Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Menstrual melt downs and me

My monthly period has been the bane of my life for as long as I can remember, these are no ordinary periods, oh no, these are super duper pain inducing kick ass bad girls that persist in causing me as much misery as possible. I didn't always feel this way though, at 11 I couldn't wait to get my periods, I carried around my kotex pamphlet and pack of panty liners everywhere I went feeling very grown up and praying to whomever I decided to at that point, to send my monthlies ASAP, all very judy Blume.

But all that changed within the first two years of menstruation, my first insight into the world of womanly pain was during a geography lesson in school. The class was held in a freezing outhouse, it was the middle of winter and my period decided to surprise me, the familiar gnawing pain came on so suddenly I nearly threw up, all over David, who I had a massive crush on. The pain got gradually worse and half way through the lesson I slithered off my chair to the floor, the cow teaching me decided it was just a period and told me to stop being silly, and so the tone was set for the rest of my life.

Girls and women are subjected to non sense and humiliating opinions on periods and period pain, 'rag week' and jokes about women bleeding for a week and not dying are all ways of trivialising and dirtying a very natural and often agonising process. A friend even informed me that jewish men make their lady friends sleep in separate beds during a period, as if it is something dirty and contaminating, I have no idea if it is true but it does illustrate a commonly held view that periods are bad and shouldn't be talked about, ever.
Periods can be embarrassing, humiliating and difficult to manage, they can catch you out at the most inconvenient times. A dear friend of mine was teased mercilessly at school for getting her period whilst sliding down a water flume at the local swimming baths, it was White and she left a trail of bright red blood the whole way down it, nobody else wanted to use it after that and the boys humiliated her constantly afterwards. Another friend of mine, male, told me how his then girlfriend was walking down the street in a skirt when her period suddenly announced itself and gushed all over her legs in the middle of a busy street, she was mortified.
For me, well, I have woken up in so many beds drenched in menstrual blood that I have lost count, one previous fling even said he had thought that I severed a main vein, such was the severity of the blood loss, we did laugh, but it's really not funny. My periods are so heavy and painful they have become debilitating, the pain is so excruitiating that I cannot function.

I have soldiered on for years with no help and feeling like there was something terribly wrong with me, I have been faced with harsh criticism and always from women who think that as it is just a period I should just get on with it. But my periods aren't normal in any way, the pain starts about a week before my period, gnawing stabbing pains and lower back pain that make me walk all hunched up, then the dizziness kicks in, my vision blurs, daylight hurts my eyes so I can barely see. My small breasts swell up two sizes so none of my bras fit me and the weakness and exhaustion I acquire are so extreme I feel like I have the flu once a month. Add to that extreme hot flushes, night sweats, nausea and vomiting and you have a very poorly and miserable me.
But still nobody really took me seriously, I have crawled across floors to reach painkillers in excruciating pain, vomited myself silly and lost so much blood I've been deficient in essential minerals. I only really got any attention when I was shopping in town and passed out on the street, very embarrassing, and the paramedic who rescued me told me that his wife suffered the same thing and to find a sympathetic doctor. I was touched that someone had finally recognised my problems but fuming that no one took me seriously until I blacked out.
The thing is in our country women are expected to be stoics, they are expected to work and clean the house and look after the kids despite being Ill, women have developed a thick skin and periods are no excuse for time off or tea and sympathy. That was always the hardest part, no one understanding the severity of pain and debilitation I suffered. I managed to find a lovely lady doctor who diagnosed dysmennorhea a severe hormonal condition which, causes heavy painful periods, deficiencies in the body weakness dizziness and vomiting. She told me she had the condition herself and that it was so debilitating that she could only work flexi hours she had two young children and said it was a nightmare for her.
It wasn't until she informed that the pain I was experiencing was the equivalent of moderate labour pain that I felt justified in complaining about my period.

Since then I have struggled on and had a vague diagnosis of endometriosis, I have missed family events, cancelled holidays, been unable to work and unable to plan anything in advance. I continue to be in excruciating pain, bleed so heavily I am worried to leave the house incase I leak everywhere and break down once every three months or so in front of my lovely partner.

Periods need more attention, they need to be talked about more so that young girls don't have to suffer in silence and be subjected to criticism from their peers and elders. Employers need to make allowances for severe gynaecological conditions and women need to be given a break! I wanted to raise awareness about endometriosis and other such conditions as they are much neglected topics, women are not super heroes, but sometimes we do deserve medals!


Doria said...

I had a co worker who had the same problems with her period. I never really understood it. I've always been pretty lucky with mine I guess. *hugs* Thanks for raising awareness. people really shouldn't be so hard on us. We make good super heros you know :)

GIrl Interrupted said...

yes I can see how it would be difficult to empathise if you havent experienced this yourself, but they really can be that bad!
thanks for the comment x

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