Ever since I got my first period in middle school, I can remember taking countless trips to the bathroom with a pad or tampon shoved in my pocket or up my sleeve feeling an overwhelming sense of shame. Shame. Why was I so ashamed of something that I had no control over? Why did I feel like I had to hide the fact that I was on my period?
As I got older, I started to realize why I felt this way. I started becoming more aware of the menstrual taboo in our society and started to notice the way other people would talk about MY period. I remember times when I would be upset or angry and someone would ask me “Are you on your period?!” or being in pain from severe cramping and having someone say “Just get over it!” Well, I have recently decided that the last thing I will do is “just get over it.”
After having tons of people, especially cis men, tell me to “just get over it” for years I thought that maybe I was just overreacting. I tried doing just that. For years I thought that my severe pain, lack of sleep, and depression were just things I was not allowed to talk about. I just thought that everyone who menstruated experienced the same things I did, but we just had to “get over it.”
About two years ago, however, I realized that what I was experiencing was not something I could just ignore. About a week before my periods I would begin to feel so hopeless and depressed. I found it difficult to get out of bed, I was barely getting any sleep, and the pain I was feeling was very intense. I really wanted to ignore it because I did not want anyone to think I was overreacting. I was putting people’s opinions and perceptions of me over my own health all because of some stupid stigma surrounding menstruation.
After doing some research and talking to my doctor, I realized that I had premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD. PMDD is very similar to PMS as it causes both emotional and physical symptoms. However, people who suffer from PMDD find their symptoms debilitating, and they often interfere with their daily lives, including work, school, social life, and relationships. It felt so good to finally know that I was not overreacting and that there was a reason for the way I felt, but it also made me think a lot about how people talk about periods.
Let me just say this; for anyone who doesn’t menstruate, it fucking SUCKS. Especially as someone with PMDD, I can tell you that this shit really takes a toll on you not only physically, but emotionally. And to be honest, I do not think that anyone who has not experienced menstruation should have an opinion on it. Nothing gets me angrier than having some fool who has never bled out of their genitals tell me how I should react to it.
Normalizing period pain and sticking with that horrible “just get over it” mentality contributes to the idea that anyone with a vagina is destined for unpleasant experiences throughout their lives. A lot of the time, this pain is a sign of a bigger issue like endometriosis (or PMDD in my case). The way we talk about periods can be dangerous because it prevents people like me from taking the necessary measures to stay comfortable.
If you menstruate, you should never feel ashamed of it or any of the physical or emotional symptoms associated with it. You know your body better than anyone. And as for those of you reading this who do not menstruate, take this as an opportunity to realize that what you say can not only be annoying or rude, but also potentially harmful to someone’s health and well-being. PERIOD.