I must be the world’s biggest pain-wimp

I cannot be the only woman whose periods are this mind-blowingly painful. So how do so many women who describe their periods as being The Worst Ever still manage to go to work/drive/care for kids/do housework?

Yours in bafflement also stoned (yay tramadol!),


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67 responses to “I must be the world’s biggest pain-wimp

  • Hat

    they go on the pill. :-/ Pambaron (or how ever it is spelt) was my saving grace. and the only way I can possibly cope with bad ones. That and making sure to take my supplements leading up to it. Magnesium Vit D Vit C etc. Evening Primrose oil too.

    • May

      Yes, true, life was much more comfortable when I was on the Pill. One day, TTC will be over and I can do that. Ditto EPO – it stops me ovulating (because I am WEIRD like that), so I can’t take it now. I’m a bit out of options.

  • justthewean

    What they mean is that it hurts lots. Doesn’t even occur to them that something that happens every month *could* be as painful as you suffer. Pain is not relative, and it’s not marked on a bell curve. You are in pain. You are not a wimp. Pain sucks and I wish I could help x

    • May

      *Hugs*. I do wonder if their ‘awful period’ is actually my idea of an ‘well, that wasn’t TOO awful’ period, but then I worry that that makes me sound like a smug Pain Olympian, and anyway, I don’t won’t to dismiss the fact they might be having a really crummy day. But thank you for saying I am not a wimp. I feel, well, braver, for it.

  • Betty M

    They must be up to the gills with max-strength drugs. Although for some people everything is the best/worst/funniest ev-ah. I just ignore them. (I’m intending to go back and catch up on all your posts that I missed so apologies for comments on weeks old things).

    • May

      And I too am up to the gills on max-strength drugs, and they make me too sick and woozy to do anything much. H even won’t let me use sharp knives at this time of the month, not that I’d notice if I DID cut my thumb off, but it might be inconvenient later. I wish tramadol didn’t make me feel so spaced out, drowsy and clumsy. Perhaps not everyone reacts to it as strongly as I do?

      (MInd you, I have met women who define ‘max-strength drugs’ to be Anadin Extra and a glass of wine. Ahahahahahahahahaha I wish).

      Nice to see you again, BTW.

  • QoB

    I think whatever is the worst pain a person has felt is often easy for them to think of as the Worst Pain Ever.

    Personally I think these people have no imagination.

    • May

      It’s like people insisting they are having a migraine when they mean ‘nasty tension headache’. They don’t get it – how could a migraine be WORSE than this? This is horrid!

      • QoB

        Yes, exactly. Personally I think I have a high pain threshold but what really gives me the Galloping Dreads any day is nausea. I’d rather a three-day headache than three hours of sickness.

        Each to their own suffering, I suppose.

        • Hairy Farmer Family

          Oh GOD, yes! Not for the first time, I find myself in So Much Agreement with you! I would rather (purely on pain & discomfort scores) miscarry than have norovirus. I have been toting a pack of domperidone on me At All Times since it hit the school a couple of weeks ago. Emetophobes, unite!

          • May

            I used to be a raging emetophobe. I very rarely threw up, and when I did it was the most HORRIFIC violation of my person and I hated it and I cried. After, eh, what now, five? years of throwing up monthly, I am very much more ‘bother, I need to puke… [unfortunate noises in bathroom]… ahh, better, at least for a minute or two’ about it. Talk about extreme exposure therapy. I’m not sure I’d recommend it. Though the smell and/or the sound of someone else heaving makes me gag and retch in sympathy, so my nervous system is clearly hard-wired to be skeeved, whatever my emotions have been trained to do.

          • QoB

            I actually don’t mind the throwing up much (I can do it on demand if necessary, a skill that I’m glad I didn’t discover in my teenage years): but it’s the all-encompassing You Can Do Nothing Except Feel Sick-ness of it that I hate. I can’t compartmentalise nausea like I do pain. I just wish I had remembered this before I went on a yacht last month without seasickness tablets:)

          • Hairy Farmer Family

            Me too! Me too! I can talk through pain til the cows come home, but Serious Nausea locks me inescapably into myself. I could probably still be jolly Hockey Sticks – at a push – with a broken arm, but imminent sickness has me throwing… a spectacular self-pity party. My horror and sympathy at the thought of feeling that way SO MUCH that I would no longer feel that way… oy vey. May, there just aren’t enough hugs in the World.

          • May

            I admit, No One May Talk To May Or God Forbid Touch Her when May is nauseous. Mostly because I might actually puke on them. Because it still takes all my energy to cope with it. I’m just… not scared or upset by it anymore. Oof. I astonish me.

