Stuff that makes life more difficult #997. 

Feminism, It's not fair, Life is hard, MS, Multiple Sclerosis, Periods, Women

This post is all about PERIODS.  

 *polite/awkward applause

Read on, my friends. 

Because PERIODS, men, are mother-cussing awful. Like totally bad. Standup comedian Tiff Stevenson was quoted in The Guardian as follows: 

Why are we being told we can’t talk about this thing that happens to us every month?

Er, yeah? At the moment there’s a (red) tide of conversation building up. Google ‘If men had periods’ and take a look at the hilarious spoof ads – and then have a think. Because for as long as forever women’s monthly shitperience hasn’t been seen as valid. 

Let’s test out an example:

Okay, I’m a teacher. I’ve got my annual performance management lesson observation. My PERIOD started this morning. My breasts ache so much that just having my arm incidentally brush my chest as I, I don’t know, point to something in a kid’s book, makes me actually wince. And I went to bed last night with a killer headache and woke up this morning with the same killer headache. I’m bleeding so much that I know, realistically, I’m needing to rush to the toilet to change my tampon between lessons or my pants’ll be stickily stained for the rest of the day. But at least, because I knew it’d started, I’m wearing my special, reserved for PERIOD days, old, saggy, don’t mind so much if they get bled on pants, which I’m betting all women have. Except for Kim Kardashian, obviously. Also I feel gross. As well as my special PERIOD pants, I’m also wearing one of my special PERIOD tops – you know, the ones that help to cover up your bloated PERIOD stomach? Exhausted too, extremely. But, I soldier on. Don’t mention it. Like all women, every month. 

What’s that? Oh, you’re reminding me that this is allegedly, or at least trades under the name of, an MS blog. You’re right. Well, luckily, there’s a link to be made! Phew

PERIODS make some women’s, including mine, MS symptoms worse. MS. The illness that just keeps on giving. So, for me, my walking gets a bit more unbalanced, more stumblily. My face feels a bit more spasmy – I have tablets (Gabapentin) so you, the innocent onlooker, can not tell – but it keeps me awake as night. It’s hard to sleep whilst your face is twitching all about the place. And I feel a bit (a lot) more shitty. 

There’s more. One time, dearest reader my PERIOD was about four weeks overdue. D and I had, reasonably, begun to think this might be it. And I was teaching my year 10 class when I felt it coming on. As soon as class was over I rushed to the toilet and, indeed, there was blood. So I found D (this was when we worked together), took us off to a quiet corner, had a mini-cry. That’s something else the can happen. In any given situation.  

Here’s some facts:

  • only 12% of girls, worldwide, have access to safe, good-quality sanitary products;
  • poor access to menstrual health is a huge part of discrimination against girls and women;
  • in Africa, one in 10 girls misses school when she has her period because of the lack of information and adequate facilities.

The knock-on effect of this stigma is huge. It’s not some small, private issue.*

*Much of this was taken from a piece in The Guardian: Bring on the menstruation revolution: ‘Donald Trump is going to bloody love it’

And. Shockingly. Sanitation products are taxed as luxury items! Really. Do a fact check. So my idea is, each month, along with a stamped addressed envelope for their return, we post all of our bloodied knickers to the treasury with a note explaining that, regretfully, as tampons are such a luxury, in this time of austerity we felt that we couldn’t afford to spend our hard earned money on such fripperies, so would appreciate our underwear being properly washed or replaced, thank you. And then, we’ll see. 

  

Dying with Dignit(as)y. 

Anxiety, Assisted Suicide, Death, Dignitas, Dissolving into liquid sky, Life is hard, MS, Multiple Sclerosis, Worry

L and I spent our morning yesterday researching how much it costs to go to Dignitas. 

We’re both alright by the way, don’t want you to worry, we haven’t booked flights (yet), but… It’s been in the news recently – the 70 something woman who was generally fine but just really didn’t want to experience the type of old age that she’d witnessed in her time as a nurse. So off she went. Never to return. I’m  completely empathetic to this point of view. 

