If you do not cut me, I will still bleed
It’s been a bit of a week! Things have been super busy — all in a good way — but just to fuck with me, I’ve had a migraine aura for most of it. I’ve had migraines most of my life. They were very bad when I was kid, and they got better for a long time, with merely the occasional explosion that was only cured by sleeping in a cold dark quiet room. But then, somewhere in 2018, they came back. And HOW!
I spent many many days nauseated and unable to fully open my eyes, feeling like the weight of the world was on my head. Almost all sounds annoyed me, light annoyed me, and I just wanted everyone to go away and leave me the fuck alone. Obviously, this was not an option back in the days when we worked in offices! I was, at the time, involved (traumatically of course) with a neurosurgeon, who told me I needed to go and see a doctor about this because they were persisting so long and not responding to the usual things I did. I never got around to it, he removed himself from my life, and I carried on with every few months being in terrible misery for as much as 20 days of the month.
One day I noticed that the damn things synced perfectly with my period. I would get them 5 days before I started ovulating, and they’d stick around for a week or so, and then I’d get them again about 10 days before my period. I promptly googled PMS migraine and discovered that fluctuating estrogen levels (ding ding ding ding ding) can trigger migraines, but of course, ain’t nobody looking into it seriously. I did finally talk to a doctor who gave me some multivitamin and enzyme supplements which, if I take them faithfully (which I haven’t this week because I ran out and didn’t have time to get them), mostly keep them at bay and I have at worst 2 bad days a month.
I’m telling you this because it never ceases to amaze me how few fucks the medical community gives about female reproductive health! By god they will invent Viagra because 1 in 5 men sometimes have trouble getting it up, but god forbid they investigate PMS, which 9 out of 10 women suffer from. Nobody really talks to young women about the terrible side effects of the pill. I, for example, was on dosiprenone for 5 years to help with PMDD, which it did, but I ended up with chronic tachycardia and cannot get back on the pill. There’s one. Then there’s increased risk of breast cancer for some. Then there’s the environmental consequences of flushing vast quantities of estrogen into the planet (because like all pills, the dosage is far higher than you need because your body doesn’t like to absorb things from pills). All so that men don’t have to wear condoms. (Okay I’m simplifying I know.)
And then there’s PCOS. I can count on the fingers of one hand the women I know who don’t have it. Yeah that’s right. Most of them go undiagnosed, because who really talks about how severe your period is, how much you bleed, how long, what a regular cycle is, and so on until they’re checking the cow for her fertility you know? That’s the only time they really care and maximising fertility is the focus of most of this stuff.
Take that lovely old story about obesity causing PCOS. There are correlations between the two yes, but it is far from clear that obesity causes PCOS. You could make a very good case for the reverse in fact, especially since puberty is a time when a lot of shit is going on with your hormones and your set weight, and PCOS does appear to cause insulin resistance. Regardless, there aren’t many people looking into it. Why?
And then there’s just the usual stuff around menstruation, you know, bleeding, having blood clots and uterine tissue drop out in the shower. Being exhausted and emotional. Worrying all the time about “leaking” and staining, and forever concerned about the shame of revealing the fact that your body is… doing exactly what it’s supposed to be doing? And, in biological terms, is doing the one thing its entire existence is geared to? What’s the deal with that?
Oh, also! The euphemisms!! Golly gee. “Aunt Flo is in town”, “chums”, “strawberry season”, “the rule”, “that time of the month” — it goes on. While I do love some of them — “the Red Army has taken the south” and “down for maintenance” — what even is the damn point? I had a friend in college who used to say, “I’m bleeding”, and by god if that isn’t my favourite way to say it, just to watch people blanch in horror.
Of course, for fat women, it’s even harder because, of course, until very recently, they didn’t make pads that worked for us. When I was in my teens and twenties and my god I bled like mad, I learned all sorts of tricks to stack and layer pads, to overlap them so I’d have full coverage and the blood couldn’t run out down the creases in my fat and spill out. Till today I have dark sheets and underwear heh. As for tampons, forget it. I tried them once without and once with an applicator and was so terribly uncomfortable that I knew I couldn’t get them at the right spot. I’ve been dying to try the cup, but I’m so worried about being able to reach in because my arm has to go over my belly and I don’t know if it’s long enough, and then what if I drop it by accident? Or the seal beaks? And so on.
The thing is, though, why ARE we, in TWENTY TWENTY-ONE FFS, still thinking menstrual blood is gross? If you had a nosebleed and stained someone’s bedsheets, would you sneak around in the dead of the night desperately trying to clean it off and then dry the sheet and replace it before anyone could know your shame? I’m gonna say no. To quote the hysterical and wonderful Caitlin Moran,
Have you ever tried to scrub blood out of a Premier Inn sheet at 6am, using just travel shampoo and your toothbrush? It’s one of the defining aspects of being a woman.
Remove Premier Inn and it really is.*
Whether you know or not, we’re still menstruating. Whether we like it or not, we’re still menstruating. And just like all biological activities have their consequences, so does this one! And just like all humans are different, so are our experiences of menstruation. So can we all please grow the fuck up about it?
*Please do read her incredible books, and this article.