          • QoB

            I have been known to cheerfully ignore a broken bone for a day (in fairness, a smallish one) but that is absolutely un-possible for nausea. And yes, no talking, and NO TOUCHING. (and now I have that Arrested Development scene playing in my head).

  • nh

    Sorry – I went on the pill – cerazette… I don’t ever stop taking it; I did once run out for a week, and it was a mistake! Never, ever, ever again – I can’t deal with the level of pain and sickness. But equally I still think that I don’t go through as much pain as you do.

    I hope that your pain is short lived this month.

    • May

      Thank you for your good wishes. I’m sorry you had so much pain it made you sick – it seems insult to injury, doesn’t it? – and am very glad you’ve found something that works to keep it at bay.

  • a

    Well, clearly, you are an over-dramatic whiner who would become incapacitated by a paper cut. Duh. (You are still stoned, right? And finding things like carpet lint amusing?) ;)

    I agree that most of them go on birth control…

    • May

      Carpet lint is HILARIOUS. It’s, like, LINTY.

      I laugh at my former self for whining about the sort of periods I got on birth control. I’d give several toes, maybe a couple of teeth and a couple of broken limbs to have them back.

  • Korechronicles

    BCPs were what was prescribed for me, but sadly I could not take them long term because of cyclic vomiting and migraine every time I started a new packet. I can promise you that you are not the only woman…but my bet is that like me, they don’t discuss it with others, because unless they have experienced themselves or watched someone else suffer through it then they have no feckin’ idea.

    • May

      OK, the vomiting migraine thing was a totally unfair bastard of a thing to happen. Ugh. Frying-pan, fire, fire, frying-pan.

      You’re right about not discussing it. I don’t discuss this anywhere really except on blog, and with a very very few friends who are also Afflicted or who read the blog. I don’t really discuss it at work, despite the fact I keep missing work, because the whole subject is a Barrel of Awkward Elephants. I don’t discuss it with sisters and aunts and mothers and mothers-in-law because they don’t have horrible periods and simply Don’t Get It. And I feel horribly freakish saying ‘well, OK, for you it’s four days of having to remember to carry tampons, and one evening where you want two ibuprofen and a hotwaterbottle and a glass of wine and Downton Abbey, but for me it’s, well, OK, you’re looking skeptical now, and I don’t know how to phrase it, especially when some of you point out that I haven’t given birth, and how do I think I’ll cope with that? To which the answer is, at least if I were giving birth there’d be a BABY to make it all worth it.’

  • Korechronicles

    PS. I have responded to the two previous posts but WP ate the comments. It’s been nothing but a giant PITA since it got the “Provide a Password for Everything” Bug

    • May

      Bugger WP. I changed it so totally anon people could comment, and STILL it’s doing this password farrago for previous commentators. GAH. GAH.

  • Emily Erin

    I tend to think that other people are being pansies (who decided that those sweet and innocent flowers stand for lacking in some form of resolve more so than say, Black Eyed Susans? Just wondering) and that you experience much worse debilitation than anyone I’ve ever “known”, FWIW. Sorry that you’re here again, but hoping that this is your last shark week for a long time.

    • May

      I love pansies. Such pretty things, such a charming etymology for the name (thought violets. Romantic). Nothing at all like people with low pain thresholds and a tendency to snivel about it. Not that there’s anything wrong about having a low pain threshold – it is what it is, and I’m quite sure the owner would rather have a higher one. I know I would.

      Thank you for the good wishes.

  • Amy P

    FWIW, how you’ve described Shark Week in the past, especially the worst days, is much worse than either of my labors (yes, neither of my labors were very bad, so there is that) and much, much, much (add a few more muches, especially for #2) longer, and I couldn’t function once I was actually dliated enough to be admitted.

    • May

      That makes me feel validated and terrified of my uterus all at once.

      • Amy P

        I’d hoped for the first, and was afraid of the second… Just remember that, if nothing else, labor doesn’t last a week…

        • Hairy Farmer Family

          My last 9-week miscarriage was entirely comparable with my 33-week labour. I think labour, sans epidural, need hold no fears for you whatsoever. Although I fear you are one of those ladies who might puke throughout, sadly; big cramps do seem to trigger the vom reflex in some poor souls.

          • May

            I have no doubt if I ever get that lucky I’ll puke every contraction. My cervix is directly linked to my diaphragm, I swear (no, not THAT diaphragm. I don’t even own that one any more).

  • Anonymous

    I have no useful thoughts, because we appear to be in synch again. But HFW waves a weakened paw in sympathy.

