I’m not ashamed to be a person who menstruates.
In the past few years, I’ve come to terms with the fact that menstruation is a perfectly normal biological function and that there’s no reason why I should feel like I need to pretend that it doesn’t happen. But just because I’m comfortable with the fact that my body undergoes menstruation, it does not mean that talking about my menstrual experience with strangers is any easier.
Almost every doctor or specialist that I have ever been to has started off the appointment by asking when my last menstrual cycle was. While I know this is a common practice, it still makes me uncomfortable to discuss this topic in certain situations.
I’m not the best with tracking my period. No matter how many period-tracking apps I download onto my phone, I always forget to keep them updated as my cycle progresses. Writing down the dates of my period in a journal or planner never sounded appealing to me and with my track record, I would probably forget to keep an up to date log there anyway.
I’ve never felt like I needed to keep exact dates written down – until I’m sitting in the exam room at the doctor’s office.
When then nurse walks in and asks for the date of my last menstrual cycle, I tense up. I quickly pick a random date from the week when I last menstruated and hope that there are no further questions. It might seem irrational, but I’m afraid that the nurse will judge me if I hesitate when I’m asked when I last menstruated.
I’m nervous that the nurse will think I’m doing something wrong, that after all these years I still haven’t figured out how to properly manage my period.
This same fear plays into why I shy away from discussing my funky menstrual pains with my doctor. Subconsciously, I don’t want to be viewed as though I am incapable of handling the pain that comes with monthly bleeding. I would rather do my own research and suck up the pain than be told that my pain is not legitimate. Who could know my body better than me?
The answer to that question is complicated. While I’m arguably the best judge of when something in my body feels “off”, I’m far from being a reproductive health expert. I don’t know how to distinguish between uncomfortable but harmless symptoms of PMS and symptoms that could be indicative of a much more serious reproductive health issue.
Everyone’s body is different and we all experience pain in a different way. When it comes to periods, there is no such thing as a “normal” experience. If your menstrual experience is becoming a hindrance to your general well-being, talking to your doctor is the best way to address the issue so you can get on with your day-to-day life.
I’m learning to let go of my self-consciousness when it comes to talking openly about my period. While I’m not quite there yet, I know that being able to speak about my menstrual pain with my doctor is important to ensuring that I can manage my period in a happy and healthy way.