12 Women Tell Their Period Stories — The Funniest, The Worst, & The Most Nightmarish

This article was originally published on November 13, 2015.
We long for the days of poring over the Traumarama section of Seventeen. Not only were these cringe-worthy tales of toilet paper on shoes and farting in front of boys hilarious, they also reminded us that just about everyone lands in awkward situations from time to time. Beyond that, everyone gets embarrassed and lives to talk about it. So reassuring.
With this in mind, we figured it was high time to rekindle that embarrassment solidarity, particularly in the realm of periods. It's probably safe to say that a lot of you readers get them. You probably talk about them. And as much as you might fight it, every once in a while, your dear old menstrual cycle sabotages your life a little bit. This could manifest as a stain on your favorite pants, a ruined mattress, or a very uncomfortable conversation during homeroom.
We asked 10 women to share their best (whatever that may mean) stories of period mortification with us, and they did not disappoint. These tales are for anyone who has cursed her cycle and her parents and the very stars above. They're for anyone who's had to tie a sweatshirt around her waist before P.E. They're for you, and they're for us. Because we'll always be here to lend a helping pad.
So sit back, click ahead, and brace yourself for some realness, menstrual-style.
1 of 12
"I have PCOS, which means my periods are wildly unpredictable and that when they do show up, they mean business. We're talking opening the floodgates, full on WWIII in my pants. So, of course, the last time my period was in full swing was the same day I needed to wait in line for three hours for the launch of a new NASA Lego set. I tried everything to slow the flow, including popping ibuprofen like candy and putting in the menstrual cup I use only in emergencies. But that still wasn't enough. A menstrual cup is supposed to last 10 hours for a normal period. For mine, it lasts mayyybe two. So by the time I made it through the line, got into the store to grab my Lego set, had it signed by the designer, and asked her a few questions, I could feel the blood leaking out of the cup onto the backup pad I had also put on. I grabbed my roommate, ran to a McDonald's, and tried to open the locked ladies' room door for about two minutes before I barreled into the mens' room. Luckily, it was a single-stall bathroom and I had plenty of space to deal with the overflowing cup, which obviously spilled all over my hand when I pulled it out. So I'm sitting there for a good seven minutes with my bloodied pants around my ankles trying to 1) pull the cup out, 2) clean it and myself, 3) put it back in, and then 4) clean up the blood that spilled on the toilet seat and the floor in the process. When I finally exited the bathroom, there was a line of men four people deep waiting to get in. I just shot them all a smile and walked away."
2 of 12
"After years of using tampons, I decided to make the leap to a menstrual cup. The first day I used it was an unusually heavy day for me, and I had an odd sense of anticipation as the time came to take it out (I am a naturally curious person). I didn’t think I was taking a risk when I decided to inspect the contents of it in my office’s public bathroom, but, still a stranger to the ways of the cup, I hadn’t considered the suction seal that the cup creates when you put it in. In my attempts to twist and/or yank it out, the cup slipped out of my hands right onto the bathroom floor. The cleanup was not pretty. Why I thought that was a good day to wear white sandals, I’ll never know."
3 of 12
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
"When I was in middle school, my parents forced me to be on the swim team. It wouldn't have been so bad if I was able to wear tampons, but for whatever reason, I've never been able to stomach [them]. So every month was a fight with my stepmom over whether or not I had to go to practice. I'll never forget one practice she wouldn't let me skip. I wore a pad, which felt like a diaper and I'm 99.5% positive was visible to everyone else, and when I got out of the water, there was blood running down my legs in front of everyone. I think I cried in the bathroom for a full hour. Truly one of the worst memories of my life… Oh, and she never apologized for making me go, and thought the humiliation was a lesson in tough love."
4 of 12
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
"I was the first of my friends to have my period, and I didn't really know what to expect. When I got the tampon in [on] the first try, I was so proud of myself. However, about an hour later, I wanted to check in (yes, I realize how crazy that sounds now). The tampon wouldn't come out. Not understanding truly how tampons work, I thought it was stuck in me forever. I screamed at my mother to come to bathroom and help.

"Once she understood what was happening, she laughed so hard, she fell into the tub. Next, my dad came up to make sure we were okay. [He] opened the door, ran out, and laughed hysterically from outside. Finally, my little sister, not old enough to understand anything other than [that] I had done something funny, started laughing. It's not exactly the bonding that I had in mind, and it turned me off tampons for years."
5 of 12
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
"Two months into dating a guy. Got my period in the middle of the night and stained his brand-new mattress. We discovered it the next morning... I was mortified. He was so nice about it. [We] spent weeks trying to remove the stain... Turns out, this is an excellent way of testing whether a man is worth keeping around. IF HE CAN'T HANG, HE CAN'T HANG."
6 of 12
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
"I'm an obsessive period-tracker, and with the help of an app can typically narrow my period down to the hour. But, last month, it made an unexpected early appearance. I was in yoga, and I typically stand to the front of the class, right in front of the mirror. We moved from downward-facing dog into squat pose, and as soon as I got into squat, I looked up and saw that I'd gotten my period pretty badly. The worst was, the stain was on display in the mirror for the whole class to see... I scrambled to roll up my mat and bolted out of there. I guess they don't call it 'flow yoga' for nothing."
7 of 12
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
"I got my period right before I turned 12, and I was absolutely mortified. None of my friends had gotten theirs yet, so I only told my mom and swore her to secrecy. One week, when my mom was out of town, our pet dog got into the trash, ripping up the bloody Kotex and leaving a trail around the entire upstairs. When we headed to bed, my sister and I discovered the carnage. My sister, completely ignorant of the fact that the pads belonged to me, screamed for my dad. I stuttered that I would just clean it up, and she replied,"No! That is Mom's BLOOD!" clearly not stopping to wonder why my mother was depositing her sanitary napkins in our shared bathroom.

