I’m not sure if we have discussed this fully but one of the reasons I got a coil was because of my horrendous, horrendous periods. (Sorry if you are reading this at lunchtime.) They were never great but got really bad when I was about 23. Vomiting, diarrhoea, pain like… like… none I have ever experienced.
When people said that labour was just like “bad” period pains I was like WHAT? How much more painful can it be? And indeed, when it came to labour pains, they really weren’t much worse than what I was used to – only in labour I was given an epidural and got high on gas and air.
Not the usual run of it, which was standard painkillers, which did nothing. If I could steal a muscle-relaxant like a Zopliclone or a Valium that would do that thing that people talk about with pain, it put it on the other side of the room. Otherwise a hot water bottle stopped me from actually screaming. Mostly all I could do was sit and wait. I have missed days of work in this agony, had to cancel career-enhancing freelance work. It has been a curse.
One time I remember, when I was probably 24 or 25, I was woken up around 5am – this was typical – and the pain was excruciating. Fine, I’m not that brilliant with pain, it’s true, but even then I feel like this were uncalled-for. Pain is really hard to share, it’s hard to describe. But these were a bit like the weight of a large stone. You know, that feeling when you try to lift the weight of a massive stone. Cold, hard, heavy. Also sharp like a knife. Nauseating. Dementing. I could feel it in the back of my throat. It felt frantic, panicky. Urgent. Help, help please help me. I was on my knees in bed but with my head on the pillow, hands on my abdomen going “Owww owww owwwwwwwww!!!!” The full indignity of womanhood. I mean not quite, but getting there.
After about 90 minutes of this torture, a puke, six ibuprofen and a hot water bottle I sort of drifted off into a daze. By then I suppose it was 6am ish. I don’t know why but I turned on the radio and it was an interview with Marian Keyes. I turned it down so it was just a gentle murmur, just a thing to take the edge off the thundering alone-silence of the room. Half asleep, I listened to her little pixie voice talking about her depression. She’s got a strong accent, an instantly recognisable voice. It was a long interview and her impassioned voice in the early morning light jumbled up with the pain and the painkillers and the fuzziness has left me with the faint sense that Marian Keyes is actually God.
Even then I didn’t pick up a Marian Keyes book until 14 years later when I read The Break, about a month ago. Then I read The Woman Who Stole My Life and then I read Rachel’s Holiday and now I’m reading Watermelon. And I really can’t think of an author more mis-packaged than her. I mean, Rachel’s Holiday, (my favourite so far), is dark – really, really dark, about a girl going into rehab. For anyone who has a bit of a booze/drugs/shopping/eating problem, this is just the marvellous stuff, a real kind of crash course in addictive personalities and general therapy. I loved it.
But it’s also funny. And there’s some romance. And because it isn’t unremittingly bleak and doesn’t have that turn of phrase or style that turns it from “chick-lit” to “literary”, she’s stuck in the “chick-lit” bracket, which … I don’t know… seems unfair. Though that is to fall into the trap of thinking just because “lit” has got “chick” in front of it, it is necessarily dismissive. (It is, though, isn’t it.) As I’m sure I’ve said before, I’m no reading snob and I would have read these books years ago had I realised what they were actually about.
Anyway, all I suppose I’m saying is: Don’t judge a book by its cover. I think it’s a phrase that will really catch on. Here is a link to Rachel’s Holiday on the Waterstone’s website. I generally link to Amazon for books, but I know that you would probably rather buy from Waterstone’s.
How about you? Do you have a story about Marian Keyes? Or is there another author you secretly suspect of being actual God.
Louise Rowntree says
I am absolutely with you on Marian Keyes, I have recently read all those titles but always feel like they are a guilty pleasure! I love her on the tv too.
I kind of put Liane Moriarty of Big Little Lies fame, in this bracket too, hers are great who dunnits but there is always a well researched theme like domestic abuse or childlessness running through which really give you something to think about.
As an alternative to Amazon http://www.hive.co.uk is a great online book service and it donates part of each sale to a local bookstore of your choice.
