After coming home from a three-week visit to see my family in Florida, my body decided to go insane.
Not my mind per se (though that wasn’t awesome either), but literally my body. My body decided it would be a good idea to skip my period for two weeks (while having all the glorious symptoms of PMS seemingly on steroids), and then have back-to-back periods for another two (and counting).
While this was going on, my body decided it also would be a good idea to start ovulating as well. So basically: my reproductive system is doing two completely different contradictory things at the exact same time.
So every day for the last two weeks, I wake up in pain from cramping. I’m weak from the amount of blood I’ve lost. Stress makes it worse. I will start spontaneously bleeding just from stress, and then I’ll feel dizzy and have to sit until I regain my equilibrium.
Hot flashes have just started in full force yesterday. I believe I have been experiencing them earlier than that, but yesterday is when I finally was certain what they were. I was sitting at my desk, minding my own business, when it felt like I was suddenly hit with 100 degrees of focused heat on my body. Initially, I thought we were having a natural heatwave–it is Summer, after all. Then I checked the current weather on my phone. Early 70s and overcast. Didn’t quite seem to fit the oppressive blast of temperature that was broiling me.
After a time, the heat went away. It would come back to visit me several additional times that day.
I’m already on Prozac–thank God!–so the psychological aspects of this hormonal clusterfuck I am currently in the middle of are probably not as bad as they could be. That said, I struggle with the seemingly requisite feelings of failure, worthlessness, unattractiveness, and a general sense that society would rather I take the long journey on the ice floe.
I love my mom, but she has informed me in no uncertain terms that unless I maintain a very skinny toned figure and keep up with all the latest in beauty maintenance, I will die alone under piles of scorn by a society who can fathom no real worth from me unless I can sort of approximate an attractive & available woman in her early 30s.
Oh, I mean: if I had children, at least I would have served some function! At least that is something respectable!
I feel confident that after 45 years on this planet, I’ve never quite “fit in” with any of the affinity groups that I’ve identified with. I would estimate that about 2/3s of the people in these groups, mostly male, have either regarded my participation as being a “prelude” to sexual intercourse or with resentment.
I’ve been abused by my dad, abused by “stepdads” (one of which choked me in my own bed while straddling my body), sexually propositioned by my analyst when I was 13 (the one hired to deal with the abuse from the stepdads), sexually propositioned by my 60+ year-old boss at a comic shop when I was 16 (and fired when I refused), lost my virginity when I was still a minor to an adult man (who later threatened me with a gun), sexually propositioned by my mentor in college, sexually propositioned by my boss at work, and groped by a co-worker at my job in the middle of the work day.
I was convinced by the comic publishing company which I had loved since I was as a child to write a comic book alluding to a number of the traumatic events I have just listed. The public response to the book was more abuse and even violent threats. The publishing company would later decide to hire the person who spearheaded a lot of the online abuse I was experiencing during that time period.
I then worked as the editor of a major comic book website for over 2 years only to be replaced by a man whom I had fought to give work to. I received an offer to stay at the job as a “den mother, ” with no recognition of the hard work I had done to develop that site’s content.
I later decided to come out and be honest about my fluid gender identification, which helped clear out whatever friendbase I had left after the whole period as thus described.
In-between all this I suffered massive trauma to my cervix during intercourse in which I literally almost bled to death, a very possible miscarriage, and a severe concussion that almost wiped out two years of memory.
And in-between all this (which isn’t even a complete list)…in-between all this, I have had severely painful PMS since I was a teenager. It was never taken seriously. I would work in silent agony. Even female supervisors would tell me that as a woman, I needed to keep it quiet about the pain or else I wouldn’t be respected by men. As if I was being respected by men anyhow.
This perception of my PMS pain as “not real” seems to have its parallel in pretty much every goddamn atrocity that has happened in my life. “Good girls” don’t “complain.” Nobody wants to be around a “bummer.”
But as my body now goes “insane”–as my reproductive system has seemed to lose its goddamn mind–I am reminded of physics, of all things.
The simple law of physics. We can call karma “hippy-dippy” nonsense, but nobody can argue with physics.
And basically, this is how I see it:
That largely unacknowledged suffering I’ve experienced since I was a little kid…it’s still there. It’s “carved” into my body, within the flesh. It’s like musical notes lying dormant between the grooves of a record, waiting for the needle.
I feel, as I go through this life change, that the options put to me are: radically embrace myself & my truth, or go off on the ice floe.
The doctor who prescribed me Prozac refused to prescribe me tranquilizers for this reason: demographically, women my age (especially with a history of trauma) tend to overdose. They tend to kill themselves out of a feeling of worthlessness and a lifetime of unaddressed (or inadequately addressed) pain. (Add to that a possible highly unstable hormonal situation due to menopause itself.)
It has been my experience that often when I talk about my past traumas, it is treated as “unseemly.” I should just “get over it.” I’m only making people “uncomfortable.”
In fact: the term that keeps coming up is “inconvenient.” A “Debbie Downer.”
My analysts have often commented to me that they are surprised I lived through everything I have in my life. They are surprised I’ve never committed even a single serious suicide attempt.
You know what my secret is? How I’ve stayed alive through all of this?
Anger. Some spite. The cheery feeling of knowing that by simply existing, I’m an “inconvenient” person for a number of people.
Isn’t that awful of me? Should I instead smile more? Should I take a page or two from Marianne Williamson? What a horrible, horrible woman I am!
But…I’m alive. I have had a large muscular man try to strangle me in my own bed when I was 13…but I’m alive. I’ve almost bled to death…but I’m alive. I’ve had a dude threaten to shoot me with a hunting rifle when I was 17–but I’m alive. I went up against one of the most powerful people in my industry, and was blacklisted for the trouble–but I didn’t kill myself.
I was told publicly and privately to go kill myself, but I didn’t kill myself.
What kept me alive? Not the “power of positive thinking” attitude I tried for decades to master.
Anger. Anger kept me alive. Honest anger.
And I would rather be a strong, loud, “inconvenient” woman in her 40’s owning her power and story, than a “pleasant” scared silent woman in her 20’s too afraid to even admit that she was in physical pain.
Support Val’s Work On:
Follow More of Val’s Work On: