Under Wraps

There were certain things that could not be discussed at the table. Menstruation was one of them. It was discussed in the shadows, amidst whispers. Truth seldom lurked in those shadows. That’s how I was convinced that painful periods were normal.

I suffered in silence. When I tried to speak up, I was told that it was normal. When the pain got excruciating, I was told that it was all in my head. It seemed my head had a circulatory system, an SGR that helped it move from the North of my body to the Equator, my waist.

The first time I set out to buy pads as a young girl, I walked praying that I would find the shopkeeper’s wife. It would be easier to ask her for Always. When I found the shopkeeper himself, I thought about going back home and coming back later, but I needed the pads urgently. I mustered all the courage I had within and asked for pads.

“Habari yako? Tafadhali nipe Always.” I said as I looked at the stock behind him.

“Mzuri. Oh! Unataka Always?” he asked with half a smile on his face as he connected the dots, I was finally menstruating, no longer a little girl.

“Ndio.” I answered as I looked at the ground. It was already an awkward conversation, we didn’t need eye contact to make it worse. He hurriedly picked a packet of Always with wings, wrapped it in a newspaper and then put in a black paper bag. I was embarrassed. This action spoke volumes to me, it said: periods were to be kept under wraps.

A painful diagnosis with Endometriosis got me talking about periods on any platform I could find. The pain of surgery and hormonal treatment eradicated the illusion of shame. I shared a bit of my story on my Vlog.

We need to talk about periods at the table, even from the mountaintops if we can. There are too many women suffering in silence, too many girls languishing alone, hating menstruation, yet it can be a beautiful thing.

As our girls are home from school, I encourage us to talk openly and freely about periods. Ask them about their periods the last couple of months and take steps to help them.

Let’s talk about periods over a cuppa.

Dream Again

I’m having a little party today. Celebrating a new beginning.

I found out I had Endometriosis when I was ready to change the world. It interrupted my life, plans and dreams. I was young, naive and somewhat full of energy. The endless opportunities in my horizon excited me, that was until Endo got the best of me. I went from being energetic to psyching up to do simple and mundane tasks such as showering. Leaving the house was difficult, while keeping my dreams alive seemed like folly.

My periods had taken over my whole life. Pain was my companion and medication had become my cuppa. My previously blemish-less tummy, now held scars that were the only proof that my pain was real. That it was not a figment of my imagination. They vindicated me, though they remained hidden.  The color had been erased from my world. My rainbow had become a Zebra.

Even after I got better, it took a while to reclaim my mind. To change my mindset, to embrace the new season. I was scared to be okay, because I thought that a flare up was lurking in the shadows. When I had a series of good days, I almost felt guilty. One day, it dawned on me that I had given myself to Endometriosis. Yes, I had Endometriosis, but it too had me. I was stuck and suffocating. Life without Endo seemed foreign, like it was too good to be true. Like a privilege that I wasn’t supposed to enjoy. Fear held me captive, the possibility of having a normal life and then relapsing to the dark valley where I could barely do anything scared me.

I managed my life, expectations and dreams. Endo had taught me to cope, never to thrive. Somewhere in the midst of it I forgot how to shine, so I settled for mediocre. This mindset reduced my dreams to naught.

A  few months ago, I had an idea to start a Vlog, I had the episodes all lined up in my head, but the voice deep within, screamed that I couldn’t do it. So I buried the idea, but it kept resurrecting, no tomb of darkness could contain it. It became clear, that part of my life’s mission was to create content.

After weeks of toying with the idea, burying it, fighting it while embracing it, I decided to start it. What a relief it is, to finally just start. The hurdles seem bigger when you are stationary, when the ball starts rolling you see that your dreams can become a reality.

Karibu Yellow Endo Flower . To start us off, I talk about my journey with acne and why I stopped drinking coffee.

Link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCQOngXT4WM&feature=youtu.be

Meltdown

Walking with an irritable, overstimulated and exhausted toddler is like carrying a ticking time bomb. It is only a matter of time until it goes BOOM, and you are left dealing with the shrapnel. So you hope and pray that the bomb goes off in the comfort of your home. This tense situation is the reason I stopped going shopping with my little girl at lunch time. It was just a recipe for disaster. Sleep is like the ocean, sometimes it comes subtly, other times, it rages and turns calm water into volatile waters. One minute she is calm, and the next she is on the floor wailing, all because she wants to sleep.

After 1pm, you will rarely find me tagging along Miss K. If we didn’t go together in the morning, I go by myself. And shop in peace, while she takes her afternoon nap in peace. This arrangement works for everyone.

