I Thought I’d Die Of Toxic Shock Syndrome

I’ve been afraid of dying my whole life. I can be an anxious person.  I’m better equipped to handle my worries as an adult,  but it wasn’t always that way.  As a child, and even through my young adulthood, I was far too embarrassed and anxious to ask anyone of real authority to elaborate on the facts of life. Astoundingly, I still live to write about it!


Although my demise has been imagined in many shapes and forms (by likely more than just me), there is one in particular that resurfaced this week.

The fifth graders at our local elementary school had The Puberty Talk and video viewing last week.  (The staff outdid themselves by bundling it as a Puberty Talk/Hawaiian Day /Last-Day-Before-Break Day!)


The buzz around town was that the kids were tightly wound about the event.  I have complete admiration for my daughter, who appeared unflustered by the whole ordeal…despite that in this day and age, attendance is co-ed! (eek!)

I distinctly recall panicking when The Talk happened at my school. I remember something else, too, which relates to my resurfaced, imagined demise:

The first time I ever got my period I thought I was dying.


This is where male readers may choose to exit; I beg you to continue.

I thought I was dying, and that’s not a joke for effect. It happened late at night. I knew there was a spotty possibility that it was just my period, but I figured my life cup had ‘floweth over’. This was more likely an aggressive disease that would deny me the chance to ever see myself fill out an A cup.

That night, I wrote my will (in pen), fearing I wouldn’t live to see the next day. Surprisingly, I woke in the morning, still the rightful owner of my George Michael tape collection, my favorite cobalt blue Champion sweatshirt,  and all the coveted Teen Bop NKOTB centerfolds that lined my pink bedroom walls.


Tampons were not able to plug my overflowing fears.  I never bothered to ask my mother if I could use them.  I considered it the forbidden area that nobody talked about; that it might open the floodgates to more personal questions.  Self-conscious and sick with anxiety one day at a pool party, I finally confided in my cousin. Her step-by-step verbal cues through the bathroom door were hard to absorb.  With one leg up on the toilet and my hands shaking like I was defusing a bomb, I managed to lock and load.


Shockingly, wearing the tampon was not my biggest stick-up.  I had spent many a bathroom visit reading and re-reading the information pamphlet inside the Tampax box, long before I ever dared to wear one.

My extensive bathroom research, paired with what little I knew of toxic shock syndrome, resulted in a stage five tailspin.  I was walking around with a quick-light dynamite stick between my legs.


My attempt to cross the pool lounge area in a quick, subtle, careful-not-to-set-the-stick-off fashion was neither easy nor graceful.  I  carried myself like a woman smuggling a balloon of cocaine through airport security. Still, I did it– while confronting the added worry of sucking up the entire pool with my tampon.


But if you’re wondering if I still worry about toxic shock? You’re bloody right I do. But I finally made it into the pool.


What are some of your anxieties from childhood?  Share them and we can commiserate together!

6 thoughts on “I Thought I’d Die Of Toxic Shock Syndrome

  1. This is great! VERY pre-internet, I remember lying awake trying to imagine what the actual demise from toxic shock syndrome would play out like….

    1. Right!? And I can’t figure out if it would be more or less helpful to have the internet back then…I mean, maybe I would have been reading something besides tampon pamphlets… who knows!

  2. Elease, your account had me laughing so hard because I went through the same experience, except with 3 brothers in the house. I rememeber coming home after that day at school (thank GOD it was NOT coed then…yikes!) and both of my parents were so eager to talk about it. I was like, “No thanks” and probably locked myself in my room that entire weekend to avoid the awkwardness.
    And when it actually happened, I remembered being thrilled that only my Mom and I were home. But I had a TSS shock once during HS softball. I felt light headed and ready to puke during practice and when I got home and ‘unloaded’, there was an immediate shift in how I felt. That time bomb was ticking loudly! Never underestimate the back of a tampon box lol.

  3. Hah! The “talk” was delivered in the cafeteria by our 99 year old school nurse. A hateful classmate dared me to ask what a douche is. Like an idiot, I raised me hand and to my horror she explained. The next day, she pulled me out of class, took me to her office, showed me a douche and explained how it works in excruciating detail. Mortifying!
    To this day, I avoid the aisle in CVS. I was traumatized for life.

    1. Oh. My. Gawd! That is amazing and horrifying! 🤣😬😳

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