Monday, August 15, 2011

What It's Like To Suffer From Dysmenorrhea

It's not an uncommon diagnosis. In fact, dare I say, it's a catch-all term for the myriad of symptoms associated with menstruating- from severe cramping to back-aches, nausea and in some, depression.

Yours truly is lucky enough to have all of these symptoms every month, along with breast tenderness, weird food cravings, bloating, excessive thirst, fatigue, migraines and just for kick, sometimes even acne likes to join the party. Let me give you an exclusive sneak peek into the life of someone who has dysmenorrhea.

It all begins two weeks before my period is due: I start to feel a bit bloated and my cravings for salty foods shifts into overdrive. I want to eat things like chicken fingers, fries, potato chips and lunch meat, the latter craving being super annoying given that I don't even LIKE or EAT lunch meat. Just the thought of all those nitrites in my body...BLECH!

My mood starts to shift, too. I begin to say and do mean things just because. I can't really control it, it just escapes me before I have a chance to catch it and bury it away. People's feelings usually end up getting hurt. Phones are hurled across the room. Babies are punished. Tantrums are thrown. I become increasingly annoyed with everyone and everything, and the slightest bump in the road will reduce me to angry tears in 2.5 nanoseconds. Then my face starts to break out, which just makes things awesomer!

In the week leading up to Doomsday, the bloat is super obvious and the skin breakouts have me super depressed and not wanting to leave my house. Then comes the headaches- random and out of nowhere- that threaten to shut my whole life down. THEN, as if I haven't suffered enough, I get really, truly, absolutely depressed. I mean 100% struggling to find the strength to keep going. I don't want to do anything, talk to anyone or even breathe.

Finally, on day one of that cursed day of menstruation, the pain. No, excuse me, it should be written as such: THEEEEEE PAAAAIIIIINNNNNNNNN. It is not unlike a thousand dirty bombs going off inside my uterus in one-minute intervals. I'm actually reduced to doing my Lamaze breathing while curled up in the fetal position to get through it all. By day two it has calmed down some (I will not discuss the heavy bleeding...not even I have the stomach to really go into all that), but on day three my period is all, "YOU THINK YOU BIG TIME?! WELL YOU'RE GONNA DIE, BIG TIME!!!" and it's not lying because I do pray for death. I stare at my kitchen knives and think, "I watched all 15 seasons of ER. Surely I can remove my own uterus without a problem..."

Day four and five brings some relief and my sanity returns, even in the face of lingering nausea. I no longer want to stab things, but my back gets incredibly achy so I become annoyed with life because I can't find a comfortable position in which to sit or sleep. And then ::cue choir of angels:: day seven arrives and I'm one day away from a whole week and a half of sweet, sweet freedom from my hormones' control over my life. Birds chirp, everything seems possible, flowers smell great!

People have said to me, "Once you have kids the symptoms will stop," or "Once you get in shape/fit, you'll see that the cramps are a thing of the past." To that I say LIAR!!!!!!!!! I've had TWO kids and still, the cramps rule my world. I've been working out since March and you know what? YUP. CRAMPS. RULE. MY. WORLD.

The only way to deal with this is to accept it as a fact of life and make accommodations to keep from annihilating small villages and/or jumping off the clock tower in downtown Brooklyn. So far I've found that sleep, Netflix and homemade ginger beer from Cheryl's Global Soul help. A lot.

* the homestretch, anticipating August's Doomsday*
hide ya kids, hide ya fried chicken...