It's a very tough thing to lose touch with your own body.
A little over a year ago, I started to feel under the weather. My joints swelled and ached, my stomach and guts were constantly cramping and gurgling, and my body was generally a wreck. My doctor brushed off these symptoms, chalking them up to things such as stress, allergies, and even gout. I began to lose weight, and suffer malnutrition as a side effect of my other gastronomical symptoms.
When I decided to stop taking hormonal birth control pills because I was worried they contributed to my illness, I was warned that it could take a few cycles for my period to return to normal. However, when it still hadn't come back at all four months later, I began to get concerned. About that time, I was finally diagnosed with Crohn's Disease, and as a side effect, discovered I was severely anemic. My body simply couldn't handle having a period, and so it didn't.
It felt very strange not having a period- lots of people told me how lucky I was, how it must be so convenient not to have to wear pads or tampons or worry about leaking and cramps. To tell you the truth, I felt a horrible disconnect from my body. To me, no bleeding meant I wasn't healthy still. I began to wonder if it would ever return, even as my blood tests showed my iron count was beginning to come back up as a result of my treatment. I was jealous of other women, having this wonderful sign of health and fertility show up every month like clockwork, and resentful of their complaints about cramps and such. I didn't realize that periods weren't so bad until I didn't have one of my own.
Looking over some "I hate my period" threads in other forums, I began to feel pretty disheartened. Quite a few of these young women talk about pain and feeling uncomfortable during their periods, which I can understand- I used to get bad cramps myself. But what I found most disheartening was the discussion of how "gross" a period is. Quite a few of these women also stated that if they could get rid of their periods, they would.
During my amenorrhea, I ran across this news article. There are now hormonal birth control pills that suppress the period, leaving women with maybe three or four a year. I have to admit, not having my period has been disturbing. Sure, it was nice not to have to wear rough pads and have cramps, but I was constantly worried whether or not I could be pregnant. Getting a period each month is incredibly reassuring in that sense- it's a little like a free pregnancy test each month. Each month that went by was another reminder of how poor my health was. I got to the point where I was quite literally praying to one day go to the washroom, pull down my pants, and see menstrual fluid.
Suddenly, after nine months without a period, and after seven weeks of intense medical treatment, I had a bit of spotting! Finally! I jumped up and down, literally squealing with joy that my period appeared to be coming back. My friends thought I was nuts to be happy about the fact that my "curse" had come back, but you know what? I'm happy as a clam. If I were now given the choice to suppress my period, I'd give a big, hearty "No!" as a response.
My period isn't "inconvenient" and I'm not going to stop a healthy, natural process my body goes through simply because I "dislike" it. There's no way that having monthly menstruation is "unhealthy", as is discussed in that article. I was as unhealthy as they come, having lost over 60 pounds in just a few months, being severely anemic and malnutritioned, and just a few more pounds of weight loss away from being hospitalized and fed through a tube. This was all reflected in the loss of my period. My return to health - my hair is growing back, I've gained back weight, and my cheeks have lost their pallor - is simultaneous with the return of my period, and that's no coincidence.
I decided it was something worth celebrating. I felt back in touch with my body, and was feeling healthy again. My anxiety over my amenorrhea was over! I decided it was time to treat my vulva to something nice, in order to celebrate my period's return.
I can tell you with conviction, returning to commercial tampons and pads after nine months without was a bit of a shock. We're talking major chafing and irritation here, folks, and I have to admit I'd forgetten just how annoying it can be. So, to treat myself, I went over to Lunapads and picked up a couple of washable pads, in the funkiest and brightest fabrics I could find, specifically to reflect my return to liveliness and vitality.
I haven't received them yet, but I'm incredibly excited to get back in touch with my body and with menstruation. The experience of handling your own menses is, I'm told, a great way to get in touch with your own body and what happens to you during that time of the month. It's not "gross", and while there's still plenty I "dislike" about menstruation, I wouldn't suppress it for the world- it's back and I hope it's here to stay.
So, three cheers for periods- I'm beginning my menstruation celebration!