If I had a time machine, one of the places I’d head back to is year five at St Peter’s Primary school.
It’s a Wednesday afternoon, the girls have been taken into a spare classroom for the ‘period lesson’.
Now, you might be wondering why I’m being so specific here but basically I want to stand at that back of that class yelling “Tell them everything and tell them the truth”.
I don’t remember much about that lesson; I remember a huge thunderstorm at the end of it which caused quite a few of us to scream. I remember being given a pack with sanitary towels and a leaflet in it. I remember being told to avoid swimming.
I remember the lesson being light on detail, to be fair it was a Catholic primary school so, I’d hedge my bets on there being a healthy dose of Catholic guilt and shame in there too.
The nurse mentioned that there may be times we’d feel teary and a bit down around the time of our periods.
I’m not teary, incandescent with rage is closer to the mark.
I remember it being sold as something that was good and it’d be a bit of a minor inconvenience each month. I want my money back.
I know I’ve ranted about periods before, but there is still a reluctance to talk about them and that reluctance is a big part of the problem.
I got an app to track mine a few years ago, it helps to follow my moods and most importantly what physical symptoms of PMS I suffer with.
Do you know how many possible physical symptoms are on that list?
I’d have probably said three or four, after all, in that special girls only lesson I was told I’d be a bit teary and have stomach-ache for a few days a month.
There are actually twenty-one.
Twenty-one wild and wonderful things that can pop up every month. To be honest, I was gobsmacked to start with, that was followed by an “ah of course, I had noticed that”.
From cramps to acne, indigestion to fatigue, dizziness and bloating and everything in between.
Twenty-one different joys each and every month. Most of which, no one had ever mentioned, at any point, ever.
Another one has crept on to my list over the past few months and it’s made me so unbelievably angry.
I’d like to introduce you to my new friend period insomnia. I say friend, I mean a vicious bitch that steals your best toys.
It’s taken me a while to put the two together but this week I had that eureka moment. Every night between the hours of 3:00am and 4:30am – I’ve pinged awake, I haven’t needed the toilet, not had a bad dream, there’s nothing on my mind, nothing has woken me up apart from my own body.
I’ll then lie there staring at the ceiling for at least an hour, willing sleep to return. When it does, it’s inevitably 10 minutes before my alarm goes off – that’s great.
Night one, I assumed it was a result of an ill-timed afternoon nap.
Night two, hmmmmm.
Night three, what the actual fuck is going on?
I checked the App and what I’d logged and then it became quite clear that a pattern was emerging. It isn’t guaranteed every month, but poor sleep has happened often enough for it to start clicking together
This week, I’ve felt like a zombie. I’ve had that horrible groggy feeling and tiredness headache (very unfair considering I’m still not drinking). I can’t concentrate and I am absolutely furious.
I love sleep, I need a full seven hours each night to be a nice person the following day, I owe it to my family, friends and colleagues. I have nailed a bedtime routine since New Year to make sure that happens, I’ve slept well, I’ve been an alright human (at least I hope I have).
To see that pattern of broken sleep, emerge over the past few months, has angered me more than sore boobs, acne, cramps and mood swings combined.
It’s not even as though another symptom has been swapped out in favour of insomnia, it’s just another added to the list only this one feels like a personal attack and it’s my own sodding body that’s launched the attack.
That’s why I want to go back twenty-five years and tell that nurse to be properly honest about it. Lay it all on the table, give us the warts and all truth and say it how it is, periods are shit.
I don’t think it would have terrified any of us, we’d have been properly equipped.
My best friend Ruth says we probably didn’t know as much about the everything that comes along with periods then, that may be so, but women have literally been having periods since the dawn of time, these symptoms are not new, so I’m not accepting that excuse.
We still do not talk about it; we don’t talk about our symptoms. Most of us mask them for years with hormonal birth control and then leave ourselves open to a huge shock in our late twenties or thirties when we get an app that lists 21 possible symptoms.
I’d like to have been warned about fatigue, bloating, indigestion, hot flushes, migraines and insomnia.
So, please can we talk about our periods a bit more rather than be embarrassed, after all forewarned is forearmed.
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