I was 14 the first time I had my "Aunt Flow" make an appearance in my life. It was anti-climatic to all the things I had heard & expected. I was at a friend's house for the night, I had to pee & when I looked down there was blood. I looked under their bathroom sink & luckily for me there was some pads down there. I put one in my underwear and went on with my day until the cramps started & I walked home. I awkwardly told my dad that I needed him to take me to the store to "buy girlie objects".
I had NO idea what I was looking for because at that time in my life, my sister wasn't around much & my mom wasn't really in the picture. I had heard some horror stories about tampons (and being a virgin didn't think it was was a good idea at the time) so I bought some regular pads & some midol & went on with life.
The first time I tried using a tampon, was actually my dad's suggestion (can we say "awkward"?). I had just graduated high school & we were going to a water-park to celebrate. Unfortunately I was, what I started to refer to as "broken" (on my period) and didn't know how I was going to manage swimming. One of my friends who was there told me the basics, (after assuring me that my virginity would be fine) & I bought some. Easy peasy, right? Besides the uncomfortable-ness & the fear that everyone would know somehow, the day was great.
I should have known something was wrong when I was bleeding so much throughout the years & how bad the cramps were that midol couldn't even wave to across the street. It wasn't until long after I became sexually active and 2 miscarriages later that I found out I had endometriosis. By that time I was buying the largest pads I could find & also the biggest tampons I could think of (without being physically uncomfortable) & wearing both to stop the amount of blood my body was putting out. This isn't even bringing into the equation that my periods were never "Normal". I had light flow, I had heavy flow, I had weeks where I wouldn't have any... I didn't know what was wrong with me, except I felt "broken". Finally an amazing doctor in Tacoma (who delivered my brother!) finally suggested I may have this weird disease I had never heard of. Finally an answer to the multiple ovarian cysts, the impossible cramping, the anemia...
Over the course of that year I had 11 surgical procedures done. A diagnostic laparoscopy showed that this "Thing" had developed so badly it was attached to some of my other organs. Bring on a few D&Cs, an upper GI, a few colonoscopies (all the medications they put me on & blood loss did not agree with my stomach & my eating habits were atrocious), a presacral neurectomy (cutting a nerve in my lower back in "hopes of relieving some of the cramps") & finally an ablation after my 3rd miscarriage which just about broke my heart. Learning that my eggs were still ok, but I wouldn't be able to have any kids on my own was shattering. I can't even begin describe the darkness that crept in. Little did I know it was about to get darker.
I started bleeding again & though I was only 26 and didn't have any children (which is why my doctor was loath to do this sooner) they decided to do a full hysterectomy. In my mind that meant they were going to take one of the main things that made me "A woman". Thankfully they did it in time to catch my appendix being 3x the size it was supposed to be, so they took that out at the same time.
I felt like a broken toy with missing parts. After the long healing process & discovering I couldn't even take estrogen because it made me sick, I started trying to be intimate with my boyfriend at the time. It was difficult because, although he was supportive of my health issues, he kept pushing me in more ways than one. "You're just being lazy, you're tough", "Let's have sex all the time, no matter how you're feeling", etc... He was emotionally abusive & a drunk and putting up with that on top of my own darkness was almost more than I could bear. Thankfully I had a good support system & finally put my foot down that I would not live that way anymore.
The cramps are still bad, even though I don't have the parts. I think it's phantom pains, or from the nerve they cut, or maybe even from the fibromyalgia I found out the same year I was suffering from. My heating pad is my best friend & there's nothing like a good cup of tea. Yoga is good for the muscles & meditation helps keeps the darkness at bay. Hot flashes are no picnic (picture this... There's 7 feet of snow on the ground & I'm outside in a tank top sweating to death while people tell me "I'm too young for menopause". I'm too young for a lot of things, but such is my lot in life).
I've learned that I have the ability to tell my partners that while I'm attracted to them, I don't always want to/can't always have sex because it hurts. There are really good days & then there are days when I get a little rough with someone/cut myself shaving an intimate area & see blood & nearly have a panic attack.
Like all things, it passes eventually.
There are days when I see pregnancy announcements/baby shower invites from those near & dear to me & I want to scream/cry/laugh/rage, but then my compassion kicks in & I want to show love & support despite my breaking heart. I've been a nanny for a long time & I try very hard not to get attached because I know they're not mine. People say "well, you can adopt." I just got divorced & before that my ex husband had lost his job. Do these people understand how expensive adoptions are & the hoops you have to jump through just to be approved? "Well, have someone be a surrogate". They still have Doctor appointments, hospital stay & baby things you have to pay for.
I went from Barren & Broken to Disabled & Divorced.
I try to stay positive & it's not always easy, but for those who are struggling with the things I have already lived through, I need to say this: Never underestimate the power of a good shower. Don't wear white bottoms. Your own saliva takes out your own blood (cleaning skives). Talk to your doctor & BE HONEST! You will survive this. There is support. You're stronger than you think.