Blaah owwww aughh fuck meee uurgh: an overshare!

Actually, no, totally don’t. I don’t want to move any body part below my collarbone or above my knees.

Yesterday I made the following comment at But I’d Rather Have a Bowl of Foxtrot:

I have so say, “not being aware of my period” might be the only period-related problem I haven’t had. Although I sometimes find it’s weird that I don’t miss my period at all, like there’s this disconnect… I don’t miss my period at all.

Clearly, I was tempting fate. Today it became clear that last night, perhaps even at the same time that I was writing my comment!, I failed to take my birth control pill. I’m actually a little amazed that it took this long for the agony to set in; usually it starts within an hour. There are not enough vowels in the world to express my agony.

I am now stretched out on my couch, glaring at my now-torturous jeans and underwear on the floor next to me (I would have thrown them, but it would have jostled my oh-so-delicate organs) and wondering if I need to take my bra off, too. I took the pill, and some advil, and while I will probably make it through the day without vomiting from the pain (and even, most likely, without bleeding!) right now, I am miserable.

(Warning: I am about to talk about my anatomy. People who know me in real life may want to avert their eyes.)

The first thing that happens is this really sharp pain that feels like a piano wire is stretched between my navel and my clit. Any time I move at all, it stretches or jostles that wire of pain, and my whole abdomen feels sliced up. Then the general ache sets in, dulling but not replacing that highly specific twinge. Before I took birth control, the “general ache” would really be just that exact same extreme sensitivity, but everywhere, generally causing me to throw up (which, oh, is agony! All those muscles clenching! Unbearable!). Nowadays, it’s just very, very unpleasant. Nearly my entire body is sensitive, from my breasts to my thighs.

And now, I shall overshare the one thing I have never overshared before, even with my gynecologist. Look away! It’s about my butt! No, seriously, you might not want to read this.

I also get really atrocious diarrhea. Which feels like throwing up (the clenching!) but it goes on forever. It sets in even before that general ache and attacks at random intervals throughout my torture.

Like all my other symptoms, this is just PMS– it disappears after the first 24 hours, leaving me with nothing more unpleasant than a bizarrely sore clitoris and a hilariously raised libido for the rest of my period-week (which, by the way, would be worthy of a whole post’s worth of complaints if everything else wasn’t so much worse) but it is unbearable to me that it happens at all.

It makes the whole process so filthy and uncomfortable, and impossible to talk about. The few places where feminists are trying to break the menstruation taboo are, half the time, uncomfortably period-positive for me– I have nothing nice to say, ever, about this process, and I don’t like the idea that I have to “embrace” menstruation or else I’m just a puppet of the patriarchy, and no, it’s not better if I call it my “moon time.”

Okay, that sounds a little harsh– forgive me, I’m PMSing. I definitely think it’s true that the patriarchy encourages us to hate our periods simply because they’re some crazy gross woman-thing, and many women would be able to have neutral or pleasant relationships with their periods were it not for said patriarchy, but it’s also true that my period is 100% hell and menstruation is never going to be fun for everyone, no matter how much patriarchy we smash. It’s problematic that society has a hate-on for periods, and maybe 80% of that hate (or whatever) stems from truly objectionable “eww women are gross” thinking, which should be fought. But that other 20% comes from the ways that periods are, well, gross and unpleasant sometimes. Mine definitely is. But I’ve often found articles discussing periods in which the tone seemed to be that periods weren’t gross and unpleasant, which meant that the post defeated its own purpose– it sought to break down the taboo around menstruation and let women talk about their experiences, and yet made me and my experiences feel totally unwelcome.

The fact that all of my problems are in the pre-menstruation stage only complicates things more! I agree 100% with, for example, this feminism 101 post from Shakesville, which says the following:

Let’s put this shit to bed right now: Women don’t lose their minds when they have period-related irritability. It doesn’t lower their ability to reason; it lowers their patience and, hence, tolerance for bullshit. If an issue comes up a lot during “that time of the month,” that doesn’t mean she only cares about it once a month; it means she’s bothered by it all the time and lacks the capacity, once a month, to shove it down and bury it beneath six gulps of willful silence.

