A few months ago, I went to a new GP. I told her that since I was eleven, I have had so much menstrual pain that every month, without exception, I vomit and faint. I start to sweat and tremble and get back pain and diarrhoea. According to colleagues, my boyfriend, and other people who have seen it, I turn pale. These symptoms scare them senseless every time. And I find it very embarrassing when bystanders have to see me like this.
For the first time in my life, my GP was a woman. I was excited and hopeful because I thought a woman would take my complaints seriously. Since the age of eleven, I have been trying to find a solution for my extreme menstrual pains. I have had seven GPs, but I was always told it would get better with age. Or I was prescribed the contraceptive pill – but that did not help either.
My new GP did not let me finish. She sighed deeply and said that this just happens to some women. When I got home, I collapsed. How much longer could I keep this up? And why did doctors not see the gravity of the situation? My boyfriend was outraged. He thought what I went through was not normal. He said: ‘We’ll call the doctor, and we won’t stop until you get help’.
On the next visit, my GP did let me finish and apologised. At my request, she also referred me to an expertise centre for endometriosis. It is less common among young women, but two of my colleagues have it, and they recognised my symptoms. I’m about to have keyhole surgery. I was eleven when I first saw a GP with these symptoms. Now I am 24. I hope that they can finally do something about it.
I would like to say to GPs: please listen to your patient. Take them seriously, even if the chance that something serious is going on is not significant. Because doctors seemed to think that it was normal that I fainted every month, I started to feel like a drama queen. Maybe I had a low pain threshold? Was I weak?
Menstruating is taboo in some parts of the Black community. It is not to be discussed in front of men. Women must keep their physical distance from men when they are bleeding, and they are not allowed to eat out of the same pots and pans or cook. When I told my mother that I was bleeding when I was eleven, she said ‘congratulations’. But I had no idea why. When I complained of pain, my mother and grandmother said they had the same thing. For a long time, I thought it was a family trait I had to learn to live with. But fortunately, a solution is now in sight.
Arendina is 24 years old and a communication advisor