It’s 5:45 am when I wake on the couch with a terrible stomach ache. I spend an unnecessarily graphic hour in the bathroom during which I also discover I am heavily bleeding. I clean up, I grab one of my pairs of Thinx and hit the bong a few times.
As the intensity mounts I am gripped with the familiar fear: soon I will be in the sort of pain that makes nothing matter. The sort of pain that makes me not be able to sit up or even form words sometimes. It is blinding, blistering, white hot fire from my center that rips through logic and leaves me a foaming animal.
I take half a Vicodin that I’ve squirreled away in preparation for times like this. I forget to hold it under my tongue but count a full 40 minutes before laying down in bed. It doesn’t seem to be working, even though it should by now.
I writhe in the sheets next to my snoring partner attempting to find the least painful position. No relief comes as all sensations are intensified to a boiling point. I realize what’s happening just in time to make it to the toilet as I begin to violently heave. I spend another thirty or so minutes puking and and then cleaning up.
I make it back to bed somewhere around seven or 8 a.m., pass out fitfully, and wake up in the early afternoon. I tentatively sip water and take small bong rips as my partner distracts me with car videos on YouTube.
I begin to squirm around as the pain mounts, becoming less and less interactive. Eventually I run to the bathroom in time to puke up the water and a little stomach acid.
I don’t know what causes it, but I can tell you wheat, dairy, and processed foods make it worse. I’ve changed my entire lifestyle to avoid pain like this but still face it regularly. Only a few things seem to help, and only by small measures.
I told a doctor about my symptoms but she just wanted to put me on birth control. I make well-researched decisions about my body and decided to stop taking hormonal contraceptive nearly seven years ago. It was the first of many unhealthy practices I eventually abandoned including cigarettes, prescription anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants, sleeping pills, excessive alcohol consumption, processed food consumption including wheat, dairy, etc.
My mother is a nurse, and while I was homeschooled I went to classes with her as she became an RN. I helped her register for classes, carry books, study from flash cards, and even participated in a few of her electives. I learned how to learn from her, but she never told me that the bleach in tampons could make people with autoimmune conditions even sicker or that cannabis was a natural anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory combination pain reliever that wouldn’t damage my liver and kidneys.
My oldest brother suffered from the same sort of pain beginning in his teens and lasting until his hysterectomy in his late 30’s. My grandmother had hers in her mid 40’s. Despite the fact that these problems span over 3 generations in my family and into the annuls of history we still have very little research being done or better treatment options being offered. It’s almost like no one’s even looking.
As I write this it winds past 3 a.m. and I’m afraid to fall asleep knowing that I will probably wake up feeling like razorblades are slicing their way out of my womb and down my thighs. I’m terrified of being so out of control of my own body that I can no longer communicate. I don’t want to feel the defeat of having my partner clean up my vomit because I couldn’t lift my head off the floor. Again.
I’m tired of this being a taboo subject. It’s bad enough that millions have to feel the actual pain of what I’m going through this week, let alone suffer this strange concept that we should be ashamed of such things because they’re embarrassing for some people. Fuck those people.
To all of my undiagnosed and underinsured sisters; you’re not alone.