  • EmHart

    I have horrendously painful periods, I am usually out of action for at least a day. The only thing, other than heat pads and much strong medication, that has made any difference is taking agnus cactus (vitex) not a massive difference, but a small one. Periods suck ass.

    • May

      Alas, fellow sufferer, so sorry to see you in the club of the Damned Uteri. I will look into the agnus castus. I don’t know how much of my pain is hormonal in origin, and how much mechanical because of the adenomyosis, but even the teeniest bit of un-suck is worth investigating. Periods do indeed suck ass. *fistbump*

  • Mina

    I used to have horrid periods, ever since I started having them until I went on BCPs (that would be from 11 until 26). I mean I was immobilized, fetal position in bed, rocking myself and bawling my eyes out. I would miss school every month. I would take the strongest OTC painkillers, because my doctor did not believe the pain. He said that pregnancy would cure that – I don’t know if he meant the lack of periods during pregnancy or “fixing the periods” after giving birth. Whatever it was, he was an idiot.
    After the 2 years on bcp it got better, as in I was able to move, so I could go and sulk at my desk in the office, white as a sheet, moving in rewind, not talking, inhaling chocolate and smelling chlorine in the water for the first three days (out of the usual six).
    After birth it indeed got better for real. I think I had the least bothersome periods ever last year. I lucked out. And not only in this respect, I am very much aware.
    So, you’re not alone. And just to give you an idea of my pain threshold, I gave birth twice without painkillers. And they were both inductions, which ‘they say’ come with stronger and more painful contractions.
    Wishing you are able to say the same in a couple of years, that you gave birth twice, I mean. Until then, hang on to drugs – pain never made anyone have statues of themselves built in the town square.

    • May

      But I WANT a statue of me, looking noble in déshabillé, in the town square! *sulks*

      I am so glad it got better after birth. I am rather frightened that if I do luck out and get a baby, I’ll be a crap mother because once a month I’ll be too drugged, dozy, sick and in pain to look after the poor kid. I know I can then use Mirena or get a hysterectomy, but I worry about the interval while waiting for it to work/for the NHS to get round to doing the surgery. Of all daft things to worry about, May. Cross Bridge Once Reached, OK?

  • wombattwo

    Only the mirena coil made my puking, fainting, gushing blood periods controllable. True, I still had to have nurofen plus, hot water bottles and copious quantities of chocolate, but that seemed like luxury. And I could stop worrying about leaking everywhere.

    Obviously not helpful for the whole conception thing though, I realise.

    I think people who say “it’s the worst pain ever” and then prance around after half a paracetamol are lucky, in that that is the worst pain they’ve ever experienced.

    • May

      I am in danger of turning the mirena into a sort of San Gréal that will Heal The Land And Bring About A Golden Age. Please Universe.

      Worst pain I ever had, probably rupturing my left ovary. Second worst pain, periods and a couple of my miscarriages, esp. the infection I got after the first. Third worst pain, migraines I had before I learnt the trick of taking NSAIDs or aspirin as soon as possible when aura starts (seems to shorten duration AND intensity of pain. Yay! (I am aware some migraineurs get really rather worse pain than I do, even at my worst, so your mileage may vary). Fourth worst? Probably breaking a bone (I have broken my wrist three times (greenstick, scaphoid, other scaphoid), and my toe twice)). Which should give you some idea of ‘worst pain ever’ for me, at least, and why I am baffled by anyone who can DRIVE through ‘worst pain ever’. Really? Drive? Without risking life and limb and multiple-car-pile-ups? I can’t WALK during ‘worst pain ever’. Gah.

      • manapan

        Um, actually yes. The Mirena is a miracle drug after the first two months of bleeding all the blood. I’ve only had three periods in a year now, if you can even call them that. Mild cramps and three days of light bleeding at the most. I do get migraines way more often now, but NSAIDs and caffeine at first aura can almost knock them out so it’s not a real issue.

        To give you an idea of where I came from, my worst pain ever was a tie between labor and miscarriage #2. (Same pain, same rating.) Second was the mystery pain that put me in the hospital while I was newly pregnant with Tatoe, which they thought was several ovarian cysts rupturing at once but couldn’t be sure. Third, the old periods. Way down the list is migraines and broken bones. I broke a finger and never had it set and walked on a broken ankle for a month because I didn’t think either one hurt that badly.