Yes! I have become a huge Marian Keyes fan, very late to the party on this. I had snobbily dismissed her as chick lit and have realised my error. The Break was genius about long term relationships and Rachel’s Holiday is my favourite too. So much there I recognised :-/
The writing is good, she’s funny, it covers all the big themes (life, death, love, heartbreak, relationships, addiction etc etc) with lots of lolz drinking and sex.
I think of her as a funny Maggie O’Farrell.
On the wider point about chick lit, it is a dismissive term and a lot of it is easily dismissed. You know, that kind of writing where you can hear it in your head as you read? And the cliches are usually clunky “her eyes flashed with anger” etc etc. Most irritating.
However- I think there’s an element of snobbery about what gets classed as ‘literary’. The more difficult/ less fun = more literary. It’s like Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music. No one actually liked that, we all like Perfect Day or Walk on The Wild Side because they are drop dead brilliant songs. But all the music nerd boys pretend to really love Metal Machine music because it’s a marker of their superior knowledge.
Im going on a bit here but anyway, a few years ago I was in a bookclub where I was the only girl. The guys all chose, one after another, literary books. By this I mean, books where the narrative is really just a way of conveying a wider social or political point. They weren’t good stories in and of themselves (ie with a narrative arc, characters you care about, dramatic tension… ) To generalise from the specific, I think it’s interesting the boys chose those kinds of books, so I forced proper novels on them- zadie Smith’s On Beauty and Jane Smiley’s Moo.
Marian Keyes strikes me as funny, insightful, kind and compassionate about the human condition. Perfect candidate for God 🙂
Yes – I read something Marian Keyes said about Tony Parsons, that he could write about similar subjects to her and yet be taken more seriously, and I had read one or two of his and not really rated them, and thought then I ought to read hers. And I didn’t. But I will. You are so right on the money with the music comparison – I don’t have any time for that kind of superiority about things that sound terrible but it is so prevalent. And if a band hits on a great melody after 2 albums of trying they’re selling out.
Tony Parsons books all follow the same theme of man bringing up son alone after errant mother walks out. Would have thought he’d have got over Julie by now but clearly not.
You’re not wrong
Marian Keyes is my go-to pregnancy read (6 babies – nowhere near enough Marian to read non stop unfortunately but I read at least one per pregnancy). They are calming and soothing and funny and sad, just the best kind of blanket/friend you want at all times ideally but especially when pregnant. I’m a huge fan and am so grateful to the universe for her. No more babies for me but i’ll always be so happy to see a new Marian published.
In real life Marian is every bit as fabulous as you think she might be. She is petite, like a beautiful little fairy with gorgeous skin and hair and shoes, but friendly and welcoming, she is fiercely feminist and an advocate and activist for equality in Ireland. On top of all this she’s so funny too. I love her and I haven’t even mentioned her books. Go next to This Charming Man, it is 👌🏻.
Totally agree with you about M K – I heard her earlier in the year (on a podcast I think), talking so eloquently and passionately about the Irish abortion referendum, that I decided to go out and get one of her books. I too had previously dismissed as ‘chick-lit’ a genre which I thought I had long grown out of, having realised that no-one could better the genius of Jilly Cooper. Anyway, I might just go out and buy Rachel’s Holiday…Sorry about the period pain – I am mid-menopause and hot flushes and night sweats, whilst not painful, are fully redolent of the ‘indignity of womanhood’
Marian did loads of campaigning to push through the abortion referendum in Ireland AND never once corrected Sue Lawley on Desert Island Discs when she called her ‘Marianne’ throughout so you may well be right, she very well could be God…
Red haired people with typical colouring that goes with red hair feel pain more. Don’t know why, but they do.
I’m missing the point slightly here, but did the coil really help with periods? I’m a bit nervous about getting one fitted – but my periods are as you describe above (and the depressive mood 10 days before is something else).
I’ve love her stuff for years but you’re right – the covers never do the interior justice. For some reason, I love that lots of the books are about the same family. I love cross-overs like that.
