Saturday, August 09, 2014

Welome Back, Period!

I recently stopped taking birth control after six years. I had started it only to control cramps because the pain of menstruation had gotten so bad, I was calling in sick. On birth control, I still got periods every month, but they became pain-free and asymptomatic. I stopped thinking about them.

A couple of years later another symptom showed up that became increasingly difficult to live with: feeling overheated and perspiring excessively. This daily feeling of being uncomfortably warm persisted in summer and winter, no matter how cold. Seeing an Ayurvedic practitioner this past June finally got me the results I'd been dreaming of: I no longer feel so warm all the time! It's a gradual process of getting back to normal and I'm not there yet, but I'm SO much more comfortable this summer than last summer! (I'll do a post on Ayurveda, but in short it's a 5,000 year old system of preventive medicine and health care. It's from India.)

What made the difference? Adjusting what I eat and drink, adding just one herbal blend to my daily routine, using coconut oil as my daily moisturizer and stopping the birth control pills. The combination of all of these things has turned my life around. I have hope that I will be able to comfortably wear shirts with sleeves this winter!

This month, for the first time since 2008, I'm enjoying a natural period. Yes, I said enjoying because I'd forgotten what it was really like. It's nice to have a reason to take it easy, not get exasperated when my concentration dips, take extra naps and lay off the yoga poses for a few days (recommended by Ayurveda). But when the cramps came back yesterday, I started swallowing ibuprofen and hoped they wouldn't get as bad as they used to. Then I had to go to the store for more.

I considered my options as I stood in the painkiller aisle (why painkiller? Why not a word that actually evokes relief like comfort pills?). I remembered hearing that Tylenol is actually quite dangerous if you don't take it exactly as instructed. I remembered a recent conversation during which a friend had said that aspirin still works perfectly well for most pain, but the drug industry that pushes ibuprofen has tried hard to make us forget that. I also know that ibuprofen use has risks that I don't like.

Rows of ibuprofen and Tylenol products filled my view. Where was the aspirin? I couldn't remember the last time I'd seen it. What would it look like? Then I saw it: Bayer. Aha -- it lived!

Next to it was the generic store brand, so I got that. Aspirin sure has changed since the last time I noticed it. No more clear plastic bottle with powdery pills. Now aspirin has the same easy-to-swallow coating as everything else and I don't have to worry about it crumbling. I tossed some back when I got home and was happy to find that they really took the edge off my cramps. The discomfort didn't disappear entirely, but then this morning I realized I wasn't taking the full dose. I'm sure that with the full dose, I'll have no problems at all.

So I'm happy to report that I have my period back without the out-of-control pain of years ago! I've got my trusty aspirin for the cramping and that nice fuzzy-headed, tired feeling that means it's time to slow down and take extra good care of myself. The Ayurveda book I'm reading suggests spending one's period not doing yoga poses, but to "rest, read and relax as much as possible." Perfect! I love that. I'm so glad I started seeing Karen, my Ayurvedic practitioner. With her guidance I've cooled my body down and become reaquainted with that lovely part of the month when I can give myself a break on -- well, just about everything. At the age of 48 I don't have a lot of menstrual cycles left, so I'm going to cherish them while I can.

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