Sunday, July 26, 2009

Womanhood, Oh Womanhood (Girls Only!)

One reason I was so happy to turn 48 this year - other than the obvious fact that I'm thankful to be alive! - is that, hopefully, it puts me real close to being done with these monthly periods. (Apologies to the male readers, but I did warn you!...)

I have had trouble with my periods from the first one. When I was younger, up until I was about 20, I had such painful periods that I could not function normally for 2 to 4 days a month. I would literally miss school or work, or go in almost doubled over in agony. My stomach cramps (really, I guess it was uterine contractions) were bad enough that they caused me to vomit and sweat. Some days I had to just lie in bed with my mother bringing me hot tea spiked with whiskey. Later, I had to take muscle relaxants.

It wasn't until I was about to be married that I went on the Pill. What a difference. No cramps. Wow. And periods that didn't last for 7, 9 or 10 days... Double wow. The only problem: the Pill caused extreme nausea for the first several hours after I took a dose. I could literally smell the Pill - a sort of heavy metallic odor - and felt as if I could taste the hormones in the back of my throat. I tried wrapping the tablet in bread or taking it only with something strong-tasting, like O.J. or coffee or cranberry juice. No matter. But it was better to suffer a couple hours of nausea over days of agony.

For the first time in my life I could actually plan my life and events of life without worrying if my irregular and heavy period would just pop up. Of course, I went off the Pill when my marriage ended. At that time I was a smoker and a lot of things like high blood pressure and heart disease run in my family.

Actually, after having been on the Pill for a while, the effects on my period lasted even when I went off. For about a year, I was regular and had a manageable flow. Even when my heavy flow returned, my cramps weren't as debilitating. I could at least manage working and shopping and having family time without too many problems. Whenever I had a medical checkup, I would discuss my menstrual problems with the doctor (usually male) and beg for something to relieve my heavy flow. They had nothing. One doctor (male) did come to sympathize with me when I started my period right before my appointment for a vaginal checkup. Instead of canceling it, he decided this would be a good time to see what might be going on with me. During the checkup, he was amazed at how badly I flowed, and I think he really felt bad when I told him that I wasn't going "heavy" yet. He sent me for some lab work because he worried about the anemia I had mentioned in my medical history. When the results came back, the poor man was shocked at the severity of my anemia. "I don't understand how you function," he muttered as he scribbled out prescriptions for iron pills. "I've had a lifetime of figuring out how to," I told him.

That poor doctor has no idea. I have tried everything for relief. Doctors prescribed painkillers (they didn't take away the pain; I was just groggy & in pain) and muscle relaxants (these worked best, but with no insurance...). Friends recommended remedies such as Mom's tea and whiskey (works great if I want to be drunk) which tends to make my flow heavier. I was told to exercise, especially my pelvic muscles (didn't work & sometime brought on a period). I was advised to drink soy products (tastes great but made no difference). I've heard of herbal remedies and old wives' remedies... Nothing really works that doesn't agitate or cause another problem.

Like I said, the periods are not as severe. Mostly I just have to deal with not having any idea when they will pop up. When my period comes, I might have 2 days or 2 weeks to deal with it. The longest was 17 or 18 days this past year. I was scared to death that time, but with no health insurance, I couldn't go in to verify that anything more unusual was going on.

Today I had to leave church about 10 minutes before it was let out. Between uncomfortable cramps and worrying that I might have an "accident," I couldn't fully concentrate on the last part of the service. (I did think a lot about Eve. I can't wait to get to Heaven and discuss this all with her! LOL)

Anyway, I am relaxing here now, hoping that if I don't move around a lot, I'll feel better. I have dishes and laundry to do, return phone calls to make, dinner to get ready... But for now, I don't have the energy. Typing this just about wiped me right out. I'm too tired even to Twitter!

To all the other ladies out there who struggle with this monthly ordeal: I do understand. And now you understand why this chick is waiting for menopause!