Sunday, January 22, 2017

Break the Stigma

All day I have been seeing Women’s March pictures from the marches around the nation. I’ve seen friends and family participating. I’m thankful to live in a time where women have the freedom to fight for the things we believe in boldly. Part of that freedom is making each other and our dear men friends and family aware of some of the challenges we face. One of the things that feels out of balance is the stigma around some of problems in a women’s reproductive system versus that of a man. I don’t place blame on anyone for this, man or woman, but I figure I can do my part to break that stigma by telling my story. I’m frankly a little nervous about sharing this, but I hope my voice can give other women the strength to be honest about their struggles.

Let me get the taboo words out of the way as we begin: Blood. Period. Tampons. Diva Cup. Pads. Cramps. Sex. Pain. Pain during sex. There we go; let’s begin.

In June of 2015 I had just graduated from college and I was busy at a full-time “job” of planning a wedding set for August. My husband and I waited until our wedding night to have sex so at this point I was educating myself about birth control. Things were great and going well until I started to notice my period acting strange. It was lasting longer, bleeding harder, and causing more pain. This continued each month. I figured I was stressed and ignored it.

I got married to my incredible husband in August 8 and was no longer a virgin. I was frankly unaware of what to expect during sex, but I figured the occasional pain and the bleeding that ensued every time afterwards (not just the first time) was not normal.  I went to the doctor and, long story short, learned I had a uterine fibroid (a benign tumor). After months of incredibly long periods (a month or so), terribly heavy bleeding, uncontrollable pain, being exhausted to the point that I had to skip my afternoon classes on a regular basis, having almost no energy, and just being tired of dealing with it all, I finally had the surgery to have it removed. (It was an inch in diameter, in case you’re curious.)

Things improved vastly after the very short recovery time. My doctor was upfront and told me I would likely get another one seeing as I already had them at a mere 22 years of age. I understood and accepted this, but figured it would be a few years before it was a problem again. That was February 2016. I had energy, I bled completely normal periods, and I felt great. Things had turned around until October 2016 hit and my period started a week early and lasted two weeks. And then November’s started a week early again and was heavier. It progressed quicker than last time. I know this is graphic, but I warned you: It's been so bad that, for a couple days, each hour I was bleeding twice what an average woman bleeds her whole period. Talk about exhausted. I’ve not had the sonogram to confirm it, but I know my body and I know they’re back.

I don’t tell you this story to freak you out, but to open a door. I have met and heard stories of so many women of all walks of life who suffered or are suffering through the same or similar thing. If you start having irregular bleeding or are in an insane amount of pain, go to the doctor. It might be common, but it is not okay. If you know someone who is, send them this blog and encourage them to go to the doctor. If you started noticing weird lumps or moles that grew rapidly somewhere on your body, would you not go to a doctor? We shouldn’t have to suffer in silence just because periods are gross (okay, really, they are, I admit).  But we should not have to hide it at work when you frankly feel like you’re just going to die. Be honest with how you feel. If a friend (male or female) asks you how you feel and you feel like you’re going to fall over and die because you’re in so much pain, don’t say “I’m fine!” It’s okay to be honest. Ask for prayer from those who you tell. Encourage other women who may be going through something like this. Don’t accept abnormal bleeding as normal. Get help.

I’ve pretty much ignored men so far and I want to address them. First, my husband has been so incredibly supportive. He’s heated up my heading pad (best invention ever), bought pads and tampons by himself, rushed home as soon as he could to take care of me, and has been so encouraging through some long nights and tough conversations. Men, I know it may be uncomfortable, but I encourage you to be open and receptive if the conversation comes up. Your support and prayers are so encouraging. We love you and we value your friendship. Women, don’t be afraid to have honest conversations. If you have a male friend you trust, talk to him. Fight the stigma around this by communicating.

Despite the problems we fight in our own bodies, our bodies are incredible. They create and birth humans. They create nutritional milk for said humans. God created our bodies to do absolutely amazing things despite the problems all of us have in one way or another. Be proud of your body and what it can do. Take care of it. Don’t be ashamed of it. Talk to people. Get help. Break the stigma.

***** Side Note: There’s a lot of opinions around the women’s march. Here’s my two cents for what it’s worth. I am a pro-life Christian feminist. Yes, it’s a thing. I believe peaceful and respectful protests are a good thing. For instance, the shooting in Dallas during the summer of 2016 was during a very peaceful Black Lives Matter protest.  I was blown away by the support the Black Lives Matter protesters showed to the Dallas cops after the fact. It was beautiful. I believe life begins at conception. I realize abortion is a lot more complicated than many of us want to admit, but I do believe the life of the choice-less child should be pursued and I believe just as firmly that the church should surround these women with all the love and support they have to offer despite the marital status of the woman. I am a feminist in that I believe in equality of men and women. We have come so incredibly far. But just because things are better, does that mean we should just settle? If you are cooking a chicken and it’s halfway done, it’s more edible than it was before, but surely you’re not going to eat the thing until it’s done? Silly example, but I think it’s a good thing to continue to pursue true equality (note: not women greater than men, but women simply having the same rights, written and unwritten, as men). I love my male friends and family. I harbor no ill will. I am a Christian and I strive to share the love and light of Christ to everyone I meet. I believe we should treat each other with respect and love, regardless of political or religious opinion. This has nothing to do with what the aforementioned article was about, but I figured I’d keep you from reading between the lines and just tell you what I believe about a few of these things.