One of my friends, Jenna, is an infinitely calming and grounding influence on my life. She just seems to understand what's important and ultimately why we should care about anything and why we should keep caring. Do you ever meet people like that? People who are super validating of you and your experience by embodying self-possession and who inspire you to be the same? I just think she's really cool like that.
Recently she has been doing excellent things with her blog, The Red Circle. Where she charts her cycle. I've been reading the blog, reading about the charting that others have been doing, reading recommended stuff, looking into the theory. I'll level with you, I never thought I'd be remotely interested in doing this, but something clicked recently that has been in the process of clicking for several years.
Yesterday, I found myself lying on the bed, my legs hanging off the edge and my pyjama bottoms dangling around my ankles. Groaning, rocking back-and-forth, pressing a heated neck massager into my pelvis. I am, of course, talking about period cramps. Last Christmas I bought my partner an electric neck massager. Everything is stressful 'at the moment', by which I mean for the last few years, so I purchased a nice, warm shiatsu experience without realising the cramp-busting potential.
I've always made light of periods. Not in any attempt to degrade or humiliate or otherwise depict it as something disgusting or private, but really just to frame it as an annoying companion who knocks on the door once a month and insists on crashing with me for a while. In a way I've attempted to make it kind of cute, even. Just my uterus playing up because I've not provided it with a lodger, oh bless. Sometimes it's still fun to do that, and I would encourage anybody who experiences it to process in any way they deem fit. It is especially true that with people who experience, we don't always need to get into it any more than that.
However, I have noticed that making light of it to myself has started to feel really invalidating. Yesterday, I lay there with red, mottled skin because I'd burned it with a hot water bottle. When my partner suggested I use the massager (t h a n k y o u !), I was unable to stand, knees pressed into the carpet, face planted into the sofa as I cried. It was a cold-sweat pain that hurt so much it was difficult to talk through it. Everything inside me felt like it was pulsing. My head throbbed and everything felt uncomfortable and heavy. I recognise that not everyone wants to discuss periods in detail. If you're squeamish, if you rank periods as scatological, or you're really just trying to eat your lunch - I get it. However, I want to get into the habit of at least calling it what it is. Menstruation, period, bleeding. A conscious effort to avoid calling it Aunt Flo or the monthly visitor, because who are we doing that for? Maybe I used to do it for myself to avoid shame, but I'm feeling tired of being embarrassed. If I have to lie there in agony, tears running into my ears and crying out because I don't know what else to do, I'm going to address it by name.
I realise I might seem woefully behind on this. Haven't feminists already done this? Haven't we already addressed period stigma? In my echo chambers, it feels this way. But pipe up in any group of people that you're on your period or, god forbid, retrieve a sanitary towel from your bag and you're still going to get mixed reactions. I've stopped hiding my sanitary towels and stopped using the cute little codenames for my period, and every time I feel validated, and closer to the self-possession I want to feel. A few weeks ago I openly told my coworkers I was having a 'bit of a week' due to being on my period, and both the honesty and the supportive reactions felt like a weight lifted.
This ramble is the kind of thing that makes me feel better when I'm bleeding. I feel hot and frustrated and claustrophobic. I'm wearing two pairs of underwear and my self-esteem plummets to it's lowest. It arrived 4 days early so I'm annoyed that the plans I made for my annual leave weekend were clouded with my period causing a migraine flare up. So whilst I'm sitting at my desk, working on spreadsheets, taking and making phone calls, dipping in and out of various instant messaging services and emails - I know so many others are doing it whilst bleeding too, and I'm tired of pretending it isn't worthy of words and expression.
On Jenna's advice, I am expressing whatever I need to in this ramble after a very painful Day 1 & 2 and also resolving to focus on my needs. Look inwards, focus on what I'm pulling away from and what I'm drawn to. Let myself indulge in what I need, let myself spend whatever time I need alone. Let myself be open and honest that bleeding really sucks, and it's okay for me to say that instead of needing to make it comical for the comfort of others. Day 1 & 2 are balls of rage and pain. They're "I'm sorry I didn't answer your call right away I was just finishing something (read: I was just crying on the toilet). They're the days I want to hibernate, and the days I feel angry at the world for not letting me slow down and do it. They're the days I worry that I'm lazy or failing as a human for not being able to brush it off and carry on. They're also the days I give myself permission to just let things go, and pick them back up tomorrow. They're the days that have been the very best opportunity to learn self-compassion, and I hope that tracking the cycle with its ups and downs will solidify this learning. Let's see where we end up saplin's.