the taboo of being a woman [guest post]
It’s around 4am and I’m woken up with intense, dull pains in my abdomen. I toss and turn in bed for a while until I accept the fact that it’s happening again and I need to get up and prepare for a long night. I run a bath, but by the time it’s ready I’m in so much pain that I’ve been sick several times and can barely stand due to the bottom of my back and both legs becoming numb- something that happens purely due to the amount of pain my body is trying to deal with. I feel like I am becoming paralysed from the waist down.
I try to get in the bath but only last about ten minutes. I feel so sick that the heat is unbearable and the pain makes it impossible to get comfortable so I get out and head downstairs as to try not wake my boyfriend up. The only thing I can do is pace. I can’t sit down, I can’t lie down, I can’t walk, I can’t stand, I can’t drink, I can’t eat, I just can’t cope. I struggle to make myself up a hot water bottle, when I finally do I burn the skin on my stomach but I can barely feel it due to the overwhelming pain I’m already in. I have scarring on my stomach where this has happened again and again. I take a tramadol tablet and it has absolutely no effect. I spend the next 6 hours in agony. I call on my boyfriend and beg him to help me even though I know there’s nothing he can do- I’m just so desperate for it to stop I feel like I literally cannot cope with it a second longer.
And then it calms down and I feel so grateful. It’s almost over. I imagine it’s what heroin must feel like- a sudden rush of pure relaxation spreading over my whole body. I get back into bed with another hot water bottle and try and rest. I am completely exhausted and will feel a low, dull ache in my body for the next couple of days.
This happens every month to me, and it has done for the past 16 years. Once it was so bad that I was taken to A&E and was rushed straight in and put straight on morphine as it was evident to everyone I was in extreme pain- something terrible must have been wrong… Once the morphine had kicked in and I was able to talk to the doctors surrounding me I explained what was wrong. It was period pain. As soon as I said that the attitude in the room changed dramatically. Doctors and nurses that had been so concerned about my wellbeing ten minutes ago suddenly seemed so insulted that I had wasted their time with “just period pain”. It’s something I’ve had to deal with for 16 years. Period pain is seen as something that is natural and women just have to “get on with it”, but for me it ruins my life. The past 16 years has been a constant battle with doctors, begging someone to help me. I’ve had tests, internal examinations, cameras inserted and tried various types of medication but nothing has came of it. I’ve been told I could have burst cysts, but they can’t see them on ultrasounds. I’ve been told I might have endometriosis, but again they can’t confirm a diagnosis. I have now been told just to get on with it, it’s natural and it’s just part of being a woman.
I will get on with it. I’m 27 years old and don’t want a hysterectomy. I want children. So every month I’ll go through the same thing and I’ll just get on with it like I have been told to do my whole life. What I won’t do anymore though is feel embarrassed to talk about what I go through. Why do we live in a society where it is unacceptable to phone in sick from work due to period pain? Why is it unacceptable to even tell someone I have period pain? So many women feel like they need to mask what’s actually wrong so they’ll say they have a “sore stomach” or have “woman troubles”. As soon as you utter the words “period pain” the disgust on their faces is unbelievable. “That’s too much information Gillian.” Why, in 2017, are woman having to just “get on with it” and suffer in silence? I am so appreciative of my body, but my god it is difficult being a woman. Why does my body put me through so much hell every single month and why do I feel so embarrassed to talk about it.
I hope that in the future, if I do manage to have kids, my daughter is able to call her work and explain that she has period pain and she is too unwell to go in and I hope that workplaces are understanding and don’t make women feel ashamed or weak for admitting they can’t cope that particular month. I hope that women are able to easily get help, and not be told to just get on with it. It’s natural. It’s a woman’s job.
What my body has to go through every month to be able to reproduce is extremely difficult but no longer will I feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk about it. I’m fed up with the opinions that period pain is over exaggerated. Hopefully one day soon the taboo of periods will be lifted and I, along with millions of other women, will be able to get help.