Yesterday afternoon I had an episode of excruciating pain I nearly called an ambulance. A familiar kind of pain but each time it occurs it feels new and indescribable. It is the pain that I experience almost every month. Pain known to a lot of women but understood by few men. If you are a man and you are reading this I appreciate that you are here and are willing to read on this kind of pain and my experience with it. It might give you some sort of understanding when dealing with the women in your life. And yeah I’m not shy to have this conversation. It’s high time we involved our men and normalized menstruation.
I started my periods a bit later than my peers and friends. I remember when I was in class 7 some of my friends already had their period. There were beliefs back then that scared little girls like me. It was often said that if you didn’t get your period you would be barren for life. You should have seen how afraid we all were, I mean those who hadn’t gotten their periods. Those who had gotten them couldn’t help but flaunt that they would at some point bear children.
It was as if getting periods was confirmation enough to conceive and give birth. I honestly don’t know how such beliefs got into our head at that point in our lives. I was barely 13 yrs old but I was praying a lot to God to grant me my period because I couldn’t fathom my life without children. We watched quite many Nollywood films wherein most films there always happened to be a barren woman who was mistreated and looked down upon for the fact that she couldn’t bear a child. This was a nightmare that no girl ever wanted to live to experience.
So I prayed. Prayer with no action isn’t fruitful. They say. I had heard a rumor that your periods would come if you wore a pad. The nonsense right? I have always been a shy girl for as long as I remember. It was such a big deal to talk to your father about anything periods. But he was the closest provider I could ask. So I managed to write my dad a letter asking him to bring me pads in school. He did. I wore a few but I never spotted blood on any of them. What a waste!
I went to Highschool and by this point I was beginning to believe I was barren. It was a silent journey because you didn’t want people thinking you were going to be barren. And at times you would lie that you already had your period. It was something girls were proud of. I was in form 2 when my period finally came. I was now to the eyes of the society a full woman. You can imagine the happiness that took over me. I praised and rejoiced. An answered prayer.
In the beginning I can’t recall the exact nature of my periods. But I generally didn’t have the kind of pain I saw in other girls. Yes I experienced discomfort that made me miss class sometimes but that was fine. It was strange for me to see some girls rolling on the ground due to pain, others vomiting, others crying uncontrollably, others having a bleeding stretch of up to 7 days and others admitted to the hospital and getting injections and drips to ease this pain. I was thankful to have a stretch of 2-3 days, a regular and lighter cycle.
Over the years I have experienced a change in the nature of my periods. I have either a 21 or 28-day cycle. Which is still okay and termed as normal. What has however changed and I’m quite unhappy with is the pain I experience. Which is why I even chose to write this. The pain has become quite a lot and sometimes unbearable. I have always downplayed the pain I experience during this time. I don’t know to prove what exactly. Maybe I still don’t refer my pain to be as bad as what I have seen other girls go through. Being the daughter of my mother, who hated medicine with her whole being, I took after her and I will only take medicine as the last resort. I also like to see how my body can naturally withstand pain.
I worried that I could be suffering from endometriosis, fibroids or even cancer. My mother died of cervical cancer so it has bothered me for years. You are probably thinking I should see a gynecologist. I see one every year. I get my pelvic exam done annually. One time my gynecologist recommended I use the Pill for 6 months to just try and see if the pain will go away. She gave me samples but I decided not to take them. I’m quite critical when it comes to contraceptives. I don’t have any known hormonal imbalance that requires attention and the gynecologists I have visited don’t seem to find a problem.
There are some things I have tried to help ease the pain and cope. To mention a few, I have tried exercising and staying active, changing up my diet a bit like for example including foods rich in potassium and magnesium, placing a hot water bottle on my lower back or abdomen, taking a long hot bath, etc. These measures have helped before but not all the time. The best yet is crying. Crying to me is like an answer to all my frustrations. Crying does ease my pain. Physical and emotional. If I start cramping at work and the medicine hasn’t kicked in yet, I will go to a room and cry my eyes dry. That dosage of oxytocin and endorphins brings my whole being to a better level. I recommend.
Apart from the physical abdominal and lower back pains there is this condition called PMS(premenstrual syndrome), that affects a woman’s health physically and emotionally. It generally happens before the menses. PMS might be why you can’t understand why your woman is the way she is at times. It might also be why a lot of men say they don’t understand what women want. Well, I never used to think I suffer from PMS not until I started tracking my behavior by checking my cycle. Boom! I am among the majority of women that suffer from PMS. (I would highly recommend you download a period tracking App. It comes in handy and you can track all your changes. It will also help you answer questions swiftly during your gyna visits) During this period I become everything I honestly don’t like. I become impatient, agitated and irritated by the slightest of anything, too emotional, pessimistic, extremely sensitive, insensitive, the texture of my skin becomes rough and so on.
Being a woman is hard. But if you love being one all these difficulties won’t wear you down. We are godly and withstand so much. We are beautiful even when we don’t feel it. Going through these changes every month and still thriving is magical if you ask me. I don’t know how we do it. I don’t have a manual for this because our bodies are so different. If you are a woman suffering from painful periods please see a doctor first. Do those regular medical check-ups. Have a gynecologist who takes their time to study your body and tells you as it is. Make it your responsibility to study the changes in your body. Don’t shy from talking about the changes you experience with someone close. Try out natural ways to ease the pain before jumping into any other recommendations. And there is that famous myth that if you have a baby you will never cramp again. It’s a trap. That isn’t entirely true. You want to be sober to make that decision to conceive. see here