Let’s Talk About Periods!
By: Megan Bodnar
I am a firm believer that we should be more comfortable talking about periods. We should be more comfortable sharing our experiences in a bigger way than just, “Aunt flow is here y'all!” In an effort to normalize period talk, open myself up to anyone else who reads this and feels a need to share, and to help you feel less alone, I am sharing my story. The point of this blog is not ONLY to bitch; of course, there’s no shame in that, because we all gotta do it sometimes, am I right? Unfortunately, I cannot say that by some miraculous act of God my body is fully recovered and on its way to changing the world. But I started listening. I started listening to the feeling that something was wrong. I started listening to the guilt, the pressure, the anxiety, the stress, the feeling of worthlessness. And with that, I found myself. I realized that just because I missed out on teenage girl stuff because of my experience doesn’t mean that I am not a person. I am a person with thoughts, feelings, and passions.
Here we go. 2013.
I started my period, which walked directly from the gates of hell. My flow was heavy and lasted for more than ten days the first time. Then, no period for six months. I seriously believed that it was a fluke and that I had never even started my period in the first place. Then I started having “regular” periods, meaning that I didn’t lack for six months. My cycle has never been normal. I would consistently bleed through super plus tampons and nighttime pads in less than an hour for 10-15 days. Then I would have roughly 10-14 days before I would bleed again. Needless to say, it was miserable.
Fast forward to February 2014.
My mom decided it was time I got on birth control. She had similar issues at my age and said the pill may help with regulation. A few months into taking hormones, I was in a similarly difficult situation. Now, I was bleeding just as heavily as before for more than 20 days straight, with 3-5 days off. On these “off” days, I was still spotting. I was also extremely emotional, as in, more emotional than I already naturally am (seems impossible, but I swear). I was filled with anxiety, resentment towards my body, anger towards everybody, and I never stopped crying.
After about 4 months…
I got off the hormones. That’s when my hair fell out the first time. After it fell out 10 more times, I had a scalp biopsy and was told that stress, anxiety, and hormones had caused me to have a disease called alopecia.
The next time I went to the doctor, I got the arm implant. It was quick, easy, and I read minimal information beforehand. HOWEVER, ladies, I swear I wasn’t JUST some naive 15 year old; I was a naive 15 year old that saw, “Regulate or stop bleeding,” and went for it. So, now I have a piece of plastic in my arm that I enjoy poking at and freaking people out with, because you can see the outline of it if I press on it. The fun stopped there, unfortunately.
If I am being completely honest, I don’t remember much about this time. Maybe a year? I remember at one point I bled heavily for six months straight. I went to school, did homework, and would go to sleep at 5 pm every night. I lost my appetite and lost some weight, though I was always extremely bloated and swollen. When I wasn’t sleeping, I was crying. I remember having meltdowns as if I was going through terrible twos. Every month or so I would have a breakdown and my hair would fall out. When I turned 16, I went and got my license and had a meltdown for three hours afterwards because I had to wear a wig for my license photo.
I frequented my gynecologist every couple months, and I remember going in and hoping to get the bar out and try something else. When I heard the words, “This is normal. 6 more months,” come out of her mouth, I lost it. I was sitting on the floor of the waiting room crying, begging her to take it out.
A month later, I attempted to take it out myself using a razor blade and rubbing alcohol.
I think one of the hardest things to deal with was after I was off hormones and my body was getting back to normal: I lived in a state of confusion about myself. I can’t remember much of what happened from the ages of 15 to 17. I missed out on crucial teenage girl stuff, and I was bald for most of the time. I had no idea who I was, what I was passionate about, and I had lost my friends in that time period.
I felt incapable of real connections with people, which came with a lot of anxiety.
I felt like there was no way for me to make up that lost time.
After I got off hormones, I also had a lot of guilt. My family still talks about the time like it’s a nightmare, and I believe them. I know that it had to be hard on the people around me, and I’m still working through that guilt and anxiety.
One tangible way that I began listening to my body was through an app called Clue. I am a to-do list/planner/calendar type of gal. I love organization, and so I always wanted to use a period tracking app; but so many of them are targeted for regular cycles. I downloaded so many different apps, and they never let me set my period past 10 days.
What I love about Clue is that you don’t just track whether you’re bleeding or not. There's options based on how much you want to track. Currently, I track bleeding, pain, emotions, sleep, sex, energy, cravings, digestion, fluid, skin, mental, motivation, social, partying, exercise, appointment, meditation, collection method of bleeding, stool, and ailments. Yeah, I know. And there are still more options than that.
I find these options important, because if I’m feeling pretty antisocial and angry one day, then I can track that on the app and create a sense of validation. Like, “This is okay. You are a person who isn’t at 100% every damn day.” I notice patterns around my (still kind of irregular) cycle. I notice that every time I’m in my fertile window, I require more sleep, my skin is oily as hell, and I crave everything.
Knowing this makes me feel more connected to my body. I know not to take on too much at work if my fertile window is coming up. I know that the time in between my period and fertile window is when I feel most productive, and that two days before my period starts is when everything annoys me and I cry a lot. Knowing these things helps me calibrate my days and do only what I know I can handle.
Feeling invalidated by my doctors was a difficult thing to deal with, because that is their job, to prescribe my medicines and do what they think is best. But I know my body better than anyone, and I know when something is wrong. Of course, at the time, I didn’t know that. I was convinced that I was crazy. I felt alone.
This is my horror story. This shit happens. I want to reiterate that my point is to help you realize your own greatness, especially if you’re going through something similar. My point is to let you know: You are not alone. Just because everyone’s experience is different doesn’t mean you are alone. It is valid to question your doctor.