My LEEP Experience

The doctor gave me a valium and told me to take it 45 minutes before the procedure, which I did, eagerly. I don’t do drugs and I won’t even take someone else’s prescription painkillers so this is the closest I’ll ever get to tripping on shrooms in the back of some guys truck. It didn’t feel like anything and I was deeply disappointed. I think it says more about how anxious I am as a person than the strength of the prescription.

You have to do a pee test before you have a LEEP procedure because they don’t want to apply electricity to your cervix if you may be hosting a fetus. Which is understandable. I set seven alerts on my phone to drink water because I don’t drink a lot of water and when someone tells me to pee, my bladder peaces out.

When you get into the procedure room they tell you to take off your clothes from the waist down and get on the table. Then they leave you alone in the room with all of the sharp objects, test tubes, and orange canisters that have your name printed on them: SPECIMEN. There aren’t any magazines in this room. The door is thin enough that I can hear the nurses talking in the hallway, which I remember from my consultation. I don’t know if this is on purpose or not but I always hear them talking about other patients like WE’VE GOT A BLEEDER IN ROOM TEN. Did I mention there weren’t any magazines in this room? I hobble to the courtesy chair and snag my cell phone and go take photos of everything, a process which I will later repeat when pieces of my bloody cervix are floating in some kind of clear liquid.

The doctor and her nurse come in and they’re so wonderful. I realize that I might be happy to see them because I’m high. I actually find myself wondering if there might be some reason I can come back and see them. Do you do brazilian waxes? Wait, this is a gyno. Or is she some other kind of doctor? Am I saying this all out loud?

They insert the speculum and she tells me that she’s going to shove a needle into my cervix to numb it. She doesn’t use the word shove but I’m high so I start laughing anyways as she pokes me over and over and over again. The nurse asks if I can feel any pain and I twist up my face like I’m trying to think about it and she starts to laugh too. They apply a grounding pad to my thigh which is sticky and heavy and I note that I prefer it over electrocution. While she uses the wand to slice off pieces of my cervix, we talk about what we’re watching on Netflix, and the pure longevity of OJ’s cultural significance. I can’t feel anything but it sounds like a vacuum cleaner. She says she made a mess all over the floor and I get a little light headed thinking about blood dripping down between my legs onto the linoleum.

No sex or tampons or any penetration of any kind for four weeks. No excessive walking and no exercise for 24 hours. You may experience mild pain and some bleeding.

On the internet I read that charred pieces of your cervix fall out of your vagina and it smells like burning flesh. One girl describes being unable to have sex even after the four weeks are over because she is so scarred by what she’s seen. I ask my doctor about the burning flesh. I ask if pieces of me are going to fall out. She looks at me with a diplomatic yes.

“Well, you know when you have a scab and it starts to heal and it’s gooey? It’s more like that.”

She tells me that it won’t hurt too much and I tell her that she’s a cheat and a liar and she folds and reluctantly prescribes me Vicodin. When we get to the pharmacist he tells me feel better! I don’t really have a script for what to do in this sort of situation so I say “you too!”

The next three days are a blur of television and pizza. My boyfriend takes care of me with grace and kindness and occasionally a firm “why do you want to see how bad it hurts before you take painkillers?” (Because I’m a woman and I can handle anything! Small foot stomp!)

I receive a flower delivery which I first think is a package of vibrators I’m expecting. I am pleasantly surprised when I unwrap daffodils instead. I don’t know how this whole dry packing thing works. I unwrap them and place them in the sun and they immediately open. I think how could I be so lucky that someone would deliver me flowers. A couple of hours later another friend comes by with a box full of things. Wine and bread and cheese and books and a candle and food and little gifts that have me reeling. Three cards packed with sentiments. Another friend has given me some weed to make me feel better. I am literally swimming in kindness. Really, a little seasick actually. I think perhaps I should get sick more often.

Then I start to wonder if perhaps I’ve underestimated how afraid I should be. Everyone seems to think I’m really sick. I mean, I am. I could die. I mean, I could really die. What if all of these gifts are the last kindness I’ll ever receive? I smear some cheese on bread. I mean, you know, this is like a sign. What do you call it? A premonition? No. Foreshadowing. Her friends delivered her a basket of goods because they knew even before she did that life was coming to a close. I drink some wine and contemplate my demise. It tastes like angels are farting in my mouth. Seriously, this wine is so good that halfway through the bottle I convince myself that white wine must be less alcoholic than red wine. If this is how I go out, I guess it could be worse.

The nurse calls me a week later and tells me I don’t need to come back for another year. At that point I’ll just get a regular old pap test. No snippin’ and no electricity. And, no, you’re not going to die and no that wasn’t ever really on the table, were you even listening to us?

