11 Periods

Menstrual Pad
  • I get my period the summer before 8th grade during a big graduation party for my brother. Everyone is running around getting ready and I am sitting on the toilet in a confusing amount of pain. It feels like a need to poop. It feels like a pulled muscle. It’s not great. I think I’m dying when I see the blood. I have a kidney disease. Ruptured spleen. Cancer. I run for my mother panicked. She goes and looks into the toilet. She smiles and says, oh, that’s your period. It’s so painful, I’m going to die. Mom leans down and hugs me. Welcome to the rest of your life.


  • I am 13 and I bleed through my jeans. During a big science test, I am afraid to tell my teacher so I sit in it for the rest of class. When I go to the bathroom, the stain cannot be hidden. It’s only 1st period, 9:00 am. I am so nervous I want to cry. I want to go home. An insurmountable kind of anger grows in me. This is unfair. I hate myself. I keep pulling down my shirt to hide the stain the rest of the day. I can hear girls giggling behind me. I see boys’ faces mesh up into disgust.


  • I take 9 painkillers a day for the first two days of my cycle. The pain is unimaginable. I faint and vomit constantly. I cannot walk. My dad will come to pick me up numerous times early from school as I lay in the nurse’s back office trying not to scream. The nurse frowns when I tell him it’s my period. What he doesn’t say is I should just get over it. What he does is tell me to lay down and wait till it goes away. I am ashamed in ways I can’t explain to my father. I stay quiet. He picks up donuts on the way home and turns the heated seats on full blast.


  • I go to the OBGYN and get put on birth control for the pain. The doctor is incredibly kind and tells me I should feel better with time. And I do. Within months, I stop fainting and I stop vomiting and now my cycle is determined so I can be more prepared when it shows up. The change is huge and I love it. My friend who has fainted alongside me wants the same thing, but her mother says no. You want sex? You want to sleep around? I don’t think so, she says. Not my daughter. My daughter’s not like that.


  • I hear later that a girl in my grade never got her period, ever. That pain is unspoken.


  • My friend tells me tampons are the way to go. No one likes a diaper. I go the store and buy a box. When it’s my time, I do it and it feels horrible. I know I must’ve done it all wrong so I go a public restroom and try to get it out. It won’t budge. I try everything, I lay on the ground, I stand, I put one foot up, I crouch. I am in a shocking amount of pain. I take the bumpy bus to the Student Health Center with every jostle sending jolts into my stomach. Apparently and unsurprisingly, I am an anomaly at the clinic. They have to call in a Gyno and she removes it. I am so embarrassed, but the doctor laughs. This is nothing, love, no one can figure these things out.


  • I am laying on my bed with a guy I am seeing. My feet are propped up high as we talk. He says he can see my pad with a look of disgust on his face. My legs shoot down and I hide my bottom. I keep apologizing, trying to win back his interest. It’s fine, thanks, he says.


  • It is determined that my friend with a hormone deficiency will need a certain type of birth control to help her system have less irregular period cycles and keep her body in check. There is concern that without it, she could have complications down the line. With no adequate health insurance, she goes to the local women’s health clinic. She tells me she had to push through a crowd of protestors outside the building. That they called her slut. Called her whore. Whispered “silly little cunt” into her ear. Once inside the clinic, she debates turning around and leaving. There is shame coating her stomach and squeezes it tight.


  • In their book, “Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation,” Elissa Stein and Susan Kim write about the historical context in which female genitalia is easily pushed aside. “In terms of language, there were no separate words for female genitalia for thousands of years. That was mostly because women were considered pretty much the same as men, only of course flimsier, more poorly designed, and incapable of writing in the snow.” Whether it is in fear or misguidance, a historic failure of men is understanding the other side which has, in time, been followed by the continued failure to attempt to.


  • In a scene in “She’s The Man” – the 2006 Amanda Bynes romantic comedy – Duke Orisino (played by a slightly younger and less ripped Channing Tatum) sticks a tampon into his nose to stop a nosebleed. The moment makes a lot more sense within the context of the film but is honestly pretty hilarious alone. After watching the movie, my friends and I stick tampons in our noses to see what the big deal is. I laugh so hard my tampon shoots out of my nose. We laugh harder. There’s a litter of tampons all over the floor by the end.


  • My mother tells me that when she was young she used to lay on the roof of her house and heat her belly with the hot Greek sun to push the menstrual pain away. Sometimes I do the same – not on a roof – just outside laying in the grass and letting the sun warm me. The pain fades as I close my eyes to a dull throb. Though brief, it remains clear.


Elena Bruess : Book Advocate, Political Writer Enthusiast, And Sunny Day Expert. Dance Like Everyone And Their Entire Family Is Watching And It’s Honestly Getting Wild.