I am a creature of darkness, but I dread the end of summer with a gloom only reserved for pumpkin spice lattes. As an endometriosis patient, I don’t need silly amounts of syrup to feel seasonally bloated.
Halloween in the U.K. mostly involves creeps dressing up as clowns and terrifying children and poor old ladies. We don’t have Thanksgiving over here, so when September comes around, Advent calendars are shoved down our throats while we wait to order the Christmas version of our favorite drink.
When a friend suggested ending the warmer nights with a live DJ set in Brighton, I couldn’t say no. However, a few hours before I was supposed to leave, I started experiencing painful leg spams that were followed by a bad case of chronic fatigue. “Oh, Jess,” I sighed. “You are going nowhere.” I curled up on my bed and cried big, fat tears, seasoning every sentence with the F-word.
Female pain is extremely common but rarely mentioned.
There’s an ad from a famous brand that features a woman cycling in hot pants, reclaiming her life through the use of barely-there tampons. But for anyone with endometriosis — and for many without — riding a bike while on our period is akin to throwing ourselves repeatedly onto a bed of rusty nails. My periods don’t make me smile at strangers or go through my to-do list like an everyday Captain Marvel. My periods involve ugly crying and snot dripping down my face. Sometimes I wail like a beached whale, except I’m a fully grown woman.
Didn’t you hear? Expressions of pain are unsightly.
As a 6-year-old, my anxiety regularly gave me stomachaches. Once it got so bad that I broke down in tears at school. The nun teaching us calligraphy that morning made me stand outside in the winter cold until I stopped sobbing. That was my first lesson on suffering the Catholic way — in silence.
No matter how many times we’re told to face the wall, there are no school lessons that prepare us for a life of pain. From our first period onward, we must fit into the “woman” category, even though most of us are still playing with dolls. There are no warnings as to how much it will hurt. Absolutely no one mentions losing gallons of blood. Nobody explains that those carefree, my-periods-make-me-giggle adverts reflect the experience of a lucky minority.
In fact, women are commended for suffering in silence. A woman who gives birth without medications or complaints is a superhero. What about the rest? Are they failures via epidural? Or are they cowards because their pain reached unbearable levels and they requested a C-section?
Unsurprisingly, female pain is regularly dismissed by doctors. It is not ladylike to curse or yell while in pain. If you live in the U.K. and make the superhuman effort to go to the shop on your period, chances are that someone will see your pained expression and loudly exclaim, “Cheer up, love!” To those strangers, full of great ideas, I say: Why don’t you go out in public when your eyes are puffy from crying and worry about the blood clots in your underwear, convinced your legs are about to buckle? There are no safe amounts of painkillers or tampons that will make this hellish scenario bearable.
Tears are a sign that something is malfunctioning in an extremely painful way.
If your period limits what you can do, cry. Cry grown-up tears. Cry for your malfunctioning ovaries, your failed plans. Weep for daughters and nieces you hope will never suffer like this, for the women who never received the right medical care. Curse the tampon adverts that are clearly designed by men. Get angry at the extra taxes on female products. Cry loud and proud, all the way to the doctor, especially when someone minimizes your pain.
Personally, I am done keeping it squeaky-clean and sanitary. Staying quiet doesn’t help me. It only benefits those who’d rather ignore the pain that comes from a flawed biological design, affecting millions of us.
When was the last time you cried over pain? Feel free to share in the comments below. I’ll high-five you from my bed.
Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.