Hysterical: A word study

I’m in a pain stupor. That is the most accurate way to describe this feeling. It’s hard to do anything while my brain is assaulted by pains. My body is being forced to internally hemorrhage and if the maximum dose of pain relievers doesn’t quite cut it, “there’s nothing we can do.”

I’m so sick of hearing that. If I could project ten seconds of my internal experience to whoever I was speaking with, they would finally not question me, or make excuses for themselves, or belittle my pain. If they could feel the amount of pain I have to endure to live with the body I have no one would argue about my gender or my weight. They would finally be able to understand that ‘cramps’ for one person could be light discomfort and for a different person could be HOLY HELL JESUS FUCK MY MIND GOES BLANK CHRIST I SEE SPOTS IT HURTS SO MUCH.

But of course, I must be hysterical. Because that level of pain is impossible from ‘cramps’.

No. It fucking isn’t. 

It’s hard for me to even guess at the amount of time I spent in pain growing up; trying to hide the waves of hot coals in my pelvis, the tunnel vision, trying to endure the pain without complaint because of how weak I was perceived. I thought it was unnatural and immature to be so effected by my Menses and any complaint was scoffed at and used to diminish my own personhood. So I shut the fuck up about it. I learned to go down stairways and navigate my locker and my desk by feel instead of sight because a wave could come unexpectedly and last for anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours. Hot coals hot coals hot coals!


I know now that this level of pain is not normal and doesn’t have to be endured without complaint. I figured it out only recently.

Even now I’m having trouble holding onto a thought trail. Pain is fucking distracting. 

I believe myself and I believe that I learned to endure too much pain. Pain is useful and tells you something is wrong. That’s what’s supposed to happen at least.

I remember this snapshot from long ago with my oldest sibling (One of my abusers. My brother! My Heart: Loyalty and Fear and unvalidated pain!) holding his arm still, dripping wet, waiting to get our mother’s attention to tell her he fell off the ladder getting out of the neighbor’s pool. I feel confident that he said the word “broken” as if he was sure that’s what it was and he was eerily calm about it. He even laughed a bit when someone pointed out how calm he was. And I thought, that is true strength. That’s what my family wants me to be like so I won’t get made fun of for being a girl.

I understood: Being a girl was less desirable than being male. It was not okay to broadcast femininity, blondness, pain, fear. Those were normal things that were trained out of me. Confidence, Surety, Steely Resolve, Imperviousness, Immunity to pain or disease; these are the desirable things. These are things that make it possible for you to help others. These are the things that will allow you to be consumed by the world – and being consumed is the best a female can do.

Boys and men; I saw them spin any side of this into a positive for them. Masculinity, femininity, neutrality, the world waited with baited breath to give them praise for their smallest efforts. And others, well; if you had no penis, the world I grew up in didn’t care about any other categories. Which still is upsetting to me. How would anyone know who had a penis? And isn’t it outrageously creepy to watch children playing and try to tell who’s ‘packing’? It’s like some kind of gender coding that parents are expected to participate in so the world knows ‘what they are’. People act like there’s only two camps and if you don’t fit perfectly  you will have NO COMMUNITY. No love, no group, no belonging. To me this says much more about the people in the two camps than it says about me.

Even now, as I’m realizing how much pain the world demands women to bear without complaint; as I’m realizing how unreasonable those demands are and were; as I’m coming to think of my body as my own; as I’m seeing my pain as my own; as I’m learning to fight for myself even in front of agency-stealing, gate-keeping, condescending medical professionals; as I’m learning to allow frightening emotions to come through; I still find the same misogyny and patriarchy bound up within the systems that could help me. I run up against it daily and it feels like my face hits a dry chalky wall each time I’m endlessly surprised that I am different but America is not.

Actually, it’s nice to see that I am different. I AM different! That’s a cheerful thought.


4 thoughts on “Hysterical: A word study

  1. I relate to this post on so many different levels. I never experienced cramps like you but I endured other physical pain that I just learned to never talk about because I was told it was in my head or I was ignored. This is a great post. I am so sorry you deal with that kind of pain. It’s amazing how doctors, parents, siblings, etc think they know you better than you know yourself or they just don’t care.


    1. I think about that a lot, too: like, what’s so crazy about just believing me?
      Lately I’ve been considering how people generally shy away from unpleasant things; and believing that someone literally experiences pain every day can be an unpleasant thing to think about for them. It’s not a good reason, but it explains a lot of callous behavior from nice people.


  2. There’s a lot of meat in this post to sink your teeth into. It’s very thought provoking and reminds me of the immense pain I experienced throughout my life because of menstrual cramps and the days of work I missed or forced myself through even though I was in searing pain because of my uterus and how the world expects us to take a couple aspirin and keep moving on. I wish I’d known then what I know now and maybe I could’ve saved myself some pain and anguish. For me, taking anti-depressants helped with my cramps quite a bit but I think there are hormonal things that can be done as well now. It sounds like you are suffering tremendously and I hope you can find a healthcare provider who will listen to you and help you feel better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for these thoughts. ❤
      Some days I have more hope for the process than others. I don't live in an area of the world that values public health as a community asset so it can be difficult to afford and receive attentive, effective care.

      Liked by 1 person

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