This month I am celebrating the 10 year anniversary of my menstrual cycle! Part of the celebration is writing about period shame, the gifts my cycle has given me, and reusable products all in one post for you. My hope is to continue to reduce menstrual cycle shame. As you read this, I invite you to notice how you feel. Are you scared, ashamed, excited? It’s okay to feel things, sit with it, and keep reading. You have my blessings to share this post from the rooftops. May we all continue to embrace period positivity!
My cycle began when I was 11 years old. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing. So much in my life has changed since that time. The only thing that has stayed the same is once a month, I get my period. What a beautiful thing. If you told me when I was 11 I would be writing about my period for the whole world to read I think I would have laughed, or cried. Truth be told, growing up in the United States I learned a lot about shame. I didn't want to think about the possibility that a man could know I had a period (hello, patriarchy!)
This is one of the beautiful things that has changed as my cycle and I mature. We are loud and proud and happy to be here. I AM A HEALTHY MENSTRUATING WOMEN! There, you heard it from me first. In the past few years, a lot has shifted with my relationship to shame and my body. I used to be frightened by the idea of having to get a pad out of my bag and somehow sneak it into the bathroom without anyone seeing. Experiences that have given me the strength to be empowered in my cycle are loving and supportive female friends, who have also dealt with cycle shame and who can laugh and talk about our cycle like it's a friend, my own aging and maturing, and having a partner that I can vent, chat or cry about my cycle with, with no sign of judgement in sight.
Over the years I’ve struggled with intense cramps. It’s never fun to have to sit in a three-hour, class and feel like someone is ripping my uterus apart. One way I’ve facilitated change around a painful cycle is by eliminating inflammatory foods. Wheat is a no no for my body, and after I cut it out the painful cramps reduced significantly. Another one is sugar, I try to avoid it around my cycle as much as possible (I’m not always perfect) but it does make a big difference. My cycle requires me to tune in and give my body what it needs. What an extraordinary skill! To have to learn to take care of my body through my cycle from such a young age has taught me respect and reference for my body.
Instead of using disposable menstrual products, which sit in landfills, or end up in the ocean, I choose reusables. Cloth pads, Thinx and a menstrual cup. In addition to these sweet babes being reusable, they are also free of bleach and other chemicals that traditional disposable products are full of. I don’t want to bombard my body with chemicals, it has enough work to do!
During Christmas, my mom gifted me more reusable pads. My brothers best friend was hanging out with us while we all opened gifts. When I peeked in the bag and saw pads in it I stopped for a second, I was embarrassed. That's when I decided no, I will not continue the cycle of period shame. Why should I have to feel uncomfortable about something I use to enhance the quality of my well being? I proudly pulled out my Glad Rags and explained what they are and why they are important for women's health. As I wielded the sword of patriarchy smashing, I acknowledged out loud to the room that yes I get my period, and yes I use reusable pads. It’s a moment in my life I’m proud of for stepping up to the plate. P.S. reusables are not gross, you wash them, just like your underwear, or your tee shirts, so let's just end that taboo right here.
As I reflect through the years of my many period mishaps and triumphs I realize on this journey with my dear cycle I’ve learned so much. My period has reminded me to slow down, to listen to my body’s wisdom. My period forces me to pay attention and to take care of myself, an act of self love. I feel very lucky to be connected to something that reminds me of rhythm, ritual, and life's cycles.
Do you feel excited or scared to share this post with a friend? As the author, I experienced a mix of excitement and fear writing it. In writing this piece, I invited myself to release the shame from discussing periods openly. I invite you into this conversation of period positively with open arms.
A helpful link to learn more about the chemicals found in disposable products: here.
You can find a period positive resource here.