Loudspeaker Letters: My First Period

In this week’s Loudspeaker Letter, Ellen embraces her younger self as she experiences her first menstrual cycle. Through understanding comfort, she previews the power this rhythmic cycle holds and encourages her to embrace the ebbs and flow of her body as a built-in superpower.

Artwork: Composition No. 61 (1939); Stuart Walker, born Indiana 1904 - died Albuquerque, NM 1940; Smithsonian American Art Museum; Gift of Patricia and Phillip Frost.


To my younger self,

As those privy to your latest news are likely congratulating you or making awkward declarations like "You’re a woman now!" (ugh, cringe) I want to remind you that you’re still you. You’re the exact same person today that you were before hormones flooded your system causing you to cramp, bleed, and maybe feel a little out-of-sorts. You’re not a sudden woman on the spectrum of age, expectations, or ability to navigate troubled waters on your own. You can still wear girlish pigtails and dance in the rain. You’re not different. You’re just evolved.

You see, as females, we’re born to transform. Sure, males go through puberty too (and I imagine it’s equally awkward and uncomfortable for them), but our transformation continues well beyond puberty— through to our sexual development, possibly pregnancy and post-pregnancy, perimenopause, menopause, and beyond. And the beautiful thing is that our female bodies are wired to send signals that set us on our own unique transformational paths. You’ve just experienced the first of yours, your period. Pay attention to how it comes back every month— is it with raging cramps? A sense of lightness afterwards? Perhaps mid-month irritability or sexual energy? Learn to listen to your body. Like really listen.

The world will emphatically project supposed norms upon you— "You should feel pain." "You should stay home and rest." "You should get your period every 28 days… no, 32… no, 24." These "shoulds" will evolve as your female journey continues— "You should shave your legs… say ‘yes’ to a hand on your knee… say ‘no’ to sex… breast-feed over bottle-feed… get botox, hot flashes, and hormone injections." There are no real "shoulds" my dear, other than those your own body declares. Listen to your body.

There may come a time when your period starts behaving differently or even suddenly stops. Believe it or not, this will shock you. I know you sit here today utterly perplexed by your first period, but when it comes to your 10th or your 100th you’ll know it intimately. It will be a rhythm to your body that’s reassuring, almost comforting (in its mood-swingy, crampy sort of way). When those changes happen, take stock. These can be your body’s way of telling you that you need to slow down, eat better, go see your doctor, or maybe even prepare for the next phase of life. Your period is the ultimate barometer of your health— unique to you.

So, maybe “congratulations” are in order— not because you’re a woman now, but because you’re beautifully equipped with a signal (sometimes siren) that will allow you to really be an agent of your health and wellbeing. That’s pretty cool. No doctor, scientist, sorcerer, or man has this super power. Just you… and Us.

Love,

Ellen


So often, it's hard to know what to say when someone we care about is navigating a challenging time related to physical and emotional health. We created this series for two reasons: to help foster empathy and communication (because by hearing words of comfort, you may be inspired to share some or all of them with people in your own life) and to create a well of communal knowledge on resiliency. Through this resource, we are able to acknowledge how far we’ve come as individuals and weave a thread of lived experience through one another. These are the words of wisdom we’d send our past selves—long before we knew what was coming.

If you would like to submit your own Loudspeaker Letter for consideration, please e-mail rachel@nyssacare.com and we will send you a short brief. Thank you for sharing your stories with our lovely community.

 

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