I’ll start you off with a picture of this morning’s needle. Day three of IVF attempt 2, woop woop!
But now, today’s topic is not actually IVF. Last time I promised I’d write something more proper on the topic of period cramps, so here we go. Let me take you through a little story.
At the age of ten I had my first taste of this hell. I was in class when all of a sudden it felt as though lightning struck in my lower belly. I folded forward and gasped for breath, utterly terrified. With tears streaming down my face I went up to the teacher.
“Have you started having your period yet?” she whispered kindly.
I shook my head and mouthed a no. The pain was still so intense I couldn’t even stand up straight. Period cramps? No I thought, this is too bad. It can’t be it. Something must be wrong I thought, seriously wrong.
The teacher was kind. “Don’t worry,” she said. “You’re probably just getting your period.”
I had my first period within weeks of my eleventh birthday. The bleeding wasn’t a problem, of course it was icky and uncomfortable but still not a problem. The pain however was hell. Unable to rise or stand up straight I would just lay down, slowly rocking my hips back and forward in a desperate attempt at relieving the pain. Painkillers could take the edge off but not enough, there would be pain until I could fall asleep and escape into nothing.
“Don’t worry,” my mom would say. “I had these terrible cramps too. It gets much better after you have a baby.”
Somehow hearing that is no relief, not when you are a twelve year old biting into a pencil to avoid screaming. (No, not really when you are an adult having tried to get pregnant for seven years either!)
Several times it got so bad that my family took me to the emergency. Gynecologists examined me over and over, and every time the result was the same. Just period cramps, some get them bad, sorry. I got stronger painkillers but they knocked me out, had me sleeping all day, so I eventually stopped taking them. I couldn’t function either way.
In school I was always at the top of my class. I was the study horse, only I didn’t really need to study until highschool when I attended the International Baccalaureate and studies suddenly got real. But before that? It was too simple, I could ace most tests without any work. So yes, I had good grades! But there was one thing that made the teachers unhappy – my attendance. One or two days a month I was just gone, my mom having called me in as sick, leaving me with far higher amount of sickleave than the other kids. Now this may sound silly, but you try being a 14-year old trying to explain to your male teacher that no, you’re not skipping school. You’re just curled up in a ball of pain due to cramps. They accepted it eventually but the skepticism still hurts, to this day. Of course they thought I was exaggerating.
This continued as a young adult. Every workplace eventually sees the awkward talk with the boss where I have to discuss menstruation. There is always skepticism. Can’t you take pills? Yes, but if they are strong enough to kill the pain they are strong enough to put me to sleep. I’ve tried, repeatedly. What does the doctor say? They say it’s just period cramps, they can’t help. Of course it sounds strange, almost every woman has period cramps after all and most work just fine. What kind of special snowflake is this girl who tries to claim she can’t work due to period cramps?
During the last few years the question of endometriosis has come up. It could explain the pain, if that’s what I have. There might even be treatment! I still haven’t had it checked. Am I stupid?
Yes probably. But do you know why I haven’t made the doctors look into it? I have mentioned the possibility to every gynecologist I’ve seen the past few years but they’ve always just brushed it off, but surely I could press on?
The simple explanation is I am afraid. I am afraid of hearing yet again that no sorry, it’s just period cramps. Of getting a pat on the head and being sent off feeling like a fool, like every other time I’ve gone to the hospital with hellish cramps.
Feeling like a fool is no reason to not seek medical help, I know. But this is humiliation I’ve lived with since the age of eleven, and at thirty-two it is pretty damn deeply rooted. I just know it won’t be endometriosis. I’ll get a sympathetic shake of the head and a shrug, I’m sure. As always.
This blog post is probably one of the worst I’ve written. So full of self-pity and stupid moaning that I am tempted to simply delete it. But no, I think I’ll leave it. Self pity and all, I’ll just put it out there. I’ll just press “publish” now before I change my mind. ARGH. Yes. Here it goes.