I’d always wanted to be a mum so when the unthinkable happened it set me on the road to destruction…
By Beverley Watt, 36, from Montrose, Scotland
When Beverley Watt began experiencing mood swings and suffering from erratic periods at 15, her doctors told her it was just her hormones but two years later she received the devastating news that she had already gone through the menopause.
It meant she would never conceive a child naturally and would age quicker, likely to suffer with conditions like osteoporosis at an early age.
Single Beverley was so rocked by the revelation she became depressed and turned to booze to cope. She gradually spiralled into alcoholism and at her worst would down two bottles of vodka a day.
“Finding out I would never have children when I was still just a child myself was absolutely horrific – I felt cheated and kept thinking, why me?” says Beverley, a carer from Montrose, Scotland.
“I became depressed and started drinking heavily which helped me forget but it soon got out of control and I ended up wasting 12 years of my life.
“But I’ve been sober now for three years and I’ve even started thinking about other ways to start a family – IVF or adopting. I’m determined to put the past behind me and live my life to the full.”
Beverley started having erratic periods aged 15 and suffered extreme mood swings. She went to her GP several times but was told it was just her hormones.
But when her periods stopped aged 18 she knew something was wrong and her GP referred her to a specialist.
“The specialist scanned my pelvis and showed me a picture of my ovaries and where there ought to have been eggs, there was just empty space. I was just 18 years old. He said I must have already gone through the menopause the year before, when I was 17. When I received the blood results it confirmed the diagnosis and that I’d never be able to conceive children naturally. The average woman doesn’t go through the menopause until she’s 51. I felt crushed and burst into tears. Even though I was young, I’d always wanted children. It was devastating.”
The diagnosis also meant that Beverley would have to take calcium pills every day to strengthen her bones and HRT to stabilize her hormones for the rest of her life.
“As the news sank in I felt angry and cheated. I was offered no counselling and as I left the hospital I rang my mum. We were devastated and cried together, I spent hours talking to her. She was my rock as I slowly tried to cope with my agonising diagnosis.”
She says: “I quit my job in a nursery as it was just too painful to be around children after my diagnosis. I moved to London with my boyfriend Simon*. I felt madly in love with him and I just wanted to get away.”
Simon, a road maintenance worker, promised her they’d try for a baby, but the relationship was erratic and the couple were on and off. “Simon said he wanted to settle down and marry me, but he was a big drinker too. It was a toxic relationship. All we did was drink and of course he’d never commit to the IVF, he’d always say ‘one day’.
“After that, I went into self-destruct mode. In London, away from my friends and family, I started mixing with the wrong crowd. That’s when my drinking became a problem.”
She says: “I’d binge on booze to black out the diagnosis. I went on weekend long binges starting on a Thursday and continuing drinking until the Monday. I was consuming up to 75 units a day at my worst.
“Some days I’d down two litres of vodka and as my depression worsened it became a more frequent choice. Other days, I’d swig a couple of bottles of wine. Living with Simon, I could easily hide it – he was a drinker too and so for years I thought nothing of my boozy lifestyle. I was emotional when I drank, I would leave my friends on nights out, putting myself in vulnerable situations. I became aggressive too. I intimidated the people around me so much that I forced any help away from me. All I wanted was to be left alone.
“I’d drink whatever I could get my hands on – wine, vodka and cheap cider. How much I drank depended on how much cash I had on me, but I’d rarely go a day without drinking.”
Beverley excused away her drinking as a partying lifestyle. Working in a bar in London she easily hid her alcoholism and living above a pub meant she had constant access to all the booze she needed.
“I pushed all my friends away and I swapped my circle to one that excused away my behaviour. All my new friends in London drank with me, and we would binge all weekend. It made me feel like it was normal,” says Beverley.
But her hangovers were a constant reminder of her dark decision. “I had terrible hangovers, I wouldn’t be able to move, I would be violently sick all day. It was horrible.
“When I started to get the shakes towards the end of my alcoholism, I scared myself. I’d never identified my emotional dependency on drink but now the signs were hitting me in the face.”
Then when Beverley discovered that Simon had been cheating on her five years into their relationship, it was the wake-up call she needed.
“I felt like he was my one last hope of having a family,” she says. “But it was all a pack of lies. I knew then I had to make a dramatic change to my life.”
After losing 12 years of her life to alcoholism, Beverley knew it would be difficult to turn her life around.
So in a bid to make a fresh start, she returned home to Montrose and moved back in with her mum.
She says: “I needed to get away from the party lifestyle. I needed my mum.”
Once back in Montrose, Beverley cut her boozy pals from her life and began her bid for a new life.
“Back at home I made a good circle of friends. They gave me the strength to quit my extreme binge drinking.”
The process of getting clean was tough and she relied on her family and friends as she went cold turkey. “It was the hardest thing I had to do,” says Beverley. “I’d just been getting to a point of physical dependency and combined with my shakes I was in a terrible state. Luckily with my amazing mum by my side I pulled through. I couldn’t have done this without my family.”
She says: “I’d always tried not to think about my early menopause diagnosis. I couldn’t talk about it – I’d just drink to forget about it.
“But now I feel able to talk openly about it. There’s no shame in admitting how badly it affected me.
“I’m still devastated about it, of course, but I’ve been approved to receive counselling and I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“I’m still living with Mum, but hopefully I’ll be strong enough to find my own place soon.” Luckily Beverley’s drinking has had no impact on her long term health, but she was diagnosed with osteoporosis aged 33, because of her early menopause.
Now, having been clean for three years, Beverley is concentrating on keeping fit and healthy and has completed a mentoring course for vulnerable young people.
She hopes to use her experiences in a positive way and help other young women.
She says: “I’d love to become a mum and I’d look into IVF or adoption if I met the right man but I’m happy as I am and I’ve come to terms with my condition.
Right now I’m just taking every day one step at a time and trying to stay positive.”
*Simon’s name has been changed