We keep our pain to ourselves because we’ve learned the world doesn’t care

Both “penis” and “pain” start with “p.” Coincidence? I think not.

“This tool is used to stabilize the cervix when they place an IUD. So if you’re like me and have been repeatedly gaslit about how you can’t possibly be in so much pain, here’s why you were in so much pain, and why they DEFINITELY knew it right then and there.” Source

The other night, Mr T sprained the top of his foot. Or something.

We are still in our COBRA election period (we don’t want to elect and pay the back premiums) and our ACA insurance doesn’t start for a week yet. So we do not have an official diagnosis because that would require going to a doctor and our doctor’s group won’t tell us how much an office visit costs and of course there is NO WAY we would go to the ER because that’s like giving a blank check to an alcoholic and pushing him into a bar or a liquor store, so we used the Doctor of Google to figure things out and it looks like a sprain, which isn’t something a doctor can do anything about anyhow.

Mr T sprained his foot.

It hurts.

I guess.

I have never sprained anything, but I have broken my toe three times and I know these things can hurt.

But he spent the immediate post-injury time explaining his suffering to me VERY LOUDLY.

And he spent the next day sitting in bed with his foot elevated – which was the right thing to do – and explaining more of his suffering to me.

It was like a Man Cold. Only it was a Man Sprain.


I have endured migraine headaches for days.

I have had menstrual cramps that made me throw up.

The people around me never knew.


You know why.

I stayed silent.

On Day 3 of a headache, if I mention it to Mr T, he will express shock. Why didn’t I tell him?

Because telling him doesn’t make the headache go away?

When I was in high school, my mom took me to the doctor for my cramps.

The only option the doctor gave me was birth control pills, which I thought (at the time) to be only for Bad Girls and I certainly was not one of those.

The doc did not attempt to convince my mom – who also had very painful periods – that this was a medical intervention and I spent the next few years just sucking it up.

It wasn’t until I was in college that another doctor offered ibuprofen to me. It was by prescription only back then and I was supposed to take 1600 mg at a time.

You were supposed to take it before your period started but of course I wanted to preserve the pills for when I actually did have cramps – I didn’t get them every month – so would wait until the cramps started to take them. They didn’t work so well as a catch up, so I still had bad cramps.

But I stayed silent.

I didn’t see a doctor about my headaches – which started when I was in junior high – until I was almost 40.

I thought everyone got headaches and having a headache was just part of life.

Yeah I was in pain – so what?

Wasn’t everyone?

I got headaches and I took aspirin and sudafed – I thought they were sinus headaches – and joked about my sinuses but never complained about the pain.

I stayed silent.

I needed a biopsy for something. Bad periods, probably. By now, I was an adult and had jumped on the birth control bandwagon, only I had a hard time finding a formulation that did not give me unpleasant side effects.

By “unpleasant side effects,” I mean

  • a splotch of discoloration on my forehead so bad that complete strangers stopped me to ask me what was on my face
  • breakthrough bleeding (“Stick with it! It will stop!”)(It didn’t.)
  • still getting cramps.

Yay womanhood amirite?

Do you remember the image at the top of the page?

Wait. I’ll put it here again.

That’s the tool a doc uses when he places an IUD. I am guessing – docs and nurses, chime in here – it is also the tool he uses when taking a biopsy.

BTW, I am using “he” as my default pronoun for the doc here because I cannot believe a female doctor would do this to me. And the doc I had was male.

Anyhow – my doc warned me I might feel “a pinch.”

I passed out.

I stayed silent, but – I passed out from the pain.

My doc dismissed it. “You have a highly-developed vasovagal response,” he told me.


After a day in bed with his foot elevated, Mr T’s calf suddenly cramped.


He was – LOUD.


I rolled my eyes.

It was a cramp.

Everyone has cramps.

“OW THAT HURTS!!!!!” he yelled.

And so on for the next 45 seconds.

Mr T did not stay silent.

I have only my own experience to draw from. I am one of the luckiest people in the world: I am white and educated with some degree of financial security. I am a woman, which makes me a little bit less lucky than a white man, but as a white woman in America, I am still at the top of the list compared to women in other parts of the world.

I know that.

But I also know that we women share – or seem to share – certain experiences, experiences we have simply because we are women.

Our pain is not taken seriously. Not in the US and probably not anywhere else.

It gets worse for Black women (for all Black people, actually), even in the US.

And maybe this is something I can help fix. I can’t solve period poverty. I can’t solve child brides.

I can solve human trafficking and domestic violence and rape in the US by paying attention to elections.

And maybe, we women in the US can solve the pain problem by getting loud. It’s the only way they’ll pay attention.

Be. Loud.



2 thoughts on “We keep our pain to ourselves because we’ve learned the world doesn’t care

  1. I have had doctors tell me that the cervix has no nerve endings. My (painful) experience suggests that this is false. Yours too, apparently!


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