Apologies in advance to all the men out there…

Had to go to the doctors today. It wasn’t for any purpose than having to get a couple of repeat prescriptions, but when you’re a woman and on birth control pills then apparently you have to toddle into the doctor’s office every 3-6 months just to prove that you still have a uterus and still aren’t smart enough to decide what’s best for it. Considering the prescription is necessary for birth control pills, it does make me wonder what would happen if the doctor said “Um, no. Not for you”.

As it was, I had to have my blood pressure checked (always low), and pee in a cup to prove I wasn’t pregnant (duh), and answer a few questions about the rest of my health. The doctor then asked probably the most obvious question “Are you using these for contraception?”… to which my answer is actually “No”.

See, I use a synthetic progesterone pill, which prevents me from having a menstrual cycle altogether. It’s fabulous. I use birth control pills because I have endometriosis, and that naturally inflicts agonising pain that knocks me down for several days a month. No periods = no pain.

It’s not cheap though. Many birth control pills are subsidised in New Zealand, but mine aren’t. So with the combination of $40 for the doctor’s visit, and $55 for the three-month course of pills, I realised that my uterus is basically holding me to ransom for the sum of around $1 a day. It’s not so terribly expensive that I’d consider dropping the medication, but it does also seem a little unfair considering you’d think that pain prevention is better for a nation’s GDP than pain relief. I take these pills, and then I can go to work and earn money and be lucid and not be zonked out on opiates. They make me a productive member of society and mean that I faint in the supermarket less often.

I did once faint in the supermarket. My period started while I was shopping and I couldn’t get through the checkout in time. That’s how instantly sucky endometriosis can be. It’s pretty much “La la la la la… oh I’m suddenly being disemboweled with a claw hammer!” And then your legs get all weak and stop working, and you really need to pee and have violent diarrhea at the same time. If you’re still standing up (which is very difficult) then your blood pressure plummets and you faint. Yes, I’ve had surgery for it. No, it didn’t work.

Endometriosis is one of those surprisingly common, rarely discussed conditions that isn’t all that well understood. I’ve had doctors tell me that it doesn’t start until a woman is in her 20s (I’ve had it from my very first menstrual cycle onward). I’ve heard some idiot claim that it’s caused by tampons backing up the menstrual flow and causing the menses to overflow into the abdomen (got it before I ever used a tampon + having a period is not at all the same as hemorrhaging and tampons don’t work that way, you moron). I’ve read that it’s an entirely modern condition caused by our environment (nope, my mother and grandmother both had it – they just got told they were being silly, over-dramatic women). Mostly women who don’t have endometriosis just shrug and say that they get period pain too and you should just take some ibuprofen and stop complaining. But the men who’ve lived with me have all at some point seen me go white and collapse, so they tend to be a little more sympathetic. Confused and concerned, but sympathetic. As my mother described it: it’s worse than childbirth because it pretty much feels the same but lasts a lot longer.

There aren’t a lot of endo-awareness groups out there, and I guess that’s because it’s only very rarely fatal and there really isn’t much that you can do about it anyway. Stopping my menstrual cycle works for me, but that’s because I’m one of the women who only gets pain during my period. Plenty of other sufferers (including a good friend of mine) get pain all the time. That must be unbearable.

… So I told the doctor that I use the pill to manage my endometriosis. And she asked the classic, you’re-a-stupid-woman, follow up: “Has that been diagnosed surgically?”… Because you’d totally be faking it, right? Because I just read a long word on the internet and diagnosed myself. Because I might just invent a reason to want birth control pills so that I can deal them in schoolyards like meth… Deep sigh. “Yes.”

Patronising much? But this is just the price you pay for having a uterus and daring to suppose that you know what’s going on with it.

Silly, over-dramatic women.

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