Going shopping when hungry is a horrible idea. Everything calls out your name, and your otherwise disciplined body wants everything that it lays its eyes on. You go from craving chapati, to ice cold soda, to chocolate, to ice cream. to chevda,  to chips. And you ask your body, ‘Who are you? How can you possibly desire all these things at once?’ The thing is, hunger just wants to be sated. It makes you desperate. You become like an indecisive little child who doesn’t want to share. Your body screams ‘Mine!’ every time you pass an item that it likes. It has a meltdown.

If you give in to the all the cravings, they taste good while you are eating them but a few minutes later, you belch and bile rises to the top of your oesophagus. You are instantly disgusted by your actions. Regret fills your belly.

To avoid the meltdowns and body tantrums, I have identified my triggers. Hunger is one of them. So I try to go shopping when I am full. I have my oat smoothie or sweet potatoes before I leave the house to avoid eating a mandazi later. When I am hungry, mandazis look like manna and Quail looked to the Israelites in the desert. Heavenly.

There’s an exhaustion that sleep cannot solve. This fatigue doesn’t befall you overnight like a thief in the night, it fills up slowly like the waning drops of rationed water in a bucket. It takes being aware of your emotions and fatigue levels every day or week to notice the exhaustion, before you find yourself in a meltdown.

Understanding when you are most vulnerable helps you to be proactive, this minimizes your chances of having a meltdown.

Misunderstood

‘Who hurt you?’ I asked aloud, referring to my uterus. I was tired of her tantrums. She behaved like an old bitter woman, who was trying to hurt me and cramp my style. Her negative attitude was like a pregnant dark cloud in my bright blue sky. My positive attitude was like the blaring sunshine before it rains. The proverbial ‘Hii jua ni ya mvua.’

period-what-its-like-punch2

The mention of Eve’s name would make me cringe. I blamed her for my uterus’ monthly anger. Why did she have to listen to the serpent? Of all the trees in the garden, she chose the one that was forbidden. Curiosity killed the cat. Curiosity also harmed Eve and her descendants.

One day I woke up and called my uterus to a meeting. That morning, I blasted some worship music, wore the prettiest top I owned,  sprayed some nice smelling perfume, and read up on how to deal with a hurting individual. Then I prayed and I set out, well, more like set in, to have the discussion of the day.

I had decided that nobody, or uterus for that matter, was going to dull my sunshine.

“Hi Missy! ” I said in a high pitched voice.

“Hmmm!” she grunted

“First, I’d like to say sorry about all the mean things that I’ve said about you. I didn’t meant to make you upset.”

“Go on, I’m listening.” She responded. My sandwich approach seemed to be working. I was apologizing before stating my case.

“I’d like to call a truce. Help me to help you to help me.” I said, almost pleading.

“Y’know, you sound like a really nice person, when you are not talking badly about me. I think that I can help you, I’d like to give it a shot.” Uterus said as the smirk on her face turned into a gentle smile.

The voices in my head shouted “Hallelujah!”. I was excited that I was making some progress, but I needed her to tell me exactly how we could work together.

“What can I do to make your living conditions a bit better?” I asked.

“Thanks for asking.  This is going to be a long response, you better get a pen and a paper.” I quickly removed my notebook and pen, and put my phone on ringer. Nothing was going to disrupt my peace negotiation.

“What makes me most upset, Ess, is when you eat all that oily food, dairy and wheat and your stomach bloats all up in my business. It’s difficult to breathe with your intestines in my face. How would you feel if you had balloons constantly poking at your face? Huh?  Bananas make me happy, They relax my muscles, I’d like more of those. It wouldn’t hurt, if you’d drink some more water. Chill out on the alcohol and coffee.” Missy said then paused to catch her breath.

“Ess, Heat is bae. Snuggle up with hot water bottle, I’m cold. I want some love. Have a cuppa and warm me on the inside. I know you want to lie all day, but I need you to keep moving. Give me some endorphins. Boost your levels of fish oils and magnesium, those help me feel less cranky. Finally, if I cause you too much pain, please remember that it is not personal. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t enjoy losing a part of myself every month. If you are in a lot of pain, please pop a painkiller. If it feels as though I am screaming each month, or cutting you from the inside, do us both a favor and see a doctor. Lord knows we need all the help that we can get.”

“Oh Uterus, you had a lot on your chest. Thanks you sharing your thoughts and the tips. I will definitely take them into consideration. I want us to live in peace. I’m sorry you’ve been hurting so much all this time. Honestly, I thought you were just a grumpy old lady. But, it turns out that you are pretty cool. Let’s hug and make up.” I said as I stretched out my hands to embrace my fiend turned friend.