Emily yes. They will almost definitely help with periods. It’s not a magic bullet – mine took a few months to totally calm down – but it’s worth it
I also got a coil following awful periods. The pain was horrendous, and generally only a day curled up with my head under the duvet, having taken ibuprofen and a brandy, would touch it. Also v heavy, so I was recommended a mirena rather than a copper coil. It is like a miracle.
The Mirena coil is a miracle! Transformed my life after 4 children. I think I just kept having children to avoid periods.
thanks guys. I think this is enough to galvanise me into action!
Anybody Out There wrecked me and not just bcs I was so emotionally invested in the family from other books.
I’ve had terrible periods my whole life and it was only when I lived with a lot of other women at university for the first time I realised it wasn’t normal to be out of your mind with pain and for everything to stop when you had one. I should have suspected from the Bodyform ads, really. I still managed to have an exceptionally painful first birth though (yes I have tried breathing, thanks, and no I’m not overreacting, please give me something stronger) Anyway, when I was 16 and probably at peak pain, and suffering quite a lot in silence (house full of brothers), a teacher gave me some poetry by Sylvia Plath and I got really into it – not particularly in an angsty way, but I just read a lot of it. Some years later when I studied her at university, I found out that she had an awful time with her periods, too, and realised that, suicide aside, she writes a lot about physical pain in her poems (and the colour red is everywhere), and sort of retrospectively understood why perhaps it had been such a thing for me as a teenager. At the moment though I’m really enjoying The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer.
I too am a huge Marian Keyes fan. For me, her books are like sitting down for a cosy chat with an old friend. I’ve read them all and I found Rachel’s Holiday to be my fave. Yes, it’s dark… but funny and very poignant too. I met Marian at a book reading several years ago and she was vibrant and witty. I was saddened to subsequently hear that she has lived with debilitating depression for years.
On the period front, I also had horrendous periods throughout my 20s. The pain — for the first few days in particular — was just vile. It was only after experiencing two heartbreaking miscarriages in my late 30s that I was diagnosed with endometriosis. It’s a condition that’s woefully under-diagnosed even though it affects many women (as is so often the case with women’s reproductive health). Chronic period pain is one of the main symptoms. I had minor laparoscopic surgery and it’s helped enormously on the pain front and I was finally able to conceive that longed-for baby (the condition can impact fertility). Some friends have subsequently been diagnosed with endometriosis… but only after they mentioned it to their GPs. The lesson is: don’t accept that bad period pain is simply part of life and to be your own advocate when talking to your GP/Gynecologist.
Feeling very smug as I’ve been a huge Marian fan for ages and am so glad you are all catching on. Also enjoy Jilly Cooper, Liane Moriarty, Amanda Prowse and Jane Fallon. But Marian is the best. Slightly sad that I don’t have her books to enjoy for the first time. I might start re reading them.
Period pains – my god they have loomed over my shoulder all my life. Vomiting, fainting, writhing in pain etc etc. I was promised it would all calm down after childbirth. It did not. It got worse. But I did complain profusely to my GP and, being too much of a wimp to get a coil (what if I’m one of those people who get things 100 times worse after a coil?) she gave me a prescription for mefanemic acid, which helps a lot with the pain of day 1 and 2.
You sound similar to me, I think that way too. I was on mefenamic acid for a while a long time ago and had been thinking about going back on it. I was always told it would be better after having children too, but I found it only eased up while I was breastfeeding and then it’s gradually worsened again.
I can’t believe I didn’t include this in my original post, but something has recently really REALLY helped with the pain (and I don’t know why, anyone?) is switching to using a mooncup. SO much less pain, it’s really very odd but true.
Susan Coleman says
I’ve been a Marian Keyes fan for ages and Rachel’s Holiday was my favourite. I used to like Joanna Trollope’s books and I’m reading Liane Moriarty, Nine Perfect Stangers currently. My literary tastes and expectations have certainly changed over the years. Love most Scandi crime fiction, but am a real sucker for good domestic fiction.
