Wednesday, December 17, 2008

You Know, It's a Woman Thing

I can't tell you how many times I've sat in a doctor's office and heard the phrase, 'you know, that's part of being a woman, you know, it's just a woman thing.' How can anyone believe she is being cared for by a medical professional who has THAT prejudged commentary spewing forth? When I was eleven, having dismenorrhea, ammenorhea, and oh, did I mention, IBS? Yes? A whole post worth? Okay, then I won't do that here. But I was going through all of this at the age of 11. I didn't even wear a training bra yet, and I was expected to understand, 'it's a woman thing'. I was given a box of pad, that came with another box of safety pins, and I was told that I would be using these for the rest of my Childbearing Life.

I was 11. How much childbearing did I think I was going to have when I heard that? A LOT of it. I expected that the first time I dated someone I'd have to wear that pad, and expect him to understand that we were going to be parents as soon as the act of a smooch was completed. That's all I understood. Then, when I arrived home from that very same day, to a copy of - Our Bodies, Our Selves. I could hear the choir screaming at me. This was my manual.

I first read the book through, and just felt immersed in the education. There was so much more to know about what this "woman thing" is. There was an easy to read, easy to follow, comprehensive manual on all of this womanhood. For five years, whenever I was unsure as to what was happening in this vessel known as my body, I'd search through those pages. Okay, so it wasn't Dad sitting me down and saying, "The birds are..." but it was better. It was the no-nonsense way to teach me about life and the life cycle.

It was through that book that I learned that the things I had experienced monthly weren't exactly normal. Teens fluctuate in hormone levels constantly, but I was going through weight loss and weight gain. I was going through severe clotting sessions, that weren't part of the normal cycle. I had cramps that lasted two weeks longer than my cycle. Between this and the IBS, mentioned in an earlier post so I won't go into here, I was not a happy teen. My Dad and I got along great. I was a bookworm kid. I even was on the swim team. But when it came down to physical well-being, there wasn't any.

I was never given birth control pills as a teen. I wasn't given anything that regulated any hormones at all. What I did get was Librax and Phazyme. For the cramps I was given Motrin, which was only prescription at the time. There wasn't any change in my diet. From the age of 12 until 15 I was a thin kid, from 15 to 17, I had gone from about 110 pounds to 127 pounds- and had teachers tell me I was "Fat".

When a teen aged girl hears she is fat, and is wearing a size 7 instead of a size 2, she can only think that people will consistently judge her as being less than who she really is. I may have done well in writing. I was good in art. But, when I had to do anything that showed me as a "girly girl" I wilted. The theater company in town asked me to join, and I was never pretty enough to be on the stage- I ended up behind the scenes. The woman in charge said to me, "You're not a small girl, it won't work." Yet, there were girls who were larger than me up there. I was of the belief that I was always going to stay behind the scenes, and was supposed to be hidden from site because I wasn't 'small enough'.

When I went into boot camp, I was off the prescriptions. Suddenly, I was back down to a small size again. Within two months of being off the meds designed to take care of "woman issues" I was looking like a woman, and not a little girl. Yet, when I addressed the dismenorrhea and the amenorrhea with my gynecologist, I was given something I had never taken before- birth control pills. For the first time in seven years, I was regulated by a hormone treatment. My weight only went up by about three pounds and although I still had mood swings, and cramps, I wasn't battling the loss of cycle or the increase of clotting. I wasn't on my knees throwing up anymore. I wasn't anemic on a monthly basis. Finally, I had help.

At no time was I ever given blood tests to determine if I had high estrogen levels. At no time was I given tests for DHEA, testosterone, progesterone, or even cortisol. No one checked my hormone levels at any time. From the time I was 11 until just a very short while ago, I was battling thryoid issues, and pituitary issues. Because I didn't "look" sick, I wasn't treated for the illness I was battling. By the time I started looking sick, it was too late, and my thyroid died.

Today's questions- Did you ever feel your gender impeded your care? How do doctors treat symptoms for your Women Issues? what would you tell a teen about her body?

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