That’s true. The things I throw the huge fits about while PMSing are things that bother me all the time. But I also get low-level annoyed with a lot of things that I don’t mind, or even enjoy, when not PMSing, and I am not shy about it.  It’s not that insanity is an actual symptom of PMS, but that my other symptoms totally overwhelm even my ability to be civil, so I say a lot of things that I don’t necessarily mean. I have cried over pluperfect subjunctives while PMSing. I do care about proper parallelism! I just, um, don’t usually care that much. And while I definitely don’t think people should ignore what I say under those circumstances, I do think they need to check with me again a few days later to more accurately gauge the degree of annoyance. And yet, that feels… unfeminist. “Don’t mind me, I’m just PMSing! You can ignore this conversation because I’m just a crazy woman made crazy by her crazy woman-hormones!” How do we fight the truly stupid cultural perception as PMS as totally crazy-making while still having room for stories, like mine, in which that is a problem? I mean, it happened when I broke my hand, too; discomfort makes any person irritable. But I’m not always sure that there’s space for me to say, in period conversations, that I am in discomfort, and it does make me irritable, even about things that I don’t really care about, without coming across as some kind of patriarchy-loving troll.

But talking about it anywhere else would be laughable— I mean, if it’s unbearably “grooossss” to talk about a perfectly natural shedding of one’s uterine lining in non-feminist spheres, how much more unbearably gross is the same thing plus poop?

I feel like I should have specific examples, but I don’t, because, (1) I just want to have a general meta-conversation, not call out individuals, (2) I am kind of lazy, and (3) OH GOD THE PMS. I just want to say that we, the feminist blogosphere, need to be careful when we fight this taboo. It’s not acceptable to say that periods are gross and terrible because eww, they come from women’s vaginas. But we need to leave the space for people to say that their periods are gross and terrible because eww, poop everywhere.

Because man, my period is gross and terrible! If I believed in the gods, I’d promise not to make even vaguely wistful comments about my period days, but since I don’t, I’m just going to chant my new mantra: “$60 a month is not too much to pay.”

Yeah, that’s how much I spend on my Lybrel. After insurance. It is worth every cent. And when we talk about periods, we need to hear from women who love theirs, and women, like me, who want nothing more than for it to all go away.


12 Responses to Blaah owwww aughh fuck meee uurgh: an overshare!

  1. Oh, no! I jinxed you! (and thanks for the link!)

    [N]o, it’s not better if I call it my “moon time.” Heehee! My roommate is trying to convince me that if my body were in touch with the moon’s cycle, my Moon Time (TM) would be such a pleasant experience that my body would be a happy place of Smurf singing and dancing (I’m exaggerating. Slightly.). And, as I’m generally more curmudgeony and misanthropic than usual (courtesy of my period, naturally) when she tells me this, I tend to give her far more evil eye than I would decide such a suggestion deserves any other time of the month.

    The rest of this comment got epic, so I posted a follow-up over at my place.

  2. yinyang says:

    Yeah, that’s something I’ve noticed, too – a general “rah, rah, goooo periods!” And while my period is relatively mild compared to yours, there are still times when I just have to stop what I’m doing and let a cramp pass because of the pain.

    The other thing about the (few) menstruation discussions I’ve seen is that they also tend to be, “rah, rah, Divacup!” or “rah, rah, cloth pads!” Which leaves me, a disposable pad user, not feeling completely welcome to the conversation, because there’s a sense that I’m just “not as in touch with my body” or not as “environmentally friendly” or “nature loving” somehow and that makes me “unenlightened”. That may not be what people intend to say, but it’s the impression I get.

  3. eloriane says:

    I can see where you’re coming from with the pads. I always used to use disposable pads. If I were to menstruate regularly (which I will NOT!) I might use a divacup, but I like the sanitation of disposable pads, despite the waste.

    A lot of girls grew up thinking their vulvas were dirty and bad– I’ve always thought mine is inherently clean, and that I therefore have to be very careful not to let anything dirty near it! I wash my hands to masturbate, for example. I think I’d be really paranoid about cloth pads or anything but clearly-sterile sealed-in-plastic disposable pads.

  4. Intransigentia says:

    And here I thought I was the only one who got diarrhea with my period. I’m just really glad I don’t usually get much in the way of pain, other than the soreness that comes from wearing out your muscles straining when there’s nothing left to eject, and the burning from the unmitigated chemistry of the /entire/ contents of my digestive system.

    And I’m sorry, but anybody who says a toilet bowl sprayed with blood and poop would be happy kitties and bunnies moon time if I were just more in touch with my body can come over and clean said toilet.

  5. Colleen says:

    This is the kind of TMI I would normally avoid putting on the internet, but my uterus and its functions are really pissing me off right now, so: You’re not alone. I used to get horrible, horrible diarrhea the day before and the first day or two of my period. It stopped when I was on the pill for a couple years and, but for a very occasional incident, has not really returned, for which I am eternally grateful. I also know several other women whose intestines go haywire with PMS.

