Why I Don't Hide My Period
Mary Catherine Fitzgerald
April 8th, 2019
My mom always told me not to talk about my period. It wasn’t ladylike or polite and to talk about it in public would be disgusting. Even in our own home, my mom would borderline whisper when asking me if I needed more tampons. I’m not saying my mom is sexist, and most of the time I share her more traditional values when it comes to lifestyle. I never wear crop tops and I shave my underarms. I never really questioned why I felt the need to slip my tampon up my sleeve when going to the bathroom to avoid anyone knowing; I just knew that it was what had to be done.
“Amenorrhea” is the absence of a menstrual cycle over three months. When I developed anorexia nervosa, I lost my period for six months. When your body thinks that you're starving, it doesn’t want you to get pregnant so you stop menstruating. I remember those dry months as a blur, kind of like a fuzzy dream state. Every month that passed that I didn’t get my period was a success in my eyes. Even when I was in recovery and had mixed feelings about getting better, my period represented everything I was resisting.
Getting my period back was bittersweet. I remember how happy my mom was, and how she congratulated me. I remember being happy that my body was able to return to its normal function, but part of me felt disappointed. That part of me was still infected by my eating disorder and made me feel as though my period were something I should be ashamed of, something I should ward off.
Now, whenever I get my period, I celebrate. It’s another month of recovery, and it shows me that even though I face highs and lows everyday, I’m still on the right path. There may be a whisper that tells me to be ashamed, but therapy and my support system have helped me silence the voice that used to control me.
My period journey is one of privilege. I live in a society where I can get access to tampons and pads. I can ask my doctor questions I have regarding menstruation, and I can get Advil for cramps. I also didn’t lose my period nearly as long as other eating disorder (ED) survivors did and do. I had the privilege of a great family that got me the help I needed, whereas many female-born ED survivors do not.
When I get my period, I feel grateful. I think of all those who wish to get their period, but can’t: those with unwanted pregnancies, those in recovery, those with physical disabilities that prevent menstruation. I also think of some of those with unwanted periods: those trying to get pregnant, those in societies where menstruation is “sinful,” those living in bodies that don’t express their identity.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t grimace at the pain of cramps, or feel overwhelming joy when you stain your favorite pair of jeans. Getting your period isn’t a field of daisies. Some days, it really sucks. However, I challenge you to embrace your period. I challenge you to stop hiding the fact that you bleed, and to stop treating your period like a complete burden. I challenge you to find your silver lining your time of the month, to think about all the wonderful things it represents to you.
When I bleed, I think of all the struggles I faced to get there, and I think of all those less fortunate than I that don’t get to bleed. I bleed for the hope that one day menstruation will return to all those who lost it, and come to those who want it. I bleed for them.