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sevenhelz ([personal profile] sevenhelz) wrote2013-05-20 10:13 am

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If you've never had a period, don't ignore this post.

Periods are fucking awful. I've had them for ten years and for maybe two of those they were painless. That might be including the times I planned ahead and took my painkillers in advance.

It started with back pain. I found out, years later when I had a female doctor I could ask, that this is due to everything expanding putting pressure on the base of the spine - probably indicating that my womb is either straight upright or flops backward. Apparently this is less of a problem if your womb flops forward, or if you are not a "relatively slim girl" (as my doctor put it, pursing her lips as she looked at my rounded tummy).

All of which is a fairly dry way to say that, until I spoke to a doctor about how bad it was, I would regularly spend a day or two or three days crying and nearly screaming with pain, trying to keep warm where I needed it, trying to lie in comfortable positions, trying to do *anything* to distract myself from the waves of pain rolling up and down my spine feeling like they paralysed my body. Meantime I was bloated, gassy as well. After I think a year of trying to deal with it, to get through because I was Strong, I saw my (male, because I still lived in Hometown) doctor and got prescribed magic pills.

Pain relief is a simple term for a life changing magic.

And yet I was still exhausted, still felt weak from the waist down. I don't even mean just weak; those who've been anaemic may understand.

Ah but I've forgotten. It started with anaemia.

When I first started having periods I was still in high school. I don't remember getting a lot of pain, but I remember dragging each heavy step across the school campus. There was barely enough time to get from one room to the next and I was always, always scheduled to be in an entirely different block. I didn't know what anaemia was. I didn't know why I was so bone-weary, so exhausted, I don't think I connected the dots or counted my days; but I made myself push through because I was Strong. I hated my heavy bag more by the minute. My skin must've been even paler than natural. It was ages before I discovered iron supplements. Months or maybe years before my mum thought to discuss it with me.

We don't talk enough about periods. About the pain we're dealing with, or about the mess. We whisper, or complain in the locker room, and if you're me and you've discovered magic pills and you think your Uni housemate's complaints sound suspiciously like your own, your fixable thing, maybe you go out of your way to tell your own tale. And then you get older and things change and suddenly you don't discuss this in front of men, again. You talk about women's troubles or "lady's days", slightly taking the piss out of your sexist old instructor, but without explaining what those are, because wouldn't it be terribly distasteful if the men you work with had some sense of how much pain you're capable of working through? And how the centre of you is basically open to the world right now and pouring blood into it and every time you move you're reminded that once this might've been regarded as magical, and now you're just hoping you won't bleed through your clothes before you get five minutes to run to a toilet? And you don't bother talking about cramps because everyone gets them. I didn't used to, but since the coil I get none of the old pain, all this new exciting type. Similarly my pain had gone through changes when I'd taken hormonal contraceptives, but I'm fucked if I can remember what happened other than that it was  still crap, because periods always are.

Anaemia fogs your mind even as it saps your strength. My back-brain told me last night I must be anaemic, having been uselessinpainbleeding/preparingtobleed for roughly 36 hours. "Oh", I thought. Twelve hours later I thought again, "Oh. Maybe I have some pills somewhere", and I dragged myself across the floor (because the combination of low-grade rumbling threatening belly pain and knackeredness is remarkably like being depressed, it would seem) and found that I didn't. So I forced myself up onto hands and knees and then to standing and it's not so hard, once you've got there, so I walked to my old room and found my flatmate Nicole who says she's going shopping after the gym anyway and will pick me some up. So I'll only be useless until then, then.

The other other other thing I'm dealing with is how my body just gives up on temperature regulation. It's like being feverish and fluey. You just want all the heat to be concentrated in your stomach. I wear a kidney warmer even on hot days. I sweat buckets, and it smells worse than normal because of idkhormones.

If you've never had periods, you won't have a sense of how much mess there is. It's supposed to be, what, 9 tbsp blood over X days? Who really gives a fuck how much it is? You find blood in your pants (or know it's coming, thanks to an early warning pain system - thanks, crotch!). You either stick something up yourself to control it, or protect your pants somehow. I do the latter because fuck me, it's hard enough to stick stuff up myself at the best of times, and you want me to do it when I'm in pain and it's slimy and horrible? No. Go fuck yourself. I will live without swimming for the next few days; it's not like it's the only thing I'm going through. So, reusable pads. You'd think this might be more mess than disposable, but in truth it doesn't matter whether you bag it up nice and neat in the bin or wipe it off, rinse it if you're feeling keen and chuck it in the washbag. Some places don't even have bins because they are IDIOTS. It really doesn't matter a shit, because you've still had to feel that stuff collecting in your pants, and you've still had to look at it. Sometimes it isn't just blood, you know. There are whole blood vessels that come out as clots or strings, reminding you of how complicated your innards are. Just like those bits of meat some people won't eat.

Yep, I'm just a complicated, pissed-off bit of meat. For ten fucking years I have wasted fuckloads of my life on just coping with pain and exhaustion. Probably a month every year. And I'm one of the able-bodied, healthy, fit young ones. In a couple of days I'll either forget about all this, like I do every month once it's over, or I'll go ask to talk to a female doctor or nurse to talk about why it's worse than it used to be and whether there's anything we can do. I fully expect the answers to be "it just is" and "no", but I am so very sick of not talking about it.