Until about 100 years ago drugs didn’t really exist. The best you could hope for was a bit of laudanum for pain, and the working classes didn’t even have access to that – in fact when my Mum was a child in the 40s and 50s they had no access to drugs or pain relief either, and antibiotics were only just starting to be prescribed. Whatever was wrong with you you just had to put up with it.
We’re now in the 21st Century, but for someone like me who is almost totally drug allergic we might as well still be in the 17th. I’ve just had my period and have had 3 really rough days. A migraine which kept me awake literally all night with my head feeling like it was being rhythmically beaten. Cramping, aching lower and mid-back pain. Period pain, which feels like someone is inside my uterus with a pair of pliers, and just god awful stomach pain, which radiated outwards in a stinging, electric shock fashion under both ribs. Then there has been the nausea, which has meant all I’ve eaten is toast, warm milk and the odd Ritz cracker (which has consequently made me feel weak from lack of calories), and the oesophageal spasms which have made me dry heave (and made my already sore throat even sorer). Add to this severe fatigue and plummeting hormones which have made me weepy and anxiety riddled and it’s not been a fun week by anybody’s standards.
I tell myself to just breathe and accept the moment. Tens of millions of my ancestors had to endure levels of pain and illness that we wouldn’t even begin to contemplate today. Their illnesses either got better or they died, admittedly with a shed load of suffering in-between, and if they could live that way then I can live that way. I don’t have much choice let’s face it. But it’s not easy. I often lie here in my bed, alone and uncomforted, suffering in quite frankly self-pitying silence (OK, sometimes with a not so silent “God, if you exist I hate you”, or the odd moan when the pain becomes intense). My little dog Bertie keeps looking at me as if to say “you OK Mum?” and I lay my head on his furry body and listen to him breathing – it’s comforting.
In my house, the hot water bottle is King. Sometimes 3 or 4 of them at once, which means I have to put the ceiling fan on to cool down even though it’s zero degrees outside (Bertie, bless him, hides under the duvet shivering 😉 ). This is closely followed by my trusty TENS machine, ice packs and gel strips for the head pain, ginger tea and travel bands for the nausea and, when I can, lots of crocheting to take my mind off just how shitty I feel (it actually works quite well on the whole).
I remind myself that “this too shall pass” which, in respect of my periods at least, is true – I’ve begun peri-menopause, so the actual Menopause is hopefully only a few years away (hurry it along already!). Sadly the same can’t be said for the pain from my Ehlers-Danlos, or the nausea from my MCAD, or the fatigue from my M.E.. If endurance was an Olympic event I at least think I’d be on the podium, even if I didn’t actually win gold 😉 .