Women’s pain is normal and we don’t even bother to talk about it because it would be like talking about inhaling and exhaling air

Also, Blue Cross of Michigan is the worst insurance company in the US

I have always been convinced I could do a tracheotomy if I had to.

In an emergency, I mean. If someone were choking. Not just for the heck of it. Not as a hobby.

I always have a Swiss army knife in my purse and I always have a pen. (A pen that people so often, in the Before Times, would want to borrow but I would not let them because people who don’t carry their own pens also do not return borrowed pens.)

I don’t carry alcohol to sterilize the equipment but honestly, if you are choking to death, would you rather die an sterilized death or take your chances with a pen that I had not let other people use?

I have never been called to do a tracheotomy.

I did, however, come close the other night.

I was taking the bus home and the driver stopped the bus, got off, closed the door, and disappeared.

I was the only one on the bus.

I waited. And waited. And wondered if it was some weird psychological experiment, like the time in PSYC 201 in college when there was an irregular pinging sound during one whole class session but nobody had the guts to ask the prof what was going on. (Which may have been the experiment.)

Anyhow. I was wondering if I could walk home (if I could get out of the bus) when the driver reappeared.

I asked if everything was OK.

She said she had needed to use the bathroom.

I did the math. She had also used the bathroom at the beer garden at the start of the route only 20 minutes prior.

MY SISTER.

“That has to be a hassle in this job,” I said.

She agreed that it was.

And I knew my moment had come. The moment I had been waiting for – to give medical advice.

I dug into my purse – this wasn’t even my regular purse with the SAK and the pen – it was my festival purse that is small enough to get past the search teams and search teams don’t let you take knives into festivals, not even in Wisconsin, and pulled out a foil of generic AZO.

Yes. Even if I can’t carry a knife, I always have pee pills with me.

I pulled the cord and walked to the front of the bus as she stopped the bus.

“Here,” I said as I passed the pills to her. “Even if you don’t want to take pills from a stranger, this has the name on it. This will help you not feel like you need to pee all the time.”

She gave me a bewildered thanks as I sauntered off the bus, happy that I had done A Good Deed.


The really sad thing?

I really did do a Good Deed.

How did you find out about AZO, generic or otherwise?

How did you learn that it’s possible to relieve bladder and UTI pain?

Wait.

Let’s back up.

Guess what – bladder pain is not normal.

It’s not normal to think you have a UTI all the time.

It’s not normal for your bladder to feel like it’s on fire.

But again – I never thought too deeply about it. It’s just one of those things that goes with being a woman, right?

Even when I have mentioned it to my doctor. And have asked for a solution. And have been tested and the result has been nope, not a UTI.

Even when I have been sure to pee right after sex. And to always wear scrupulously clean underwear. (In The Vagina Bible, Dr Jen Gunter says ALL THAT IS BS. BLADDER PROBLEMS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH PEEING AFTER SEX.)

Even when I have been scoped up the hoo-ha and the doc has said nope, your bladder is a normal size with normal capacity and there is nothing wrong with it.

(Thank you, Blue Cross of Michigan, for considering that doctor office visit as a hospital visit for $700 and not an office visit for a $45 copay merely because the doc’s office happens to be in a hospital, which is not uncommon for teaching hospitals. You are the most evil of insurance companies. United HealthCare paid all visits to docs in this hospital as office visits. Blue Cross of Michigan? YOU ARE AWFUL.)

Even when I have had to call my doctor when I was on vacation and ask for pain relief because I was in such pain I could barely move, I thought it was normal.

This was normal.

Of course my bladder bothers me.

I am a woman. We have pain.

I didn’t even learn about AZO, an OTC painkiller for bladder pain, from a doctor. A pharmacist told me about it.

And the words “interstitial cystitis,” with which I have not been diagnosed, mind you, have never been said to me at a doc’s office. Even when I have asked for more UTI drugs and they say it’s probably not a UTI and I need to be checked out, nobody has said, “Because it might be this thing that can’t be cured and nobody knows what it is but hey it might help to stay super hydrated and avoid tomatoes.”

But I have AZO. Well, I have Walgreen’s version of AZO. So I guess that’s OK? No definition, really. No cure. No truly effective treatment.

But at least we have Viagra. Right?

Let’s talk about pain

They think it’s in our heads and if it’s in our heads, they can dismiss us

Have you ever experienced pain during a procedure involving your uterus? I passed out once during a biopsy.

I remember the doctor warning me that it might be “slightly uncomfortable.”

And then passing out.

And then my (male) doctor telling me I had a “highly-developed vasovagal response,” which means not, “I pass out when I feel pain” but “I pass out easily.”

