Wednesday 23 November 2016


📷: Diva Diaries
PS: If you think talking about menstruation is nasty or disgusting, log off now. Your opinion doesn’t matter to us.

So…for those of us who care about women’s reproductive health, let us begin.
A while back, I heard a friend was sick and went to see her. I didn’t know what was wrong because she wasn’t very coherent on phone but I knew she would appreciate visits. I called a mutual male friend and we set off to see her.

When we got to where she was staying, we saw that she was doing better and she told us we shouldn’t have been worried because ‘it was just menstrual pain’. There were a bunch of us there so we settled into good natured camaraderie. As we laughed and talked, she gradually became more withdrawn. Soon enough, she got up and went to the bedroom. We continued gisting and having fun.

After a while, we noticed she had not returned and our host went to check on her. She returned and told us our friend was writhing in the bedroom. We all rushed; panicked and afraid. Our host quickly called someone and in the five, maybe ten, minutes before he showed up, my girl went from 'just menstrual pains' to writhing in pains, screams and uncontrollable spasms. We all had to hold her down and carry her to the car.

Even when we got to the car, her legs were everywhere and it took all my strength to hold her down as gently as I could. I could feel the shivers running though her body and when we finally got to the hospital, it wasn’t too soon.

The male nurses at the reception were a bit nonchalant, even taking time out to laugh and talk. Our host was mad and nearly went ham. It wasn’t until they saw our urgency that our friend was shown into a doctor’s office. The doctor quickly prescribed injections after we told her that she had taken some strong acting analgesic and had already been admitted before for the pains.

It was maybe thirty minutes after the shot was administered that our friend began to feel better. Not better as in her normal self, but better as a person just coalescing from a terrible illness.

Our male friend, who had been afraid at the sight of a usually strong girl totally broken down by her period pains, kept looking as if he had had an encounter with a ghost. We joked about it being normal for many girls and women and he swore he wasn’t marrying anyone. As we laughed in the face of all these, one of the male nurses spoke to us and suggested that he hadn’t been quick in his response because ‘you know how girls like to exaggerate their menstrual pains’. His view was that when women want to get out of work or just want ‘petting’, they exaggerate the pain they feel.

Was this guy serious?! Did he ever have menstrual pain that helped him gauge the extent of pain a person should feel at any given time? Or did his teachers teach him that women didn’t feel as much pain as they ‘pretended to’ when having cramps? I nearly flew into a tirade at his educated but ignorant brain but then my friend moaned and I channeled my energy into being a good friend.

It is a common perception by many people that women exaggerate the pain they feel during menstruation. I recall even reading an article with this same theme one time and I am still smarting from the anger I felt when I read that load of stale bull crap. This is because I know – first hand – what menstrual pain does to women.

I started menstruating February 10, 2000. I remember that day as clearly as I can see my hands now because that was the beginning of my monthly torture. My insides felt like they were been slowly torn up with scalding iron. I writhed and screamed and cried and begged God to take my life and it wasn’t until my mother came home – hours later – and saw the blood that she rushed and got me drugs. In those hours before I was rescued, I broke out in a fever, had diarrhea, was nauseous and vomited at least three times. Adding to that was the fact that my lower back was on fire and I couldn’t stand straight; or sit; or lie down; or kneel; or stay in any position for more than two to three minutes. The drugs took away some of the major symptoms but the diarrhea and nausea remained. My sense of smell was heightened and normally wonderful smells became disgusting and nauseating. Till today, the thought of pancakes during my period makes me nauseous. The thought!

It has been more than nineteen years since I started my first period and every month, every damn month, I go through variations of this type of hell. Let me reiterate so you can understand. For the past 238 months, I have had to deal with such terrible menstrual cramp that it is a wonder I am still here today. Every single month since that day, I have to take drugs to have a slightly better chance at dealing with the pain. If I miscalculate my cycle or start when I have no access to drugs, I pay dearly.

You can imagine my outrage when someone has the gall to tell me that I am exaggerating my pain! Like, is this person mad?!

Ladies back me up here. When we are in such excruciating pain, we don’t give a flying fuck about your ‘petting’; or the lack of it. All we can think of is the white hot pain searing through our very core. Did I tell you I begged God to take my life on more than twenty occasions because of the kind of pain I was feeling? And mine isn’t even the worst. At least the pain is two days out of four. Imagine the case of my friend as describe above or women who have to be admitted for the entire duration of their period. When all I can see is a haze of glaring red pain, I don’t give a damn if you are petting me or not and I speak for all us who have to deal with dysmenorrhea.

Thankfully, with education, we are able to calculate our cycle and plan for the bad day. There are women who start taking drugs a week to their period while some cut out sugar intake to minimize the pain they are sure to get. Some women even drink alcohol to make sure their pain is minimized. Do you now that there are women who have no education about this; and no access to pain killers? Have you ever wondered what happens to them? How they are able to cope? Especially if they have uncaring family members, husbands, bosses and colleagues or little children? I know how much pain I still go through even with pain killers. I cannot for the life of me phantom the kind of pain many women go through without.

Yes, some people can bring down their pain with hot water bottles – which is purely psychological in my view – or by exercising a lot but all of these have not worked for me and many women I know. So when that searing pain comes, get your medication and hope that the hours don’t stretch as long as it can.

And to those who think women exaggerate or fake their menstrual pains, please, take a couple of seats back! I know that you cannot understand the kind of pain we are feeling but that is why there is empathy. You should understand that we are in a lot of pain and accept that what we feel is sometimes beyond our control. Sometimes, we don’t even show the extent of the pain we are feeling to make sure you don’t feel uncomfortable. We mask our pain so we can still do our work and take care of our families and make sure your life is comfortable. So when the pain is so excruciating that we break down and take a day off, it is not because we want to be petted. It is because we cannot mask it any longer. We are super beings but our periods are our kryptonite.

If you can, help us. If you can’t, keep your opinions about our pain to yourself. But for the most part, stay out of our way! Allow us lie in that fetal position as we wish the pain away. 

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