Days So Bad You Wish You Could Chalk It Up to PMS

Note to the squeamish: This is going exactly where you think it’s going, so do us both a favor and stop reading.  If you continue after this and complain in the comments about how gross it is, I will hunt you down and go all Donita Sparks on you.  Well, not right now.  But in the near future.  God, I hope.

Once, the Professor and I were sitting in her car talking about menstruation and the Professor was all like, "You know what’s good for cramps?  Fucking." and I blankly stared at her as if she’d just said, "You know what’s good for cramps?  Brlghalbheghts." 

"What in the hell are you talking about?" I asked.

I’m not going to take you through the whole conversation, because it wandered, as our conversations have a tendency to do, but I do want to bring you to the salient point.  Other than whether we’re late or early or what, I have never had a conversation with any woman I know except my mom about what it’s like to menstruate–What it feels like, what it looks like, etc.

I was thinking about that today because I have felt like utter despondent crap about my life since Friday.  (Some of you may recall my ode to beer.  Others of you may recall the sad emails.)  Last night, I couldn’t sleep, because I felt so anxious, and today, I was just fuming at work–justifiably, but usually, I don’t get pissed off; I just ignore folks.

So, I’ve been waiting, hoping to feel the familiar shifts in my body that say, "No, your life doesn’t suck.  It just seems that way because everything in here is out of whack a little earlier than usual."  No dice.

But it did get me thinking that my day would be vastly improved if I ducked out of work early and talked about menstruation.  And so I did.  And so I shall.

A Brief History of My Period

I started menstruating some time in junior high.  The first couple of times, it was just a rusty spot on my underwear for a couple of days and, since I’d read Are You There, God?  It’s Me, Margaret, I wasn’t particularly freaked out.  I also didn’t tell anyone.  I just raided my mom’s pads when I needed them and got on with life.

Then, in high school, I learned a new and terrifying feeling–cramps.  I had cramps like… like… imagine a puffer fish made of steel and sharp razors expanding and contracting in your lower gut.  Or like an earthquake made of broken glass just above your cooter.  That’s what I had cramps like.  I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t eat.  I couldn’t take any pain killers, because I would throw them back up.  I just had to lay there in bed in a half-awake stupor dreaming of contraptions you could shove into your uterus and just scrape everything off all at once and get it over with.

My mom would sit next to me and rub my back and tell me about how she also had terrible cramps when she was my age, but that, eventually, they stopped happening as frequently or for as long.

She was right.  I still cramp up–which we will get to in a second–but not the days-on-end pain and not usually anything close to that bad.

In grad school, I learned a nifty trick for dealing with the severe cramping, though.  I would lay on the couch and ask my crazy roommate to sit on me.  Do whatever.  Watch TV.  Knit.  Gab on the phone.  I could not care less.  Just let me have some pain-free time.  Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to find a handful of men and women willing to sit on me when I need it and it helps so much.  To y’all, I am grateful.

How It Goes

The first thing that happens is that the lump in my right tit swells up so that you can feel it right under the surface of my skin, if you push in just a little bit.  This usually happens three or four days out.  Two or three days out, I’ll start dropping things or knocking things over like crazy.  It’s like I lose all ability to accurately tell where I am in the world.  After about the third time I knock my toothbrush on the floor, I also notice that I can smell things really, really vividly.  Two days out I start to feel a little something rumbling around, like gas, but more centrally located.  This is when the inability to tell where I am in the world transfers to being able to read people, or, actually, no longer being able to read people.  You don’t realize how much you rely on visual cues from people until those days when you just can’t read them.  I don’t like it.  It’s disconcerting.

The day before, I usually sneeze a lot and I feel like I’m on some kind of mild hallucinogen.  Things seem much more vivid and smell really intense and everything feels really, really awesome.  I can remember standing in a bathroom at Michigan State running my hands under the faucet because it felt so cool.  Even now, I can remember exactly how it felt like I was feeling every individual stream prickling against my skin and how amazed I was that I’d never noticed that before–how wonderful water is.

The day of is usually not that bad.  I have some mild cramps, that really feel like gas or something and I’m really aware of how wet and unusually cold my cooter feels.  But basically, I’m just waiting around.  When it starts, it doesn’t really feel like anything.  You just go to the bathroom and wipe and, instead of the clear, kind of slick cooter juices*, there are some streaks of red.  Or a lot of red.