Turns out I am not the only one who finds “slightly uncomfortable” to be closer to “really painful.” Read Caroline Criado Perez’s brilliant newsletter about this issue.

… for many women, IUD insertion isn’t, as the NHS website says simply “uncomfortable,” and no, 400mg of ibuprofen isn’t cutting it. Several women who wrote to me compared it UNFAVOURABLY with the pain they experienced GIVING BIRTH WITHOUT PAIN RELIEF.

Starting when I was a teenager, I would get sinus headaches. I lived on aspirin and sudafed.

I was at my friend Heather’s one day and got a headache. No aspirin in my purse, so I asked Heather if she had any.

No. She had no aspirin. None.

“What do you do when you get a headache?” I asked her.

“I don’t get headaches,” she said.

That was the first time I had ever heard someone say that.

I thought getting headaches was normal.

I thought getting headaches all the time was normal.

Turns out it is not.

Even so, it still did not occur to me until years later to mention my headaches to a doctor. Who goes to a doctor for a headache?

And, possibly, I had internalized the idea that women’s pain does not matter – that we are to endure it. After all, nobody had ever really solved my menstrual cramps problem. One of the few outcomes from getting medication for cramps was that my insurance company, while I was in grad school and had to get individual health insurance, refused to cover me for any problems of the reproductive system.

And UTIs – again, who goes to the doc for that? And when we do, we’re told – well, we’re told to pee after sex and drink a lot of water.

(Turns out that’s BS as well: Read Jen Gunter‘s book, The Vagina Bible.)

Why is our pain ignored? (And the pain of Black women is discounted even more than the pain of white women.)

Because nobody – wait, NOBODY WITH POWER – believes it’s real.

Or, if they think it’s real, they don’t care.

Faherty and Grier studied the administration of pain medication after abdominal surgery and found that, controlling for patient weight, physicians prescribed less pain medication for women aged 55 and older than for men in the same age group…

Calderone found that male patients undergoing a coronary artery bypass graft received narcotics more often than female patients, although the female patients received sedative agents more often, suggesting that female patients were more often perceived as anxious rather than in pain.

Another study, comparing post-operative pain in children, found that significantly more codeine was given to boys than girls and that girls were more likely to be given acetaminophen.

The Girl Who Cried Pain: A Bias Against Women in the Treatment of Pain, Diane E. Hoffmann, Associate Dean & Professor, U. of Maryland School of Law, Anita J. Tarzian, Professor, U. of Maryland Baltimore County

But why?

Because they think we are making it up. Because they think it’s all in our heads. Because how can they study women’s bodies? Our hormones make it so hard!

perceivers judged female patients as relatively more likely to benefit from psychotherapy, whereas male patients were judged to benefit more from pain medicine.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33684539/

Women weren’t included in clinical trials until the 1990s. While we make up 70% of chronic pain patients, 80% of pain medication has been tested only on men. Even in preclinical trials with cell lines and rodents, males have been favoured over females. Researchers have justified this bias by claiming that oestrous cycles in female rodents – and menstrual cycles in human women – would potentially corrupt results. If that were so, wouldn’t it be quite important to find out before selling the drug to women?

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/sep/02/why-dont-doctors-trust-women-because-they-dont-know-much-about-us

And let’s not forget the main reason: it’s more important to spend research money on erectile dysfunction, which, may I remind you again, DOES NOT CAUSE PAIN AND DOES NOT INHIBIT EVERYDAY LIFE, than it is to study and resolve women’s problems.

Five times as many clinical trials have been conducted on the topic of male sexual pleasure, such as for erectile dysfunction, as on female sexual pain….Pubmed, which publishes medical research studies and found 446 studies of dyspareunia, vaginismus, and vulvodynia, all highly painful conditions affecting women’s ability to have sex. Studies of erectile dysfunction? 1,954. As one doctor she quotes explains, women will silently provide sex “with their teeth tightly clenched.”

Rage Becomes Her, Soroya Chemaly

Once you’ve tasted freedom, it’s hard to go back

The siren call of semi-retirement

We have been renting the same cottage on Lake Superior for the past 13 summers. It’s the best place on earth.

I have been trying to quit my job.

“Trying?” you ask.

Yes. Trying.


When Mr T and I returned from vacation two weeks ago, I gave my two weeks’ notice.

I thought that would be it.

But my boss has been trying to figure out how to keep me.

Which is completely bizarre to me. It’s never happened before.


Not that there is anything that could have made me stay in some of my previous jobs. Except for quitting to go to grad school, I quit because I hated the situation (and the boss) and there is nothing – not even more money – that could have made me stay.

But this time, I am quitting because – this is not how I want to spend my remaining work years.

