I have endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a condition where your uterine lining grows outside of your uterus. It’s estimated more than 10% of women have it, though the real number is probably higher, since it often goes undiagnosed. You can have endo without any pain or symptoms.
Symptoms I have experienced from endo are: cramps so painful that I throw up, multiple ovarian cysts that have burst, polyps in my uterus (basically, little sacs that aren’t supposed to be there), blood in my stool during my period (yep), spotting mid-cycle, and incredibly heavy periods that often last more than a week.
I share this with you so you know that I am not coming to this topic from the place of someone who has easy periods that last a few days and never fill up a menstrual cup (though if you’re there, more power to you, oh my god).
And yet –
I’m in love with my blood.
Our blood is incredible. It is life-giving; it quite literally provides the place for a baby to grow. Our bodies shed themselves every single month to prepare for the next cycle of ovulation, in hopes that this might be the one where we release an egg and it gets fertilized by sperm. So we can grow another human.
Our bodies mirror the process of nature. Monthly, our moods change like clockwork. Monthly, our bodies go through phases that look just like the moon’s. Monthly, we act just like the seasons: we blossom, we are at the height of our creativity and energy, we release, we go dark and rest.
As with many things, the key to beginning to love our periods more is to understand why it is that we don’t in the first place.
We are raised in a society that tells us our blood is dirty and disgusting. Older generations were never taught about their periods at all; women’s bodies were not understood or talked about, ever. Younger generations are experiencing the first time in society where it is actually kind of okay to mention our bodies (or not, judging by the backlash I received when me touching my blood went viral!)
We were shown ads for menstrual products that were perfumed, to imply that our bodies don’t naturally smell good. We were sold wipes and cotton plugs and pads that get touched gingerly between two fingertips and thrown in the trash, where our bodies belong. We were sold Midol to take care of those annoyingly inconvenient PMS symptoms that are obviously wrong and not supposed to be there – since they mean we’re not pleasant, productive, good little girls for the entire month. We were told to suck it up and that we can do everything men can do, just backwards and in heels.
How were you supposed to feel?
It starts here: it makes total, complete sense if you do not love your cycle.
No one ever introduced you to the beauty of it.
How to love your period, even if it’s painful:
1. Begin to understand that the universe has a gross, wild, unpredictable side, and so does your body.
Many of us were introduced to this weird Judeo-Christian idea that everything Light is Good, and everything Dark is Bad. We’re all inherently disgusting and sinful, and we need to repent so that we become clean and worthy of love again.
The sooner we let go of this idea, the sooner everything becomes better. Because this is the thing: the world is not a fun, loving, pure place. A wild lion would devour you if you were put in front of it. People are being bombed right now, as you read this. People are shooting themselves up with drugs and sleeping on the street.
Pure lightness is not the goal, because pure lightness does not exist.
We live in a world of duality. Black and white. Light and dark. Pain and pleasure.
These things all exist – and when you embrace them all, you discover that they’re actually one thing. Pleasure is pain. Pain is pleasure. They become the same thing.
Not to get too philosophical, but this is your body. Your body is all things. Your body bleeds and has pain and you get diarrhea on your period and you moan in bed with pain and your clothes soak with blood and you get embarrassed in public and this, this is life.
So if you’re not going to opt out, then you get to choose whether to mope about it (you can do that forever, that’s fine) or to decide that actually you’d like to be the one to control the narrative you have about things now, thank you very much.
2. Re-learn what you think you know about your body.
Become curious about your cycle. Track it – and don’t just track the day you start to bleed, but track every day. Track what your moods are like, and what your cervical fluid looks like (the stuff they call “discharge” – see how even that word implies that it’s a dirty thing?). Tracking my period showed me a ton of information that I never knew about myself beforehand. I knew I got moody throughout the month, but it always seemed unpredictable. Now I know that I have very particular moods that happen every single month. I know that day 6 always looks a certain way, days 19-21 always look a certain way, day 30 always looks a certain way.
