The night breeze encourages young Emmy’s curtains to dance and waft to the sounds of evening owls. But with seeds of sorrow sewn, poor, ignorant Emmy was unaware of the fate Selene had in store for her.
Meeting the Beast
From her slumber, Emmy is awoken to an internal rage that can only be compared to war horses trampling upon her abdomen. With chilled sweat forming on her skin, she grasped her knees and cried out to the heavens; her grunts of pain fell upon deaf ears, as the large, iniquitous moon leered on.
Emmy attempted to rise, though her contorting insides forbid her from fully erecting. As she shuffled with as much haste her body would allow, she imagined the courteous relief only death could provide. She prayed that if this pain must continue, then surely the gods would grant her this final act of grace. This seemingly histrionic display may not have moved the celestial being to action borne of pity; however, Emmy’s partner could not let her state go unacknowledged.
Haunting groans continued to echo in the bathroom, occasionally followed by whimpers akin to those of wounded animals. With moderate apprehension about what beasts may now be forming in the bathroom, he tap tap taps with gentle fingers and whispers sweetly: “Do you want me to run to CVS for some Midol?” There is silence.
Has the transformation taken hold? Has the beast bested young Emmy for the last time? The door cracks open, revealing the black shadows of a dark room, oozing with even darker energy. “Midol?” a small, bitter voice mumbles. “You think I want Midol?” Her partner takes a hesitant step away from the door as a series of unintelligible ums stumble on his tongue. His ignorance provokes the creature to lash poison from her mouth, as the door is forced open by her pure, vile energy.
“I want morphine!” The creature shrieks through waves of tears, “I want a warm blanket! I need you to go away. I need you to hug me! I need a massage, three shots of whiskey, and Netflix. Tell me I am pretty!” Once again, the room falls into a quietness that can only be felt at graveyards. The partner approached Emmy, holding two items in his hands. “You’re a very pretty little monster,” he reassures, before handing her two Midol and a quilt, both of which she gratefully accepts.
Alright, ladies, I think we can all agree that we have been here before, am I right? There is no sense meandering around the point. Our cycles are truly awful. Period. Yes, some women are less fortunate than others in regards to symptom severity and longevity, but they are almost all horrible at some point. When I was a teenager, I never had my menstrual pain taken seriously by anyone other than my mom.
I think doctors (including OB/GYNs) thought I was pill seeking, and they would always have the audacity to ask me if I had tried OTC painkillers. Like, oh geez, thanks Doc for your exceptional wisdom. I am literally passing out and vomiting from the pain, but sure–maybe I just need some Tylenol. However, after a separate medical episode, some physicians finally trusted my opinions about my experiences, so when I was 18, I was prescribed Lortab, and later morphine, for my cramps.
Though the prescriptions were helpful with the pain, I have a mild opiate allergy so it was trading one kind of pain for another kind of discomfort in ways. Whenever I was feeling especially brave, I would try alternatives over years, such as muscle relaxers, lifestyle changes, and Tramadol. After I lost some weight and was living a more active life, my cramps did seem much more manageable. Sadly, the Beast always finds a way back to its host.
I had a recent episode of the debilitating menstrual pain that was so severe, if my phone had been with me while I laid on the tile in my bathroom, I would have called 911. After I regained my bearings, I decided to make an appointment with an OB/GYN, which (to my dismay) was little-to-no help. I asked if I could be put back on my old medications for when I have episodes such as these, and her response was incredibly concise: no.
More specifically, she said “We do not prescribe those anymore unless you have tried all other options. I see you stopped taking birth control. Why is that?” When I told her I stopped because the last time I was on birth control, I developed a storm of near-fatal DVTs (which are deep vein clots), she then began pimping an IUD. I assured her I have no interest in birth control. My partner has a vasectomy and the birth control that most women can use without issue clearly wants to kill me, so all I want is something to make me a functional human for when my womb decides to grow fangs and nails. She said there was nothing she could do for me, and I should keep some Midol in my purse.
So, for all my ladies out there who also have excruciating cramps, these are some tricks I have learned along the way that seem to help me. Maybe they can help someone else. I will preface the next section with letting everyone know I am not a medical professional; I am simply a little witch living in the woods that has been forced to learn how to battle my body monthly. Satire aside, if you have any underlying medical conditions, some of these may not be applicable options. While I want to promote the idea of keeping an open mind, I also strongly encourage that you listen to your own body and maybe consult a non-witch as a medical professional.
If you have a tub, fill it with the hottest water you can stand. Then, when your body adjusts, turn the heat up some more. For me, if I am not sweating, it’s not hot enough. A lava-infused shower can also do the trick, but I much prefer a bath. Then, when I have pushed my body to the breaking point, I lay on the cold tile. Rinse. Repeat. Sometimes, if I know I’m going to have to be in the tub for a while, I bring my laptop up with me, prop it on the toilet, and try to distract myself with spooky tales from Reddit; hearing about other people’s demons can help distract you from your own.
Heating pads are a well-known treatment for cramps, but I have found them lacking. I put one on my back and one on my front–both of which are shoved into my sweatpants for maximum contact…I like to imagine I am hard boiling my eggs. Additionally, if you have the gumption to leave the house, doing something physically demanding can help for a while. It’s the same principle as the pelvic incubator, only now you are making your own heat. Another helpful way to get your temperature up is by drinking some hot tea. My favorite is a mixture of hot water, apple cider vinegar, honey, and cinnamon.
An old hippie gave me this recipe, and while I stand by it, I recognize it may be a placebo effect. Whatever. If it works, it works. Apple cider vinegar has been shown to help regulate blood clotting, which can improve pain associated with uterine cramps. I’ve also read several studies that ginger can sooth these cramps. Finally, honey may decrease the production of the hormones that cause mental cramps. So–in theory–the recipe has some scientific basis and isn’t just pure hoodoo.
TENS units can be helpful, especially on the larger muscle groups that are cramping. I have never tried them on my abdominal cramps, because that sounds awful. But it can be useful for lower back issues. The way they work is by forcing muscles to contract and release in a steady, controlled way. If you’ve never done this before, I highly recommend starting on the lowest setting and slowly increasing the intensity. With many units, the lines between feeling nothing, feeling something, and feeling sharp, stabbing pain are all very thin.
In addition to general exercise, deep, long stretches are really helpful. I normally try and find a pressure point that feels like needles when I touch it, and slowly start stretching and putting more and more weight on the spot. For me, this really only works for those deep womb cramps, but in my attempts to work out those aches, I am also able to stretch out my back.
Be Kind to Yourself
The best way to show the Beast who is boss is by giving yourself some unyielding love. If you just need some solitude while you recoup, fine; go to your cave and put your phone on silent for a few hours. If you need additional words of affirmation from the people you care about, let ’em know. There’s nothing wrong with being a little self-centered when you are in pain and feeling more sensitive.
We have so many responsibilities that cannot be neglected, and we also have some that can wait until the next day or later in the week. The world will not crumble if you take an evening to comfort yourself. Stay strong, fellow warriors, and soon enough, the Beast will retreat back to the bowels of hell from whence it came.