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It was 5:43 a.m. As I stared at the time on my phone, I realized that the pain I was feeling hadn’t been a dream. I could feel the tightness in my stomach and the cramping in my back. I wondered how long I had before the pain would make me vomit. I wished I could just fall back asleep. I rolled over to grab the heating pad that I always keep by the side of my bed. And then I tried to brace myself for the immense pain I knew was coming.

I no longer remember what it’s like not to be in pain. I don’t remember what it’s like to not have a stabbing pain in my abdomen wake me up every morning. And it’s been years since I could take my dog for a walk without my vagina burning with each step I take. It rarely surprises me anymore. Having these aches and pains doesn’t necessarily feel different or out of the ordinary; it just feels normal. I don’t know anything else at this point, and the days when I did are long gone. Sometimes, I wonder if those days ever even existed at all. For the most part, I feel like I’ve come to terms with the pain. I’ve accepted it as part of my life. But then, out of the blue, I’ll start my morning and the pain will be unexpectedly fierce. It’ll be sharper than usual; it’ll wake me up in the middle of the night. I will feel heavy and weighed down. I’ll be forced to stay in bed for 14 hours straight. And I’ll forget that I ever came close to accepting this at all.

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