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shark week

Two things:
1. This post is about periods. If you’re someone who can’t deal with talking about lady bleeding, probably go lie down and have a cookie and then and come back and learn something that might help you help a woman you love.
2. I am okay. Everything is being managed at an Olivia Pope level of handling. Shit is under control. I will tell you if you need to worry. I promise.

As with most human biological processes, we all have our differences when it comes to our bodies and how they work and what is normal. Due to the whole DO NOT GET ACCIDENTALLY PREGNANT fear most of us are hardwired with the day we bleed for the first time, most women pay close attention to our menstrual cycles. We know when shit is going down in the uterine palace, sometimes to the exact moment. Lots of us have been doing this for longer than you’ve not been a virgin, so we are good at knowing what our bodies do and how it’s supposed to be and when something is wrong. Also because we are goddesses who are cosmically linked to the oceans and the moon and the planets, but you know, women.

Of course some variations are expected, and there’s nothing to write home about if you have an extra period or miss one here or there, even though you’re not pregnant. And like, everyone has extra periods when they are under massive amounts of stress. Like it’s totally normal if that’s happening. For two years. Really. I mean, when you think about what women have to go through in childbirth, a couple of days a month where you’re so weak you can’t get out of bed is small potatoes. Pretty much every woman I know got their period at ten years old. Like right when they turned ten. Right? It’s also completely natural to bleed so much in one day that you find blood on the walls, the floor, your clothes, a random shoe nearby, in another room. Everyone throws up when they get their period. Totally. Everyone has felt like they are going to die once a month since they were 10, because that’s just part of being a woman. Everyone knows that crippling fatigue, uncontrollable emotions, and feeling like there’s an alien in your womb eating your organs from the inside out is something that all women everywhere understand, because we’re the same.

NOPE. 

All my life, I’ve been doing what lots of women do, which is assuming that my monthly bleed outs were just part of the magic of being a girl. I assumed it was normal to be so exhausted on the first two or three days that I have to drink four cups of coffee to sit upright. I thought throwing up a few months a year was just how it is for everyone. I thought my addiction to ice crunching was a weird habit I picked up as a kid and never broke, not a sign of severe anemia and Vitamin D deficiency. I thought my lack of concentration and focus was because I just wasn’t trying hard enough. And when I started getting extra periods due to stress, increasing my blood loss by 30% annually, I chalked it up to aging, and well, stress. I’m a badass and I will ride horses and play tennis in white during my period because Kotex says I shouldn’t let it interfere with leading a fulfilling life.

Funny thing about stress… that daily barrage of alarm bells going off in your body is trying to tell you something is wrong. Women ignore our health concerns because we don’t want to appear weak. There is a stigma around talking about our vaginas and uteruses and fallopian tubes and ovaries and breast tenderness and cramps and our bleeding and every part of our bodies because women are seen as sexualized, hairless, flawless pleasure objects. Because somehow only sluts have periods. And because we already have to endure the glass ceiling holding us down, we are afraid of losing our jobs for calling in sick or taking time off when we need it. Those of us who bleed like it’s fucking Shark Week in our panties and we need to Dexter plastic our bathrooms for five days a month – we especially don’t want to call attention to the fact that WE HAVE OUR PERIODS AND WE ARE HAVING A HARD FUCKING TIME DOING LIFE AND WORK BECAUSE WE ARE ACTUALLY BLEEDING TO DEATH.

Many of us just think this is a normal walk in the park, because this is how it has always been. Feeling like you’re having an ER level bleeding event is not normal. In fact, it is killing you. The reason I’m sharing all this gory truth talk is because this is happening to me. I’m the woman who doesn’t want to seem like a hypochondriac, so I don’t push my doctors to do something else when this thing we tried to lessen my heavy periods doesn’t work. I’m the woman who couldn’t find an iron supplement that I could tolerate so I just didn’t take them. I’m the woman who waited until my stress progressed into panic attacks, insomnia, and hives before I did something, because then I could actually show people: “Look, something is actually wrong, you can see this, right? I’m not imagining this, right?” Women don’t know how to demand the treatment we need early because we are supposed to be invincible, and many times our “minor” symptoms are not taken seriously. Haha it’s so funny that you bleed every month ew never talk about it again. So much of our overall health is related to our reproductive health and we are forced to visit two or three doctors for different things, so we never really put it all together until we are actually in a crisis.

Don’t ignore your body. Find a doctor who will work with you to find a solution, even if that takes time and a lot of tries. Find someone who will encourage you to use things like dietary changes, supplements, acupuncture, exercise, and changes in work in symbiosis with, or instead of drugs, hormones, and dangerous medical procedures. Be open to those things if easier things don’t work. Most importantly, find the courage to listen to yourself. There is no shame in asking for help at work, from friends, from the people you love. Ask your lady friends about their periods. If they talk about them like they shoot red daisies out of their vaginas a couple days a month and you feel like you use more tampons in one day than an entire roller derby team, go talk to your doctor and make them listen. Birth control is not always the answer. Try to treat the cause, not just the symptoms. Don’t stop until something works. Long term, severe anemia is nothing to fuck with.

A final word of advice: really don’t look up terms from your very important, very clinical, very vague medical tests on WebMD  www.youvegotcancer.com.  This will end up with you in a heap on the kitchen floor holding a can of Lysol sobbing about dying alone from seven simultaneous cancers and your friend will have to help sort you out.

If I was crying, it’s probably because I’m bleeding to death.