Growing up, my period was never allowed to be the topic of any conversation. Around my brothers, my mother and I would shoot code words at each other, referring to pads as “things” and periods as “your stuff.” The shame even seeped into friendships: I remember waiting for one of my close friends to spill about puberty before I did (even though we all wanted to scream about our awkward, changing bodies) and boys joining in on the gossip of who got their period, who was developing, etc. Don’t even get me started on the “If you don’t use [insert any period product here], you’re not clean” conversations that bounced around my middle school and high school hallways. All this reminiscing is to say that talking (proudly) about my period hasn’t felt safe.
The rise of more period products, period education, and period un-shaming in the last few years alone speaks volumes to the world’s changing view on women’s health. Although my friends and I can be much more explicit in the way we talk about our bodies now and my mother can finally say the word “period” in our house without checking around a corner first, there’s still lurking shame and trauma that exists for myself and women who dealt with these feelings. No amount of outside validation can heal that for anyone. I had to dig deep into the trauma, shame, and overall disgust I was taught to feel about my period. It took some time, but there are a few steps that have helped me dismantle my feelings of inadequacy and trade them for love and acceptance instead. Here are five things I did to change my perspective on my period and actually—dare I say—love my menstrual cycle.
1. Binge *good* TV
If you’re anything like me, you enjoy the slow-burn of reality shows. But finding meaningful TV shows or movies that actually help you tackle the reality of what you’re feeling can be a great substitute sometimes. This may be oddly specific, but I am absolutely obsessed with Big Mouth. Although it can be extremely explicit, this show is so authentic when it comes to puberty and women’s health. Although I wish I had a less awkward and more celebratory experience with my period like the characters in the show, finding media representation of others going through the same thing is a reminder that my body is normal and functioning the way it should.
2. Just talk about it
Of course, this one might seem to be the easiest solution, but it was actually the most difficult for me. Talking to others about your period can be daunting. You might be thinking your body is weird or wrong, but unless there’s the need for medical attention, your body is operating the way it should. Everyone deserves a community, but taking the first step to make period talk not so taboo requires you to put yourself out there. Whether it’s swapping period symptoms, talking about cycle-tracking methods, or asking for advice on period products, work on getting comfortable talking about your period with others (whether they also menstruate or not!).
3. Recognize the significance of your moon cycle
With the increased popularity of mercury retrograde and the eclipse cycles, it’s time we talk about how our menstrual cycles relate to moon cycles. I recently came across the Moonly app, a resource for understanding the eastern moon calendar, alongside rituals, meditations, and affirmations to connect with yourself during each moon cycle. Moon cycles are different phases the moon takes on as it adjusts from a new moon to a full moon, and there’s a lot of connection between menstrual cycles and moon cycles. In fact, many practices from ancient Greece to indigenous cultures to Ayurvedic traditions have used moon cycles to track female ovulation and fertility.
Finding out that my body was so connected to the universe changed my relationship with my period. I began a lot of the affirmations and practices recommended by the Moonly app, and I even dove into learning more about mythology (I especially connected with Selene, the Greek and Roman goddess of the moon, and worked on treating myself with the same love and affection she had). Bottom line: Our cycles are amazing, and we are our most in-tune and connected when we’re on our periods. If you don’t connect with the concept of moon cycles, find what will. Whatever type of goddess you prefer, be her. All women (menstruating or not) are truly magical, so don’t forget it.
4. Notice (and stop) your unconscious behaviors
Have you ever hidden a pad or tampon on the way to the bathroom? Maybe you’ve released a sigh of frustration when you get your period at an inconvenient time? Even negating painful cramps or taking prescriptions to stop your period altogether can be unconscious ways of shaming yourself and your body. I used to partake in these harmful behaviors all the time, but it only made me feel worse about myself. If you’ve never heard this before, please know that periods are normal. Too often, we hide ourselves and what we need from the world because we’re scared of being embarrassed. But what’s embarrassing about a period? Half the world has a menstrual cycle and bleeds on a regular basis.
Next time you notice any of these behaviors, take a moment and ask why you’re doing it. Do you feel uncomfortable talking about your period with a certain group of friends? Give them the chance to be completely there for you if you feel like you’ve been holding back. But if they make you feel wrong or gross, move on. If your partner gaslights your bodily pain, move on. There are millions of people, whether they bleed or not, who are mature enough to not only talk freely about periods but are willing to support you too.
5. Celebrate every single period
My mentor once told me that periods are good luck. I laughed, thinking she was insane, but it made me slowly start to look at my period differently. I noticed my period would show up right before job interviews, anxiety-filled social gatherings, and even before my college graduation. I began to recognize that maybe it really was good luck. The tradition of looking at your period as a good omen rather than a major inconvenience is a great way to remember how perfectly curated your body is to you.
Just like how your body grows hair or needs exercise, your period is an essential part of who you are, so why not celebrate that? Some go-tos that I’ve done are taking myself on a solo date for whatever food I’m craving, buying myself a new candle (for a relaxing bath time), and simply allowing myself to rest. Just because the world expects you to be productive throughout even the most gruesome days of your cycle (toxic productivity culture!) doesn’t mean you have to. Let yourself feel sexy, happy, and free, and welcome in all the possibilities of a great week because of your period, not from the lack of it.