I’ve never been a shy person. My grandparents always joke that I started talking very young and haven’t stopped for breath since. My mother also likes to remind me that as a five-year-old I would regularly sit the friends she had over down and perform to them, singing my favourite Beatles songs from my “stage” of the sofa. As I got older, that confidence grew with me. I still loved the stage and performed in every single thing I could audition for. I started writing poetry, sharing that and my thoughts about growing up and the world around me on a blog I made one day after school on WordPress.
Talking was never something that scared me. I told anyone anything, even the most personal details of my latest heartbreak I was happy to share with whoever would lend an ear. But there was one topic that always made me lower my voice, just a little: my period.
I grew up in a very open house, where I was taught my body and its processes were nothing to ever be ashamed of. Living in an all-female household, menstruation, particularly, was very openly discussed. Tampons were in an open box next to the toilet, not locked away in the bathroom cupboard, and I never felt embarrassed to ask my mum to pick me up pads when she went shopping. But somehow, somewhere along the line, a sense of shame about my bodily functions creeped in. I dreaded having my period at school – having to leave the classroom with a tampon shoved in my sleeve to go crouch in the dirty toilets. I was constantly paranoid that I’d bled through onto my skirt, that I’d get up from my seat to pointing fingers and sniggering laughs. It was the one thing that my friends and I didn’t talk about, instead we’d silently pass painkillers and, sneakily inside a pencil case, spare pads for anyone who’d been caught short. Sex wasn’t a taboo at all (we probably talked about it too much, really) but this was. Why? Well, none of us really knew.
But as we got older (and realised it was kind of un-feminist to reinforce the stigma around periods), we started sharing more and more. In our group of seven, one of us was always complaining about cramps or sore boobs. And whilst we were talking, it was always in a negative way.
“It isn’t fair we have to go through this every month”
“I’d give anything to just get a text from Mother Nature saying hey, you’re not pregnant! instead”
We all hated getting our periods and marked our calendars with angry red dots that signalled when we would be confined to our beds, cursing the world and our reproductive systems. I can very clearly remember wishing away the time I was bleeding and getting more and more cranky as it loomed again the following month.
It was only this year that my attitude towards my period changed, when I read an incredible book that encouraged me not just to accept, but embrace and adore my natural cycle. What I learned both fascinated and shamed me, for knowing so little about my own body before. Did you know that days 14-21 of our cycle are actually the height of our strength, motivation and creativity? And we have the most energy and engagement in days 7-13?
“My entire life, I’d resented my body for a process as natural and necessary as sneezing.”
My entire life, I’d resented my body for a process as natural and necessary as sneezing. And now I’ve started to harness that power, I wonder how I went so long fighting against it. I’ve stopped seeing my period as a burden, something to be over with as quickly as possible, but instead as a gift – as a chance to listen to my body, to trust it’s processes and marvel at just how amazing menstruation is.
And now I share this knowledge with every person I know that has a period, in the hope it changes their life as much as it changed mine. And as for talking about periods? Well, now I’ve started I just can’t stop… and you shouldn’t either.
It’s not just the function of periods we should better understand, but that, all over the world and in our own country, thousands of menstruators cannot have a safe and sterile period. The likes of Amika George, Bloody Good Period and Red Box Project are, rightfully, recognised for their Incredible contributions to the fight against period poverty, but we cannot stop at admiration. We have to keep signing, marching, donating, collecting and fundraising, all while shouting from the rooftops about menstrual equality. Because no one should be in silence about their period, and it’s on us to lead by example.