“Ess, I’d love to hug you but your intestines are all up in my space.”

“Oh! I’m sorry about that. I’ll work on the bloating. Now, let me eat a banana and make you happy.”

It turns out, I’d gotten it all wrong, Miss Uterus is not a bitter old woman, she’s just misunderstood.

 

 

The Overflow

During the period talk in primary school, one key detail was forgotten: ‘What to do when you have heavy periods.’ Nobody prepared me for the overflow that would come with my periods. The first time I soiled my clothes, I thought I was dying. It seems silly, but then, it was a crisis.

I was a happy camper as long as I was sitting, when I stood up, gravity would come in to full effect and the rivers of Babylon would flow. I felt completely powerless, there was nothing I could do to stop it. It felt like my womb had turned into a waterfall for a few minutes.

My primary school dress was a mixture of white and grey, so a red stain stood out like a blob of jam on toast. It was not supposed to be there. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that you are not supposed to use hot water to remove a blood stain. Sigh. I learned the hard way.

How to deal with the overflow

For months, I ended up soiling my sheets, I eventually learned how to cope with the heavy periods. Here are some of my tips to handle the overflow.

1. Save your pretty panties

I used to wonder why anyone would want to wear granny panties during their periods. Especially since they are everything but sexy. Then I had a heavy period that painted my panty red like a toddler with a paintbrush. On that day, no one needed to tell me to have separate panties for shark week.

When you are struggling with bloating, a bikini cut may not be the best option. Choose something with a some allowance to grow. Comfort is key, your uterus is already having a battle on it’s own.

2. Layer!

Back in the day, I used to layer my pads. When I first saw a pad with loops, I was baffled. I kept asking myself, ‘Who wears such things? How is it worn?’. Fast forward to the first day post delivery, and I was so relieved that I could elongate my pad. Their adhesive is horrible but they make up for it with absorption.

Maternity pads are great for heavy flow. They cost a lot more, but they are very effective. We need more affordable pads like these for women with heavy flow.

Putting an old towel beneath your bum helps to protect your bed sheets. Set an alarm to change your pad in the middle of the night so that you can avoid the accidents.

 

3. Cold water

When it comes to cleaning blood stained clothes, refrain from soaking blood stained garments in hot water. It will cause the stain to set in to the fabric. Instead, use cold water. You can soak the clothes in cold water for 30 minutes then . You can use either salt, bicarbonate of soda, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide or ammonia to make a paste on the stain and rub it.

4. Stock up

It is easy to become iron deficient if you have heavy periods. Eat more iron rich foods like beans, leafy greens, dark chocolate, peas, meat and liver, all through your cycle.

If you feel foggy, tired and have to change your pad or tampon every hour, please see a doctor.

10 Tips On How To Support A Girl Who Has Painful Periods

Hospitality is not for the fainthearted. It takes a special amount of grace to host someone. It’s easy when the boundary lines are in bold and everyone knows whats theirs. When the lines get blurry, the waters become cloudy.

For some, hospitality comes naturally. Once you hit puberty, as a woman, your body informs you that you need to host a visitor every month, Aunty Flo, whether you feel like it or not. What it doesn’t tell you however, is that the said visitor may come and take over your reproductive system life. She may move things around like she owns the place. She may get comfortable, make food orders in the name of cravings, make your uterus upset that results in pain; her presence may leave you in a bad mood.

It will be uncomfortable but you’ll learn to live with her. When she becomes a pain, you give her a different nickname that includes the length of her visit: ‘Shark Week’. Sometimes she comes with so much force, and baggage to boot. She makes life miserable. In those moments of invisible pain, it’s difficult to see the silver lining.

As a mum or guardian, it is heart wrenching to watch your little girl crumble in pain every month during her period. As much as you want her to believe that she can do anything that she sets her mind to, some days, all she can do is stay in bed, curl herself into a ball and cry.

Wanting to help but not knowing how to, can be equally frustrating. I saw this frustration in my mum’s eyes as a teenager. I look at my little girls and pray that they will never know Endo pain. If one of them tells me that she has painful periods, I will follow the advice that I wish I could have given my mum years ago.

10 Ways To Help A Girl With Painful Periods

1) Believe her 

Invisible pain is hard to actualize. Many women are made to feel like it is all in their heads, but the pain is real. Believe her even if she doesn’t ‘look’ like she is in pain. Nausea and vomiting do not have to be present to show pain.

2) Listen to the whispers

Pain is the body’s way of saying that something is not right. Listen to the whispers, so that the pain doesn’t have to paralyze her to get your attention. When she complains about the pain listen out for the other symptoms that accompany the pain.