Last week, Mr T and I learned that a classmate has cancer and has less than six months to live.

The next day, I found out that a friend of mine from when we worked together in Austin had died of natural causes at 64. Sixty four is not that old, y’all.

And last year, a good friend of mine died after three years of cancer. Her husband had finally retired and they were going to Do All The Things – and she was diagnosed of cancer and they never did any of the things.

I spent all of 2020 unemployed. It was stressful not having an income, but we were still so lucky compared to other people. And outside the lack of income and a global pandemic, it was, oddly, a good year for me. I did all kinds of great volunteer projects that made me feel my time mattered: Mr T and I volunteered at the food bank, I managed a project to donate free face shields to health-care workers (Mr T delivered the shields and our house was the western pickup point), and I helped an anti-racism group define their messaging and develop a website.

Most importantly, I helped get rid of the former president by doing everything I could to make sure that eligible voters in Milwaukee, a swing city in a swing state, cast a ballot. I volunteered for two months at the election commission, processing voter registrations and absentee ballot applications, and Mr T and I volunteered as pollworkers on election day.


Last winter, I went back to work full time.

My boss is super nice. My co-workers are super nice. Everyone is really nice.

But – it’s a big company with lots of bureaucracy. I put together a monthly department newsletter with hard deadlines.

It’s hard. It’s hard to be on a deadline all the time and to be responsible for getting work and approvals from other people when you have no authority over them.

I was cranky all the time. I started taking migraine meds again. I woke up every morning dreading what might happen at work. (Not from my boss, but from others outside of the group.)

It’s like that everywhere, at all corporations, I think. A former boss lamented to me, “I just want to be a floor manager at Home Depot.”

I decided to quit. I decided to quit and look for something part time, just enough money to pay for our health insurance. With our remaining time, we would volunteer on causes we care about. Mr T is going to volunteer for his friend who is running against Ron Johnson (we have got to get rid of him) and I want to work on voting rights and systemic racism and prison reform.


After Mr T and I returned from vacation last month, I gave my notice.

That was a week ago and my boss has been brainstorming to figure out a way for me to stay: would I work part time? What if they got rid of all the work except the newsletter? Would I stay until the end of August to get the August issue out? Am I interested in being a contractor to work on projects?

I have to tell you, it’s really flattering to be wanted.

He’s talking to HR to figure out what these options would look like.

And I am thinking, “Maybe I don’t need to look for a part-time job that pays $15/hour and requires me to be onsite. Maybe I can work ten hours a week for my current pay and pay for health insurance and be liberated the rest of the time.”

So that’s where I am. I will let you know what happens.

Y’all, it’s a good market for job seekers right now. It’s bizarre.

Let’s make rich people richer!

UNION

I worked at an engineering company for five years. My first four years were wonderful: I had an amazing boss, whom we shall call Amazing Boss henceforth, and we had a great time working together.

Then the company was acquired.

And the new owners hired a bunch of people, including the new CEO, from GE.

If you know anything about how GE works, this is the part that should make you start to worry.

The new CEO started having quarterly town halls.

That part is fine.

But every town hall – indeed, every communication from him, was about the company goal: To earn $3 billion in revenue.

That was it: To Earn A Lot of Money.

Not to Make Great Products. Not to Be The Best in Our Field. Not to Make Customers Happy.

But to Earn A Lot of Money.

I tried to explain to my new boss, who also came from GE and who was in charge of internal communications, that perhaps engineers would relate more to a different goal – one that wasn’t, “Let’s make sure shareholders and executives get rich.”

I told her many many times that the CEO’s message was bad.

“This company leads our space in patents,” I said. “The engineers are super smart people who want to do cool things. That’s what motivates them – not making money for someone else.”

She ignored me and, in less than a year, she re-org’d me out of the company.


While Mr T and I were on vacation, my boss texted me with a question. I understand why he did it – my company is highly bureaucratic and there can be Drama.

It took me less than two minutes to answer the question and – done.

But it was the first time in my entire life that work has contacted me while I was on vacation.

I was not happy.

A dear friend told me that I don’t understand nature of work these days.

Maybe.

But I am not paid enough and I am really not important enough that I need to be available all the time.


A few years ago, as I sat next to a co-worker waiting for a meeting to start, I read that the Teamsters had led a successful initiative to cut executive pay at McKesson.

“Rock on, my union siblings!” I said as I summarized the story for my co-worker.

“They’re just jealous,” he said.

It wasn’t until I was about to fall asleep that night that I came up with the perfect answer, which was, “Oh? Do you think you’re management? Because you’re not. You and I? WE ARE LABOR.”

It took me a long time to reach that realization, but now?

I am labor. And I don’t really care if the execs get rich.