I roll my eyes so hard she can probaly hear the firm clunking of my optic nerve as it rotates ball in socket.

Whatever Brenda.

What is a LEEP procedure? Think of it this way: (a) Pap (a swab with a giant q-tip) (b) Colposcopy (snipping of cervix where area was irregular) and (c) LEEP (cutting away the irregular part to remove it entirely or help the body heal it more quickly).

79 Million Americans are currently infected with HPV. It is so common that most men and women will have it at least once. Most of the time HPV goes away without any of these procedures. Usually there are no symptoms. 

Everyone (regardless of gender) should be vaccinated against HPV!  Especially because men cannot be tested for HPV!

While I had CIN 1 (mild changes), others have more advanced changes. CIN 2 indicates moderate changes and CIN 3 indicates severe changes. Catch any abnormalities as soon as possible so you can receive additional help fighting off the virus if necessary.

Getting this in your email? That’s because I finally fixed my email subscriptions! Why were they all fucked up? Because I moved my blog! If you haven’t checked out my new site yet, give it a look! All new theme made to make your reading experience just that much more enjoyable. 

Have you had a Colposcopy or a LEEP? What was your experience?

Share it in the comments!

Going to Couples Counseling Even if You Don’t Have To

If my phone is recording and analyzing everything I say all day long and is capable of running reports on content, you would see a recent uptick in sentences that begin with “my therapist said.”

I spent a good portion of my youth complaining about math. Maybe I just wasn’t stemmed hard enough or stem didn’t exist yet or I had too many people encouraging me to do exactly what I wanted in my life. And, I mean, who really really really wants to do math? (I know some of these people, we’re constantly at odds.) My deep hatred for math began when I almost got held back for not being able to learn subtraction. I remember very clearly having to stay in at recess and after school as the teacher tried to explain the concept to me.

Teacher: How many pens are there?

Me: Five.

Teacher: (takes away two)

Teacher: How many pens are there now?


Teacher: No. Right here. How many are right here. In front of you.

Me: There are three pens here but there are five pens YOU JUST HID THEM BEHIND YOUR BACK. Why are we ignoring the fact that there are still five pens. They didn’t disappear. They’re still here. I can actually see them. Red. Blue. Green. Yellow. Purple. Five colors, five pens.

You can imagine my disgust when I was forced to learn imaginary numbers.

The neuroscientist who taught me subtraction

It wasn’t until I signed up for an advanced neuroscience course I had no business being in that I learned a very rudimentary concept. We have to learn math because it develops a part of our brain that would not develop if we were not forced to think in that way that math makes us think. I failed neuroscience but I did learn why subtraction is important so it was probably worth the thousands of dollars I spent that year.

There are a lot of things that we have to learn growing up. Some lessons come sooner than others and some never come at all. Like how to do our taxes, how to navigate boundaries in relationships, how to find the g-spot, and the very super secret reason people actually have sex. It’s not to make babies like my health teachers said all those years. If only we’d known.

We also need to learn about how to communicate our feelings internally (to ourselves) and externally (to others). We talk about our feelings a little bit in school, but it’s kind of in a super secret closed door way. Like when your 7th grade teacher sees you writing a suicide note and sends you very publicly to the counselors office to talk. (This is a true story. It didn’t happen to me, but it did happen to a girl in my class.) Therapy is more or less shamed from the moment you first hear someone you know is going to therapy. They’re in therapy. They’re attending therapy. They’re being analyzed. We shouldn’t think about therapy in this “OoooOOooOOOOoh you got called the the principals offfiiiiiiiceeeee” kind of way. We should think about therapy more like, uh, downloading an app to our life that makes us better people. Therapy is like yoga for the brain.

Going to therapy doesn’t mean you’re broken on the inside, or: we’re all broken, actually.

Due to the assumptions about therapy and the fact that it’s a little terrifying talking about yourself to a stranger, a lot of people don’t go to therapy until it’s too late. Too late is sort of a wishy-washy way of saying that people usually go to therapy after they’ve hit a max of what they can handle, or something has happened and they are in crisis.

So you’re in therapy and you’re talking about this horrible thing that is going on in your life and then you realize that after a few weeks you’re starting to make progress on this one thing. At this point you can segment this one horrible thing off from the rest of who you are as a person, or you can admit to yourself that this one horrible thing is a part of a much larger picture of who you are. And you keep going. And you keep going, and you keep going. This is what I call maintenance therapy.

Crisis therapy: I’m going to attend therapy until I feel like I can tackle my crisis.

Maintenance therapy: My whole life is basically a crisis tbh.

So I started going to therapy so long ago that I think I can quantify it in months now. And though I feel like I did go for crisis, or a particular reason, I honestly can’t remember what that reason was. As soon as I was there, the importance of having some uninvolved third party to talk to became super apparent. So I just kept going.