3) Avoid self-medicating

See the doctor when she is experiencing the pain. Minimize the number of over-the-counter meds taken. If the body is no longer responding to a certain medication, note it down and bring it up with your doctor. Read up on the painkillers that she takes – the side effects and contraindications.

4) Keep a diary

Encourage her to keep a diary of how she feels during different times of her cycle. The key things to note are:

  • When the period begins
  • How long it lasts
  • When it hurts most
  • Other symptoms experienced during the period and during ovulation

5) Family History

Research about the women in her lineage who had pain accompanying their periods. Write down what were they diagnosis was and the treatment that they received.

6) Concerns and Questions

List down your concerns and questions, so that you can remember to ask the doctor. Carry medical records that may be helpful.

7) Love

Love on her in the way that you know best. Encourage her to keep a positive attitude. Keep a bucket list with her of things that she would  like to do once the pain passes.

8) Watch her diet

Hormonal imbalance is one of the causes of pain during periods. Eating a raw carrot a day has been shown to reduce the pain during periods (it reduces the estrogen levels). Minimize intake of dairy and wheat. Meat and processed foods can also be a trigger. But the thing to do is to isolate the trigger, she can do this is by keeping a diary and noting down changes.

9) Psychosocial Support

If the pain during periods affects her psychologically, or her esteem, find someone that she can talk to. Encourage her to still hang out with her peers.

10) Research

Do research online before you agree to a course of treatment. Ask questions and read reviews of different drugs.

Bonus point: Pray

For grace to hold her hand during this season. For wisdom to guide her and to know where to go. For favor with the doctors that you consult. And, for healing.

Painful periods are not normal.

 

 

Heartbroken

Pain is a powerful thing. It roars and gnaws at you. As it increases, it overpowers you, and as you lay in the depths of despair, you are at crossroads. One side of you wants to fight, and another wants to give up and drift off to a happy place. A place void of suffering, discomfort and anguish.

Warrior is a term used to describe a brave or experienced fighter. Women living with Endometriosis are warriors. They fight invisible battles every day. They paddle like ducks, trying to stay afloat in a sea of despair. They dabble between wanting to stay in bed, all day, every day, and trying to live in purpose. They give themselves endless pep talks and flood their pillows with tears when they get overwhelmed. They pop pills like popcorn, and struggle with pain and symptoms unspoken.

They fight. Most times they win. But, sometimes they lose.

When you are living with chronic pain feeling alone is the order of the day. It is difficult to find someone who gets you. When you do, you cling to them like an infant monkey hangs on her mama. Thanks to the internet, there is a strong and growing endo community out there. The pain of Endometriosis has brought women from different backgrounds together. As you interact with other warriors you realize that you are not alone. Sometimes you wail like a baby when you read their stories. Overall, you connect with women you’d otherwise never have met, and you love. Oh, you love them.

The Endo community is heartbroken. This week we lost an endo-warrior, Allison Kimberly. A beautiful endo warrior who didn’t get the treatment she needed when she went to the hospital.

We Are Heartbroken

Our hearts are broken. We’ve lost one of our own. We are hurting. We are vulnerable and we need many things. We need our loved ones to believe us. We need our medical care service providers to help us when we say that we are in pain. We need to hear that we matter. We need a cure.

Even a warrior gets exhausted. Some days it’s harder to paddle. Some days it’s harder to smile. Some days we just need a break.

Today, I am saying a prayer for all Endo-warriors who are in pain- physical and emotional pain – that you may experience God’s peace, and healing. If you need someone to talk to, please send me an email via yellowendoflower@gmail.com.

May Allison’s soul rest in eternal peace.

Again we ask: please believe us and please help us.

Tattletale

My body is not very good at keeping secrets. I had a conversation with a friend recently about water consumption. She said that she doesn’t drink water everyday yet her skin is so smooth and supple. I was astonished. If I don’t drink at least two liters of water everyday you will see it on my lips and face.

My body is such a tattletale.

I’ve stopped viewing this as a bad thing and I am making it work out for my good. I use my face as a yard stick to see how well I am doing in the hydration and nutrition department.

My Body Is A Tattletale

It’s easy to forget to drink water when I am busy so I’ve had to be very intentional about it. I carry a bottle of water with me. I rarely drink soft drinks and have one cup of tea a day. If I’m thirsty I drink water. If I’m bored I drink water.

My body has in turn thanked me. I am not constipated ( can I hear a ‘hooray’ from all the Endo warriors?). I get less Urinary Tract Infections. My lips are not chapped and the acne on my face is clearing up, albeit a bit slowly. I feel like I could break into a song and dance as I think about just how far I’ve come. It’s truly a miracle.

