If you are squeamish, don’t read on… and if you are a misogynist, don’t read on. I am going public with this erm… event… because I feel that as there is rather a large proportion of us out there that could be stuck in a similar situation, I would like to reach out and say. I know. I get it.
This morning, I drove merrily to work. It was very misty and as I crossed the Down’s I drove reasonably conservatively hoping I wouldn’t smash into a marauding sheep despite the arsehole behind me with their very shiny Mercedes badge practically inserted up my rear-end. I was in a good mood. Things were/are ok. They bump up and down a little like cargo on a ship.. sliding up one end before sliding back down to the other as they broach the waves.. but generally, all is good. I wondered at the sheep/sea smell that was in the Brightonian air as I crossed from one department to the other. And my happy go lucky state of mind continued until the moment I realised, as I sat on the lovely, almost new blue chairs in the training room, that something may happen to be amiss. I discreetly checked my crutch with my fingers and sure enough, there was wet. I peered as discreetly as I could, heart racing, and saw that I had bled through my tampon/knickers/jeans and onto the fabric chair. I quickly re-arranged my (bloody) arse so that I could work out what to do and how to do it, while the trainer continued to discuss ‘tasks’.
This was not a win-win situation. There was no passing Go and collecting £200. This was a Straight to Hell moment in my life. I looked at the male trainer and then around at the other four non-haemorrhaging women in the room. I waited until 5 minutes later when he called for break and I spoke up and said (a lot more bravely than I felt), “I am afraid I have a bit of a problem. I am er.. perimenopausal and er.. I thought it was over but it wasn’t and I have erm… bled. On the chair. There..’. I literally felt that I had to explain what stage I was in my reproductive life so that they would all realise that I wasn’t just some incompetent twat of a woman who couldn’t manage her periods. I burst into tears. The shame. The humiliation. I wished I had pissed on the chair by accident instead. At least you can wash urine out easily.
He was lovely and so were the women. They offered tissues and tampons whilst the trainer ran around finding spare sets of scrubs and debating with his manager about how I would finish the training. I sniffed pathetically and rubbed the blood away as much as I could with wipes meant for Covid. I said goodbye to the chair, knowing that it’s short life had ended too soon. There was no way that chair would be making another appearance.. blood doesn’t come out at the best of times and I don’t think that even if it did, it would ever live up to the rest of the other chairs. It’s a bit like a mafia goon who fucks up accidentally.. they don’t want to do it but the bosses will have to kill him.
After an agonising 20 minutes of losing all the millions of the pads and tampons that I actually did have on me (so that this wouldn’t happen) and then finding them again.. I left, head bowed and drove home.
My mood changed. I emailed my new boss and explained what happened. I arranged to miss the rest of the training tomorrow and shadow a colleague instead. I sat on my bed, freshly showered and felt shame. I felt anger at the shame. Anger at my body. Anger that I couldn’t just carry on with my day. Anger that I hadn’t realised I was bleeding. Anger that I am peri-menopausal. Anger that I haven’t yet had the hysterectomy that I have been waiting over a year for. Anger that the chair wasn’t plastic. Anger that I felt anger.
I spoke to my mum on the phone and my voice wobbled. The thing I am most angry about is that the fact that still, today, periods are a taboo. They are considered in the main, as dirty. I am ashamed that despite the fact I know they shouldn’t be viewed as that, I as a woman, still perpetuate that sentiment. If I saw someone else I would feel pity. Pity that they would feel that humiliation. Yet for myself, I just feel huge embarrassment. A failing.
I know with my rational head that the above isn’t true. However, my point in writing this is to drive the point home to both women and men out there, that this is the reality. We bleed. Sometimes we aren’t able to ‘manage’ our bleeding. It comes and starts when it wants to. It ebbs and it flows with abandon. For me it comes with iron deficiency, fatigue, sleeplessness and feeling cold. It comes 20 days out of 30. It comes with weariness and tears too.
What pains me is the effect it had on me today. The feeling of being less than (and costing the NHS a chair..)..