When I was at the lowest point of my devastating relapse (previous posts: Losing all the things), in a heap at the bottom of the MS well, despairingly attempting to focus on the ever diminishing sunlight, I thought a lot about dying. About how, if the things I had lost never found their way back to me, I couldn’t envision a life that I’d want to live. Some people could, I get that, but for me there is a point at which I’d give up, throw in the towel, call the whole thing off. The thing that terrifies me most is the loss of my voice. Metaphorically and a bit literally as well. I never never ever want to find myself trapped in a situation where decisions are removed from out of my control. That’s a clumsy sentence, I know. But losing control. No. *shakes head, looks decisive, and cool, good hair!

And this thing, this losing, or getting lost, not having a voice, being spoken for – I couldn’t live if that was caused by MS or illness in old age. 

I’m lucky, at the age of 35, to have four grandparents who are (mostly) fine. Especially the women: they know their own minds. I hope I’m like them. And I hope they live – healthily, happily, well – you know, forever. 

But, in addition to their wellness, they have children, grandchildren who love them. They’re never going to be forgotten, neglected, lonely. And my parents obviously have my brother and me. But there it stops. Is having a child so you’ve basically got a possible future carer okay? Obviously they might not particularly want that, but hey! I will’ve given them the gift of actual life!

Ideally my dream death would be at home, asleep, bed surrounded by weeping disciples who all immediately take their own lives at the point of my death, in solidarity with me, so the room resembles the end of a Shakespearean tragedy, aside from one who can’t join us until she’s written a flattering portrayal of my life and works, various miracles etc, which will, when discovered years after my passing, become a uniting world religion that ends all conflict and suffering. Ideally. 

Basically, I don’t want to have to get on a plane, fly to Switzerland, die in a clinical space that’s so much not home. And I think the anxiety surrounding old age, chronic illness, would dissipate if assisted suicide was legalised in the UK. Feel free to disagree. That’s just where I stand. At the moment.  

 

In defence of *my* quiet life. 

Anxiety, Be nice, Epiphanies, It's not fair, Quiet life, Shed of the year 2015, Summertime drinking, Why aren't I Patti Smith?, Worry

I agonised about whether the title of this post should be ‘In defence of…’ ‘a’ or ‘the’ quiet life. I went for ‘my’ because it’s specific: everyone’s life is different, right? Regardless of its volume. 

In my teenage bedroom the walls were, and I use this term in its loosest possible sense, ‘decorated’ with pieces of plain paper on which I would write song lyrics, fractions of poetry, snippets of my own awful, angsty writing. I was aspirational pretentious. One of my favourite lyrics at the time went:

Why live in the world when you can live in your head? 

From Pulp’s Monday Morning. And now I have part of an Annie Dillard quote tattooed on my arm, which goes:

But a life spent reading – that is a good life. 

Are you drawing a comparison?

Seems to me that I’ve always tended toward a quiet, non-experiential life. And herein lies the rub: is this something I should feel bad about? Should I hate myself, even just an small amount? Are all the books, the songs, the imaginings really an adequate substitute? Should I accept, even defend, the stillness of my life or should I turn up the volume, as it were?

The other day I was having a private tantrum wondering why we weren’t going away anywhere this summer when we clearly should be able to afford it. I was angry that I wasn’t exploring exciting locations, having my mindset slightly altered, if only for the duration of the ‘holiday’, creating beautiful memories or, at least, well-shot Instagrams – see how I try to belittle to reassure myself? 

But then I realised. We could indeed afford to travel somewhere that’s not here, except we spent our money on a new carpet for the hall and a lovely garden bench. The quiet life. And I love my house, being at home, nesting. Like a tiny bird.  And the bench, which I’m calling my Reading Bench, will give me real long term pleasure. So just shut up. But… It’s a big world, kiddo. And before I die, I’d like to see a bit more of it. 

I realise that this post doesn’t really live up to the promise contained within its title. Not really a defence, is it? It would’ve been more honest to write:

I haven’t had a holiday this year. Not fair.