Monthly cycle, monthly pain

Period cramps are no laughing matter


Photo by Can Stock Photo

Menstrual cramps hurt a lot more than this woman is depicting. In fact, a doctor in London says the pain can be as bad as that of a heart attack.

The other week at work, I was pretty sure I was going to die.

But I wasn’t being threatened or going through dehydration or anything that would be typically life-threatening at a customer service job.

What happened to me, rather, was something that happens to me every month — a case of exceptionally painful menstrual cramps.

These cramps were so painful that I was convinced I was going to pass out right there at my register. If I didn’t feel like I was on the brink of passing out, I felt the urge to vomit or spontaneously burst into tears. Then I went home after my shift and proceeded to do both.

Too graphic? Maybe, but it’s necessary to go into detail so people who don’t have periods understand how painful the side effects of menstruation can be. People love to make comments on how those with cramps are “faking it” or “over exaggerating” the pain, but I can promise they’re not.

For those who don’t have the pleasure of a monthly cycle, let me try to put into words the feeling of period cramps.

For starters, imagine having two really strong people punching you really hard, repeatedly in your lower back and stomach. These cramps can be as painful as heart attacks, according to a doctor of reproductive health at University College London. This pain can last for hours — days, even.

It sounds awful, but, as OxiClean spokesperson Billy Mays used to say, I’m not done yet.

On top of these two mythical people throwing punches, there’s mind-numbing headaches, nausea, leg pain so bad it’s hard to stand and the switch between wanting to eat everything that doesn’t eat you first and never wanting to look at food again.

After work the Monday I thought I was dying, I texted my friend and coworker about my pain. She told me she, too, had experienced pain the way I had.

“I’ve fainted from how painful my cramps were before, so I feel you,” she texted me.

Feeling validated, but also alarmed, I told her I was afraid to ask to sit down or leave work because I was working with three men, any of whom could have made fun of me or called me out for exaggerating, even though I wasn’t.

“When in reality, any of them (the men working) would literally think they were dying if they experienced that pain,” my friend said in a text.

De Lune has a YouTube series called “Guys Try Period Cramps,” in which men are hooked up to a machine that simulates the feeling of cramps. Someone asks them questions about menstruation and if they get them wrong, they turn the pain up.

In one episode, the man hooked up to the machine used his safe word because he went up to 70 percent on the machine. For reference, the woman asking him the questions said 50 percent was the feeling of her second-to-lightest day.

“I was just attacked out of nowhere,” the man said. “I didn’t see it coming.”

I know the feeling.

Unfortunately for those of us with periods, we can’t just opt out of menstruation with a safe word. (Trust me, I’ve tried.)

There are supposed ways to treat period pain, but I’ve found there’s no clear cut means of doing so. Just because something works once does not mean it will work again.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine lists heating pads, meditation and exercise as possible solutions. However, when I’m doubled over in pain from cramps, I’m barely able to sit up in my bed, let alone do sit-ups repeatedly.

I wish I had a safe word when I felt like I was on the brink of death a couple weeks ago. I wish I could bring a heating pad to work with me when I know my cramps are going to be bad. I wish I could have just left work that day and curled up in a ball at home.

But I can’t.

I’ll just have to deal with it — just like I do every month.

Wentland can be reached at [email protected].