I’m learning to celebrate my victories, regardless of their size. I may not be where I would like to be, But I am definitely not where I used to be.

Infusing my water with lemon has really helped. Lemon water helps with many of the side effects of Endometriosis such as cravings, nausea, indigestion, constipation, inflammation and allergies. It also helps to cleanse the liver.

I’m grateful that my body is a tattletale, it keeps me in check.

 

 

 

Fight and Shine

There is no shortcut to treating Endometriosis. Nope, non at all. You have to put in work, and try different pain management strategies. The truth is some may work and others may not work as well. Endometriosis affects different women differently. In the same way, one treatment method may work for one woman and give another woman -a hell on earth- experience.

The first time I looked at the Endometriosis diet I concluded that all I could eat was air. My diet at the time was predominantly made up of everything that I ‘wasn’t’ supposed to eat. I was conflicted between wanting to be pain free and needing to eat for comfort.

It was hard. Every thing about that season was difficult. I felt as though Endo was taking too much away from me – first my ability to perform and then my comfort food. What was a girl to do?

It had never occurred to me that I was an addict. I was addicted to the bad foods. My body was in serious pain but I couldn’t comprehend how I would survive without my staple foods. Coffee without milk seemed like a bad dream. Sugar-free tea seemed like a punishment, and my body needed a reprieve.

DEAR eNDO wARRIOR,ONE DAY YOU WILL FIND WHAT WORKS!

A lot has changed since then, I am stronger and wiser now. I have tried many things: hormones, pain killers and diet changes. Through the process the question that I have learned to ask is, ‘ How does this form of treatment make me feel?’. The first couple of days of quitting wheat made me feel depressed, foggy and sluggish. Earlier in the journey, I would throw in the towel on the third day because the headaches were driving me nuts. Little did I know that freedom from wheat lay a few days down the road.

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment. What one woman sings at the top of her lungs works, may have you crawling on the cold floor in regret. Take the advice and suggestions that you receive with a pinch of salt. Do your research, pray and then give it a go.

Hormonal acne has humbled me. It has taught me that not everything I try will work. And I have tried lots of things. I remember one time, I read that if you apply your morning urine on your face, your acne will disappear. The good Lord saved me from trying out that option, through it crossed my mind severally. But I have tried neem soap and lotion, shea butter, tomato juice, potatoes, lemon, honey, yogurt, steroids, black soap, coconut oil, olive oil, almond oil, sandal wood, turmeric, apple cider vinegar, rose water, lots of cleansers and moisturizers. Phew, that’s a mouthful but I’ve tried many things and most of them have not worked. I’m still here, hopeful that I will find what works.

I’m now trying to treat it from the inside-out. I’m diligently taking my morning elixir  which consists of ACV, honey and cinnamon in warm water. I’m using bentonite clay on my face, we have to thank God for this gem, it works. I’m drinking lots of water and I have cut out dairy from my diet.

I won’t stop trying. I believe that one day, God willing, I will hit the jackpot.

Hang in there, dear warrior. Keep trying, keep fighting and keep shining.

Ess

 

Listening To The Whispers

Conversation is food for the soul. Having insightful conversations refreshes me. I enjoy listening out for details, chiming in and processing the information later. It never occurred to me that my body would try and communicate with me at any one time. I used to saunter through life without a clue that the pain and symptoms were my body’s way of trying to get my attention.

Hormones are powerful little things, trust me, I have learned the hard way. Puberty humbled me enough to respecting these chemicals. From the acne that wouldn’t go away to the Endometriosis symptoms; my body was constantly trying to tell me that my hormones were imbalanced but I was too distracted to listen. I screeched to a stop in my passive tracks when I couldn’t walk because of the pain.

Pain is the body’s way of saying, ‘Help me!’. Excruciating pain has taught me that I need to listen to my body when it whispers before it screams and I can’t walk anymore.

2020 SummerPet Picnic!

Over the years I’ve discovered that it’s difficult to identify abnormal symptoms when you don’t have a baseline to work with. Finding the baseline takes time. One has to listen to their bodies daily and take note of the symptoms and emotions.

I’m kinder to my body now. I’ve chosen to be deliberate as I listen to her speak. I take note of the symptoms that I experience after eating food, experiencing stressful seasons, being on medication, and using beauty and cleaning products.

It has helped me feel more in control. I’m able to avoid pitfalls and the pain that results from bad diet and lifestyle decisions.  I have managed to be constipation free through watching my diet. After years of experiencing pain and discomfort, I can eat and have a bowel movement without tears and the help of softeners.

I have learned to pay attention to the whispers so that I won’t be paralyzed by the screams.