I’ve been noticing a lot through stories told on social media and in my own personal experience that people, especially men, like to tell women, “Oh, it’s just _______”. Like, oh it’s just a period or oh it’s just because you don’t eat healthy, or oh it’s just because you wear makeup. Sometimes, there is some truth behind these statements, but most of the time they are just a generalization. Menstruation can be extremely painful, being overweight could be due to a variety of factors not just poor eating habits, and acne can be hormonal or caused by allergies. Stop telling women to get over it.
When I was 14, I told my basketball coach that I couldn’t run laps because I was experiencing very bad cramps. He told me that a period was no excuse to sit out at practices. If I wasn’t going to run with everyone else, then I wasn’t going to play in the upcoming tournament with everyone else. I tried to run but doubled over in pain after only half a lap. I sat alone in the hallway for an hour until my dad picked me up from practice. I quit the team the next day. Periods can be painless for some, uncomfortable for others, and extremely painful for more. I told you I was in pain, you told me to suck it up and get over it.
When I was 18, I began experiencing incredibly sharp pains in my lower abdomen at seemingly random times. My mom rushed me to the ER, where I waited without pain medication for 8 hours. Upon examination, the doctor told me it was menstrual cramps and to go home and take Midol. A few months later, my mom rushed me to the ER again, waiting another 7 hours. The pain was excruciating, so they took an ultrasound. The doctor told me it was just ovarian cysts. I had large cysts on my ovaries that were normally painless, but could fill up with fluid and burst, causing “slight” abdominal pain. I was told that they could do surgery to remove them, but they would likely come back. I was told I could live with the sporadic pain and take medication as needed, or undergo evasive abdominal surgery that may or may not fix the problem. He recommended I live with the pain as it is only mild. Mild to who? It definitely wasn’t mild to me. I was told to suck it up and get over it.
When I was 19, I again began experiencing sharp abdominal pain, but this time it was focused on the right side. I ignored it, thinking it was just menstrual cramps or just another cyst bursting. One day, I curled into the fetal position on the floor and cried because of the pain. My boyfriend dragged me to the hospital, even though I insisted it was just another period thing. I waited 6.5 hours in the waiting room, again, without medication. The doctor looked over my chart for a few minutes, pressed on my abdomen, and said it’s just another cyst. He told me that feeling uncomfortable was not a reason to be in the ER. I went home feeling stupid that I wasted that much time in the hospital when other people needed the doctor more than I did. I took some Tylenol and laid in bed for 15 hours until the pain subsided. I told you I was in pain, you told me to suck it up and get over it.
When I was 20, the pain returned worse than it ever has before. I laid in bed and cried, telling myself that it was just another cyst. I took some Tylenol and used a heated water bottle to try and ease the pain. After a few hours, my boyfriend came home and wanted to take me to the hospital. I told him it was just mild pain, repeating what I’ve been told for years. He dragged my protesting butt to the ER, describing the severity of my pain. They asked me to wait. 11 hours went by while I curled up in a chair and cried. Eventually, a male doctor examined me once again. He told me it was another cyst. My boyfriend told him “no, it’s something more. Do more tests. She wouldn’t be crying and screaming in pain if she felt UNCOMFORTABLE.” So, the doctor did an ultrasound, determining that my gall bladder looked abnormal, but he would need an MRI to diagnose. He sent me home with an appointment for an MRI the following evening. The pain did not subside this time. 2 days later, I came back to the ER to hear the diagnosis. The doctor told me I had severe gall stones. He put me in a bed, wheeled me to the ambulance doors, hooked up a morphine IV and told me to call my family as I required immediate surgery at a bigger hospital to remove my gallbladder. He said that if I had come in sooner, they could have caught it earlier, allowing me to keep my organ in my body!!!
Now, at 22, I’m experiencing liver failure issues. My liver is not functioning as it should be due to stress, the removal of my gallbladder and complications with that abdominal surgery. In turn, I now get very sick often due to the fatigue of my condition and a weakened immune system. I’ve been very sick 9 times in the past 6 months. Today, my boss asked me why I’m always sick. I briefly explained my condition to him, mentioning that it is out of my control at the moment. He asked me how often I wash my hands. He asked me if I eat healthy. He asked me if I’m getting enough exercise.
Now, my life is in danger, my quality of life has been impacted, and I’m finally being taken seriously. Why did my boyfriend’s single protest convince the doctor that it was more than period pain and mild discomfort? Why did years of documented ER trips with similar accounts of pain and distress get ignored? Why was I repeatedly told to suck it up and get over it?
I am so tired of people assuming because I am a woman, any pain or discomfort I experience is due to my period. There are so many organs, tissues, muscles and fluids in your abdomen that can cause medical issues. Stop assuming the only medical problem a woman can experience is due to menstruation. Stop telling woman to just get over it.