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Periods Don't Hold Us Back - Hating Them Does

by Martina Doleckova 5 months ago in body

What I wish I knew in my twenties.

A friend once told me that receiving love, respect, and acceptance is always the most profound when it first comes from you. And many people have been discovering this as their truth. The collective shift towards body and mind positivity, self-acceptance and self-love has been sending us flying.

People are growing conscious of their instincts, seek presence, have more compassion for their own selves. More than ever before are we able to show up natural and authentic almost anywhere. It's easier to see realness in others. We are more in tune with our true ambitions, our raw emotions, our needs, our bodies. It feels so darn good.

Yet most of us still hate our periods.

We see them as inconvenient burdens. They make us miserable. They can never be over soon enough. Some of us still turn scarlet when we have to mention them.

I used to hate my period so much I was on the pill just to get rid of it. It was such an easy way out. If I kept taking the pills continuously, without the supposed monthly break, I could simply skip it. Just this once, I'd tell myself.

But the next month, a friend had a huge party just as I was due. And the next month was the first weekend of proper summer weather. And the next month a long road trip to the mountains.

10 years.

For 10 years, I kept deliberately skipping my periods, often for as long as six months at a time. When I felt too guilty about it, I would let it happen once or twice, and then avoid it again for months on end.

And so I spent my twenties playing tricks on my body and completely boycotting one of the core body functions that make me who I am. I thought I was in control of my body, in control of my life. Except I wasn't. But to figure that out, I had to get through some uncomfortable perception layers first.

Why are periods still socially awkward?

There's a reason why so many of us are still feeling negative or awkward about our periods. It's an engrained feeling which has been passed from generation to generation. It's what most of us have been taught. Even when it was with the best of intentions. I know my mum did an amazing job explaining it, and helping me deal with it. But there was still this unconscious undercurrent of uneasiness.

At school, we were explained why periods happen and how our ovaries work. Very briefly, by a strict, embarrassed teacher. She used cold technical terms. To her, a period was like a painful cold sore. Just get it out of the way and don't talk about it. Especially not with the boys!

But somehow, through a lack of education rather than a fault of their own, the boys would still make fun of us whenever we had to take our mortifying toiletry bag with us to the toilet.

Many women have been conditioned to feel anxious. One way or another we've built barriers around the topic, even in our own minds. Just get it out of the way.

I'm now in my thirties, and I've only just started to learn about my cycle properly.

After around 13 years on the pill, my intuition finally managed to get through to me by ringing some loud alarm bells. I started listening to the voice that has been, decidedly ignored, at the back of my mind all that time. I finally made the decision to ditch the pill and its artificially manipulative hormones with it.

And that's when I realized I didn't have a clue about my authentic body.

I've discovered that, surprise surprise, while altering my body functions with artificial hormones for so long, emotionally I became rather flat. There were no ups or downs, my emotional curve was one continuous straight line. I only responded to outside triggers.

I realized that everything I've been supposed to feel coming from the inside, from my very core, was suppressed. Censored. Abolished.

At first glance it all seemed amazing. There were no emotional rollercoasters. Virtually no cramps. My relationships didn't suffer from mood swings. I didn't have to say no when I'd rather say yes. It seemed like I managed to outsmart nature.

But in reality?

A (huge) part of myself was lost. I tricked my own body to reject its natural self, and ended up treating it as a separate entity.

About 3 months after I stopped taking the pill, I slowly started drifting back from this thick fog of denial. I started feeling. The difference was so tangible. And I loved it. Not just the peaks, but the valleys too.

I knew I was ready to take residence in my body again.

So I wrestled my way through all the new sensations, feelings and pains that intensified with every additional pill-free month. I was amazed by the sky-highs of strength and energy, stamina, sex drive, and intoxicating happiness that appeared with every ovulation. And I was equally taken away by how quickly these sky highs would change into hard landings. I discovered the sudden heaviness of being which turns the day into an attempt to walk knee-deep in mud with a ball chained to your leg.

I wanted to know more. In fact, I needed to know more, so I could re-learn how to work with it.

Like the 4 seasonal changes, the cycle runs through 4 repetitive phases. Switching to natural allowed me to start recognizing patterns. Once I knew precisely why something was happening, it was easier to accept, make peace with, and embrace.

The cycle in a (super simplified) nutshell:

Follicular Phase (think of it as Spring)  - The body is waking up and starting the process of growing new eggs. Both ovaries get to work and produce multiple eggs each. Towards the end of this phase, the strongest and healthiest egg gets pushed forward.

Ovulation Phase (think of it as Summer)  - A perfect, ripe, fertile egg is released from one of the ovaries. Expectations are high. Everyone seems sexy. This is the time to be mindful. If you don't want to get pregnant, switch to a high-security mode. If you do, migrate to the bedroom.

Luteal Phase (think of it as Autumn)  -  The mature egg travels further down, waiting to be fertilized. Changes happen in the uterus  - the increase in estrogen and progesterone prepare the egg for possible fertilization by creating a special lining. When it doesn't happen, the egg starts to break down and the lining begins to shed.

Menstruation Phase (think of it as Winter)  -  The unfertilized egg is broken down and dissolved. It's passed down through the uterus along with the shedded wall lining until all of it gets flushed out of your body.

Suddenly it hit me.

Our cycle forms part of an ancient, primal setup. One that we have in common with all other female-bodied animals on Earth. The most profound need of all. The need to procreate, and therefore survive.

We have far evolved, but this deep connection to our ancient roots remains. And it made me see a different reason why the latter phases of the cycle can be so unpleasant - it's because the body is, quite literally, disappointed.

During ovulation, it puts such a great effort into creating all these perfect fertile eggs, ready to be brought to life. But when they don't get fertilized, it has to take all that beautiful work, and mercilessly break it down again as if it was no good. That's why most periods tend to be a challenge. That's why we often feel them so very much.

Even if our rational mind is telling us otherwise. Even when we continue working hard, running our lives, running companies, looking after our families and kids, changing the world.

Developing this more holistic understanding of my whole cycle has helped me find a space for it in my heart. I found new respect for what my body can do, and for its roots.

Mind blown, I started to understand the significance of that change. It was now that I was actually holding the power, not then. It was now that I was getting to know more of myself. Through this knowledge, and through my observations while feeling more in-sync with my body than ever before, I felt truly strong. This was the real me.

I learned that appreciating your period forms a giant part of building a healthy relationship with your authentic self, and your authentic body.

But I also learned something else.

In some parts of the world, people are still discriminated against and pushed aside for having periods.

All around the world people still don't have regular access to efficient period products. Even just around the corner from my own doorstep, period poverty is still very real. Many young girls skip school regularly, either out of self-consciousness, or fear of embarrassment, or lack of funds to buy period products.

That's why it's crucial we break through the walls where we can, and start making conversations about periods normal.

Because that's what periods are. Normal. Half of the entire world population has them.

No young girl should feel embarrassed or ashamed to ask a teacher for help. All schools should be able to request budget for period supplies to help their own students. All girls, women, and people with periods should be able to experience and embrace their authentic bodies without fear.

Let's start talking.

***

(This was just my personal experience with the pill. I fully acknowledge how lucky I was to have had easy access to effective birth control, and I recognize its tremendous significance to girls and women and people around the world.)

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About the author

Martina Doleckova

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