Note: this post is going to be explicit and possibly more detail than you want. You have been warned.
I’m reading a lot of spiritual feminist stuff at the moment and the idea of menstruation not being a shameful thing is coming up repeatedly.
Society has issues with any kind of bodily output but as something that only women* experience, periods are considered especially icky. It’s a “curse”, it’s something that we talk about in euphemisms, it’s a taboo.
When was the last time you heard someone refer to blood when talking about periods (another way of avoiding saying menstruation). You might hear pms, bloating, that time of the month. You might hear reference to it as a way of explaining why a woman isn’t happy with something or is standing up for something. As a way of undermining women. But you are very unlikely to hear about blood.
The idea of menstruation is one that is associated with unnatural things, despite it being so incredibly natural. It is considered disgusting despite it being the very reason that you are alive today – without it, your mother couldn’t have carried you.
There is so much I want to say about periods and the different ways that they are experienced in different parts of the world. There are some girls out there who can’t go to school because they can’t access sanitary products. There are some people out there who are forced or coerced to take birth control so that their periods stop. There are people out there who really struggle with their periods and are brushed off when they try to seek help for their pain or their moods.
But this post is entitled me and my periods. So, back to me.
I have never liked my periods.
I remember wanting my period because I thought my mother would treat me differently. I thought, because it would connect the two of us and not my sister, she would love me. Obviously this was not the case. But I clung to it. And getting your period was grown up and like most young people I was in a rush to become an adult.
But once I got my period (on a canal boat… eugh!), everything changed and nothing changed. My relationship with my mother was exactly the same. But now I had to contend with potentially unpredictable bleeding. A mother who blamed any acting out or standing up for myself as hormones. Everything was blamed on my hormones. And I was expected to use tampons, because my mother did. But what no one tells you is that inserting a tampon isn’t supposed to make you cry in pain. That it shouldn’t be like forcing your hand through a brick wall. See my post about vaginismus for more metaphors and similes on the matter of inserting anything into my vagina.
And when you are 13, you are already so scared that you aren’t right and I had no sense of self esteem and then to top it off my vagina seemed to be broken and I had no words to explain this.
Fast forward a few years and I am now experiencing horrific pain with my period. It also comes with an unpredictable and quite inconvenient dose of diarrhoea. To the point I missed a number of lectures. And didn’t feel I could tell anyone why. Sharing two toilets with nine other people didn’t make this any easier…
I went on the pill. Yay, my periods should be manageable, whoop! No. Yes I knew when I was going to bleed each month but on the odd occasion I tried to skip my bleed, I would instead end up with a month long period. On the plus side, there was regularity and it was lighter. Although actually, I’ve always been pretty regular with my periods. My body loves them.
A few years later and I lost a lot of weight because of anorexia. Periods stopping are a sign or symptom of anorexia – at the time I was thinking at least some good would come from this. But no. My body loves its periods. Despite being incredibly underweight, I still had them. I only missed 3.
A few more years and my body still loves to have its periods. I am not going to have children, I can’t have children and my periods are heavy and messy and humiliating. Any shred of dignity is lost when my carers have to shower me when I’m bleeding. They have to wash blood out of underwear, out of pjs and out of my bedding. At times they have to change my sanitary towels.
Even when I am physically up to changing my sanitary towels, I still have other issues. I love that some people find their period empowering and a way to connect to their body. For me, it is about lack of control, lack of dignity and the mess that comes with it. Other than blood stains, you also have to contend with the actual bleeding. Guys, I bet you’ve not thought about this – there are times in my cycle where the blood is continuous.
I’m trying to decide how explicit to get here. F*ck it.
So when you are trying to wipe yourself clean after using the toilet, you have not only got to deal with the diarrhoea, you also have to keep wiping the blood until you think you might get your knickers and hence sanitary towel up round your waist in time to not get blood all over the place. This involves a lot of wiping. And my hands struggle at the best of times**.
There is the matter of dry, crusty blood that arises because I still only get one shower a week regardless of whether I am bleeding or not. There is the matter of being allergic to the sticky side of sanitary towels. There is the cramping and all the other stuff that comes with a period for most women.
So I do not like my period.
I wish I did. I wish I could enjoy it or at least not hate it. But at least I am hating it as a conscious choice. We are socialised to not like our periods – they are messy and they are reminders to the patriarchy that however powerful men get, they will not be able to create life. We are socialised to be quiet and hide ourselves away when we are bleeding. We are socialised to pretend there’s no blood involved.
So feel free to love or hate your period, or feel indifferent if that’s how you feel. But examine your reasons. Is it because you do get awful pain or is it because that is how you’ve been told you should feel?
*not all people who menstruate are women, not all women menstruate but i’m using the word woman here anyway for ease of language and am speaking in generalities.
**I have a toilet topper which does have a wash and blow function but I find it useless for periods, advice is welcomed from others in similar circumstances!