This is an honest reflection of my eight year journey with “Feminine Trouble” of the reproductive system, therefore it requires the terminology of human anatomy, bodily functions, and medical conditions and procedures.
Due to the extensive nature of this journey, with endometriosis, pelvic congestion, pelvic floor dysfunction, polycystic ovation syndrome (PCOS), and a uterine fibroid tumor it is a multiple post series.
- “What the Hell?” (part 1) was an overview of the diagnoses, briefly the associated pain, and the medical treatments/procedures endured.
- “Disruptive, Destructive Norm” is about how these medical conditions, treatments, and procedures affected my physical and mental wellbeing.
- “Hysterectomy and Beyond” will be about the decision to have a hysterectomy and how it has and continues to affect my physical, mental, and relational well-being.
I will primarily be sharing brief, distinctive flashbacks of the effect endometriosis, pelvic congestion, pelvic floor dysfunction, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and uterine fibroid on my physical and mental well-being.
But First the “Old” Me…
Perhaps it is essential for me to share a brief bio of the “old” me. The majority who will read this may not know that person, since that was 18 years ago (and 8 since the hysterectomy).
Simply, I was an active tomboy and “one of the boys”.
I had played softball during my summers since I was eight (primarily as a catcher).
I ran track my seventh grade year.
I would join spontaneous games of wall ball and football.
I was always active. I always had places to go, people to see, and things to do.
As I shared in “Feminine Troubles: What the Hell?”, these troubles and its hell would literally begin one month at the age of 15. Suddenly, my menstruation (period) was abnormally heavy and accompanied with cramps, pain, nausea and vomiting.
These symptoms would not be limited to my menstruation, extending to literally EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
As I shared before, my flow significantly increased. The Pre-Feminine Trouble periods consisted of an extremely mild flow for approximately three days. The flow would continue to increase until a “super-plus” tampon would not suffice for 15-30 minutes.
In addition to the abnormally heavy flow, I also had severe cramps.
These cramps were significant enough to induce vomiting, then as though my uterus and abdominal muscles sought to squeeze every thing from my system I would dry heave until I was vomiting bile. (I know, quite a lovely and lady-like image).
These cramps begun to occur before, during, and after my period until daily.
The Pain Management
The pain management begun with Tylenol 3 (with Codeine), but quickly increased to the nearly daily use of Vicodin.
One night at a church lock-in, I was in significant pain and had taken the maximum dosage of Tylenol 3 (2 pills) with no relief. I waited the appropriate hour before taking Vicodin (1 pill), again without relief. I waited the appropriate hour before taking another Vicodin, which was the maximum pain medicine allotted, again without relief.
A friend noted that I was not being my “spunky” self and was concerned.
After I informed him of the situation, he became curious how I was calmly managing it. I replied “I may be in pain, but I am now too stoned to care”.
Eventually, I was sent to pain management. I was referred to a physical therapist that specialized in vaginal muscles (and yes, it is a thing).
The physical therapist primarily focused on the pelvic floor dysfunction. It was caused by the pelvic (and abdominal) muscles continually being tense, which significantly weakened the muscles resulting in dysfunction and pain. In addition to exercises and therapy to rebuild the muscles, I was prescribed a muscle relaxer for the evenings (daily) and a tens unit.
Changes to Me
The above created a new “normal”, but it would be destructive to my physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
Since I was 8 years-old, I played softball in the summer and I LOVED it, particularly when I was behind the plate as the catcher. Despite, my petite build… I held my own.
Unfortunately, I decided that the 2-3 days of particularly intense pain had become too high a cost.
While attending Seminary, I lived in the dorm at the lowest point on campus. Unfortunately the chapel and its classrooms were at the highest point on campus. Although the campus was small, the hill was steep, and my body forced me to choose:
(1) I could walk the hill and be inflicted with spotting, pain, and severe cramps; or
(2) I could drive my car less than 1/4 of a mile to the chapel parking lot.
I usually drove.
I often ate small, snack-size portions throughout the day rather than large meals, however I would become unable to eat an entire meal. The expansion of my stomach (whether food or drink) would cause pressure against my uterus causing significant discomfort, which often led to vomiting.
Similarly, my once “painted on” Wrangler jeans caused pressure against my uterus causing significant discomfort, which again often led to vomiting. My closest would switch from cute Wranglers to lounge/sweat pants, which were less likely to cause significant discomfort.
As you may imagine, vomiting became a frequent ‘hobby’.
I became oddly comfortable vomiting in public restrooms, in order to limit the disruption it had on the plans of family, loved ones, and friends.
My family, loved ones, and friends became accustomed to me excusing myself from the table at a restaurant and our seats at events (NASCAR, concerts, etc.) in order to vomit.
While attending the ELCA National Youth Gathering, I would ‘hang back’ slipping into a public restroom to vomit before ‘catching up’ with our group. An adult leader and one youth (who was obsessed with me) were the only ones ‘aware’ of the situation.
In conclusion, significant bleeding, cramps, and frequent vomit inducing pain meant…
- I could not wear my preferred clothing.
- I could not be active, including playing softball (or walking up hill).
- I could not enjoy a ‘good’ and ‘filling’ meal.
- I missed being present with family, loved ones, and friends.
- I spent a large amount of time vomiting.
This was destructive.
This was a significant factor contributing to depression (and suicide attempt, age 20).