    Too often, it seems, feminist discussion about periods gets so wrapped up in trying to combat perceptions that a normal bodily function for most (cisgendered, young) women is shameful and/or a medical problem that it goes to the other extreme. The most popular narratives are about how periods are really no big deal (and have become even less of one since the writer started using menstrual cups/got in touch with her inner moon goddess/stopped eating hormone-laden meat) or about the horrors of PMDD/fibroids/endometriosis, all of which are diagnosable medical conditions that you should totally get checked out for if you don’t feel the former type of story describes you. There’s little room left for those who have “normal” periods that are nonetheless more than mildly uncomfortable and affect our daily lives. Spending half my day in the bathroom, for example, does not help my productivity at work, especially since I’m probably already tired and headachy. It’s hard to get people to understand that something that is normal, natural, healthy, and should not be shameful can also cause problems (or at least be a pain in the *ahem* ass) for some women.

    And now I must go take about 47 more Advil for my period-related lower back pain.

  6. eloriane says:

    I knew I couldn’t be the only one! That’s the real reason I left the TMI bit in, as uncomfortable as I was/am with people reading about my poop. It would have been hilariously hypocritical to write a tirade about how we’re not listening enough to the women who have gross, embarrassing periods… and then to neglect to describe my own period because it is gross and embarrassing. As you can see, I chose to go the route of integrity, in the hopes that it would allow more women in similar situations to have the space to talk, and lo! It worked!

    • Crowfoot says:

      It’s hard to get people to understand that something that is normal, natural, healthy, and should not be shameful can also cause problems – Colleen

      I think this part is key. While I can totally get behind the MoonGoddessInTouchWithMyRythyms thing (I did say I’m essentially Wiccan, heh), I can also see how that’s just not going to work for everyone (maybe even most??). But I find it interesting how I continue to have this feeling that stress and not being in the body/connected to the body can increase one’s menstrual discomfort. But maybe that’s just me, or maybe it’s just a metaphorical feeling? I’m not saying I’m right in this, is what I mean. And regardless, I completely agree that menstruation is a very unpleasant experience for some women and no amount of ritual or getting-in-touchness or feminism will change that. And the fact that my menses has almost always been a fairly easy going affair probably rather strongly informs this feeling!

      I also suspect that the problem society has with menstruation is not only Ew Girly Parts but also Ew Body Parts. After all, we are a culture that has a long history of being disgusted with our physical bodies, thinking them as base and dirty, indicative of the fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden. And it’s probably likely that the idea of the body as base heavily feeds into misogyny: bodies are base, icky and leaky and women’s bodies are the basest, ickiest and leakiest of all! Which isn’t actually true, of course, seeing as men’s bodies leak semen all the time :-|. More patriarchal projection \o/

      And because women are considered more tied to their physicality, any kind of irritability during/pre menstruation is seen as proof, rather than just irritability because you’re tired, or irritability because you’re sore. Men also get irritable when they’re tired and/or sore, but they never get diminished because of it! When they do it it’s reasonable, when we do it it’s because we’re slaves to our biology :-/

      (I feel really unfocused so I apologize ahead of time if I’m not making sense)

  7. Lemur says:

    Yeah, sure, MoonTimeBodyRhythms. Great. I’m behind it. Really.
    Except for the parts where I have to wash my sheets three times in a week. Or the parts where my girlfriend can’t move without crying. Or the parts with the *pooping* (dear Gods, the crap!).
    It should be okay to talk about our periods. We shouldn’t be afraid of them, or the dudes whining about how our uterine lining is gross and does not please Teh Mighty Boners.
    But I’m not saying “enjoy it, you womanly creature, you!” should be a requirement.

    • Crowfoot says:

      oh I completely agree! I hope my comment didn’t suggest otherwise? I mean, I can kind of get the Be One With Your Menstrual Cycle thing, but I also think it’s limited and kind of … new agey?

  8. […] are like, or discuss their own experiences that do not seem to be widely spoken of, much like eloriane did just recently. And of course, blogging can be a means of activism, whether in challenging the […]

  9. […] morning I have been following links. And this continued until I reached a post entitled: “blaah owwww aughh fuck meee uurgh an overshare“. How could anybody not want to know what the hell that’s […]

  10. Sarah says:

    That sounds painful as hell. Glad I’ve never had to go through that agony.

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