Every time my friends have period cramps, I get a pang of jealousy. When I overhear someone complain about their PMS, I think about how comforting those cramps would be. If my friends bring up having kids, we laugh at the thought of ourselves with the responsibility of keeping something alive. But then I see a tiny baby hand or a little squishy baby face and I wonder if I’ll ever get to have one of my own.
I haven’t had a period for almost 18 months. Honestly, I would abandon all my vegan principles and sacrifice a baby lamb to feel that mortifying trickle and get that surge of panic that lets you know it’s your time of the month. I fondly look back on my years of tampon use; that awkward waddle when it’s not quite in the right angle, the horror of waking up knowing you should’ve taken that bad boy out before you fell asleep and the constant fear of double stuffing yourself. Ah, the good old days. Sometimes I wear a sanitary pad just for nostalgia.
Fuck you! I hear all the ladies cry. You don’t have to deal with the menstrual monster twisting your uterus and making you want to cry for no reason. Your boobs don’t suddenly ache for a week and you only have to take pain killers if you’re actually ill! These are all fair points my friends, I see where you’re coming from.
But just imagine all these things happening to you at completely random intervals. You walk into the kitchen, open the fridge only to see there’s no hummus. Bam! Burst in to tears. Am I PMSing, or am I overly attached to my main food group. Probably both. But how can I tell? You’re revising for a test, it’s all going well and you’re feeling on top of it, when suddenly you drop your pen on the floor. Bam! Burst in to tears. Am I stressed because it’s exam time? Is it my invisible hormone friends? Or am I simply unhinged? There is no way to tell. My hormones are still there, I think, and they still have a cycle, I guess, but I have absolutely no idea where I stand in that cycle and what the hell is going on down there.
So like anyone would, I went to a doctor. They asked me some questions, sampled my blood and sent me to get a probe shoved up my vagina. They told me weight loss and overexercise can send your period packing. If not, it might be caused by excessive stress or, of course, I might be unknowingly knocked-up. Alternatively, it could be hyperthyroidism or polycystic ovaries, both common conditions that affect our ovulating organs. But my hormone levels were normal and the fine young thang that examined my fallopian tubes told me it’s all looking peachy. So what the hell is wrong with my body?
When we start asking ourselves this, it’s a slippery slope. I started to question every aspect of my lifestyle, looking for the one thing I could change to get myself back on track and feel like a normal human being again. And when I did that I started to stress. I triggered a chain of questioning that quickly unraveled. From worrying about my physiological wellbeing I began to question my overall health and mental stability. I then lost the ability to approve my own decisions and constantly second guessed all of my thoughts. I no longer felt like anything I chose to do was the right thing for me, because I was too afraid of potential consequences and unable to discern good ideas from bad.
But therein lies the root of my problems. All of us, I hope, worry about whether we are doing the right thing. Not always in a moral sense, sometimes it’s a case of asking ourselves ‘is this going to make my life better’. Or even, ‘is this going to improve my day’. And what counts as ‘improvement’ depends on what you believe is fulfilling. Which differs from person to person. So sometimes I wake up and I know my day would be better overall if I sleep through my nine a.m. lecture and catch those extra Zs, so I can get up and be more productive later on. But you might wake up in the same position and think ‘I’m paying money for this shit I want to be educated’ so you get up and go. In either case, we both decided what was better for us and we would both think the other were wrong. Then ask someone else and they might agree with me, or they might think I’m lazy. What’s more, I might then wake up the next day and realise I’ll have to write an essay on what I missed. So I regret not going. Or I might find out the lecture was pointless or cancelled and feel pleased with myself. All of those things are equally likely to happen, so why waste energy worrying about any of them?
As soon as I started thinking like this my perspective of my own right or wrong actions shifted and I beat myself up less about decisions I later deemed as mistakes. It actually becomes easier to make decisions that are fulfilling in themselves, because they no longer have to be judged on an imaginary scale.
When I decided to approach life in this way, I started to worry a little less. In reality no one knows what’s good or bad for us. If doctors can’t give me the answers I want, maybe teachers can’t give me the knowledge I need and politicians can’t create the systems to help us. That may sound bleak, but it’s actually the opposite. It makes you think about what you can learn from other people, not what they can give you. It removes the feeling that other people know better. Or that there is something innately better to strive for. And when you no longer see actions as good or bad, you stop worrying about how to do things right and instead start to just live.
Pressure to be normal gets to all of us and takes many different forms. Now I think about my lack of period more like a common cold rather than an abnormality. I’d rather not live with it, it makes me feel shitty sometimes but ultimately, it will pass. There’s no point thinking about where the cold came from, who gave it to you or if you could’ve prevented yourself from getting it. Instead the best thing to do is blow your nose and go and do something else. Embrace the discomfort, roll with it and slowly it becomes less and less painful.