Attending Couples Therapy even if you don’t have to: YTMND

Then, one day, and I don’t know why I always put the point of my post at the bottom, but I brought my partner to therapy with me. I had been to couples counseling before, but I had only ever been to couples counseling in crisis. We sat in the waiting room together and my therapist welcomed us in. Here’s the thing, here’s the spoiler about long-term relationships: never fool yourself into thinking you know everything about your partner. Never fool yourself into thinking there are no surprises left.

First: You can know someone very very well but there is always something you don’t know. Second: Never tell your partner that you know everything about them because this is basically transmitted as “there are no surprises left, you could not surprise me.” Which is, kind of, y’know, a bummer. Thirdly, if you’re in a relationship that is dynamic and thriving and changing, your partner will be meeting new people, learning new things, and will be growing and changing as an individual. I believe a sustainable long term relationship requires falling in love with slightly different versions of your partner over and over and over again.

Like any other couple there are things we disagree about or we aren’t super clear about and it was helpful to be able to just have another person in the room helping guide us through a conversation. I learned some new things about him and he probably learned some new things about me too. This is the new kick I’m on. Maintenance therapy for couples. Just be wary, because if you go into therapy thinking you know everything about your partner and sunshine literally comes out of your asshole, you’re probably in for a rude awakening.

Finally, and this is important, but you can skip it if you’re in a hurry: I want to be better than the person I was yesterday. That means that I have to come to terms with the face I make when I hear the word math or chemistry. I made a promise that if I had children I would not recoil in fear when I saw a spider because I wouldn’t want to pass down my fear of arachnids. If I had children, I would also want to find somewhat honest enjoyment in math. So far this has been the most effective form of birth control. Don’t try to be better than anyone else. Just try to be better than you used to be. Attend therapy. Attend couples counseling. Write in a journal. Conquer a fear. Do your taxes before the day they’re due. Avoid that moment where your life becomes a crisis.

Have a question, need advice? Submit now! at Ask Suggestive and I’ll answer it on my blog.


Going Back on Birth Control After Going Off

If my body were a temple I would be sort of a F5 level Tornado. It’s not entirely my fault. On hormones, off hormones, switching hormones, going continuously on hormones. The straw the broke the camels back, as it turns out, was narcissism. Six months in to my purge from hormonal birth control my body went through what seemed like puberty round two. My skin broke out for the first time in over a decade. My hair was unbearably greasy. My complexion looked dull, and no matter how hard I tried to smile with my eyes, I looked dead inside.

It’s possible that’s because for the last decade my body had been fed with a more or less steady stream of estrogen. This is the me that I knew. The me pumped with hormones. I thought I was strong enough to beat it. I know if I’d waited just a little longer I might have stabilized. But I’m weak. It all came crashing down with that final, unbeatable pimple. And then all of the things that birth control had provided me clicked at the same time.

I was sick of depending on condoms in an unstable and terrifying political climate. Is the condom good? Did it break? It is safe? Am I pregnant? What if I get pregnant and I can’t get an abortion? What if abortion is illegal? What if I decide I want to get back on birth control but I no longer have insurance? My cycle was irregular and physically demanding. My initial uptick in mood had leveled off and I no longer felt self-righteous euphoria. I almost crawled back to my doctor asking her for more. I take no pride in this moment.

The Rebirth(controlling)

I asked for a lower hormonal dose, I started the next day. I’ve kept the pills in my desk drawer as a sign of my defeat.

I am still critical of how we dependent we are on hormones. Women, in particular, as the bearer of protection and the bearer of children. But there simply isn’t a similar option for men, yet. And even if there was, how can we really know for sure that extended use of hormones is safe? I might have a stroke, I might get a blood clot, or I might just not get pregnant. These are the moderately well-informed risks we take.

I now feel more in control of my own sexual health, again. Which is in direct competition with what I said before. Not being on birth control also made me feel more in control of my own sexual health. It’s just the way it is. I’m a complex person and I hold a multitude of feelings. I’m unlikely to get pregnant. My cycle quickly regulated. My skin cleared up in a week. And my hair has decided it’s okay to brush it again.

The Great Both/And

The moral here is that I may not have found my end all be all. Maybe you haven’t, either. Perhaps there is no final solution. Sometimes we’re on hormones, sometimes we’re not. Sometimes we feel good about it, sometimes we don’t. It is intersectional, my feelings on these pills. My privilege of having them. The frustration that I have to use them. My fear of losing them. The concern that one day they may not work the way they are intended. The little pleasures they bring. The potential medical grief they could bring down upon me.  I’m going to take it one day at a time. I hope that my admission that it’s not always so clear makes it a little easier for you to ask these questions too.

