My Period War

By Amanda Nilo

I have had a very hostile relationship with my period since it began during a showing of Miss Congeniality in January 2001. It’s tainted a lot moments and a lot of light wash jeans. My attendance records in Jr. High and High school were dismal thanks to the pain and duration of my cramping. Nobody really took it seriously, even at the Doctor’s office. I truly would love to be a woman who can coexist and love her menstrual cycle, and I have great respect for everyone who manages to do so. But as for me? I’ve been at war for sixteen and a half years.  

I decided to try birth control at 20 years old. My sister was on the Depo Provera successfully for years, and my Doctor said it might be the answer I was looking for. Initially, there were 60 days of light bleeding and zero pain; not a fun change but a welcome one. As I went on, the spotting reduced to once or twice a year, but I started noticing a lot of weight gains, fluctuation in moods that coincided with my appointments, the inability to get angry without crying, and feeling fairly apathetic a lot more often. I thought maybe I needed to stop messing with my body, maybe I had been a dramatic teenager and it wasn’t as bad as I remembered.

After 6 years, I decided it wasn’t for me anymore.  When my period came back, it was a normal 4 days of bleeding with only a bit of what I call "Smoke Signal Cramps" the day before.  It was a great difference from the 10-14 days of near constant pain in my youth. Success! Or so I thought for about a year.  The truce was over and the cramps resumed stronger than ever! I had to try something else. After a lot of research, I decided on an IUD.

“You’re going to feel a cramp now,” warned the kind, patient, tiny Doctor between my legs who was about to induce the worst cramp to a body that had thought it knew what that meant already. As I yelped I heard her apologize soothingly. I tried to assure her that it was unnecessary, I asked for this process to happen, but I’m not sure the squeak in my voice was very convincing. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was a shockingly quick procedure for having a device inserted inside you. Afterwards, I felt a little discomfort for a few short hours and the memory of the pain faded just as quickly. It only took a week for me to realize that initial cramp might have been a harbinger.

For nearly three months, 82 days to be exact, I was on the worst period of my life.  I have not been on the Liletta long enough to pass judgment, and every woman’s experience is different. For me, it’s been a brutal adjustment period. It was like my teenage cycles on steroids and I have never felt more worn down. At the beginning, it would slow down to almost nothing and trick me into thinking it was over. At a certain point, it seemed like it would rage on forever.

The physical pain was intense. My cramps were like nothing I’ve ever felt before. The most severe started while I was on a road trip to San Luis Obispo, California, and the pain started from my uterus, extended to just beneath my ribs, and down to my knee on my right side. It was shocking, and I thought something might have gone horribly wrong. Later, after Googling and speaking with my Doctor, I found out that can happen sometimes. Lucky Me!

The ebb and flow of it was the most draining part. I would often wake up in so much agony, I couldn’t move.  Other times, I would be perfectly fine in the morning and by afternoon I would be hit with another round of spasms. I would feel optimistic that it was over when my blood turned brown and slowed. Then, I would make plans and inevitably end up cringing in pain as a wave of fresh blood would start. It felt endless. I had to buy a shelf full of pads and tampons. I couldn’t understand how I had so much blood to lose. Eventually it stopped looking like it even was blood.

I don’t say this very lightly but over the course of those 82 days, I was so emotional and so uncomfortable in my body and mind that I was starting to feel crazy. My body was exhausted from head to toe, and I was acting in ways that I didn’t understand, even as they were happening. In a less serious instance, I was eating a McDonald’s hash brown on the way to work and I started crying because it was SO GOOD. We all know it was not, it’s a McDonald’s hash brown. But in that moment I was In. To. It. It was the strangest feeling. It was completely bananas.

But it often wasn’t that funny. Most of the time I felt really needy and really stressed and really alone. I didn’t want to do anything, but I knew if I didn’t try I would feel worse.  I would go to events and jobs I had already committed to and agree when people reached out to me but I rarely tried to make plans myself. Just mustering up the energy to text people, to try to maintain relationships I had enjoyed when I felt myself was really difficult. There are people in my life that aren’t great communicators, and it was extra hurtful when I was ignored. Then, I would second guess myself for being upset. It just became a cycle of torture. It made me want to stop trying and in some cases, I did. I felt like I was a powder keg. Everything made me angryhappysad. It was so heightened and so constant and so exhausting.  

I wasn’t a lot of fun to be around, even trying my hardest. I felt like a burden, a chore and I probably was that for some people. I felt like I was a burden to myself. But I’m so grateful those who were so understanding, the ones who didn’t make me feel bad about being sensitive and crying all the time and indulged my need to curl up into a useless lump on their couches, eating everything that crossed my mind.

On a bright note, the whole experience made me feel more creative than I have in a long time. I had very little motivation but a lot of ideas that I can act on now that I’m feeling more myself.  It has been a tough time and I’m still slowly crawling myself out of the hole it caused. But as I’m adjusting to the changes, I stay hopeful that it will be the answer to my period war.