I’m hanging out in the main lobby. It’s loud because that’s where everyone gathers. I’m doubled over, trying to figure out what I want to do. Classes haven’t even begun and my body is already pissed at me. Should I brave through it? I’m reminded of the day I got all the way to 5th period before heading home. Fuck it! I’m going home.
There was this time when I had to take the bus back home since my mother was at work. I tried deep breathing exercises, anxiously waiting. Already I imagined myself lounging under a steady stream of boiling hot water. I couldn’t wait for the release that only a two hour shower could give.
It was just after my fifteenth birthday party. I’m wandering around the halls, bent over and knowing that I’ve already ruined my new suede birthday outfit. When my mother takes me back home, I spend what feels like an eternity with a pillow pressed against my stomach, rocking back and forth. Sleep seems to evade me as I struggle to force myself into a REM cycle. Sleep is my only other release.
When I was sixteen, we finally went to the gynecologist. He tells me that because I’m skinny, my hormones don’t stabilize, which is why the cramps are so bad. I want to punch him in the face as my mother begins to recite it like gospel. “Gain weight,” she tells me. “That’s what the doctor said.” Even though I’m tired of my weight being used against me, I do notice some minute changes as my weight increases. The cramps aren’t as debilitating. I can actually eat something, and not spend all day in bed. But it doesn’t last.
College is easier – with no one to monitor how much water I’m using, I gladly take several showers throughout the day, followed by long naps. The pain comes and goes. Sometimes I get lucky and don’t need to miss class. Other times, I try to convince myself that physical health is more important than a lecture. Fortunately, I didn’t have to make this decision too frequently. Life got even better when I had no room mate. I spent all day sleeping, or just sprawled out in my robe, anxiously awaiting another shower. Normally two showers did it, but sometimes I’d need the extra one.
I stiffen when a friend of mine complains about the pain, saying that women should just suck it up. She either has the tolerance of a Greek demi-god or doesn’t know what it’s like to be in pain. I keep quiet unsure of how to express the reality of how some periods can be. I regretted this.
During the fall of my 22nd year of life, I head to the doctor’s again. This time in an attempt to complete a medical form so that I may teach abroad. I explain to her about my periods; I want to know, is it really a weight thing? She tells me it might be endometriosis: an illness that afflicts 10-15% of women. YES FINALLY! She gives me Depo, an attempt to stop my periods. I’m excited. A life without chronic menstrual pain? Sign me up!
But many, many months have passed since then and I’m no longer period free. My periods are unpredictable, and I haven’t really made much of an effort to track them. I strive for more body awareness, yet don’t know how. And at times, not sure if I want to.
What about you? Is there anything in your life that brings you chronic pain and you haven’t found a way to get rid of it yet?