‘Do you not know I am a woman? When I think, I must speak.’ In this case about periods or menstrual cycles as they are also known. Periods are something all women experience (bar medical reasons) and when mine started I knew this. However this did not help me to feel any better about them. I know most girls find periods a bit scary or worrying at fist and take time to adjust to them, but I totally hated them. I became afraid of my periods. As someone with OCD the messiness of them did my head in. I struggled with sanitary pads since I always had issues with certain things against my skin, which is an autistic trait I had much more when younger. I briefly tried tampons, but with my bad hip struggled to use them. Then there were the stomach cramps which at times had me doubled over in pain crying. Puberty and hormones are all part of being a teenager, but add in autism and OCD and you get one very messed up person. I hated how periods made me feel mentally each month. In the end the anxiety got so bad my mum took me to see the doctor.
The doctor put me on ‘the pill’ which was life changing. I had more control over when I had a period, so could time it for when I had less stressful things going on. The pill made my periods a bit lighter which made them easier to deal with. My stomach cramps became less frequent and less intense. Gradually I became less afraid of my periods and learnt to cope with them. I am very grateful my mum took me to the doctor and got me on the pill, which I still use to this day.
I got used to sanitary pads in the end. I learned which ones I found most comfortable and worked for my needs. However over the years buying pads has become trickier. They keep coming up with new versions and the choice is now huge. I can spend ages in some shops just staring at the range of pads trying to find the ones I want. I also find a kind I like, and then they change them or stop stocking them. I would rather they kept it simple. I mean who an earth came up with ‘wings’, are my pads supposed to fly?! I think the idea is they are supposed to keep the pad from bunching up so it stays flat, but in my experience they tend to make things worse if anything. Before you even use the wings I find they often stick to themselves. I like the pads without wings, which you can still get, but are becoming increasingly rare. Larger shops tend to still stock then, but smaller shops often do not. Then there are pads with added fragrance, often aloe-Vera, which considering how many women are sensitive in that area seems daft. The fragrance can irritate and make things sore and just how much are other people going to smell a woman’s intimate area anyway? A fairly new one is ‘discreet’ pads. Supposedly rustle free wrapping for use in public toilets (although they don’t seem all that rustle free to me). However as a woman in woman’s toilets I do not mind if I hear other women unwrapping pads, it is hardly unexpected or offensive. Besides I hardly ever notice the noise from other cubicles anyway and it was a non issue for me.
Some sanitary pads seem ludicrously expensive, I will admit I do not use the cheapest brands, they feel plastic like and often do not stick down well, but the mid price range seem fine to me. Although sometimes you have to use what you can get in an emergency. Recently I saw an article online about tax on sanitary wear, often known as ‘the tampon tax’. It is wrong to tax sanitary wear when other items deemed essential are not taxed or at least have reduced tax. Although one woman was quoted as spending at least £10 a month on her sanitary wear which is far more than I have ever paid. I do realise how lucky I am to have cotton soft pads now. My mum told me about sanitary belts which sound very uncomfortable and tedious. They were an elastic belt used to hold pads in place before the invention of self-adhesive pads.
Is it just me or are adverts for sanitary products really daft? I do not do most of the things the women in the adverts do even during the rest of the month when I am not on my period. I have a really good sanitary product now so I can do anything, no, it does not make me super woman. Then there are the adverts trying to sell my pads almost as if they were a fashion product with pretty floral designer pattern on them, err why? I don’t care if you draw floral patterns on the pads or not, what I want to know is do they stick well and do they absorb well?!
I am now fine with my periods mostly. This may sound daft, but I am actually quite proud of myself for overcoming this issue. I am glad I live in a more open time when periods can be discussed more than they used to be and sex education in schools is getting better. I found the talk the school nurse gave us in year seven (aged eleven/ twelve) somewhat helpful. However I do think some girls need more support in learning to cope with periods, especially special needs girls with learning difficulties or anxiety related conditions or autism. Girls need help with the emotional side of periods as well as the practical physical side. I am very glad my mum never hid periods from me and I always knew they were something to expect. It must be terrifying to get one without knowing what it is, which I gather used to happen more than it does now.
Before anyone male complains I know boys also have puberty and hormonal issues, especially as teenagers, but not being male I have nothing I can say on this, other than I think they also need good sex education in school and probably more emotional support than they often get.