Chloe Wilde teaches us how to let go of period shame
Asking friends to be on “watch” for leaks. Using wads of toilet paper when Mother Nature strikes and we aren’t expecting it. Attempting to ignore the unignorable feeling of having to crap our pants and/or vomit, and occasionally the times when both hit hard simultaneously.
Baths, hot water bottles, medication, exercise (even though it’s the furthest thing from what we want to be doing), chocolate, etc., all in an attempt to just be able to get up off the couch and go on with our lives during monthly occurrences.
As if it weren’t hard enough bleeding for several days every single month, there is also the several days beforehand where emotions run high, bloating is rampant and breasts are tender to the touch (and not in the nice way). But the cherry on top is that there’s often a feeling of shame surrounding this physiological process that we neither ask for nor control.
At 12, I found myself crying while sitting on the toilet, with red between my legs. My favourite jeans were at my feet, stained with a sign of womanhood and a feeling that everything was changing, but that I wasn’t quite ready for it.
After a few failed attempts, I finally succeeded with a tampon — a true moment of empowerment. But this also came as a reminder that my body was still such a mystery to me. My friend got hers shortly after, and I remember sitting on the other side of the bathroom door talking her through it.
Today, at 30, I dread every “time of the month,” crossing my fingers that the discomfort and pain will be manageable this time. The cycles come and go and will continue to do so until another switch happens and hot flashes say, “Hello!” In the meantime, I try to be acutely aware of the signs — lower-back pain, fatigue and increased emotional sensitivity — to mentally prepare myself for what’s to come. I have sneaked to and from the bathroom and tried to put on a brave face when my period arrives, even when it feels like knives are stabbing me in the stomach.
However, I’ve recently started talking about my personal menstrual struggles over social media and have had an amazing response — sharing stories, hearing about others’ struggles and an overwhelming feeling that I’m not alone! But still, we seldom call in sick to work, even though day one can be debilitating, and the thought of having a leak is a bruised ego in the making.
So how can we shift our perspective? Rather than feeling shame or embarrassment, we should feel proud of our bodies for being able to do what they have done for thousands of years as a fundamental part of life.
How can we stand tall as we walk to the bathroom with a tampon or a pad in hand rather than tuck it away somewhere hidden? I’m not entirely sure yet, but going forward I’m not hiding anything in my sleeves anymore. It’s a small step, but a step nonetheless.