~ a continuation from Learning to Love My Period, Part 1.
As I mentioned in my last post, for a long time I had no understanding of my period other than it came once a month and that over the years it got progressively more painful. In fact, when I was first typing up the draft for this post I was lying in bed with a hot water bottle, tea and some dark chocolate at the ready, willing myself to feel a little more excited about periods!
I vividly remember first getting my period. A few friends of mine had theirs, and I think we may have had the 'period talk' at school, so I at least knew what it was. Much to my relief my stepmother didn't make a big deal about it, got me some pads and gave me some advice on when to change them, staying clean and the like.
As far as I can remember, that was the last time I really spoke frankly (or was spoken to frankly) about my period for quite some time. My family decided to homeschool my sister and I once my first year of high school rolled around, and sadly no sex education of any sort was taught. So, while I'm sure it isn't uncommon for girls in their early teens to be fairly private about their bodies, the fact that I wasn't getting any information from any source, left me completely in the dark.
When I was around 16 or so, I went to see the doctor to address the dreaded acne I was experiencing. He in turn diagnosed me with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and put me on the pill.
After this diagnosis I saw many different doctors who all talked to me as if I understood what my period was about. I always nodded and agreed with them, took the tests and whatever latest medicine they wanted to give me, while never having a clue what they were talking about. I knew that my body was getting rid of something when menstruating; what or why, I had no idea, nor did I really know how this related to the cysts on my ovaries (they're actually not cysts, but immature follicles that look like multiple cysts in an ultrasound). What I did know was that my period was still painful, uncomfortable and now the 'cause' of this mystery illness which caused acne, caused weight gain, and possibly infertility. Great!
Thankfully, while I was at Teachers College, I had the pleasure of living with two medical students and a trainee Health & P.E. Teacher. Needless to say, discussions about bodies, health, sexuality, etc became much freer! This was such a revelation to me! To be able to discuss my body, my period and my feelings towards that openly was so empowering (and at times hilarious) and it encouraged me to do some research both into PCOS and the fundamentals of menstruation that totally opened up my eyes. Before this, it had truly never occurred to me that I could look into this for myself – partly out of embarrassment that I didn't already have the answers. A few years back my husband bought me a copy of the groundbreaking book 'Our Bodies, Ourselves' which furthered my education and understanding of my body and my period.
So no, I don't always 'love' my period. What I do love is how empowering it feels to be knowledgeable and to feel connected to what my body is doing, and I am so thankful that there were people who gave me the space to be able to discuss this openly in the first place!
How about you? How have your feelings toward your period changed (or not) over the years? Is it something you feel comfortable talking about with friends and family? I'd love to hear your thoughts and stories in the comments!