A Woman's Pain

I like to think that I have a high pain tolerance and I understand the fact the pain is also very subjective. What might feel painful to me might feel painless to another and that is just the way it is.

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Growing up, I cried when I scraped my knees, fell off climbing mango and guava trees and I still have the scars to show for it. I was told to stay out of trouble or else there would be various punishments such as knocks on my head, slaps on the bottom or stand in a corner. The worst was having to cross my arms while doing squats with my legs together, only bending my knees. As a teenager, I cried alone when my pain felt unbearable and would write about it instead of talking.  My worst pain memory was when I first got my period. I knew nothing about menstrual pain, it was like nothing I had felt before and it crippled me while taking a test. 

The teacher asked how old I was and then she nodded to a classmate to walk me home. The mother was already in Norway, so the male cousin called her for instructions. “Stay away from boys and shower twice daily”. The pain however, was left unexplained, my neighbour told me to sleep and instructed to buy sanitary towels. I remember the exact day, a hot summer day in June and I was sweaty from the pain, and too nauseas to eat or drink. I cried myself to sleep on the cold concrete floor. I woke up and it was as if nothing had happened hours prior apart from the spots of blood which made me scream. For six months the pain did not return or the spots of blood. I had prayed that it never did until my sister and I arrived in Norway.

The first week in Oslo however, the pain returned with a vengeance, this time heavy bleeding for days I lost count. The mother gave me the biggest sanitary towels, yet I would bleed through my clothes. Embarrassed and ashamed, paracetamol was thrown into the mix to manage the pain.  As the years went by, I found that heat would worked to ease the pain. I’d take long showers and sleep it off when I could. I remember many a times when the mother would simply ignore that I am in pain and let me stand for hours cleaning, cooking or carry my younger siblings on my back. I’d be very quiet in agony and she would tell me to “be a woman! It’s normal, everyone has it like this” if you scream and cry how would you react when giving birth”? I ‘d brace myself and tolerate the cramps, the nausea and then pray for it to pass.

 When I moved to Manchester, I finally found a female doctor who helped. I explained my symptoms and she prescribed medication; the catch was taking the tablets a week prior to the beginning of my menstrual cycle. Around this time, I had mastered tracking my body like clockwork. Despite this, the pain would ebb and flow, sometimes worse than the next and would last throughout the cycle. What I was not expecting with age was to experience severe menstrual pain, the tablets became less effective, my lower back and pelvic area would become so tensed I began to feel it through my left thigh down to my leg. I googled the symptoms only to find out that this is indeed “normal”, but for who? Only me? Most of my friends do not complain about this much pain, others none whatsoever yet I have migraines on top of it too. 

Fast forward  February 2017, things got much worse, the doctor I had would not listen or even send me for check-up, so I decided enough was enough. My body and menstrual cycle can longer be friends. I cannot tolerate the pain; I need different explanations from the this is “Normal” narrative. The new doctor quickly referred me to a gynaecologist who suggested I could have endometriosis, but she was not entirely sure after check-up. Shocked and scared I researched, and the symptoms made sense. I went back for control and she suggested I should consider surgery and perhaps a contraception? Anxiously I agreed to do the surgery if that was what it would take to no longer be in so much pain. Weeks before the surgery I was very anxious and tensed, I slept very little and spent time reading all the information I could find about the procedure. I do consider myself healthy, no drinking or smoking, never needed contraception and never been pregnant. The thought of adding hormones to my already moody self was never exciting so I avoided anything hormone related.  

On the day of the surgery, laparoscopy to be exact, the surgeon explained in full detail about the procedure which was reassuring. I have not felt as helpless as I did on that day, first time admitted in hospital and with narcosis I slept through it. I woke up later in extreme pain and got painkillers. I am used to doing things for myself and here I was being walked to the bathroom as I waddle like a slow lorris. Surprisingly the surgeon did not find endometriosis, a sigh of relief. Unfortunately, she found a huge fibroid bigger than my uterus on the right side pushing towards my left, hence the pain on that side. I asked her whether it had been removed, she said no and explained why. Her answers and explanations left a sour taste in my mouth. I never thought I’d have to face making any difficult decisions about my reproductive health yet here is where I currently I find myself. The past weeks have been foggy, anxious and draining. I am still figuring out what the best solution would be for me. However, I am treading carefully in faith that all shall be well, eventually.

Love and Light,




Ummi Fulani

Sosionom/Social Worker & Psychologies Ambassador, Child & Adolescent Mental Health (Oslo University Hospital)