About once a month, I hear the scary danger theme song from The Sims in my head. You know, the one that plays when a burglar gets in? It comes when I feel that little twinge in my lower back. It’s like a poop cramp, but with more dread, and then it builds to cataclysmic levels. If that doesn’t tip me off, it’s the inexplicable rage I am overwhelmed with when my internet is being slow, or food burns my mouth, or the wind blows on me. Or maybe it’s the dizzy spells that leave me clinging to walls and stair rails like some 1920s distressed starlet.
Talking about periods, y’all. The old menses.
I know it’s supposed to be a fact of life that people with uteruses have periods, but I find myself asking, “How is this still happening? It’s 2015. Why isn’t there an option to make this stop?”
I mean, I know about birth control pills. I was on them from ages 14-21. I started taking them because my periods were so bad that I missed school and even blacked out occasionally. You know, how you do sometimes. They helped with the cramps, and it felt like a miracle to have only four periods a year, but all magic comes with a price.
I still had extreme mood swings. Every time my period came, my depression would swallow me up, and sometimes last for a few months. My sex drive was fairly low. I had migraines. What pushed me to go off of them though was when I heard that taking birth control could double the chance of a stroke for people who are already at risk, which I am, hereditarily speaking. The day I got my tubal ligation (a story for another time), I went off of them.
For the first six months, the periods either didn’t come or came whenever they gosh dang pleased. The duration ranged from two days to two weeks. They’ve evened out now, and I’m back to a regular grueling 10 day event. That’s including the part where I’m not bleeding, just having migraines and weeping for no apparent reason, and the final throes that feel suspiciously like there’s a little skeleton janitor in there scraping the last bits away with its bone hands.
(In response to my complaints about the uterus’ nonsense, a friend once told me to be thankful for the uterus because it holds up my organs. You know what else could do that? An old juice carton. A miniature bird bath. A computer speaker. A Wii-mote.)
Some might say that there are too many options out there for this much complaining. Some might get an enthusiastic middle finger from others. The pill isn’t always an option, and even when it is, it doesn’t always help with everything. A hysterectomy is a pretty serious surgery (though I’ve considered it while lying upside down on the couch with my head between my knees). Endometrial ablation is an option for people who either don’t plan to or are no longer able to have children, but it’s not guaranteed to stop your period. Don’t even get me started on the Depo shot.
What I’m getting at here is, because we apparently still live in the gee darn stone age, the period is still a thing some of us just have to deal with. So here are some things that I have found that helped me through these dark times. Some of these are probably pretty common, but I’m doing my best here, so don’t bust my chops.
Orange Dang Juice
Not just orange juice, but really any good source of Vitamin C (Kale, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, pineapple, cranberry, just a vitamin c supplement). It helps produce estrogen, so be aware of this if that’s something you’re looking to avoid. Also be careful with high doses of Vitamin C if you think you could be pregnant because it can lead to miscarriage. Otherwise, this will help you shed your uterine lining faster by contracting the ol’ ute. The faster you bleed, the sooner it’s over.
Teas with Emmenagogues
Emmenagogues are herbs that promote menstrual flow. Some that are commonly used are ginger, licorice root, rosemary in flower, parsley, strawberry leaves, angelic root, etc. Again, please be careful if you think pregnancy is a possibility because contractions caused by these teas may cause miscarriage. I also wouldn’t go making teas out of plants you find all willy nilly. There are plenty you can get in the store that are super helpful. I drank some Healthy Cycle tea during this last crusade and the whole thing was over in a few days. Very little cramping, which is a big deal for me. The only drawback is that I had to pee and change pads more frequently.
I’ve heard pretty often that exercising can make a period less terrible, but honestly, between the fatigue, cramping, being on the verge of barfing, and extreme headaches, that’s not always an option. Still, whenever I can do them before the onslaught begins, I find that certain exercises make things go easier for me. Here are some at-home exercises that have helped me:
- Ab workout—Do some scissors (I know), crunchy frogs, in and outs (I know), whatever else makes your middle feel buff and ready to expel some gore.
- Stretches—Do the cobra pose, the forward bend, the child’s pose, the cat pose, the reaching camel. Great names for these things, by the way. Just do whatever feels really good and relieves pressure.
- Rolling on the floor—Lie flat on the floor and roll around. Make a high pitched noise so everyone knows about your distress. If something is in your path, roll over it. Nothing matters now.
The key with all of these is just to find what feels the best for you.
Here’s a hot tip for you. If you are trying to get comfy and you have some time to relax, try a heat compress. If you don’t have a hot water bottle or don’t want to spend money on those magical heating pads, try putting dry rice into a long sock, tying it off, and popping it in the microwave for about a minute (don’t leave it in there for too long because it will catch on fire, Zach). Put that dang thing on your dang body and let it relax your dang muscles.
Once we die, our periods will stop, and we will finally be free!
I think I should reiterate that these are just things that have been helpful to me. They might not work or be best for everyone. Let me know how some of them work or don’t work, and feel free to add your own in the comments. Good luck out there, comrades.