periods that lasted for over a week and frequent clotting. I would go to school wearing a tampon, maxi pad and two pairs of undies. I was terrified I would bleed through onto my uniform. Mum would often write me sick notes to get me out of swimming or sports. Overall, it was very unpleasant, and I dreaded it every month. There was also a lot of anxiety, suffering and shame attached to it. I feel sad for my younger self, I wish I could give her a hug.


What are your symptoms like now?

I get pain and bloating during the ovulation phase, as well as gut and bowel issues. Some other symptoms I have experienced are heavy periods, irregular menstrual cycles, pelvic pain, lower back pain, pain in my thighs and legs, pain during and after sex, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, reoccurring UTI’s and thrush, nausea, headaches, fatigue, insomnia, and mood swings.

Overall, my symptoms have improved since surgery. However, the first 3 months of post-op recovery were an absolute nightmare, but thankfully I started to feel relief around the 6-month mark. I also had the Mirena IUD inserted during my surgery, and whilst the experience varies for each person, it has genuinely made a huge difference for me. I still get pain and flare-ups, but it’s not as debilitating or as frequent as before, which I am very grateful for!

Bella Rose Valentini

How do you balance life with the illness?

Having a work/life balance with endometriosis is a daily struggle and it’s still a work in progress for me. Most days my pain is manageable, but then there are ‘bad days’ when the pain is unbearable and I will end up calling in sick to work, cancelling plans or cutting back on daily activities. I’ve learnt to prioritise my self-care and not be afraid to take time out when needed.

I consistently keep track of symptoms with the app, ‘Flo’. It’s helped me to become more in tune with my body and pick up on patterns in symptoms. I know from tracking that I usually flare a week or two before my period, so I try to plan for that by avoiding overcommitting or pushing myself too hard.

I also try to have an open dialogue with the people around me. Difficult at first, I’m now lot more upfront about what I’m going through, especially with my close friends and family.

When it comes to work, it can be difficult to have these conversations – especially if your employer or colleagues don’t have a good understanding of endometriosis. However, I’ve found that when I have been open and honest about my condition early on, my employers, colleagues and clients have been eager to learn more and negotiate flexible working arrangements.

Remember, severe endometriosis is considered a disability, so your employer should be willing to make reasonable adjustments so you can do your job effectively. If you don’t feel adequately supported, there is an information sheet available through the ‘Safe Work Australia’ website that you can send your employer. Additionally, Endometriosis Australia offers a program for organisations to better support their employees with endometriosis. Qendo also provides workforce support and training programs for those affected by endometriosis.


How do you stay positive when it all gets a bit shit?

It’s important to reach out to your support network instead of bottling it all up inside. If you don’t have people already in your life that you feel comfortable talking to, there are plenty of amazing endometriosis support groups and social media advocacy pages out there. Being part of a supportive community has been life changing for me. I finally feel I have a safe place I can connect with to feel validated and understood.

Endo can have a significant impact on mental health and quality of life, so I highly recommend seeing a psychologist or therapist if it’s becoming too much to handle on your own. Therapy can provide a safe place to process intense emotions, as well as learn strategies to help improve emotional regulation and resilience.

Endometriosis can make you feel like your body is fighting against you. It’s horrendous and debilitating but remember you are more than your diagnosis and it doesn’t define you as a person. For me, it’s about learning to manage my symptoms in a way that works for me and focusing on the things I can control.


Why is it so important to you to tell your story?

The fact that it takes 6.5 years on average to be diagnosed with a chronic illness that affects 1 in 7 Australian women doesn’t sit right with me. That means there’s nearly 1 million Australians living with endo, yet it’s still under-researched, misunderstood, and stigmatised. It's important to share my journey to increase public awareness, eliminate the stigma and educate others on what the condition is, how it impacts the body and what treatment options are available.

There are also a lot of common misconceptions about endo, particularly surrounding the stigma that severe menstrual pain is “normal”. For starters, this is only one of many symptoms of endometriosis, and debilitating period pain is NOT normal. The normalisation of women’s pain is exactly what leads to symptoms of endometriosis being dismissed or ignored by others, including healthcare providers. This is part of the reason why it takes so long to get a diagnosis. My perspective is that if more people are more aware of symptoms, this could help reduce the delay in diagnosis and treatment.

Endometriosis is often referred to as a ‘lonely disease’ because so many women suffer in silence. Speaking from personal and professional mental health experience, living with endometriosis can take a negative toll on your mental health and quality of life. Before being diagnosed and receiving treatment, not only did my pain prevent me from engaging in normal day-to-day activities, but it also affected me on a psychological level, and in a way it still does. I suffered from depression and anxiety, on top of intense feelings of isolation, loneliness, frustration, anger, and shame. I knew in my body that something wasn’t right, but because my symptoms were constantly dismissed or normalised, over time I started to feel like I must’ve been weak or overreacting. I started gaslighting myself. I don’t want others to feel this way. I want those with endometriosis to realise how strong and resilient they are and to know that they are not alone.


What’s the biggest lesson endometriosis has taught you?

My whole experience has taught me that we have a long way to go as a society to ensure women’s pain is taken seriously. We need to normalise conversations about menstruation and chronic health conditions, it shouldn’t be a taboo topic.
You need to trust your instincts and listen to your body. It’s not all in your head and you aren’t crazy or dramatic. Your pain is real and valid, and your symptoms are real and valid. You know your body better than anyone else, so if something feels off, don’t dismiss it. Don’t give up your search for answers. You deserve to be treated by a medical professional who listens to you, respects you and does everything they can to help you.


For more from Bella, follow her @bellarosev.


Interested to read more stories from women living with endometriosis? See how fashion designer Kate Anderson manages her pain.
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