The Curious Case of my Reproductive Health
July 2018. It was a Blood Moon eclipse and all the planets were in retrograde. Energy was intense.
I had just gotten back to the Los Feliz dream apartment: dozens of house-plants, white shag rugs, a big screen with Apple TV and four cats — petsitting in LA. That evening, the cats were the last thing on my mind. I had very long nine-hour workday at the epicenter of misogyny and racism. My white male superiors had either called me Sweetie, intentionally withheld crucial information from me and their superiors, who were Latina women, or convinced me I was unquestionably invisible. But when one of them scream-accused me of calling him a racist after I suggested to hire more women and non-white people on the project, my body collapsed into a boiling anxiety attack. So, the Fancy Feast could wait. I needed my remedy stat: Stephen King’s multiverse of Castle Rock.
But before I could turn on the television, my lower abdomen caved inward like a sixteen-foot ocean swell. I collapsed on the couch to fetal position. The four cats emerged and studied me, curious to why their food provider was pale and moaning. Even Swayze, the oversized-wannabe-alpha cat, dropped his bully persona to lick my wrist. This was validation that something was terribly wrong.
I’ve had irregular periods since I was fourteen. Whether I was on my cycle every two weeks or stained my favorite pair of jeans on day three, I had accepted that an unpredictable period was the norm. This norm included constipation, borderline anemia, and tolerable exhaustion levels. At every pap-smear — a woman’s favorite biannual doctor’s visit— multiple gynecologists drilled into me I that as a twenty-something, I was too young for anything serious. They only offered was birth control and I always politely declined.
Over the days that followed that Blood Moon eclipse, I bled through super-plus tampons every fifteen minutes. My coping included fetal position as much as possible, tampons with pads, black jeans always, coffee and more coffee to feel any kind of alive. The same cycle happened in September. And again, in October. Clearly, my ovaries decided this was my new norm.
One excruciating vaginal exam later, my gynecologist concluded my cervix looked very healthy. She said, again, that at twenty-nine years old I was too young to have any polyps — which cause heavy bleeding — then prescribed me constipation-inducing iron pills and asked if I want to go on birth control to help control the bleeding. And again, I politely declined.*
During this time of period woes, I was working a twelve-to-fifteen hour day job for less than a living wage and with no overtime. One day, I was running office errands and I was hit by a car and had a concussion so bad I was on disability. By doctor’s orders, I took time off and came to the realization that if I was numbing gender discrimination, work exploitation and monsoon menstruations with supernatural horror, I had some spiritual healing to do. My sister lived in Iquitos, Peru and told me of Otilia, a female shaman, who held Ayahuasca ceremonies. A woman who does plant medicine in the Amazon? I was sold.
It took me three international flights, a tuk tuk motorbike, a 2004ish SUV shuttle, and a forty-five minute trek through a flooded jungle trail to get to Otilia’s healing centre. It was rustic: a dilapidated mosquito netted common area, a dorm style open house with creaking wood floors and rattling tin roof, black frog infested toilets, and a sublime soundtrack of Amazonian fauna and a rooster. Otilia had a casual yet, earthy presence. I had to meet her first in Iquitos so she could see if Ayahuasca was right for me. Over papaya juices, Otilia observed me for what seemed like hours — it was ten minutes — while a translator explained what the four day itinerary would look like. Fortunately, I passed her test due to the light in my eyes. On my first night in the jungle, I heard Otilia call “Señorita!” from the dirt basement below my room. I walked downstairs to the basement, believing we were going to have a welcome dinner. Also, it had been hours since my last meal and I was starving. But to my surprise, Otilia was sitting at a table with white candles, a large fan constructed out of leaves, and plastic water bottle with a thick, burgundy mixture inside. The ceremony was about to begin. At that point I threw the said itinerary out the window.
To make matters more fun, I was on my period. Otilia reassured me it was another form of detoxing, that I had nothing to worry about. So, instead of vomiting profusely, I bled profusely.** Cut to six hours and a lot of strange visions later: a smiling Otilia walked over to my weak and Jello-like body. She told me I had stomach issues from “swallowing a sadness that wasn’t my own” that it was “pulsating to come out.” Also, that my periods were like a pendulum, swinging from good to bad. I was shocked to how accurate she was as I didn’t tell her any of my physical or emotional ailments beforehand. Then, she sang me her icaros, a sacred prayer song from the mother Ayahuasca, to heal my ailments.
