I’ve been contemplating writing about this issue for a while, and finally decided to just do it because I have yet to see anything written or discussed about it anywhere. It’s an issue I assume that countless women who fall within the reproductive age demographic and live with chronic pain and/or other chronic illnesses struggle through regularly.
I’ve always had difficult menstrual cycles, or what is more commonly called monthly periods. Since the first one arrived when I was in my early teens, it’s been a painful monthly – or near monthly – reminder of my femininity and reproductive health. Each period I’ve had has been accompanied by excruciating pelvic/uterine cramps, back pain, nausea, heavy bleeding, fatigue – and more often than I’d care to remember – debilitating migraines. Over the years, I’ve even had multiple investigative surgeries to look for potential causes and to rule out the possibility that I might have endometriosis, which I don’t have. Alas, each surgery has resulted in no explanations for why I’ve lived with this degree of period pain (dysmenorrhea) since entering womanhood.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve adopted a glass half full approach to the way I look at this situation: I take comfort in the knowledge that each of these monthly episodes means I’m one month closer to menopause. The phase of my life when I‘ll no longer have to live with the anxious anticipation of the arrival of my period or suffer through its painful symptoms. Nonetheless, from my current vantage point, menopause seems to be farther away than I’d like it to be.
More unfortunate, is that since I’ve been living with daily, nonstop chronic pelvic pain and leg pain, I’ve also been battling with the added monthly pain caused by my periods. The worst thing about this is that I feel each of these intense pains separately. That makes it even harder to cope or do basic daily activities during the time that I have my period.
For the duration of each of my periods (usually 7 days, sometimes longer), it feels like an extra layer of piercing pain is thrown on top of my unrelenting chronic pain and it makes my pelvis – and every organ in it – feel as if it’s being squeezed in a vise . Strangely, I feel the pain from my periods strongest within the same area where I had surgery to remove the growth that triggered the illness I now live with. However, since that growth is no longer sitting in my pelvis, the increased pain during my period makes no sense, at least not to me. Worse still, is that the copious amount of opioid pain medications I take daily to manage my chronic pain do nothing to relieve my period pain(s).
As I struggle with this agony each menstrual cycle, as I am now, I wonder how other women living with chronic illnesses and/or chronic pain cope if they also have painful periods. How do they go about living their lives when they have to endure extreme menstrual symptoms – including crippling pelvic cramps – combined with other incessant symptoms and pain(s) from a chronic illness that may affect multiple areas of their bodies? How do they cope with the bombardment of pain in multiple areas of their bodies for days on end, when pain in just one part of the body can make one feel as if they might lose their mind? Moreover, since women have lived with painful periods for as long as we’ve had periods, why aren’t there more definitive solutions – medical or otherwise – for treating menstrual symptoms and pain?
This may sound like a rant to some people but these are legitimate questions when one lives with these types of pain. Why do women have to suffer like this continually and why should we have to endure painful periods on top of a chronic illness or already debilitating chronic pain? When will modern medicine develop something that stops us from suffering this way each month of our lives when we mature to reproductive age?
I’m hoping this post sparks some discussion and encourages women to share what helps them cope with painful periods. Aside from curling up in the fetal position and begging the universe to make the pain go away, I wouldn’t mind hearing some useful ideas to help get me through these periods with less extra pain…
Monica – Don’t Take It Personal (Just One Of Dem Days)
Note: There’s some interesting sharing about this post happening on my Instagram page .