Tuesday, January 30, 2018

THE NARRATIVE: ON PERIODS & WOMANHOOD

T H E   N A R R A T I V E |  O N   P E R I O D S  &  W O M A N H O O D
My experience five years without a period, regaining it, & what it taught me about womanhood . . .

A gush of blood goes to my brain. My legs sink onto the seat like sand, my mind feeling equally grainy in what my eyes were processing. It was like seeing the world through a camera's viewfinder—a vision inverting any expectations my brain had of my body. Seeing stained toilet paper was a vision usually realised only by a dry, bloody nose. I wiped and blinked again, but it was clear, or rather unclear and stained. 

After five years, I had a period again, like normal girls. A girl who can eat chocolate for dinner because of hormonal cravings or waddle out of the bathroom with a pad like an adult diaper. And girl because I felt the cocktail of emotions only a pubescent girl could feel upon getting their period for the first time. Yet, also a woman, a sentiment opposite of what was sung by the star of my own pre-pubescent days, Britney Spears. I had gotten my period precisely because I had put on my big girl, woman pants(uit) to take responsibility for my own actions.

 
It was almost three in the morning, a time purported to be as witchy as the concoctions I had tried over the years to regain my period.

What was I doing before? 

I don't look back in time but suspend myself in it, like blood. Every thought of my missing period would stain my memory, like a bloody thumbprint of the crime I had committed against my body. A bodybag of my past thirteen years with an eating disorder, two of which has been in full recovery. The truth was that I was still rotting in its remaining effects, a judgement of my body here or a rumination there. A skeleton in the closet. Reminders held in isles of tampons and menopause ads became oil suspending this blood, rising my crimson thoughts of anger to the surface. Not pure oil but like grease on a leftover pan, slicked in the searing of heated thoughts. I imagine the anger I had felt towards my body over the past thirteen years as flesh cast upon this pan. Cheap thoughts like cheap meat that don't pay my body any respect.


I was angry that I couldn't shake off this shadow of my past, like a tedious piece of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of my shoe. Embarrassing yet too disgusting to touch.


Three years in, my gynecologist furrows his brows as he inserts a NuvaRing into my vagina. This device is the only thing in a long time that is inserted inside me that incites emotion, disappointment in myself in this case. If Jeopardy had a question for "to live without a period," it would be "What is loss of libido?" or the alternate responses of "What is the Sahara desert?" (queue in the visuals of that Britney music video) and "What is a menopausal woman in the cloak of a young body?" The NuvaRing induces a period, albeit a fake one. It bursts in like “Here’s your period!” and horrifyingly lasts two weeks at a time.



They take it out after half a year and I’m left without even a false hope.

And day after day, for the next few years, I chew on these indigestible thoughts. I dab them on a variety of cures, like a plateful of condiments. I try castor oil packs, Chinese Medicine herbs, high vitamin doses, tinctures, flower remedies, esoteric delving as crunchy as burnt granola. But what I'm still feeding myself is negativity and, frankly, lies sugar-coated in possible solutions.

Any external remedy becomes like water that won't wash away the stains of our thoughts. They will pool into beads, standing in awareness of the deeper layer of oily muck of what we truly think or feel. Remedies are like band-aids that won't stick to a mind slicked with negative thoughts. Our bodies are as mental as they are physical. And no pill, powder, or potion will "tone brain waves" or "increase alpha waves." No, there is no "brain food" or "vegan bliss balls" that will fix you beyond the thoughts you roll up either in your negativity or positivity with which you feed your own mind.

As a result of Anorexia, I had starved my body not only of food but of the hormones on that which it feeds. I dried up the blood-life of it. I ended up with bone disease, and I’m only 24-years-old. That’s because I had the hormone levels of a 50-something woman with hot flashes and a dry vagina. And no, I won't apologise in response to the likely chance that you are repulsed by that image or fact. At a time when pussy seems to only be a matter of locker-room talk or place to stuff up experimental yoni eggs, I'm grabbing at a larger reality affecting many other women that we don't talk about. That is the face of social media that cultivates shrinking of ourselves as women. 

Some women are told they have “thunder thighs” yet others are accused of being too thin. Some cut into pleasure exclaiming that they’ll gain weight just by staring at cake and others still eat the cake but cursing themselves with each bite. And most of us qualify our needs and requests with “I was just . . .,” “I’m sorry to bother,” and my favourite “should,” or as I say, shoulding all over ourselves.

We shrink our bodies, voices, and selves to compromise the largeness of who we are, what we have to offer, and what we rightly deserve to take.

We shrink our bodies, voices, and selves to compromise the largeness of who we are, what we have to offer, and what we rightly deserve to take. It’s not simply an eating disorder that manifests as starvation. It’s the limitation of our potential, whether it is restricting ourselves physically or mentally through our thoughts. For me, it was both; I regained my period by not only feeding my physical but also mental hunger. I listened to my cravings for sometimes eating more, sometimes less and refused help from some but surrendered to others. 

Most importantly, I realised the subjective largeness of my whole self rather than its reliance on isolated and unrelated objectives like opinions of others, calculations, and experiences. I did so by putting my tongue out to cure-alls and instead truly tasting my own poison of victimising myself. 

That’s the poison of belittling ourselves, like Alice in Wonderland. The return to reality lies in arguing against the ruling of our body, heart, and mind, refusing to hold our tongue against injustice. That injustice may be refusing your hunger or unfair treatment, at your job or even by the media. And we can only do so by putting an end to restricting our minds and the space they occupy, whether it’s through asking for an extra slice of cake or a raise.