I returned to Los Angeles a week later and felt rebooted. My period was significantly lighter, but the duration still stretched anywhere from eight to twelve days. The following spring, my cycle significantly changed. I was in a relationship with a man that was very different from my past romantic stints. To put it simply, I finally felt safe. Physically, emotionally, and everything in between. Those brief months we were together, my periods were shorter, constipation wasn’t an issue, and I had energy.
After the relationship ended, my following cycle was the period of all periods: the period that lasted over two months. Two physician assistants, four doctors, too many nurses and receptionists who couldn’t efficiently communicate, over twenty vials of blood work, and a mandatory Emergency Room visit later, I still had no answers or treatment. My ultrasound showed I had fibroids but one physician’s assistant couldn’t read my results. One OBGYN told me it was definitely causing my bleeding. Another specialist told me that it was too small to cause that much bleeding. The OBGYN who was convinced it was the fibroid, put me on birth control to temporarily stop the bleeding until I could get the fibroid surgically removed. The birth control not only made me feel like anxiety was oozing out of my pores but made me bleed even more. So, we tried a higher dosage of two pills a day. Nope. Tidal waves of blood. I was too exhausted to go about my day: to work, to drive, to cook, to clean my apartment, to walk my dog, to sleep. Even my therapist, frightened by my pale LA summer skin and the dark circles under my eyes, convinced me to call my OBGYN for an appointment. If my therapist was frightened, I knew it was serious.
The next day, a finger prick blood sample revealed my hemoglobin levels were at 7.4, which meant I was very anemic. Immediately, My OBGYN ordered me to the ER for a blood transfusion. Five hours after going through the same tests I had in the last two months, my hemoglobin levels were at 9.4 — not low enough for a transfusion. The male nurse, annoyed, glared at my seemingly healthy body taking up space in his ER bed. He explained to me what the hospital considered to be an “emergency.” An echo of my women-hating bosses a year later. No remedy could numb me now. My reproductive health had literally turned into The Shining.
After my ER visit, I felt hopeless. I didn’t know how to move forward with my health, but more so with my life. I felt the last year I was constantly seeking for answers outside of myself. It was that moment, I knew I had go in. Do the inner work. It hit me in a meditation that I had to heal naturally, as if Ayahuasca was whispering it in my ears. That night, I stopped taking the birth control cold turkey. The next day, I booked an appointment with a homeopathic MD for the following week.
My homeopathic session was like therapy on steroids.
“What was going on in your life when the heavy bleeding started?” my doctor asked.
“I was working a stressful job with bosses who hated women” I replied.
“Describe a particular moment with your bosses. How did you feel in that moment? What did that feeling feel like? What was the texture? Temperature? Keep going.”
The process was relentless. I ended up talk-crying about my anxieties and fears, how I would be stuck in my restricted body, how I was afraid of being punished and loosing my reputation, something that’s been engrained in me since my childhood. After the consultation, it was clear that my health issues were my body telling me what my core fear was. Not surprisingly, it was aligned with what my shaman told me months before. The only difference was I told myself.
After my doctor consulted with a fellow homeopathic doctor, he prescribed me a remedy of three tiny white pellets.
“What is the remedy?” I asked.
“It’s from the Earth.”
Apparently, he didn’t want me to get in my head or Google about it until our next follow up in six weeks’ time. However, he did tell me that the remedy would release what is making me ill and amplify my energy. He told me to continue to do things that bring me joy like yoga, walking in nature, spending time with positive people, eating chocolate cake*** and to steer clear of activities that were violent — sorry, Stephen King. So, I took my dose of the mysterious three tiny white pellets and the following day, my period stopped. Seventy-six days of bleeding and it finally stopped. I had never felt so relieved, so energized, and so what-the-fuck?
As I look back on this entire year from the Blood Moon and all the planets in retrograde, I find it serendipitous that Jupiter, the planet of good fortune, started to go in direct the day before my homeopathy consult. It’s been a couple months since taking the remedy and I’m still period, constipation, exhaustion free, and still baffled how three tiny white pellets from the Earth cured me. Perhaps that’s the point. You and I may never know the answers but we can listen ourselves, the strange and mysterious language of our intuitive bodies and cosmos, for it will always lead us to our true path.
* After trying "the shot" one time when I was twenty, I felt crazy-hormonal-weird and it made me gain weight and made me never have my period, which induced my “what if I’m pregnant even if I haven’t been sexually active?!” anxiety.
** Don’t worry, I had my share of vomiting profusely after my second ceremony.
*** Yes, a Doctor of Medicine prescribed me chocolate cake.