factors

I’m a 35 year old caucasian female, born to an Appalachian woman and a Polish/Scots/Canadian man.

I was raised in and around Detroit, Michigan within sight/walking distance of factories, auto plants and chemical processing plants.

I grew up in a family where most, if not all of the adults smoked heavily. My mother was a pack-a-day user inside the house. My father was probably half that but tried to keep it outside of his house (my parents divorced when I was four).

I grew up in poverty, so we ate a lot of cheap red meat, government cheese, and refined sugars and breads.

I got my period for the first time when I was fourteen. My ma never prepared me for what to expect, but thankfully my friends and my schooling did, otherwise it might have been a scene right out of Stephen King’s ‘Carrie’. It was bad enough that my ma is Christian Fundamentalist and that the kids in school made fun of me and called me ‘Carrie’ anyway because of my long straight red hair.

The pain associated with my period began within the first year. I used to vomit from the pain and had to miss school because of it.

I asked my ma if she ever had that kind of pain. She said no, but her three sisters and her ma did. My ma told me she used to make fun of her sisters because she didn’t understand what they went through and thought they were faking it. …She never knew that there could be a real problem occurring until I started having the same symptoms.

I began drinking alcohol when I was sixteen. My ma kept Johnny Walker Red in her dresser drawer and I’d swipe a sip every now and then. My friend introduced me to cheap vodka and orange juice and we drank screwdrivers whenever we could get ahold of some.

When I turned nineteen, my friends and I began to go to Canada to get drunk every weekend. I developed a fondness for rum and coke. Rum is made from sugar. Coke is made from corn syrup. Sticky sweet toxicity.

When I was twenty-five in 1996, I saw a gynecologist about the severe monthly pain. He told me I hit every symptom in the book for Endometriosis, and told me I should have a laparoscopy to get an official diagnosis. At the time, I was too afraid of surgery, so I put it off for awhile. When I did decide I was ready, I was told I could get the procedure done in Spring of 1997.

That’s when my boyfriend at the time got hired to work in California, and asked me to go with him. I’d have six weeks downtime I was told post-op. That ran into the packing and moving, so I again rescheduled.

Due to having shitty jobs that provided shitty HMO health coverage in California, it took ten more years before I’d finally get the surgery to diagnose me.

In that time, I’ve been a social alcoholic since about my late sophomore year in college, ironically after I was accused of being alcoholic by the doctor who treated me for pancreatitis in 1993. Self-fulfilling prophecy and all that. I still love rum best and drink it straight or mixed in fresh fruity stuff a la tiki bar.

I became “ovo-lacto-pesco vegetarian” in 1999 but continued to eat sweets. The pain never stopped. I found out I have gluten intolerance in 2006 so I went back to eating meat to give myself more food options.

In 2002, I interviewed my maternal grandmother and two of my aunts about their painful periods. I was given very similar stories to what I go through. Grandma used to be bedridden for a week at a time!! My grandma had nine kids and the pain never let up. She unfortunately couldn’t recall what menopause was like. My aunts had anywhere from two to four kids and their pain never went away, either. They had trouble with menopause but told me they thought it was normal, so I don’t know for sure. They’re Appalachian – they don’t like to give too much personal detail about stuff like that.

This is my background environment – all of the above contributes to my illness. Even though it’s largely hereditary in my case, other factors exacerbated over time and continue to do so.

Where do I go from here? Will I ever see relief?

I fluctuate between accepting my fate, being bitter at my ma for not knowing better and continuing the genetic line, and being diligent at trying to find a workaround to the pain.

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