The second day in is really terrible.  I have cramps.  I bleed really heavily, especially in the morning, like someone just opened the floodgates.  And I hurt all over.  Everything aches and everything is painful to the touch.  Sleeping is a joke, because who can find a way to lay down that doesn’t feel like all the pain of a red-hot poker with none of the burn?

This is why I was flabbergasted when the Professor recommended sex for cramps.  The thought of someone touching me in any way but to sit on me?  It makes me cringe.  Even my hair hurts.  Please don’t touch me.  Because that might make me throw up.

The third day is also really heavy and I start to see bits and pieces of the endometrial lining.  Secretly, I think this is pretty cool and weird.  It reminds me of some kind of dark red cross between raw liver and slugs.  I’m convinced that I can feel the bigger pieces as they slide through my cervix, but this could just be psychological on my part, I guess.

By the fourth day, the bleeding has lightened up quite a bit and the cramps are over and I’m feeling back to my usual self.  The fifth day is like this, too, but lighter still.  There may still be some endometrial bits and pieces and usually I’m only really bleeding in conjunction with the arrival of this stuff at this point.  By the sixth day, it’s just some light spotting and finally, it just tapers off into nothing.  I usually wear a panty liner on the seventh day, just in case, but there’s rarely any reason.

In Conclusion

Oops.  I don’t really have a conclusion.  I do feel better, though.  So, there’s that.




*Ha, someday I’ll have to write up a post about all the different cooter-juice permutations I have, but not today.



Other Folks

IvySt. Mark should give lessons to others!

KatherineI wasn’t sure what you meant by politically incorrect.  I’m still not.  I thought this was insightful and informative and deeply moving.

RachelHer mom and my mom must have gone to the same school of "How Little Can I Get Away with Saying?"

HeatherPosts like this and Katherine’s really make me think that it’s obscene that we don’t talk about this stuff.  Also, I’ve decided that, if your doctor says something like, "Well, that’s just how it goes for [redheads, fat chicks, sluts, etc.]" we should get to kick them right in the shins.

KristinaOne of my friends has a set of sheets she calls "the scene of the crime" that she uses when she menstruates and has given up bothering to get the stains out of.  The bathroom scene in this post reminded me of that.

24 thoughts on “Days So Bad You Wish You Could Chalk It Up to PMS

  1. In my experience, all ideas about what "normal" is start changing dramatically in one’s late 30s and early 40s. Super-cramps! Super-heavy flow! Clots! A rise in body temp! A sugar jones that is reminiscent of junkies at the Chelsea Hotel!Something to look forward to, huh?

  2. Awesome post, B. I think I can feel things slide out, too! If you don’t mind terribly, I may follow your lead and do my own post like this tomorrow. I bet we can talk Ivy into doing it too. :)

  3. Exador, no, usually it’s all in my underwear, but maybe the girls you know work differently.Rachel, of course I don’t mind.

  4. "it’s all in your head."hmmm, perhaps when a guy is kicked in the balls, the pain is in his head as well. (Pun intended) Just saying…

  5. Bridgett: I’m almost 45, and none of those things have happened to me. My periods have gotten a bit lighter, but that’s all ….And I am one of the people who recommend sex for cramps. It works best if you have lots of intense sex just right before the period starts, but during can work too ….

  6. jo(e) — yes, none of my vegan/vegetarian friends have these developments either. I suspect that both your diet and general physical conditioning are better than mine, which is a good argument for bellydancing and snowboarding! The oxytocin (and increasing blood flow) from sex certainly doesn’t hurt, but I haven’t noticed that orgasm immediately before has much of an effect on my subsequent period.

  7. Oh my god! Y’all. This discussion makes me feel so happy and connected. I haven’t ever talked to any other women about this and now it’s all wisdom and experience. It’s very cool.Thanks.

  8. I like that endometrial lining thing too. It’s true what Eve Ensler says in the opening monologue of the Vagina Monologues: "Women secretly love to talk about their vaginas."

  9. I should have devoted a whole post to that endometrial lining stuff and how ooky and cool it is. I’m totally fascinated by it.

  10. Dude, I’m there, I’ve always described my cramps as "someone kicked me in the stomach while scraping fingernails on a chalkboard". Even that doesn’t do the pain justice. Look for my post soon. That might be my inagural (spelling?) cooter post. The men that read my blog will be oh-so-thrilled!