  • kylie

    People have different pain thresholds.
    There was an interesting (but not sure how well undertaken) scientific study that showed that redheads really do have a lower pain threshold than the average person, particularly when it comes to dental matters, so therefore the steraotype of redheads avoiding the dentist and having dreadful teeth has a basis in fact. I hadn’t known that stereotype, so cannot comment, but it was interesting

    It could just be that is where you have more nerve clusters? there could be side benefit – I am extrapolating from a book that Naomi Wolf wrote recently which basically says that the female orgasm has a lot more to do with your nerve clusters in the general lower spine area than anything else- so maybe bad period pain equals really good orgasms? Now that’s a conversation to have…

    • Hairy Farmer Family

      I am happy to be in the David Dimbleby seat for that discussion. Any panellists?!

    • May

      I daren’t claim my orgasms are better than most. I haven’t had enough experience of other women’s orgasms. As it were. *cough*. My own vary, from ‘eh, that was nice’ all the way through to the time I actually fainted, which was Not On, as I was *cough* on top, and fell forward onto H and nearly broke both our noses.

      Both my grandmamas had red hair. Perhaps I have the sensitive redhead gene. Hmm. Interesting. I get the extra sensitivity without the glorious bonfires-and-sunsets hair. Bugger.

      • Korechronicles

        The people of this particular segment of the interwebs are the most interesting and knowledgeable commenters anywhere. I am of an age where I will sit and listen carefully to the panellists and contribute elder wisdom or hysteria* as required.

        * as in hilarious, not as in requiring an appointment with one of those 19th century medicos with the female hysteria machine.

  • kylie

    wordpress just ate my comment. bah

    • May

      WordPress has taken to PRETENDING to eat a comment, and then posting it 20 minutes later. Unless you made a second comment, now lost in the interwebs? In which case, BOTHER wordpress. I’d dump it, but all the others seem frankly worse.

      • Amy P

        I’ve got WordPress software on my own site (well, a friend set it up for me) and it doesn’t seem to eat comments nor pretend to. Not that I’ve gotten any comments other than obvious spam (one complete gobbledygook, and the other three from the same source, same words–there’s no way my single post so far (nor my other pages) is the most excellent writing ever, nor am I an expert at my daughter’s Flat Stanley project (which is why there’s only the one post–the flat person is en route to her second destination, and I’ve not gotten any info from the first beyond the fact that the package has gone on)).

  • Hairy Farmer Family

    I think the wooziness of which you speak may not be All Drug Effects. I only have paracetamol & ibrupofen (because the opiate cure is nearlyworse than the disease) and nevertheless I have been struggling to put one foot in front of the other most of the weekend. Pain itself can be a great blunter of sensibilities, seemingly.

    • May

      Good point. I’m sure a lot of it is sleep deprivation and All Nerves Between Neck And Knees Needed For Agonising.

      Have you tried diclofenac? It makes a lass sleepy, but KNOCKS SPOTS of ibuprofen. You could use it for the worstest day/night, and maybe get some Goddamn sleep. Or mefenamic acid. That’s also a bit more mighty than ibuprofen, and easy enough to get for period pain. Or do neither of those work either/have horrid side-effects for you? In which case, I am so sorry.

      I actually had a full-on hyperventilating panic-attack at the thought of having a period with ONLY paracetamol &ibuprofen. No. Not happening. Never again. NO.

      • Hairy Farmer Family

        GP will only give me naxoprenny-whatever. Like diclofenac, but without the Bit That Kills Pain! Rotter. I suppose I could go in and lobby for more; I haven’t tried, I should do. I do have a history of abusing painkillers dreadfully whilst bamboozled and battered. I tend to throw them down my throat with gay abandon, with no reference to dosage or time, which unaccountably cease to seem important at that point!

        • May

          I am RIGID about THE SCHEDULE. Even when weeping on the bathroom floor. If you fuck with the painkiller schedule, you get unpredictable peaks and it’s almost impossible to medicate them away again, even with tramadol in Unwise Quantities. But, by God it takes nerves of steel to NOT take the next dose an hour early sometimes. Nerves of STEEL. No, TITANIUM. Or whatever it is they make the jet-burners on space-rockets out of. Ironically, this is where the sicky helps – I strengthen my nerves by saying ‘if you take it now you’ll just puke it up’. It needn’t be true, but it helps. Eh. This IS a jolly conversation.

          • May

            Keeping in mind that I GET to lie on the bathroom floor and weep completely unmolested with no other responsibilities. Your mileage may vary.

  • Jenny F. Scientist, PhD

    I think there’s some research about repeated/ chronic pain reducing one’s pain tolerance, actually; the anticipation and knowledge that it’s *going* to hurt screw with your nerve endings. Plus something about repeated pain sensitizing to more pain (really). So it’s kind of a vicious cycle. Also, likewise not to be all Pain-Olympics-ful, but if they have never upchucked and nearly fainted in a public subway, well, they’re on a different scale than you. Perhaps that lame-ass smiley one they have in doctors’ offices here (if I were smiling, I wouldn’t BE at the doctor!) rather than the ‘mauled by a bear’ one.

