Female reproductive health is an issue that makes a lot of people especially men squirmish, and I am going to humbly request you all to read on. You probably have a significant other, a sister, a friend, colleague or some female person in and/or around your life that is going through this.
Periods can be a really intense part of being female. To have non-dramatic periods is something that is really underrated and underappreciated. A lot of jokes are made about PMS but if you think about all that women go through, it kinda makes sense that they just don’t want any extra drama piled on. Speaking especially for myself, I have had anxiety attacks at the thought of my periods being around the corner.
Period pain is something that I have experienced from my teenagehood, I remember going to the sanatorium in high school to get painkillers to help with the discomfort. By the time I was 18, the pain had become so bad that this one time they struck when I was in town and I had my painkillers in my bag and they didn’t help, I took a matatu back home and took even more painkillers when I got home and I was still in so much that I literally rolled on the floor, crying out, somehow this was the least painful position but it still hurt like hell.
Then there was heavy bleeding. I naturally have a low blood count, adding a heavy flow meant that I frequently exhibited anemic symptoms around my period. This was really tough when I joined the corporate world and trying not to show any weakness yet just by looking at you almost everyone would ask if you were OK. I have twice had to rush to the hospital because I was soaking pads in less than an hour. Actually, 99% of my adult time in hospitals has been due to a period related symptom.
To summarize let’s just say I have had it rough, nausea, backaches, mood swings. Harder than the symptoms though is people not understanding, some people think you are exaggerating your pain since ‘you aren’t the first person on this earth to have periods’, I broke up with a guy once, two weeks into the relationship because he thought I was being a ‘diva’ for being immobilized by periods. The nerve!
The worst part though is medical providers dismissing these symptoms as normal, the things I have been told! From “this is what being a woman is”, “get a child and these symptoms will go away”, “You children of Cerelac cannot handle a little pain” one even told me to wait out my abnormal bleeding as it was nothing to worry about, complications from this almost left me bedridden. I simply stopped going to the hospital and self-medicated, I may have over-dozed once or twice because the murkiness from the over-doze was better than the excruciating pain.
However one time about 2 years ago, when my back just wasn’t letting up, it was really bad a week leading to my periods, intensified during the periods and continued to keep that level of extremity after, I had to seek medical help. I couldn’t lie down, not on my side, not on my back or even my tummy. So to sleep, I had to get those big cushions and put pillows on top to lie on top. Basically, I would sleep sitting at an angle. When I got to the gyno, I expected the usual, it’s just hormonal imbalance it will go away have some painkillers. This doctor though started to ask me questions that I hadn’t presented, I could tell she was looking for patterns and I was intrigued. She then said a statement that I only realized was very true last year “so, you have basically been experiencing labor pains every month” She sent me for some scans and when I came back she gave it a name, Adenomyosis. I don’t know if you guys understand how relieving this was. I was not weak, I was not exaggerating, there was actually something physiological that was causing me to suffer all along. It was not in my head! She then prescribed a cause of treatment which she said will take a few months but if left untreated I had the risk of it developing into endometriosis.
I hate medication. I am the target audience for those antibiotic ads that encourage you to finish doses even when you feel better. I took this pills faithfully and sure enough the very first period after taking them I had remarkable improvement, I still took a painkiller but a milder one and I wasn’t in zombie mode. By the time the treatment cycle was over, I no longer needed painkillers, my bleeding was normal and the whole world didn’t have to pity me during my periods because I looked ill.
Why am I sharing this, you may ask. For us to accept that one woman go through so much during their periods that may not be the same for everyone but that doesnt mean you assume they are exaggerating, two, to emphasize that a woman’s strength is not measured by how much pain your body can endure and three if you are going through extreme pain or know someone who is, there’s probably and underlying reason, do not let people dismiss you, try to knock on as many doors until you find someone who is willing to listen and help you.
If you are reading this and are going through any period related symptoms, I am sending you lots of love.