  11. A good strong orgasm does help relieve cramps for me, but I usually take care of that myself. I agree with B that I am bit too sensitive and achy for full on sex. I do swing from "touch me" to "don’t have your dick in the same room with me" without a lot of warning.I have almost always fainted from the cramps every month since the very beginning. So embarassing, I try to warn people so they don’t freak out. I get kind of manic with insomnia for the entire time, I just can’t sleep and then I have very vivid dreams when I do sleep. Like the other ladies, I can feel the different textures of menstrual blood and lining at different times during the week.The big question is: Did your Dr ever try to convince you that cramps and other side effects were imaginary or all in your head?

  12. Ivy, that will be so cool. Let me know when you get it up and I will link to it.You, too, Rachel.Or the rest of the world.Whoever.

  13. Saraclark, clearly poor Exador had that experience and he’s still not happy about it. (I only tease because I find you so charming, Wayward Boy Scout.)Did I not tell y’all about my trip to the gyno, where the fucker told me that all my problems were due to how fat I was, because "God made it so fat women couldn’t have children, because they can’t outrun the angry elephants?"Surely, I did. So, I never heard imaginary, but I did hear "God’s punishment for your fat ass."Let me just tell you, that when they say "Baptist Hospital" down here in Nashville, that name ain’t just for show.

  14. WTF? Your doctor told you it was all your fault for being overweight? I’d say it’s time for a new damn doctor. Let me guess….he’s a male, right? What a major league asshole! I go to Vanderbilt….to a woman. Why, because I wouldn’t take my car to a mechanic who took the bus all his life.

  15. I don’t know whether I should put my "period story" on my own blog or over here. I don’t like to write about it, because I’ve got one of those politically-incorrect periods. But if you don’t care, I’ll write about it at my place.

  16. Elizabeth–Don’t even get me started. The worst part is that I went to see him specifically because I had some mysterious ailment and my regular doctor and the other two specialists were like "everything that is happening to you seems like cancer or ebola or something, but we can’t find any cause–go to this guy. He’s an expert on fucked up things."So, you know, when he was lecturing me about the elephants, I was like "Dude, I’d like to know why I’m randomly bleeding out of every orafice. Right now, I’m not even thinking about kids. I’m thinking about if I’m going to live through the week."God, he sucked.

  17. Pardon me, but ewwwwwwww gross. <ducking>I guess this is just one of the few things that fucking can’t make better for some people.

  18. What I meant by "politically incorrect" is that I have been lectured in the past by various hardcore feminists to not talk about Endo because it feeds into the negative stereotype of women being disabled during their periods. I don’t talk about it alot because it really IS navel-gazing, literally, but when I do I feel that I have to make it clear. THIS IS NOT NORMAL.

  19. All beautiful, ladies, each and every story. Kat you’re much more normal than you think, you’ve just got a little bit extra. I bow to the peer pressure, mine will be up later.B-you never know what’s going to strike a chord, do you? Menstruation Monologues.

  20. But, Kat, why do you so readily agree with those faminists who say days when we menstrating should not be any different than days when we don’t? I am glad you wrote what you did and you are advocating for women who suffer to find ways to suffer less. Thanks you. I also think that one of the ways we suffer is when our lovers and families and employers and legislative representatives do not even attempt to understand how our bodies work and what is and is not normal. Menstrating is not a disability, but it is also not nothing. Our bodies need accomodating as they are. We should not have to accomodate a definition of a normal body that denies that we cramp and bleed and get cravings and emotions. I say all this, but I do have it easy – hence the desire for and comfort with sexual relief while menstrating (yeah giving myself orgasms helps too). I only sometimes get cramps and then only for a day, maybe a day and a half during bad months. An unusually heavy flow for me sounds something like day 4 for Aunt B. And, if I bleed for 5 days, that’s a long time. Now, the two days around ovulation where ALL I can do is sleep and eat, that’s a little annoying and distrubtive.

  21. Hi, Aunt B, I wandered over here via Ivy. I had a doctor tell me my periods were horrendous because I’m redheaded.If you don’t mind, I’ll be jumping on the bandwagon and consequential soapbox. Thank you for starting this topic.

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