    • May

      Figures. How’s that for bloody irony?

      I think the lame-ass smiley pain chart is actively unhelpful and misleading. Their face for ‘worst pain’ is my face for ‘owie I stubbed my toe.’ My face for worst pain is ‘terrifying frozen rictus of wild-eyed, white-lipped despair’. Also, bears, mauling.

      • bionicbrooklynite

        All that stuff dr Jenny says seems very like my experience. Sadly, I can’t second the notion that bad periods automatically make labor seem not so bad, and I believe I’ve heard some vpevidence o the p contrary (typos left for fun verisimilitude), especialily re: endometriosis. On the other hand, you know what does make labor seem not so bad? Epidurals.

  • jjiraffe

    Blah. You describe my period lately quite well. I’ve been using the iPad with the kids during those special days. When I described how horrible my period is (it’s in the last 6 months that the pain and er, other stuff, has been particularly bad) to my ObGyn, she cheerfully said there was always some scary procedure called ablation I could go through. That was my only option?! Really? How is it 2012 and we haven’t figured this out yet? :(

    • May

      I think there should be a LAW that doctors may absolutely not be cheerful about scary medical procedures when the person in front of them is being pretty much disabled by the amount of pain and bleeding every month.

      Also, if you have endometriosis or adenomyosis, ablation will do exactly and precisely jack-shit for the pain. Because the lining of the uterus is not CAUSING the pain. So you need a good diagnosis before you let anyone up there with blades.

      I very much hope you get a good solution very soon.

      I very much hope scientists of the world stop dicking about with hair restorer and get onto menstrual problems this very minute.

      • wombattwo

        Yes, would not recommend ablation. Besides, if it gets rid of the endometrium and causes scarring at the lower end of the uterus, pain will be even worse. Trust me!

  • wombattwo

    *Thinking about it*, have you tried a TENS machine? I mean, if they’re good for women in labour, how different is that to period pain, really (except for the obvious differences…)

    • May

      Can you just sort of GET TENS machines? I thought the NHS provided them for women in labour, and, err, that’s it. Where do you get a TENS machine? Because I’ll try anything once. Next step, setting up a hydroponic lab and ultraviolet lamps in the back bathroom, I bloody swear (what? Dope worked for Queen Victoria).

      • minichessemouse

        you can rent TENS machines for a month from Boots and other such places, I’m sure they can probably also be bought from Amazon or wherever.

        So far my Worst Pain Ever has been Migraines, I’m lucky that pain does not make me throw up. I am however not particularly looking forward to the return of Shark Week post baby, shark week is probably number 3 or 4 on the Worst Pain Ever scale, 2 and 3 being Neuropathy and toothache.

      • wombattwo

        You can buy them on amazon, or you can rent them from boots, lloyds etc.
        Apparently for labour, the best ones are those with “boost” buttons, which you press when contractions are most intense, so perhaps the same might work for when the cramps are at their most… crampy? Some think they’re rubbish, some swear by them, but everything’s worth a try, especially when shark week has quite so many teeth…

  • bionicbrooklynite

    I expect there’s good stuff in the comments, but have just nibbled a Percocet. Literacy not at an all-time high.

    Here’s the thing. I know for sure your periods aree way, way worse than mine. No doubt at all. For that matter, I know that mine are in most ways at least a little better than they were before pregnancy and certainly better than before the ol’ cervix puncturing fun of the HSG. But. They are still pretty farking terrible. And I don’t like to have to justify myself to people who will never get it, so I am somewhat apt to use terms that I hope will get them to shut up about how everything would be dandy if I’d only give up salt/take calcium/breathe through my nose/accept my role as a woman or whatever flavor of flakiness they’ve ascribed their own luck to.

    Even just today, while tearing up a bit on the bus to work, I thought to myself how stupid it was to be doing so when I know what I was feeling is nothing to what you do or even to what I have myself, plenty of times. (remember that harrowing mid-labor cab ride story? I remember thinking at one point during it that I should pull myself together, because the GI-endo conflagrations I’ve had were sometimes worse.) And yet, there I was, in pain that available, work-friendly meds didn’t help. And it hurt.

    I guess what I’m beating around in this opiate haze trying to say is that pain sucks and there is no absolute scale, though that nice “being actively mauled by a bear” one comes close. Meanwhile, for me at least, the emotional perturbations of the time in question don’t help.

    Somehow I’m four paragraphs in and have no idea if I’ve said anything (which is why Percocet cannot go to school with me). Signing off with sheepish x’s and o’s.


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