As a TCM practitioner, I think it is important that patients know they are not alone. I hope that sharing my story with you will encourage you to seek support and look for alternative treatments, if are needing them.
In high school, I began experiencing heavy and painful periods. I had no idea that the start of “womanhood” was going to change my life in ways I couldn’t even imagine. My young self thought the idea of bleeding out every month sounded horrific and unnecessary, little did I know the real impact it would have on my life.
I was routinely told my painful experiences were “normal” and that every woman goes through this. Spoiler alert, they don’t.
I know now that the magnitude of my pain was not the norm. The first 2 days of my period were torturous, with throbbing pain in my abdomen, running down to my thighs. When I would confide in others they would ask something like “Are you sure you’re experiencing this much pain or is it in your head”?
Their suspicion of my pain, in turn, made me question it myself, thinking maybe I just had low pain tolerance and wasn’t up to this monthly challenge. The truth was that I was in the worst physical pain I had ever experienced and was facing the daunting realization that I would be experiencing it once a month, every month, for almost the rest of my life.
University began, and it was a fresh chapter, the start of something new… except for my period. Which remained consistently painful and heavy.
To survive, I developed a system as soon as I noticed my period coming on:
- Take painkillers right away (before the pain begins).
- Cancel all plans for the first 2 days.
- Bed rest and wait for it to resolve itself.
That’s how it went every month. In addition, I now always felt tired. I would sleep long hours and wake up still exhausted, my energy depleted. After much persistence, my family doctor had finally referred me to a gynecologist. The normalization of “painful periods” is likely what made it take so long. The specialist went through some ultrasounds and my symptoms to conclude a diagnosis of Endometriosis.
This was the first time I had heard of this term so I went home that day and researched as much as I could about this condition while my thoughts spiralled. There had to be something I could do…a solution…guidance…just something. Anything.
My doctor’s go-to method was birth control to regulate my period and reduce my pain. I desperately wanted more than a band-aid fix. I was tired of masking my symptoms with painkillers and the last thing I wanted was to mask it with another pill. I went back and forth about the pro’s and con’s of this method. The thought of stopping my natural menstrual cycle scared me enough to delay me trying birth control for a long while.
However, years after my doctor recommended birth control, and after much consideration and conversation with second opinions, I decided to give it a try. And let me tell you, it was a break that I truly needed. It gave me the quality of life in that time that I hadn’t experienced up until that point.
When I began taking initiative of my own health, I started to feel hopeful that there was something I could do to manage my symptoms.
I learned that diet plays a big part and began to understand that what I ate could make a difference in how my body experienced its period.
Through my research, I discovered Traditional Chinese Medicine and my path to practitioner began. I experienced my first period without excruciating pain with the help of diet and herbs. The hope that came from learning that I could play a part in managing my symptoms and understanding my body was paramount. I wanted others to experience this hope, and ultimately it fueled my passion for treating reproductive issues naturally.
Learning you have a diagnosis can be a difficult thing, but it can also be empowering. In my personal experience I needed to integrate Western and Traditional Chinese medicine, and know when to apply one or the other. Your experience is your own, and I hope I can help you to validate your pain and find solutions together that work for you.
If you are experiencing painful periods, and are looking for support please reach out today.
R.Ac, R.TCMP, BSc. Health Science