I’m In Pain… Period

It’s been such a chaotic… year? Has it been more than a year? I think it has. Sometimes it feels like days, sometimes months, sometimes it feels like a lifetime since this pandemic started. So much has changed. So much remains the same. And in the midst of that, sometimes we forget that many have personal struggles that we are trying to balance in this changing world. I feel like my empathy was overloaded months ago. So much loss. The underlying fear. The “who’s next?”. The “could it be me?”.

I should have been writing. It centers me. And now I’ve been spinning and spiraling for a while, because I lost my center. I haven’t been to the beach in more than a year. It’s been two years since I last practiced yoga. I’m taking stock of all I’ve lost throughout this pandemic and I’m starting to notice the effects it’s having on me. I need to reclaim my balance. So, I return to my center. To the place where I find my self. In expression. In sharing. In reflection. 

More than anything, I wish I was writing this from the beach. I’m still not ready to re-enter that space yet, though fully vaccinated. Maybe this weekend. Today was out because I think I’m experiencing one of the physiological effects of the cumulative losses of the past 2+ years. 

Let me get personal (LOL. Like that’s new). I’ve always had awful periods. From the beginning. Cramps. Bloating. Backaches. Migraines. I’ve had all the symptoms at one time or another. Almost my entire high school life was 3-5 days spent in the sick bay. Get to school. Get marked in the register. Medication. Tea. Bed. My school nurse was the one who diagnosed me with dysmenorrhea and migraines. She would just know. Cramps and back pain meant painkillers (I went from Panadol all the way to prescription meds in my high school years), hot water bottle and a cup of tea (one cup of hot water, three drops of essence of peppermint and one teaspoon of sugar). The bed beside her desk was mine. But, when I had an accompanying migraine it was all of that plus an ice pack for my head and I got the bed in the windowless storage area. My mother never let me stay home during my periods, no matter how bad they got, so, it was the sick bay and Nurse James for any kind of comfort and reassurance. Credit to my mother though, for preparing me for the lack of sympathy that the outside world shows to women who have similar experiences. Because a LOT of people do not care. My pain is an inconvenience. It’s exaggerated and bothersome. 

But for me, it’s real. It’s invasive and disruptive and sometimes frightening. I can honestly say, my period is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. The sheer volume of symptoms I’ve endured. The ways in which it has affected my personal, academic and professional life. The pain. The pain is… unbelievable. Having an ovarian cyst rupture when I didn’t even know ovarian cysts were a thing, much less that they could just up and pop and knock you flat (literally, flat on the ground, unable to walk). The layers of pain. The tearing. The burning. The throbbing. The ache at the base of it all. The migraines that make me feel like I’m actually dying. Weeks of pain, no peripheral vision, loss of balance. Disorientation in a mind that is used to being sharp and clear. The usually unhelpful and truly often well-meaning recommendations from people. The doctor visits. The medication. The questions. The changes. The trials. The failures. The return of the pain. It’s a most tiresome cycle.

I’ve tried so many things. I was told to exercise. So, I started exercising at age 11. From aerobics to yoga to running and now, weight training. Nothing has worked. There’s never been a significant period of time where I haven’t been doing some kind of physical activity. And still, the pain. I’ve tried so many supplements. Synthetic. Herbal. Teas. Oils. Capsules. Some I avoid because the side effects seem just as unpleasant as the issue. I’ve been on birth control and all I got from that was weight gain, depression & misery. I’ve tried various dietary changes. I’m considering trying to go pescatarian to see if that makes a difference. One of my doctors told me that the only real solution was for him to administer a mild sedative every month and just let me sleep until it’s over. My other doctor suggested I get pregnant… Um…No, thanks. I have lost weeks of my life to this. And this is the reality for so many women. 

But worse than the time lost, is the moments of fear. I don’t scare easily. But being unable to move evokes a special kind of terror at the very core of my being. The loss of mobility and agility are the things that have broken my spirit in so many ways. Two, sometimes three days where I can’t move the way I need or want to. My legs hurt. My back hurts. My stomach is distended and painful. Every movement is a challenge. And there’s nothing “wrong” with me. This is just a thing my body does. It’s hormone fluctuations. It’s a human (cis-female) body doing human (cis-female) body things. It’s also painful, uncomfortable, unsettling and frustrating. 

The fact that there is so little research about something so wide-spread does nothing to help. (Female) reproductive issues such as mine and other even more serious illnesses like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and Endometriosis are just being more widely discussed because there has always been an air of mystery and even shame about what women’s bodies do. Girls are taught to be secretive about “that time of the month”. The words “menstruation”, “period” and even “vagina” are expected to be whispered in hushed tones. Euphemisms abound. Yes, blood is kinda gross, and bleeding once a month is nobody’s idea of a good time… But it’s also something that approximately half the world’s population has to deal with for about 3 decades of our lives. We need to stop being silent. It’s killing us. Literally. We need to talk about it. A lot. 

I want more people to join in the conversation. I am very open about my issues. In some ways because I’m willing to be and in others because I have to be. Doctors (and people in general, really) can’t see pain. So it’s easy for them to doubt what you are saying, to question what you are experiencing. For the ones who have seen me when I’m having my period, even some of them don’t quite understand. I can try to explain what is happening in my body, what I’m feeling, the near feral desire to simply remove my uterus from my person so the pain can just… go… away. And still, other than persons who also experience these kinds of pains, many don’t get it and even more don’t care. But I talk and I share and I am letting go of the shame. I take my days when I need them. I have spent so many days crying in office bathrooms, on office floors. Because I pushed myself to show up for work, in spite of the pain and the fatigue, when I needed to take a break for me. So, I keep talking, I keep sharing.

Keep the conversation alive. Some companies are making allowances for period leave for persons who need them. It’s a start. Humanity in the workplace. Space for us to experience what we do without feeling judged or shamed or disregarded. Evolution. May it continue. 

7 thoughts on “I’m In Pain… Period

  1. Excellently written. I’ve often been on the peripheral of this sometimes horrific experience. I’ve witnessed women sleeping on the cold floor because it makes them feel better during their periods.

    And you are absolutely correct, the world is generally ashamed of the woman’s body…so things that need to be researched, shared and discussed for the betterment of women’s wellness , oft are not.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very well written.

    My daughter goes through this month after month. Only 13. She is paralysed with pain and I used to experience the same so I know it too. I let her stay home to the chagrin of my husband . I say who feels it, knows it …. She has declared since 11 that women should not have to go to work until workplaces understand this situation.


    1. I agree with her entirely and I hope she finds relief in one way or another. I always say, if men experienced cramps, the entire system of work would be set up completely different.


      1. I had uterine fibroids. I felt pain I never felt before in my life.
        Did surgery and remove my uterus and cervix and I’m a happy person now.
        Thanks for sharing.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I stumbled across this from your Twitter bio and am sending to my daughter immediately, she is 26 years old and has been suffering from period related issues since she was about 10.. she is unable to go to work for a couple days each month, pain nausea and vomiting leaves her virtually helpless…
    I hope reading this will motivate and the follow up will encourage her to seek help..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope so too! It’s extremely stressful and I’m grateful to a doctor for finally listening to me and letting me know relief was possible! Best of luck to her!


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