Lifetime Of Menstrual Pain

When I was 13, I started getting horrible stomach pains.  I never even connected it to a period, which I knew about and knew would be coming, because I had two older sisters and a mother that never mentioned pain being associated with the upcoming onset of menstruation.  I didn't know what I had, and I just went to my bed, took aspirin, and rolled around biting pillows until it would subside.  My mother found me one day and called the doctor who decided, over the phone no less, that I must be having an appendicitis (even though my pain wasn't on one side).  He told her to put an ice pack on my abdomen and to call him if the pain got worse rather than subsided.

Lo and behold, the ice pack did lessen the pain, and that's how I was introduced to my treatment of choice for cramps.  I know what you're all going to say, "Ice??" but that's just me.  I've never gotten along well with heat.  Anytime I've ever used a heating pad, the pain just got worse.  I wear rubber gloves to do dishes because I can't stand the hot water needed to get them clean, and I can't stand sitting in a hot tub, it just makes me crazy.  I even take cool showers, lol.  It's just me, but I found out that day they thought I had an appendicitis, that ice gave me some measure of temporary relief, and I encourage anyone desperate enough with pain to try it out. There's a numbing sensation after a while that takes just a little of the edge off the pain, and any port in a storm, right?

Anyway, once we figured out it was my period, that began years of doctors' visits.  I learned that I have a severely tipped uterus, I had laparoscopies that revealed a small amount of endometriosis that went untreated because I was assured that it couldn't account for all that pain.  I began  to realize that because most women didn't have painful periods, there was a credibility gap for people like me with gynecologists and even other women.  I eventually gave up on the medical establishment when one doctor practically accused me of being a drug addict just trying to "get drugs."

I wish doctors, and even other women, could understand the enormity of this pain.  This is not like any other pain I've experienced.  It seems to reach up inside of you and just pull you down.  It takes your mind and resets it from whatever it was you were trying to concentrate on.  It is an emotional and physical pain that is unique, and little understood, except by it's victims.

My periods were heavy and miserable.  Even being on the pill didn't alleviate the pain, just allowed me to "schedule" my periods.  The only respite I got was when I was pregnant. I could count on at least two days of being incapacitated.  Sometimes, I missed work, though not often.  Mostly I popped Ibuprofen and Tylenol simultaneously just to get the edge off, and I could always count on one big colon-clearing session per period for which I loaded up on Immodium.  And even on the last day of my period, the monster cramps could strike.  It seemed my off-kilter uterus couldn't get anything out without powerful cramping.

I would have at least one 24 hour period (and sometimes two) where I would have to stay up all night because I was soaking a tampon and a maxi every hour. I would get weak and pale. I kept fluids up and was lucky enough to have a great husband who worried terribly over me and ran for anything I wanted or needed. The mess, the expense of monthly supplies and painkillers, makes this an incredible burden for those of us afflicted with it. 

Finally, last year, I had the lining of my uterus burned out.  They also did another laparoscopy and found bands of scar tissue all over my abdomen. (Must have been from that "small amount of endometriosis that went untreated because I was assured that it couldn't account for all that pain.") The doctor carved out the scar tissue and endometriosis, and I haven't had a period since. 

Oh the freedom! I still have my ovaries so I still feel some mild (and I mean, mild) cramping when I ovulate, but that's it!  To tell you the truth, I didn't really believe my doctor when he said it would end my periods. I always imagined my uterus as some sort of super-powered monster inside of me, much like that alien creature that skittered across the floor and would attach itself to someone's face.  (I know, what an image!)  I used to tease my husband when we argued, "don't make me sic my uterus on you!"  Crazy, I know, but you've got to use whatever coping tools you can, and humor is one of them. But damn if it the procedure didn't work!

My hope is that you can view this treatment as something to at least look forward to, if nothing else.  Certainly, you shouldn't have it until you're absolutely sure you're done having children, but unless and until medical science catches up and can really do something for us, know that there is an oasis of relief in your future.

Behrnan Behrnan
May 14, 2012