I get really exasperated by the narrative that everyone ovulates on day 14, and everyone feels moody and energized the same weeks of their cycles, because it is not true. You probably ovulate anywhere from day 11-18, maybe even before or after that. Your body has its own special cycle. You can begin to learn your own patterns by tracking yourself (Natural Cycles has an app I adore for this). Make your body in charge. What does your body want to tell you?
You’ll get to know yourself more deeply. You’ll begin to learn if you naturally feel more sensitive during certain days or weeks of the month, or you’ll be more predictably energetic. You can begin to plan things around your cycle, planning trips or work commitments on days when you know you’ll have more bandwidth for them (as much as is possible for you). You’ll begin to learn the gifts inherent in each phase of your cycle.
I feel different energies at different times of the month, and I adore feeling them all. They all have their place. I love the dreamy, floaty creativity I experience when I’m bleeding. I love having the energy to plan and create things once I’m done bleeding. I love the heightened sensitivity and don’t-fuck-with-me-ness I experience before I bleed.
Our bodies are beautifully complex. Get to know your own.
3. Connect with your blood.
Your blood is clean and is not at all dangerous to you. Fresh blood (collected in a menstrual cup that is changed frequently) does not have a smell.
There is something really powerful I’ve seen happen when we touch our blood. When we connect with a part of ourselves that has been deemed unacceptable and disgusting by society. It can be tiny; it can be personal. It can be as simple as using a menstrual cup for the first time and looking at the blood inside, touching it and wondering about its magic. It can be as loud as making a face mask with it and posting photos of yourself on the internet.
You can feed your blood (diluted) to your plants, the nutrients are good for them. You can paint with your blood and make art that’s only for yourself. You can sit in an empty bathtub and bleed directly into it and see the patterns your blood makes. You can sit directly on the earth and bleed right into the ground. You can make an altar and put some of your blood in a cup on it.
Thank your blood for being such an incredible piece of your body. Treat it as sacred.
When I first started posting photos with my blood on my face, I did it for fun, not because I thought anybody else should do it.
But I cannot even count the number of times women have messaged me or whispered to me in public that they tried it and found it … strangely incredibly empowering.
4. Make your period special.
Maybe your partner will do the cooking while you have your period. Maybe you take a bath every period, or you light a certain candle, or you wear a specific outfit to honor it. Maybe you lie in bed as much as you can, give yourself a break from social obligations, and cancel plans. Maybe you do a face mask or paint your nails red or eat a ton of chocolate. Maybe you eat beets. Maybe you buy pretty period underwear or the softest red sheets to sleep on.
It doesn’t matter what it is; what matters is that it feels significant and good to you. Question what it would mean if you truly gave yourself as much time to rest as possible. Question what it would mean if you fully listened to what your body was asking for during this time.
I usually rest the entire time I have my period, barring plans I absolutely can’t cancel. I spend a lot of time in bed. I don’t go to the gym unless I feel truly up to it (and sometimes I do!) I cry a lot, and eat whatever I want, and listen to music loudly in the bathtub. I let the house get messy and I allow things to not immediately get done. My body is the authority, and I give her what she wants.
5. Take the perspective of your inner caregiver.
If you were the best parent in the world, or your higher self, or a self-love queen – how would you take care of yourself in this situation? What would you give yourself? What would you tell yourself?
Probably that you deserve to rest, that it’s okay if and when it hurts, and here, want me to make you some tea?
Deciding we’ll love our periods only if they hurt less, or were less gross, or were more something is no different than saying we’ll love our bodies once they’re skinny/fit/whatever.
Nothing has the opportunity to shift in our lives unless we are able to come to a place of loving and approving of how it is right now. If we can’t offer that love and acceptance to ourselves, we typically won’t be able to shift our circumstances enough to make a change. And if we do manage to make change, we often find another problem to feel annoyed about instead.
You might be able to make your cramps less painful, you might not. You might be able to manage your moods better, you might not. You might feel exhausted during your period, you might not.
But you can absolutely shift the way you relate to all of it.
Shift that, and watch your entire life change.