“Holy shit,” my 10 year old self thought at the sight of rusty brown blood in my undies that afternoon. I thought I had maybe internally hurt my vagina somehow, someway. I rolled up some toilet paper and stuck it in my polk-a-dotted pair of Hanes undies and continued my day, ignoring what I had just witnessed, hoping it would go away. I had started my period and had not a damn clue, being so young and naive. It took me 3 days to finally share with my best friend’s mom that I was “bleeding down there”. She assured me I wasn’t hurt, I just started my period.
School hadn’t yet taught us about how the ovaries worked and how we would all eventually become oh so familiar with bleeding. That wouldn’t introduced until 5th grade. My mother didn’t talk super openly about it because I was still so young, she thought she had time. She gave me an American Girl book at 8 that talked about puberty briefly and that was my lesson on menstruation until I experienced it for myself. Ohhh, did I experience it. I would bleed for three weeks at a time then get a break for one week. This cycle repeated for months. No follicular, ovulation or luteal phases, just menstruation (we definitely weren’t taught those terms or phases of menses at school, ever).
The visit with my pediatrician offered temporary relief of the irregular cycle and cramps that kept me home from school. She offered me my first pack of birth control, at 10 years old. Neither my doctor, my mom or myself knew better, so we all agreed upon this solution to my monster menses. However, not only did this cover up the problem, it created more down the line. Taking these pills so young felt wrong but I also felt hopeless, so I abided by the Doc’s orders.
The pills provided temporary relief, so long as I remembered to take them daily. If my younger self forgot one pill, the blood came rushing the next day. The birth control made me sick, nauseas like I had never felt in my life and so moody. The pills worked though, until it was time for my period. The blood still flowed heavier than the Nile, the clots worsened, the cramps relieved slightly. Still, I remained helpless and feeling lost.
Once the habit was formed of taking these nightly, which took about a year, I began to feel like any other normal girl experiencing her period. Little did I know other peers among me had experienced this same thing but never shared it because of how stigmatized talking openly about periods and period blood was. We were stuck in our silence and unconsciously perpetuating menstrual shame every time we kept quiet. It wasn’t our faults, it was a system so broken and disconnected to blame.
At 14 years old, I decided I was done taking birth control. Not only was it covering up a health issue, it created more. It worsened my Bipolar Disorder and made me suicidal. I was no longer comfortable pumping my body full of high amounts of artificial hormones, so without the doctors orders, I stopped taking them. My mom supported, reluctantly at first. (Always consult your health care provider before stopping ANY medication/s.)
As a result, I suffered the heavy and long weeks of bleeding. I willingly did and although my periods “sucked”, I felt more empowered than ever. My mind felt like it cleared the foggy haze and my stomach wasn’t in knots. I didn’t have to cover up my heavy period and ignore it, it was brought to light for the first time to be healed. I started being okay with my period, rather than hating it.
First, I began by tracking my period, when I would start bleeding and when the bleeding was over. I made sure to always do this, so I could familiarize myself with my cycle rather than be surprised when it came. I also researched about my period and quickly learned there were other phases of the cycle that I was never taught in school or even heard of. I learned that bleeding was the beginning of a new cycle, not the end of one. I began to familiarize myself with the other phases, which empowered my period and myself even more.
When I was 17, I learned that removing dairy from my diet could help regulate my period, so I went all out and eliminated animal products from my diet completely. Once I switched my diet, everything in my period game changed within two months. The color of my blood became cherry red, rather than mahogany. Blood clots hardly ever made an appearance and for the first time ever, my period began to regulate itself. My cramps were so minimal that drinking water could usually clear them. I no longer experienced cramps that kept me bedridden and my period became something I could anticipate and feel in my bones. I’m 20 now and after 10 years of period experience, I’ve found something that works entirely for me and others I have opened up with.
For the first time in my menstruating life, I felt free. I fell in love with my period. I was excited for it to come. It wasn’t gross or demonized in my mind. My period meant and still to this day means, I am entering a new cycle of becoming and flushing from my body the past month of trials and errors, hurt and happiness, all being that no longer serves my body/mind/soul. I’ve learned to honor my period as the beautiful, powerful and sacred cycle of release and welcoming that it is.
I am not trying to demonize birth control, it is the answer for many women for many things. I am not trying to convert any one to eating or living or being a certain way. There’s no wrong way to live, no wrong way to have a period and there is no wrong way to be a womxn. I am simply sharing my experience and knowledge. Know you are not alone, ever. You are supported and powerful and there are so many options for “monster menses”, including but not limited to learning your body, switching lifestyles to holistic practices and learning to love your period no matter what the flow may be.
Let’s open up the conversation about periods, about irregular flows, about birth control and how it doesn’t work or resonate with everyone and how it does. We need more period love, more period knowledge and acceptance and it starts within us. We are bleeding warriors and we are infinitely powerful. Let’s embrace it. Let’s love our periods. Let’s heal them, ourselves and each other through destroying the stigmatization of period talk. Be open, be honest, be free.