Do you need advice? Submit at Ask Suggestive and I’ll answer it on my blog. Today, start a calendar to track your sexual and mental health. You can use a notebook and journal, jot notes in your schedule, bullet journal, or write on a scrap piece of paper. How do your emotions change throughout the month? How often are you having sex? What kinds of symptoms do you experience throughout the month (headaches? stomach pain? arousal?) If you menstruate, what is your cycle like? Do you have PMS? Make the calendar your own and see where trends pop up.

Lena Cup Review

People who talk about menstrual cups fall into one of two camps. They are so absolutely obsessed with them that it’s a little creepy and you want them to stop talking, or they’ve never tried them before. I found a third category. People who are obsessed with menstrual cups but are turned off by the first group of people – the very vocal– so they keep their obsessions to themselves. A good chunk of my friends have flicked their tampons to the curb and gone full silicone. Now I know.

Like other humans, I sometimes get a little judgmental about things I don’t know much about. That was the primary reason I decided to try a menstrual cup. When I see this trait in myself, it must be squashed with experience. I hadn’t ever tried one before but for some reason I had an irrational hatred of them.

What is a menstrual cup?

A menstrual cup is a cup for menstruation. You slide it into your vagina and it catches and holds blood. After up to 12 hours you pull the cup out, empty it, wash it, and either re-insert it or place it in the storage bag. Menstrual cups can be washed and reused every month. A cup can last years with proper care.

Don’t you get blood everywhere?

I was pleasantly surprised at how using the LENA Cup allowed me to actually acknowledge my body. Tampons and pads actively minimize the amount of contact you have with your body and with your period. That’s the point, right? This adds to the narrative that periods are dirty and gross and you shouldn’t talk about them.

The LENA Cup wasn’t the mess I’d imagined.

When the cup is inserted, it seems to take the fluids with it as it slides up. In my use, this prevented any mess. It seemed to be a cleaner process than a tampon because I didn’t have to fiddle with any kind of trash. If you’ve ever had a period, you know that any kind of period trash can be pretty yuck. Especially in public bathrooms. No wrapping tampons in toilet paper or having to toss applicators in the trash.

You have to empty the cup at some point, though!

I had never seen how much I was actually bleeding so I had no idea what to expect. If you are uncomfortable with the sight of blood, you can remove the cup while sitting and knock it back into the toilet without looking. How much blood is in the cup will depend on how heavy you bleed, where you’re at in your cycle, and how long you keep the cup in. Wash it off with a bit of gentle soap, and slip it back in.

It looks too big to insert, how does that work?

You will use a menstrual cup folding technique to get the cup in. This makes the cup insertion size about equal to that of a tampon. The cup slides up and it pops open, sealing to your vaginal walls. This process involves touching your labia and pressing up a bit into your vagina to make sure it’s securely in.

There may be a learning curve with insertion. I would recommend pairing with a liner until you become comfortable enough going solo. The removal process may also require a bit of patience the first couple of times. Having an understanding of how to flex your pelvic muscles to lower the cup downwards can assist in getting it out quickly.

The cup is made of a very smooth medical grade silicone that is super safe for your body and the environment. Because it’s so super smooth, and because it flexes to your body, you’re not likely to feel it. I had always been able to tell when I had a tampon in by flexing or simply feeling it sit there. The silicone is so thin and light that I very rarely notice that it’s there at all. The LENA Cup can stay in for up to 12 hours. The length of insertion time combined with the smooth material made my period exceptionally less aggravating.

What about the different sizes?

There are a lot of different menstrual cups out there. You may need to try more than one to find that one brand that suits you. Most menstrual cups also come in two sizes: Pre-Childbirth or Post-Childbirth. LENA Cup is cool because it bases the size recommendations on the flow you have, not whether or not you’ve had a child.

The LENA Cup costs $24.90. At an estimate, I was spending a couple of hundred dollars a year on tampons or liners.  It’s saving me money. And, to be honest, it’s just cool. (Note: I still keep tampons in my bag + bathroom for those not-too-rare solidarity moments.)

LENA did not send me this product for review or pay me to say these things. I’m happy to be proven wrong once again in the judgement department. Bleed on, little uterus.

Buy the LENA Cup.
Buy the Moon Cup.
Buy the GladRags XO Flo Cup.

Have a question about menstrual cups? Submit anonymously by going to Ask Suggestive and I’ll answer on my blog. Prefer email response? I try to respond as quickly as possible to one on one questions: ask at suggestivetongue dot com. Today, try to challenge your preconceived notions of something you feel judgmental about. You try that green juice. You wear leggings as pants. I live in Portland and make no excuses for these examples. Until next time. xox st.