Period pain is not an excuse. Once, I tried to get out of a school soccer game because of period cramps. I wasn’t “faking it”. I love playing soccer. I was in pain. I felt nauseous. All I wanted was to curl up and let the little lawn mower move across my insides without any threat of a soccer ball helping it along. My coach just laughed. He told me to take a Panadol and play on. That’s what I did.
I learned, like all women have learned, that the pain of your uterus wall shedding itself is not a valid excuse for not doing everyday things. You can’t call your boss and tell her your period is stopping you from coming to work. You can’t tell friends you’re not going to be able to make it to the birthday party on Saturday night with alllll the girls because your stomach is deciding to fold on in on itself.
We are told about periods and ovulation cycles and our mums quietly, anxiously hover outside the door as we try putting in a tampon for the first time. But we don’t talk about the pain.
Hot water bottles, curled up on the couch, a little sip of brandy. The pain isn’t that bad. It will pass. It’s just a “woman’s thing”.
But what if it is that bad?
What happens if it doesn’t pass easily. What happens if it’s 12 days of heavy bleeding and doubled over cramps and curling up in the foetal position?
Almost 176 million women around the world suffer from endometriosis. It’s a condition where the lining of the uterus – the sheath of cells that is shed during a period – grows outside of the uterus. It grows on abdominal and pelvic organs, often the ovaries, and all this lining is detached come the “time of the month”.
The pain of endometriosis can be excruciating. It can lead to discomfort during sex, heavy bleeding with blood clots, diarrhoea, constipation. Blood in urine. Exhaustion. And, I’d imagine, sheer terror at the fact your insides are falling out all at once.
On average, it takes women 10 years to be diagnosed by endometriosis.