We’ve all heard ‘those’ period stories, you know the ones that start with “I never thought this would happen to me…”. We laugh, we sympathize, and we are ever so grateful it’s not us. Well, pull up a chair, do I have a ‘period story’ for you!
‘I never thought this would happen to me’ but boy oh boy was it a real life nightmare. So, let me picture it for you. I had recently joined a weekly local meetup group (usually around 20 people show up), and we break up into groups of 4 to have smaller discussions. In the group discussions, each person gets a timed 8 minutes to talk, so the format of discussion is pretty structured. Essentially, you’re in a mini-meeting and you have to give that person your full attention while they discuss something important they are working on. I think this was my second or third session, so total newbie still.
So, here I was, mid session as someone’s talking, and out of no where, it’s like someone slowly tipped a cup of tomato sauce out of me. And you know what I mean, you feel the slow trickle coming out and down your butt. I froze. Completely froze. It was not my time of the month AT ALL. It was obviously stress induced, but even then, when I get my period, I usually spot for a day at least so I have more than enough fair warning. This was not that. This was like, FU, we’re opening the floodgates, as you sit on this very grey (THANKFULLY acrylic) chair, and you can’t do an effin thing about it.
So, here J was, talking about something important I can’t even recall focusing on because I was so damn terrified, and the discussion is timed, so you can’t just take a break and get up. BUT, my real fear was this: what if I get up and I have blood stains on my pants. Like, how do you get up, and back out of a room of 20 people without turning your back on them (so they can’t see your backside). Do you do just tap dance you’re way out of the room bugs bunny style? So, I just sat, formulating an escape plan.
As, I’m sitting there counting the seconds, I realized that I had a denim button up shirt in my back pack. Eureka! I take it out as I’m still sitting on this very grey chair, and wrap it around my waist, making sure not to sit on it, so I don’t ‘stain’ it too by mistake. And finally J was done speaking, and it was my “turn”. So I’m like, “hey guys, I’ve had way too much coffee and need a quick bathroom break, and it can come out of my time, that’s fine, but I have to go”. You never get up to the bathroom mid-session, so they quizzically looked at me and said ‘ok’, not like they can say anything else, but at this point my group is watching me get up, s***. So, I quickly get up, pull the denim shirt over my backside, grab my backpack and half sprint sideways out of the room to the bathroom.
I get to the bathroom, and look at my backside in the mirror real quick, F F F F. My worst fears confirmed. Two quarter sized spots on the back of my jeans, very very obvious. ARGGH!! I wanted to cry. I grab a bunch of napkins, and clean up in the stall. I debated just leaving then and there tbh, but I didn’t want to just ghost, like I’d be shunned or something. So I make sure my pants are dry, and my denim shirt is wrapped around my behind, and with a deep sigh of resignation I head back in.
I walk in thinking for sure everyone’s waiting for me to come in and start laughing, but no, no one had noticed a thing. I breath a sigh of relief as I walk back to my chair, and as I get closer, I see something on the very grey chair literally right next to the one J is sitting in, and my eyes turn to saucers, my face must’ve gotten pale because I got nauseous instantly, my flight and fight response in full effect. THERE WAS A STAIN ON THE CHAIR. Visible as day, on the chair, it was there. I wanted to die. Literally, just make me invisible and transport me anywhere else, Mars and sub-degree temperatures sounded like a vacation in that moment. Ok, ok, I said to myself, pull it together, solutions, think of one.
I have no idea where this calm version of me came in, but I very ‘suavely’ took my knee and put it over the stain on the chair while I talked and discretely rubbed it off before slipping back into the chair to do my session. OK, so far so good, no one had picked up on anything and the session ended eventually. Sigh of relief, and I’m waiting for everyone to kinda filter out so I can finally get up and leave with what little dignity I had left. But apparently, tacos are a tradition after these meetings, so now, everyone want’s to head to the local taqueria. Oh, boy, so there is a second act for this nightmarish movie I was staring in. But, guess what, we went and had tacos, I sat there and forgot about what I was actually sitting on, and the evening went great. It was fine, no one was the wiser and I had a good laugh about it after with my sister. We still reference it occasionaly around period time, or when wearing white pants or something. And here’s what I learned from the whole situation.
When this all happened I could’ve handled the situation in a few different ways. My first instinct was panic and being frozen and I thought for sure I’m going to be embarrassed in front of these people and I won’t ever be able to show my face there again. My second instinct was to just leave, to remove myself completely from the situation, in essence to run away. When I became mindful of the ramifications of running away, and weighing the benefits and negatives, I had enough faith in my abilities and wits that I knew I could get myself out of it, if I just put my panic at bay and acted ‘normal’. The best outcome would be for me to make it through the night without anyone finding out. So, my third instinct was to ‘think’ my way out of the situation (and yes I got lucky I had a shirt on me), and to act normal like I didn’t have a care in the world. And it worked!
Here’s my challenge for you. The next time you’re in a scary social situation, put a smile on your face and weigh your options, and then just go through it, don’t run away from it. You will learn that people only see what you want them to. I literally had stains on my pants, on the chair, broke group protocol by getting up and walking away with stains on my pants, and no one noticed anything was wrong. Why? My confidence, my smile, it was all mis-direction from what I was really afraid of, and I succeeded. Imagine I had panicked, gotten up and left, or if I showed something was wrong then I would’ve brought attention to myself. We don’t need to always let everyone see what’s going on with us or in our brain. And we have to realize they can’t see our faults or problems even when they are literally visibly there. You don’t always have to break a path through the boulder in front of you, sometimes, you just need to be the river and wind yourself softly around it (inspired by Nayyirah Waheed).