Saturday, 22 August 2015

A Moan

That's all this is really, me having a moan.

Yesterday I had a wonderful period free day. I thought that at last, after 10 days, the post-Norethisterone period was at an end. Confidently I told my friend I should be good for maybe two and a half weeks now. Well, that was nothing but a pipe dream. 36 hours without bleeding. Go me.

I'm not sure what to make of this premature return, and to say I have the hump about it is putting it mildly. Maybe it'll be just a blip, but I have been having the stabbing pains I get from time to time that herald the arrival of my somewhat-more-than-monthlies. Meh.

As I said, I'm just having a moan.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Menstruation and Me

It seems like a good time to spill a little of my menstrual history to give some more context for this blog. I've always had heavy periods right from the get go. Heavy and painful, a winning combination. Fortunately for me I got on just fine with the Pill from my teens, through my 20s and into my 30s. This took the edge off the worst of it and for most of that time I considered my periods a nuisance but they were manageable. My luck only held so long and a raft of side-effects started to make themselves known and I stopped taking the Pill.

Little by little my periods got heavier and more painful and lasted longer. Initially I thought my body was just adjusting; I took a lot of Feminax and hoped for the best. I realised this was no longer an option one Saturday morning when my parents popped into the shop where I worked to say hello, only to find me doubled up with cramps and fighting back tears. I went to the doctor soon after.

This was about six or seven years ago now, I think. Since then I been to the doctor's numerous times, had tests and been referred to a gynaecologist. The treatments I have been recommended and tried are:

  • Tranexamic acid for the bleeding and mefanamic acid for the pain. Tranexamic acid maybe helps a little on reasonably heavy days but not on uncontrollable ones. Mefanamic acid didn't touch my pain.
  • A Mirena coil. An utter horror story, one of the worst experiences of my life, and completely ineffective.
  • A progesterone only Pill. Helped initially but after a year things got worse.

A hysterectomy was half-heartedly mentioned by the gynaecologist but I'll save my thoughts about that for another day. I will mention my disquiet on another subject - that so many of the therapies for heavy and painful periods are actually methods of contraception first and foremost. None of them come from research into alleviating period problems, seemingly.

I was taking the progesterone Pill until a couple of weeks ago. I had to stop so I could take Norethisterone, another progesterone tablet, to stop the ridiculously heavy period I'd been having for the previous two and a half weeks and was making me very poorly. Probably not helped by the two week period I'd had a fortnight beforehand either. The Norethisterone did give me a break for a week, but within 48 hours of finishing the pack my period was back. That was eight days ago and it's not stopped yet, but I have now gone two days without flooding or losing great clumps of gunk (actual medical term). I'm staying off the Pill for now to see what happens.

Obviously I have to go back to the doctor's soon but I don't hold out much hope of being told anything different. And when I look at the paltry list of solutions above, it makes me feel a bit fed up. That's not a lot of help offered over several years and numerous appointments with my GP. When I do go again, I'll report back here. If anyone has any suggestions or advice please shout. In the meantime I'll continue to renew my tranexamic acid prescription and cocktail paracetamol and codeine with ibuprofen on really bad days.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Bleeding Uncool

The other day I got out of the bath and promptly bled everywhere. I was fricking furious; there's nothing fun about trying to stem the blood running down your legs and stop it from soaking into the bath mat. After I'd cleaned up myself and the surrounding area and climbed down, moodwise, to rueful, I began to think about an essay I read a few years ago by Iris Marion Young.

Her book, On Female Body Experience, is a brilliant collection of essays. In it is Menstrual Meditations, which takes both a theoretical and practical/lived look at the experience of menstruation. It's packed full of interesting things, but it was the idea around the uncontrollable nature of menstrual flow that popped into my brain and sent me back to the book to ferret it out. Young writes:

'The expectation that girls and women control their bodies to conceal this process seems especially unjust because this excretion is not controllable. There is nothing a woman can do to stall or temporarily stop the flow...'

Periods are a messy business, and if you have heavy or super heavy days there can be times when it is literally impossible to contain the flow. Because it's not just slightly gloopy blood that is dispelled; clumps of lining can come out too and there's not a tampon in the world that can deal with that - I speak from personal experience.

