(If talk of periods makes you feel uncomfortable, you may not want to read this, but also you need to grow up).
I won’t even lie to you guys, up until the age of about 18, telling when my next period would be was kind of a spidey-senses thing.
At the time I couldn’t give you dates or numbers, but I could tell you “it’s about to come” and “it’s about to finish.” To be honest, that was pretty accurate, you can definitely feel and see the signs in your body once they’re no longer new to you.
Nonetheless, this intuitive method doesn’t allow you to prepare for and take the right care of yourself in each stage of your menstrual cycle. Even more so when you’re sexually active, or using hormonal contraceptives. It is also trickier to recognise any changes, variations and even abnormalities in your body.
Being on your period can be so inconvenient, for many women, it is not just an inconvenience it can be extremely painful, take a toll on one’s emotional well being or their ability to carry out essential daily tasks.
However, liberation has taken restrictions place in many areas of my experience. It starts with being able to talk openly about it and ridding ourselves of the pressure to be prudish when approaching the subject.
There are many factors I take into consideration now when I think “period” — instead of just “ugh great, that time of the month again” or “well, I guess this means I’m not pregnant.”
Tracking my menstrual cycle has become a holistic activity and part of how I practice self-care. Something I am equally as concerned about both within and outside of the four days that my uterus sheds its lining (the bleeding).
If you ask me when my next period is today: I can give you an estimated date. I can tell you that my period normally lasts for 4 days and, my flow goes from light/medium on the first day, to medium/heavy on the next two, to light/spotting on the fourth day.
I can tell you that in the days leading up to my period, I gain weight, and find myself looking and feeling quite bloated (the food I choose to eat affects how significant these changes are and they may also be in part psychological because I am generally the only person that notices them). I also crave sugary carbs (a catch-22), bread, cake, pastries, biscuits – all that bad stuff.
I tend to feel less confident in my appearance and less “sexy” during this time, however, my libido usually increases (another catch 22?). So I try to make time for extra pampering and TLC (try is the keyword here, sadly we don’t really get extra hours in the day or time off for being on your period, kmt).
I am always extremely exhausted and fatigued particularly on the second and third days of my period, the loss of blood is especially problematic for me because I lack iron (anaemia). To counter this, I try to make sure I eat enough nutritious food throughout the day (everyday), especially foods rich in iron. However, taking an extra iron supplement on each day the of the period helps when I don’t have the time.
Because lack of time is an issue I tend to have, meal prepping prior to my period also helps to make sure to I eat well during. It also means that I don’t have to get up to cook a full meal when I’m feeling exhausted.
This is me, Charisse, this is my body. I am in control and am equipped with the tools needed to manage my cycle.
Knowing yourself goes further than what you like and don’t like; it is also how your body functions, what you need, when and how you need it, for example. I have been able to monitor these things through using an app called Clue.
“Clue is a female health app that uses science and data to help you discover the unique patterns in your [menstrual] cycle.”
I love the use of the word “discover” in this context. There is nothing I hate more than one-size-fits all approaches to the human experience, because we are all so different and this must always be at the core of understanding how we as humans function.
Unfortunately for many of us women, we are taught about ourselves, our bodies and our sexuality in this one-size-fits-all manner and so, the understanding of self really is a discovery that happens sometimes too late in life.
Which really sucks. How can you be expected to live an enjoyable life to its full extent, if something as essential as knowledge of self isn’t easily accessible?
When you don’t know that what works for everyone else, actually might not be the best thing for you.
When you may suffer in silence because you think your discomfort is normal.
When you may struggle in silence because women are taught to be discreet about their periods, (and many other intimate experiences).
The issue I have always had with the way science (in this case Biology) is taught from a young age is that it is often taught without context and it is partially detached from reality.
Sex-ed (from my experience) is taught without nuance, without consideration of well-being, mental health, social issues and DIVERSITY. The Fader recently published a great story on this topic: Will Sex-Ed Ever Get Any Better?
It is often taught out of obligation as opposed to care. This is why I believe it is so important that these conversations are normalised at home, and in social situations. That our parents and guardians openly and extensively talk us through these things, because they can address us as individuals and with concern for our wellbeing.
PS: Clue didn’t sponsor me for this, I just felt it was important to share so if you download the app, let me know how it goes for you! If you already use it, let’s talk, how does it work for you? We women have got to learn from each other – @CharisseeC.