AMITRIPTYLINE WORKS WITH ENDO PAIN (which it…sounds like you might have been experiencing) just as a head’s up for other Spikers. I happened to take it for a migraine while ovulating and ACTUALLY SLEPT through the pain for the first time ever. My consultant was sceptical, but has let me have it on repeat and it’s changed my life without needing a mirena (can’t tolerate the hormones).
I’m glad the coil helped you but I gave up after 8 months. Yes my endo pain was less but the breakthrough bleeding was ridiculous. My life became like one long period – with continual PMT to boot. Last month I again fainted with the pain during the night on my way to the loo and found myself coming to in sweat-soaked pjs on the bathroom floor…Hubby slept through the whole thing, naturally. At 43 I’ve kind of given up hope. Maybe the menopause will be a blessing (ha ha).
My eldest started her periods last month. I hope to God she has a better time of it but judging by my family history, I’m not convinced.
As an aside, yep I like a bit of Marian Keyes and Liane Moriarty.
She is fantastic. I too found her books at a slightly dark time in life and found her immensely comforting. And then I was introduced to her way back when I had a tiny little regular feature in the Observer and she was so generous and kind about it, and I was all like, ‘but YOU’RE Marian Keyes. And I am only ME’.
She was a huge pro-choice advocate in the recent Irish abortion referendum. Go, Marian.
Jennifer Weiner, American author of (what’s a better word for chicklit? Funny women books? The Vagina Epilogues? I don’t know) anyway, those kinds of books, gives me a similar vibe. Worth a look.
I adore Marian, we had a signing with her back in the day when I worked at Waterstones and she was just lovely. She signed me a stack of her books that I still treasure now. Definitely a case of do meet your heroes with her.
I also suffered horrendously with pain, flooding etc. I did have the mirena coil fitted but it didn’t work due to undiagnosed fibroids. Our family of females just grow them in the womb like little mushrooms. Such fun. As for Marian Keyes … I’ve been listening to her little vlogs for months and they are just wonderful. She is down to earth, funny, sincere and has not one pretentious bone in her body.
Marian Keyes book of columns that she wrote for the Irish Times is excellent – you can hear her voice and instantly want to be her friend. Hugely modest. Sali Hughes In The Bathroom YouTube series features Marian Keyes (I think there might be 2 instalments) and she’s just a delightful lady.
Lady who commented on redheads having a lower pain threshold is spot-on. It’s a bugger. Beware of Amitriptyline, though… my late husband became addicted to it in the later stages of his cancer treatment, and tried to come off it, with the result that he found all the other shit a lot more difficult. I told him he wasn’t Mrs Dubose trying to quit morphine in To Kill A Mockingbird, and that painkiller addiction was the least of his problems. Although one of the side effects is curing bedwetting apparently…
Such clever writing as always, Esther… bloody love your blog, and it’s cheered me up countless times. Thanks.
Oh I ADORE her. I think Emma Freud and Scarlet Curtis online mentioned her Youtube videos and I was hooked. Her voice and her just sooth me. I only really stick about with Twitter or her. Like you, had never read her books but a lot of talk on the Break and I found it in English in Costco here in Iceland and did not have to remortgage my house to buy it (books in Iceland are obscenely expensive) and I am SO glad, I have not finished it yet as small child in tow but I love it I love her.
I re-read Rachel’s Holiday every year, its my favourite of them all. Too many classic scenes, when she discovers Luke and his friends wear the leather trousers on a rota basis, her big feet, the uneaten Easter egg (I read this page out to my family as it was my sister to a tee) the night she and Luke find each other in equal parts hilarious and hot, all the rehab scenes… Love how the sisters appear in each other’s stories too
Maureen Mccollum says
Marian is just lovely. She is such a fan of Strictly/Pasha that one season I was able to pm her with dance off results on Saturday nights so that she wasn’t stressed out during Sundays. When I went to a book signing of hers she introduced me as her strictly spy! She manages to touch the soul of women in her writing and make one feel not alone. She, and Himself, are just treasures.