I do feel the injustice of trying to keep my out of control bleeding hidden. For years I've spent one week of every month worrying about the bedsheets and the mattress and the towels and the sofa and the cushion I sit on the dining room chair. But that worry is nothing compared to the anxiety caused by the fear of bleeding visibly onto your clothes. I wear a lot of black.

Young goes on to point out the further injustice that alongside the requirement to keep menstruation under wraps, our institutions and workplaces are often ill-equipped places for us to be able to perform the necessary acts to keep our bleeding a secret. During my time working in retail (not my current employer, I hasten to add), I have been in the situation of being the only person on the shopfloor and faced with the choice of either leaving the floor completely unattended or dripping blood on the carpet. Fun times.

As is most likely obvious by now, I'm not at all interested in keeping quiet about periods. I don't think they should be a secret. I have an idea that more openness will eventually mean more acceptance and more necessary allowances made. And that would be bleeding cool.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Suggested Reading

Earlier today I saw this tweet in my timeline, from The Pool:

The link is to an interesting article by Kate Spicer worth its four minutes allotted reading time! I love the idea that 2015 is the year of the red storm, although I think there's still a way to go before menstruation is no longer taboo. I'm happy that periods are being talked about and the issues around them are being more openly acknowledged.

The tweet also reminded me that there was another period article on The Pool not that long ago. I just read it again, and it's a really great article by Anna Friedman that talks about the emotional side of menstruation. I love this bit the most:

if you’re really suffering every month, your crazy-making PMS symptoms belong at home – where you are free to eat whole chocolate bars and and cry at every elimination on The Voice – not in the workplace, or god forbid, on the beach. Public spaces are for women who can play through the pain and swallow their tears.

This resonates completely with how I feeling yesterday. You can read the whole article HERE.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Current mood: changeable

Periods have been on my mind again today; more than I would have liked really. I was going to write about where I am with my Woes, but actually it's the emotional toll of menstruation I want to mention.

I am somewhat beleagured at the moment physically and mentally. It's not only period related, but it sure ain't helping. I've gone through about two dozen moods today, from irritatingly chirpy through flat all the way to fighting back tears.

The fragile and unstable nature of my emotions just before and during my period can sometimes be overwhelming. I've always had PMS-like symptoms* to some degree, but recently I've found myself becoming tearful much more often. There is other stuff going on in my life that is quite upsetting, but these bouts of crying seem cyclically linked to my menstrual cycle (such as it is, but that's a story for another day). In my mind I call the times when I'm brimming with tears hormone crashes, but I have no idea if that's medically accurate. I do feel my mood crash though, that's for sure, and it's sadness I feel rather than the stereotypical anger associated with PMS.

Sometimes I can coax myself back into my default fairly cheerful mood, other times I withdraw completely and read until I feel better able to deal with the world. Today I've eaten pizza, watched two episodes of Gotham and am now listening to Sleater-Kinney. I no longer feel so bad.

Do any of you lot out there get mega 'hormone crashes' (and do you have a name for the phenomenon), how does it affect you, and what do you do to try and make yourself feel better?

*I say PMS-like symptoms rather than simply PMS as my understanding of PMS as a medical condition is that the symptoms are supposed to vanish once you actually start bleeding. I wish.

More information about Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) can be found on the NHS website. There's quite an interesting list of symptoms; I reckon I can tick off a good 80% of them!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Bloody Periods

Periods. Mine are nothing but trouble. Some people might not mind theirs, but I bloody hate my bloody period and I'm pretty certain it hates me. We've never really got along all that well, but in recent years things have deteriorated to the point where I'm convinced my uterus and I are engaged in a battle of gory attrition only one of us can win.

I thought about starting this blog a couple of weeks ago when I was having a particularly bad time of it, again, then put it on hold in case it was all simply a crazy hormone-induced idea. Two days of fuck off pain during which it's felt like I've been trying to give birth to a gremlin determined to cling on in there with razor sharp talons have given me the necessary impetus to begin proper.

This is a place to moan and (over) share and also to relate my own experience with doctors and blood tests and scans and specialists and still not finding an answer to what is frequently a debilitating, messy, and painful problem. If anybody else would also like to talk about their period woes, then I am all ears - swapping period stories can make the whole thing feel much less awful.

The Period Blog is on.