Today, a close friend asked me how I was feeling, to which I said, "It’s bad enough to need the Percocet today."
I suppose her response shouldn’t have shocked me, but it did. "How can you work when you’re on those drugs?"
From there, I made the mistake of: a) continuing the conversation, and b) saying what I actually thought. "Isn’t the better question, ‘How do you work with debilitating pain?’" Because while I lament that I’m not
necessarily more functional on narcotics than in 10+ pain, I know damn well that I’m not less. And you know, a lot of people I know don’t seem to register that, but they’re quite happy to share their opinions about what they think I shouldn’t be doing.
Which apparently left me open for The Question. Getting asked — and defending against what I consider nosy asking — various incarnations of, "Why don’t you just…?" might be one of my least favorite aspects
of chronic pain and the MenstroMonster. (Feeling guilty for canceling obligations at the last minute and puking on my shoes are also high rankers, though. I’ve ruined a lot of shoes that way.)
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You know them, right? Questions like, Why don’t you just…
— take a Tylenol/Motrin/Aleve/Midol/other OTC product, etc.?
— go on birth control?
— switch to birth control Brand XYZ? It was the best thing ever for me!
— use cramp bark/raspberry leaf tea/black haw/vitex/other herbal product, etc.?
— exercise: specifically, take up yoga?
— take a hot bath?
— take a nap?
— take a multivitamin?
— switch to pads?
— switch to tampons?
— switch to cloth pads?
— switch to a menstrual cup?
— cut out red meat/dairy/soy/wheat gluten/caffeine/sugar/alcohol/carbs/etc. from your diet?
— drink more (alcohol)?
— smoke pot?
— get a massage?
— go to acupuncture?
— call in sick?
— stop having sex?
— stop having periods?
— have an orgasm?
— have a hysterectomy?
— have a baby?
— have some chocolate?
— make your doctor do something that works for you?
— quit complaining and get on with your life?
I certainly don’t mean to belittle any of these as choices. If they’re something a given individual wants to try, then of course that should be respected. Rather, I’m peeved by the "why don’t you just" framing as a way to… I don’t know… substitute their judgment for that of the
person who’s actually living with the condition.
Because I see a couple of problematic assumptions embedded in the, "why don’t you just" phrasing. First, the idea that the suggestion is something the person hasn’t already tried. I mean, I’ve been menstruating for better than half my life at this point, and it’s been cyclically excruciatingly painful since menarche. I haven’t exactly been sitting around on my arse all this time waiting for a solution to fall into my
ovaries lap. I’m open to the idea that there are possibilities I haven’t tried (or even considered), but the most folks suggest to me, often when I’m not really looking for advice, are not new.
Moreover, there’s sort of the implication that Suggestion Eleventy Billion Plus One is an easy one to try — and by extension, that it’s one that should have been tried already. Um, "just" have a hysterectomy? "Just" have a baby? I may do both at some point, but I’m going to make damn sure each is what I want first. Granted, those are probably the most extreme examples, but I’m also not into "just" smoking pot or quot;just" not having sex, either, you know?
Finally, the "why don’t you just" suggestions always seem to come with the undertone that this is the Magic Solution, and if it doesn’t work, that must be because UR DOIN IT RONG. Assuming that’s true — and even though I know it’s not, when so many people over so many years seem to
unconsciously come at it from this angle, the effects add up — want to guess how much I must have DUN RONG when it comes to my health and my quality of life? Sometimes fighting against it is angering and frustrating… and not fighting is depressing.
I will admit, though, that by the end of the conversation with my friend, I was neither angry, frustrated (okay, well, a little), or depressed. Because when she said, "Why don’t you just use the little stick-on pad heat things?" I burst out laughing. Oops. :P