I Bleed, Therefore I Cramp
I’m Nicole and I’m a 31 year old human who has been bleeding for 19 years.
Growing up in a household with a single mom and an older sister, periods were never something to be ashamed of. In fact, I’m pretty sure my mom cried tears of joy the first time I told her about the smeared stain I found in my panties. “Now you’re a woman,” she told me. I was a shy, awkward kid. Though I felt proud of my new new title, I had no idea what being a woman really meant.
I still hadn’t choked out a eulogy at my grandfather’s funeral.
I still hadn’t booked a one way ticket to Germany leaving my life and previous selves behind.
I still hadn’t vomited the words “I don’t want to be with you anymore” to my partner of five years.
I still hadn’t held my newborn niece in my hands.
I still hadn’t realized my womanly power. The power to soothe an uneasy friend, the power to bring a grown man to his knees, the power to bring my ideas into fruition and manifest my desires. To create, to evolve, to dance, and to feel.
I’m a human that bleeds. And before I bleed, I cramp.
Sometimes my cramps are so debilitating that I cannot move except to contort my body into a slightly less obtrusive position. Sometimes it feels like my anus is being impaled by a dagger. On rare occasions, I even feel like I might pass out on the floor.
A few years ago I went to the doctor because I was experiencing severe bloating and unexplainable pain in my abdomen — even when I wasn’t on or about to be on my period. They did blood tests. All good. They did ultrasounds. All good. You know what they consistently told me? That I should get back on birth control. That, they said, would help alleviate my symptoms.
Feeling helpless, I decided to do my own research. Turns out some women experience symptoms of PMS during ovulation as well. Lucky me! Through trial and error I’ve learned that tampons actually exacerbate the shooting pains I experience, thus leading me to free bleeding (with period underwear, of course). I’ve also learned that giving myself an orgasm on the early onset of the pain does a pretty good job of eliminating any serious pain in the near future. I even learned how to blend my own herbs to create soothing teas traditionally used to increase blood flow (thus eliminating the pain associated with blood clots.) Lucky for me, I work from home, so I can show myself extra tenderness when I’m on my period. For other women, it’s not so easy.
Though we make up half the population, women’s health research is still severely underfunded thus creating a knowledge gap. We don’t understand the conditions affecting women’s bodies because we haven’t spent enough time and money researching these issues. Oh, and then you have a trust gap. Health practitioners are less likely to believe women who say they are in pain. And if you’re a woman of color, the gap is even bigger.
So what can you do about your cramps when you don’t want to pop pills or have a doctor diminish your pain?
1/ Knowledge is power Educate yourself on alternative ways to alleviate your symptoms such as sipping herbal teas, doing a gentle yoga practice, or taking a warm bath.
2/ Download a period tracker app ( I use Clue) so that you know what to expect throughout your cycle. I also recently started using a Hormone Horoscope (called Hormonology), which lets me know what my hormones are doing on different days of my cycle. Knowing what’s going on in my body hormonally makes me feel strong and sexy.
3/ Seek out help! Ask your girlfriends what they do to alleviate their symptoms. If you’re on Facebook see if there are ladies only groups in your community. Post a thread about painful periods and see how many women are dealing with the exact same issue! Or if you’re shy, do a quick search within the group to see if there are others who have already spoken out.
Bottom line: Every body’s body is different and therefore may respond differently to a variety of treatments. Explore the possibilities with the curiosity of a cat and then write me when you discover a good one :)
If you’re in Berlin, I am hosting a Yoga Workshop for Period Pain on Tuesday, September 18, 2018. Join us for a soothing practice and informational workshop on how to soothe your own period pain.
When: November 18th, 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
Where: Möckernstraße 76
In this period pain yoga workshop, you’ll learn how to alleviate symptoms such as bloating, cramps, and mood swings with a gentle, soothing practice. Experienced Yoga Instructor Hanna Turner will guide you through each pose so that you can do it at home the next time you’re experiencing a painful period. We’ll finish the workshop with a calming meditation and share some mantras to help keep you centered no matter which day of your cycle it is.