"So, to my shame, I stayed silent and watched my poor father clean up the mess, protecting my secret for a little bit longer. In retrospect, my father realized who the true owner of the pads was, too. Just another day in the life of raising daughters, I suppose."
8 of 12
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
"My first day of high school, I marched right in wearing my overly priced Hollister khakis, thinking I was the bee's whole leg. About 15 minutes into homeroom a (male!) friend of mine asked if I had sat in some chocolate or something. I panicked, knowing immediately that the crimson wave had just ruined my pants... I bolted to the Home-Ec classroom, where there was a washer and dryer, and cleaned myself up. By the time I got back to homeroom, everyone knew what was up, and I was bright red for the better part of an hour. All the boys were giggling. My friend reminded me of that day when we graduated. Ugh."
9 of 12
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
"I was on a white-water rafting trip that of course happened to fall on the heaviest day of my period. Somehow, with the way I was physically positioned in the raft (which had a good six inches of river water slopping around at all times), my tampon became a) full of blood (as expected), but also b) kind of soggy and full of water.

"It was basically the worst feeling in the world. I felt like I had a wet diaper shoved up there, and knowing that it was cotton that had absorbed river water was like, the stuff of pollution-documentary nightmares. Also, there was no end to the trip in sight, so I had to execute a mid-rafting-excursion tampon change in front of seven of my friends. I have not been white-water rafting since."
10 of 12
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
"As the nurse at my elementary school, my mother was in charge of talking to our sixth-grade class about the changes that puberty brings: stinky armpits, hair down there, periods, etc. This, in itself, was mortifying to me. Then came the girls-only chat. One of my classmates piped up with the question to end all questions: 'If putting a penis in a vagina causes pleasure, why don't you get the same sensation when you insert a tampon?' I think I must have blacked out from embarrassment, because I don't even really remember the answer. I think it had to do with circumstances and emotions. There is no way I was ever asking my mom that, though, so I guess we'll never know."
11 of 12
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
“You know at the very end of your period, when you've got some excess or slightly discolored discharge, [and] a tampon seems like total overkill? I was at that point. I was a teenager and took ballet class most days, and at that age, you don't wear underwear under your leotard. So, I didn't want to wear a tampon, and couldn't really just stick a pantyliner in my tights, so, logically, I just folded up a square or two of toilet paper, positioned it in what seemed like a secure position, and went to class.

"My solution held up fine through stretches, and even through grande pliés at the beginning of class, but partway through barre, something felt weird... I glanced down, and that folded toilet paper had fallen halfway down my leg, clearly visible through my tights. I was freaking out. I couldn't run to the bathroom that soon into class, so I finally just pulled at my tights — as nonchalantly as I could — until the TP fell down into my foot... Then, [I] threw it away when I got the chance. I was mortified (there were BOYS in my class) and never tried that again.”
12 of 12
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
"I started my period super late, when I was 16. By this time, all the girls I knew had been bleeding for years, and all those little mistakes you make when you first start were long in the past. Everyone else was using tampons, but I was still using pads because I was still squeamish over the idea (I grew up in an abstinence-only situation, so what I knew about my own body was very minimal).

"Anyway, I was bleeding really heavily one day at school, feeling generally terrible. I wasn't well-liked in the first place, because I would only wear my brother's hand-me-down clothes and never took my nose out of a book. This day, in particular, I was wearing a pair of light-brown cargo pants, the kind with those thick, rope-like drawstrings instead of a belt. It was a normal day; kids were snickering at me in the hall, I was awkwardly pretending to ignore them.

"When I got home, I went to find my mom in the kitchen for our usual post-school chat. She turned around cheerfully, looked down at my pants, and her face turned immediately pink... She wordlessly pointed down at my pants, so as not to alert my siblings. To my utmost horror, one of those thick, rope drawstrings on my cargo pants was crusted with dark, partially dried blood and standing starkly out against the pale, now blood-smeared, crotch of my pants. I realized that I must have somehow accidentally tucked my drawstring into my underwear as I inexpertly put on my pad that morning, and it had slipped out when I changed it at lunch. I was petrified. I was so anxious about seeing my classmates, knowing that they definitely saw (how could anyone miss it?), that I made myself sick and didn't go to school for the rest of the week."

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