I wrote this in late December of 2016. The events in this piece of writing took place back in mid-1990s. At the time, I was in a long-term, miserable, relationship that wasn’t working. One could call it a “college marriage“.
I read “The One In Which I Write About My Period” in episode 16 of my Words of Jen podcast.
I’m gonna share a story that features my period – because the story has been on my mind lately. What I’m about to share happened years ago when I was in college.
Back then, I was in finishing college and dating/living with a boyfriend I’ll call “Joe”. (NOTE: “Joe” is not his real name). We were living in a house with three or four other roommates, all male. “Joe” and I shared a bedroom.
By that point, we’d been together for years. We had merged our bank accounts into one. This wasn’t the first lease we signed together. We basically had what could be called a “college marriage”.
Things weren’t great. In the past few years, he had cheated on me several times, probably more times than I found out about. I later learned that while I was working three jobs and taking full time classes, he was having a series of affairs with other women.
Every time “Joe” got caught cheating, he’d try and manipulate the situation. I didn’t realize what was happening at the time. He’d insist that he wasn’t cheating – explain everything away – in jumbles of words that made me question why I thought he was cheating in the first place.
He finished school before I did. My last semester was spent student teaching – an incredibly time-consuming and draining experience. Every second I was awake was focused on lesson plans, grading, organizing, scheduling, writing journals for my professor to check, documenting what I was teaching with photos (back before smartphones existed) and putting everything into a binder.
I couldn’t work while I was student teaching. Looking back, I see that this bothered “Joe”. He had gotten a “real job” doing something involving computers. Looking back, I believe he resented that he was paying all the bills that semester.
One day, the schools I was student teaching at were closed. I can’t remember why. So, I stayed home and slept in.
There were three reasons why I was exhausted. One: student teaching.
Two: I was borderline anemic. Skipping a meal or having a period pushed me over the borderline and into anemia (which makes it really hard to wake up, to focus, or to think clearly). Possibly because of the anemia, I have difficulty clotting. A paper cut makes me bleed more than most humans, and it takes me longer to stop bleeding than it does most people.
Three: It turns out I had fibromyalgia (but nobody had heard if it back then, so I was completely undiagnosed at the time.)
For whatever reason, my periods back then were really heavy. Once started, they would go on for days (making me more and more anemic).
So, the night before the day I was off of school, I planned ahead so I could sleep in. I knew I had my period, so I used the thickest , biggest, most absorbent pad in existence at the time. Usually, it was sufficient. That day, it wasn’t.
I woke up dazed and having difficulty moving. When I finally got out of bed, I realized that I bled right through the super thick pad, through my clothing, through the sheet, and onto the mattress. Standing up just about made me pass out. I managed to throw on a bathrobe, stuff a clean pair of underwear in the pocket, and move the blankets away from the gigantic blood stain. We didn’t have a washing machine or dryer, and I was trying to avoid having to wash the comforter and blanket (which, somehow, I didn’t bleed on).
I open the door to the bedroom and… lying on the floor on either side of the door were “Joe” and a friend of his from work. They had papers spread out in front of them and both looked surprised when I opened the door. “Joe” knew I was in there. His friend may not have.
I was a mess, and a bit disoriented from the blood loss, and just wanted to take a shower. So I said “hi”, closed the bedroom door behind me, stepped over their papers, and walked down the narrow hallway to the bathroom (where my thick, super absorbent, pads were located).
As I was showering, I was trying not to pass out. When I got finished, I changed underwear, put on a new, clean, pad, and threw the bathrobe back on. I wove my way down the hall, touching the wall to keep balance.
The friend “Joe” brought over was gone. Before I could explain that I was probably gonna pass out, and that I needed to eat, “Joe” started yelling at me. He insisted that I bled on the bed on purpose, that I’d thrown back the blankets so that his friend would see it. It seems that “Joe” was embarrassed that his girlfriend, whom he had been with for several years, had a period. “Joe” told me I was disgusting (because I bled on the sheets and mattress). He was disgusted that I “couldn’t control” my period.
Things get blurry from here because – anemia and blood loss. I knew that I had closed the bedroom door. I couldn’t work out why “Joe” would invite his male friend from work to see our bedroom. I thought it was odd that they chose to work in the narrow hallway, when the entire living room was empty.
All those thoughts floated away and I don’t quite remember what happened after that. I know I got dressed. I think we took the sheets to the laundromat. I’m not sure when or if I ate that day.
Yesterday, years and years after I left “Joe”, I realized what was actually going on. “Joe” invited his friend over, and made sure they sat in the hallway right outside our bedroom door, on purpose. “Joe” probably had been telling his friend that I was “lazy” for not working. I wasn’t “lazy”, I was exhausted from student teaching (and a chronic illness that was yet to be diagnosed). “Joe” manipulated the situation in order to convince his friend that I was “lazy”.
I think I kind of knew that. But, thanks to anemia, blood loss, and a manipulative boyfriend, I forgot. There was something else I realized a few days ago.
“Joe” opened the door to our bedroom and saw a gigantic blood stain across the bed where I had been sleeping. His first response was to get angry at me for having a period.
“Joe” didn’t care that I might have been hemorrhaging and in need of medical attention or a trip to the emergency room. He never even asked me if I was ok. All these years later, the pieces finally fit together in my head.
If your significant other, after seeing that you have spent the past several hours heavily bleeding and are currently on the verge of passing out – yells at you for bleeding…. that person does not love you.