Period Tales

Tuesday August 12 2014

Recently there has been a bit of talk about how periods are construed in mainstream media. Prompted by an advertising overhaul from US brands such as HelloFlo, as well as ideas from closer to home, we decided it could be a good idea to compile a few stories and opinions about periods from our writers to you, dear reader. Feel free to comment below with your own stories or thoughts on this subject. All of the following stories are anonymous.

Before I begin, let me warn you that this story is told in semi-graphic detail! Sorry for the mental images -.- When I was 13, in the summer before starting high school, my family took a holiday to Perth. I had had a really upset stomach the night before we traveled, followed by diarrhoea the next morning (sorry if that's TMI!). As the day went on, my stomach pain grew more, I suffered hot flushes, and generally felt really unwell, but put it down to having some sort of tummy bug. I went to the bathroom that afternoon, and when I wiped myself I noticed the toilet paper had a sticky looking pale brown smear on it (despite having only gone wees). I freaked out and started thinking: "OMG I must be sick, I've got diarrhoea leaking through my pee-hole!" I was too embarrassed to speak to Mum though, so I wadded up some toilet paper and shoved it into my undies. For the next couple of days, I kept feeling unwell; I lay on the couch for hours while my family enjoyed the Australian sun. Every time I went to the toilet I would see that very faint brown taint on the toilet paper when I wiped. I had no idea what it was and kept it to myself. Mum even asked me at one point if I had my period – I said no, because it wasn't even something I had considered as a possibility! On the third or fourth day, I freaked out. When I went to the bathroom that morning, the toilet paper was bright red after I wiped. Panicking, I got some more toilet paper and wiped again to see if the blood was still there, however there was no more. After that, I suddenly felt well again – no more stomach aches, no more hot flushes and headaches, and no more weird light brown stains when I went to the bathroom. This is when I realised that I had, in fact, just experienced my first period. The crazy thing is, I had been educated about periods. In year six we were given 'the talk' by our teacher, where all the year six girls were taken into a separate room and were taught The Birds And The Bees, and all that fun stuff that comes with it. For weeks after having that talk, I checked my underwear every morning waiting for my period to come. However, when it finally did, I didn't recognise it – it just didn't 'look' how I'd expected it to! I had my second period six months later. This time there was blood on my underwear; I screamed, burst into tears, and quickly ran out and whispered at Mum "I think I've got my period." From there, she equipped me with pads and explained to me how to use a tampon if I wanted to. Periods can be scary and confusing at first, but you'll soon get used to them. They're just another of life's annoyances you learn to put up with! They are also nothing to be embarrassed about. Your mother knows exactly what it's like to have a period, so she's not going to freak out and be clueless when it happens to you!

My first period was both hilariously timed, and massively underwhelming. I got hit with the puberty stick fairly early, and since I was already as tall as my mum by the time I was in year six, Mum was convinced that my period was imminent any day now. She made sure I was carrying pads for the rest of my primary school days, and most of intermediate. Her insistence was a little intimidating, and I was quietly terrified. Then, on the day of the Kids Lit Quiz in year eight (a day of utmost importance to the twelve year old library nerd), I woke up in a pool of my own blood. I wasn't queasy, I didn't have cramps, I wasn't craving anything weird, like magazines or puberty picture books had suggested I would. All I felt was annoyance that I had to somehow get blood out of my favourite pajama bottoms. Honestly, Mum was more moved by the experience than I was. I'll admit I was a bit self-conscious walking into school that day, but no one noticed, or pointed it out. There were more important things to worry about – like who wrote "Charm School" (Anne Fine). My first period, for all the motherly build up, was a total non-issue. That first day would set the tone for my life as a menstruating lady: my first thought at waking up covered in blood? "Dammit, now I have to do laundry. Ho hum, got stuff to do."

I got my first period the day before my 12th birthday – not my idea of an awesome birthday present. I remember going to the bathroom and seeing blood on the toilet paper. I then went downstairs to Mum in the kitchen and said "I think I've got my period". I'll never forget the reaction from her – she was over the moon! The cramps that came with my first few periods were excruciating and I often had to come home 'sick' from school, kind of awkward when you're only in form one. I do remember Mum saying "I hope this isn't going to become a regular thing". That made me feel a bit shit, and I have had some problems with cramping and PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) over the years, but supposedly it's 'normal'. Rather shitty nonetheless. Mum started me off using sanitary pads (mainly because that's what she had) and then later she bought me some tampons to experiment with – god they took a while to get used to! I preferred tampons with applicators to begin with, but it felt weird to have something 'up there'. So pads became my norm for about nine years – then I came across the Mooncup! To say it is a game changer is a rather large understatement! It's a British-made silicone cup that is far more economic than having to buy sanitary items each month, and also doesn't contain all those chemical nasties. Although I've never exactly been a 'fan' of having my period, namely due to its many inconveniences, I've come to learn to live with it and see it as a welcoming sign each month. To me, it signals a healthy working body – that is, if everything is on time and 'normal'.

