The "P" Word
'The best way out is through'
Warning: Not to be read by anyone prim and proper or particularly British.
You have a 50% chance of developing them. And that 50% chance is something you can do nothing about because it is decided before you are even born.
Because half of the women in my family go wappy after having children (a joy I both look forward to and a time I think fondly of in my own childhood- 'such fun') the mystical workings of women has always been discussed openly during my upbringing which is perhaps why I am so unafraid of the taboos surrounding them.
Here is a little example as to why I am writing this blog post, courtesy of Wikipedia (Yes, this is a real thing):
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A menstrual taboo is any social taboo concerned with menstruation. In some societies it involves menstruation being perceived as unclean or embarrassing, extending even to the mention of menstruation both in public (in the media and advertising) and in private (amongst friends, in the household, and with men). Many traditional religions consider menstruation ritually unclean."
I don't know about you, but reading that made me feel great about a function decided by my gender, which I can do nothing about...
A fact universally acknowledged is that periods are not terribly sexy, fun or endearing. But I can remember being twelve years old and wanting to start. I felt immature because I thought that everyone else had, and I thought it would be my ticket to adolescence. Mum and I often laugh about the conversations we had where I was desperate to start (to the extent of praying for them...) If only we knew then.
When I 'finally' did start at thirteen, passing through the threshold wasn't the liberating, enlightening and becoming moment I anticipated. Instead, it was bewildering, painful and embarrassing. It was my mothers birthday and I remember an alien feeling whilst coming home in the taxi from school (privileges of living in the middle of nowhere and a ridiculously long farm drive). I felt strangely tired and grumpy, like a grey cloud had taken me hostage and was weighing me down. When I discovered it was due to the moment I had been hoping for I wasn't relieved, but disappointed at the reality of what it felt like. And annoyed with my body for not timing it better- I mean we were going to go out for a lovely meal. Sod's law.
Mother Nature 1- Alice 0. But do not get me started on Mother Nature, because she is a callous, back stabbing cow. Where is her sorority? Loyalty? Does she know nothing of womanhood and sticking together?
I remember mum doing a typical mother laugh when I has told her as it to say 'welcome to the club darling' whilst giving me a kiss and then simply said 'Next life, I'm coming back as a man too.'
Rationally, I knew that if you are a woman then this is nothing special because it comes to us all. So why had I it made into such a big deal? It is just a natural bodily process, like needing three meals a day and hair growth. It is part of the bodies natural workings so why do we brits get funny about it? We're more than happy to tell people 'I'm going for a wee' which is arguably too much information- yet something that is necessary for life itself, is something too embarrassing to speak of.
NEWSFLASH: Without periods, you, reading this, would not be here. Without periods, I would not be here writing. And without periods, the people who think periods are disgusting and shameful would be unable to think so, because ironically they would not be here either.
And here is another Newsflash: It is BLOOD people. We all have it in our bodies. About eight pints of the stuff. And without it we would not survive. So hows about we use our rational, and recognise that it is just another, essential bodily function like the consumption and burning of energy.
Its not like women bleed nuclear weapons (although maybe that would be no bad thing, at least then the UN would hold conferences on our behalf and there may be a state of urgency in regards to the weapon of mass destruction- Endometriosis).
Now I am by no means saying we discuss periods at the dinner table with out in-laws (even I am embarrassed at that prospect). However, without speaking about periods and liberating the word, women will still feel embarrassed to talk about it and Endometriosis will remain unknown and never spoken about. I have just today finished Malala Yousafzai's autobiography (a heart wrenchingly inspirational read) 'I am Malala' where she talks about education being the remedy for ignorance and ultimately leading to peace. Her story and the trials she has had to overcome are mind blowing and are an example of the problems I compare my suffering to in order to contextualise how lucky my life is and makes me grateful to only be battling endometriosis. I am not undermining anyones suffering, it is simply my way to empower myself and enables me to live happily.
She has reinforced in me how the first step is education. First we must educate people on periods so that we can then talk about endometriosis. People must be told what endometriosis is and raise awareness for the unheard of 'benign cancer'. By educating people about it is, we will break taboos. Every day, I aim to break a taboo. I am not feeling so good today, but I am continuing to, in the written form, break a taboo just by talking about it! And I haven't even gotten out of bed yet! It might be the daredevil in me but I LOVE breaking taboos. Who wants to conform and live within the self imposed, unwritten rules of what is okay to do and talk about? You are not breaking the law by talking about periods. No one has the right to place upon me what is good conversation and what is not. As long as I am not hurting anybody, I will not be pressured into assumed cultural values placed upon us since the Victorian Age!
I know my wanting to educate about this condition is nothing in comparison to what Malala is doing, however it is the same principle:
Knowledge is the key. Lets have the courage to talk about periods, if we then educate people about Endometriosis there will be a demand for a cure. No female will feel too embarrassed to talk about her symptoms, allowing access to knowledge about what is normal and what is not, and leading to quicker diagnosis time and preventing the life-devastating impact endometriosis can have on women and their partners, parents, children, siblings and so many more.
If you are still with me and engaged (give yourself a pat on the back, I just can't help myself sometimes) then I urge you to watch this world class TED talk but a friend of mine about 'Little Red Riding Hood, and the Wolf'. Carol is the treasurer for 'Endometriosis UK' and her TED talk leaves me speechless every time. She is educative about Endometriosis, funny, enlightening, and extremely clever because she tells it through the story tale we all know from our childhood. Thankfully, I am lucky enough to be joining Carol the next time she delivers this talk and say a few words at the end.
Here is the link: http://endometriosis-uk.org/news/endometriosis-uk-trustee-talks-tedxbrighton-37138
If you feel half as strongly as I do about it, please pass it on.
'Lets make Knowledge Our Legacy'.
Have a little look at Endo UK's brill new campaign:
One last positive spin: In a weird way I also feel thankful for periods. It means I am not malnourished, it means I have lived to an age where my body can mature into this state, it means that I have the chance of babies when I am all grown up and it means that I have been born with the organs that allow me to do so. Not everybody gets the chance to start their periods. We are lucky- In a strange Alice-kinda-way.
All my love,
P.s I DARE YOU to say the 'P' word before you go to sleep tonight, pass it on...