I tried so hard to keep my period secret from my friends, but my best friend knew. I never said anything and she never said anything, but I knew that she knew and was trying to get it out of me. I feel like we try and hide it more than we should. Sure, at 12 I didn't want to talk about it, but now I live with girls and I never even see where they keep their tampons! Sometimes I will catch a glimpse of a pad in the bin, but otherwise no sign that they are menstruating. It's too secretive. But it's nothing to be ashamed of. If you want to talk about it with your friends, just bring it up, they probably want to talk about it as much as you do but are just as nervous.

One day on school camp, periods became A BIG DEAL. This one girl got her period for the first time. She was ok about it, but for everyone else it was the biggest deal ever. Everyone wanted to know who had had theirs and who hadn't. I'd gotten mine a few months previously. One morning I was hanging out with my friends in my cabin and this girl came in, looked at my chest and said: “you must have had it”. And I was like, "what the… rude". Everyone else agreed that you can't just ask that in front of everyone, come on. And then I lied. I lied because it was 100% not her business. But I kind of wish I hadn't. Because later on that week the girl who had just got her period asked me if I'd had mine. And we were friends but I couldn't tell her the truth because I didn't want to get caught in a lie. I really wish I'd told her because getting your first period on school camp is rough and I could have helped with that.

The first time I got my period I had no idea I had gotten my period. It didn't look anything like blood and I just didn't put two and two together. But the next month it was more like what I’d expected and then I realised it had started the month before. Click.

Do you know the main thing I hate about periods? The fact that any time a female is upset, the stereotypical line "Oh, it must be that time of the month" comes up. Have you ever thought that maybe I'm not a raging hormonal bitch 24-7, you're just a c-nt?

Of all the ‘first period’ stories you hear, most of them are pretty dramatic. They always seem to happen at school camp, a sanitary pad always falls out in front of the boys, and the sheets always end up dirty. Although this sort of experience – dramatic and traumatic as it is – happens to some people (we all know that girl who really did get her period on camp), it wasn't at all the case for me. My first period was light, late, and basically a non-event, although I was thrilled it finally happened. I was the last in my class to get my period (I was nearly 15), and had been feeling very left out. After all, some of my friends had got their periods when they were 10! Eventually I found a little blood one day when I went to pee, used a sanitary pad we'd been given in health class, and told my Mum. She told my Dad, who congratulated me awkwardly. It lasted a couple of days, then stopped. I really didn't see what all the fuss was about. I did, however, start to feel older. Although it's a cliché, over the next month, I went from feeling like a child to feeling, if not quite like a woman, then certainly not like a kid anymore.

Hot tip! If you get migraines with aura (like, you see a weird light or have trouble seeing) and you are on the 'combined oral contraceptive pill', you should immediately make an appointment to go to your doctor and tell them this. Migraines and the 'combined pill' can leave you at greater risk of getting a blood clot, argh! The doctor may suggest a 'progesterone-only-pill (POP)', among other options. For me, taking a POP has stopped my periods altogether...*happy jumping*! It is not harmful to fertility and most importantly is safe for migraine sufferers!

Editor’s note: Speak with a doctor for any advice or help with contraception. Everyone is different: just because one form of contraception works for someone doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you and your body. Always speak with a doctor or a pharmacist before making decisions about contraception.

A lot of people say that you'll get your first period at a really inconvenient time. As in, the time when you would least want to be dealing with such a momentous and scary experience. This was certainly the case for me. I got my first period at the age of 13, on the morning of our school production. In some ways I think I was prepared due to a lot of my friends already having theirs. I recall it being somewhat of a gossip source at my school: who had got their period and who hadn't yet. When I got mine, my best friend didn't believe me when I told her. I have no idea why it was so unbelievable but it took quite a lot of my convincing for her to accept the fact. Mum gave me a pad, which was just awful. It didn't have wings and it was super thick and felt like a baby’s nappy to me. It took me a while to start using tampons confidently. I trained myself how to use them by using the applicator tampons, which were really good, and eventually I managed to move up to the standard do-it-yourself kind. I personally think the applicator ones are preferable, as it means you don't have to put your finger up there to make sure it's in properly. There's nothing worse than a tampon that isn't placed high enough, it's so uncomfortable. My periods were really heavy from the beginning, I got terrible cramps and they lasted about seven days. They became a lot more manageable when I went on the pill – lighter and shorter and I could more or less choose when I wanted to get it. I think there's a lot of stigma around periods, which is odd considering how it's just another bodily function, and that it affects more than half of the population at any one time. I think it's cool how sometimes you sync with other women you live with or are close with. I grew up with my Mum and sister and we often used to get ours at the same time. When I got a bit older, I was often synced with my really close girlfriends.

I think if your periods are really unpleasant and heavy, it's worth considering the pill as a means to make it more bearable. It definitely was for me! Make sure you speak with a doctor first though, to familiarise yourself with all the associated risks and to get informed about how you’re changing the way your body functions.

Got your own stories? Share them in the comments! Everyone experiences periods differently, and it's important to have a safe place to talk. Take care of yourselves.▼

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