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The Unspoken Ick of Womanhood

I recently read a post by the Canadian poet, illustrator, photographer, and author Rupi Kaur, who stated that after taking a photo for her university project 7 years ago, where she was tackling stigmas around women's menstrual cycles, it was quickly censored and looked upon as shameful. In 2015, she shared that same photo on her Instagram page, and again, it was blocked and removed. Before it got taken down, however, she received hundreds of comments and messages from men, who unleashed their fury on her with their opinions. The public was disgusted with her, and she became shunned by society, going so far as to receive death threats. Four days ago, she posted the photo once again.

This entire thing has both infuriated and excited me, enough to inspire me to write this blog.

The idea of a woman posting a photo and speaking about something as real and common as this only to get hate and death threats really just makes me cringe. On one hand, society says that it's a gross subject that no one should talk about (especially those who suffer through it), and yet this is the only way we can procreate. It's perfectly fine to use a woman's body to grow a baby and feed a baby, but heaven forbid a woman can talk about something that happens monthly so that those eggs can actually be released for this to even take place! You just can't have it both ways, I'm sorry to tell you. The miracle isn't upon giving birth; it happens long before then.

Now, no one is saying it's a comfortable topic for any of us, but it's necessary.

If you had the opportunity to read my previous blogs on the same subject or knew about my recent battles, you would know that women's health has become my newest campaign project.

You see, because of all the misconceptions and stigmas surrounding this subject, it is undoubtedly one of the reasons I got cancer.

I was one of those women who barely got her period during the first part of my menstrual life. That in and of itself was a huge problem. I didn't think so at the time because, as a young girl, it was a major ick, and I hated it. So, the fact that it came once every 4 months was a bloody miracle (pun intended). When it came, it was always such a shock and surprise because I never had any warning or symptoms that came with it. Which was very weird, especially after hearing about all the other women in my life who had an abundance of them each and every month.

As time went on, things definitely changed. I went through a host of things when I was dealing with birth control, which I truly believe to this day ruined my woman parts, never to be the same again. I took birth control for 11 years. If you asked me then, I would have told you that it was my choice to go on them, and the reason was so that I could have more controlled cycles, and could get them once a month as all women did. I would say that I did it to normalize my periods, but in fact, that was a lie. I went on them because my boyfriend at the time (who later became my husband) couldn't be bothered to put on a fucking condom during sex because "he just didn't like the feel of them". Why should he have to be uncomfortable and wear a condom so I wouldn't get pregnant when all I had to do was go on birth control? That condescending statement just oozed disrespect and stupidity, and I knew it. It infuriated me then just as much as it still does to relive it now. Oh, the many reasons I should have left that relationship still astound me. But, for some reason unknown to me, I accepted it and went on birth control against my better judgment. Honestly, I was just sick of taking pregnancy tests all the time. The fear and anxiety of waiting on my cycle to come each month more than likely just added to my stress, making it even more difficult for my body to regulate itself.

By the time I was 28, my marriage was over, and so were the birth control pills. As much as I hated being on them, I was grateful to them during the year of my marriage. As much as I wanted a baby someday, there was no way I was bringing a child into the world in an abusive relationship. I always wanted to be a mother and have children, yes, but I didn't want any of them with him. So a new journey of weaning my body off the drugs began.

That's when the first of it started.

When I finally came off of birth control completely, it was during the month of May. I bled for an entire year, every single day. Something that I was told by a doctor was "normal". It was my body's way of regulating itself without the drug. So, I went from hardly having a period to having one daily for 365 days.

I was scared and had no one to talk to about it. It felt wrong, but if a medical professional is telling me it's more than normal, who am I to judge that? The whole topic was beyond taboo in my family, and I just felt stuck. Until I came to my senses and finally listened to that nagging inner voice, it didn't let me rest until I told somebody.

After telling a gynecologist what I was experiencing, she ran some tests, and sure enough, it was not "normal". I had a fibroid on my right fallopian tube that was a concerning size. That was what was causing the continual bleeding, not my body trying to regulate itself back to normal. Thankfully, that all ended well, and after being monitored for over a year, the fibroid went away on its own and my cycles stabilized.

For the next 12 years, my menstrual cycle was so accurate, I could set my watch to its timing. Things were finally normal. But with "normal" came all the symptoms and side effects. It all felt horrible.

When I was 43, things began changing. My cycle became so painful and heavy that I couldn't stand it. The first few days, I could barely get out of bed. Soon enough, my life had to be scheduled around my time of the month, because I couldn't do a thing during it. I had to miss work, events, vacations, and intimate time with my partners because it was too disgusting for anyone to bear. Hell, I was once even ghosted by a guy I was dating because he couldn't "handle it". At first, I laughed about it, but the laughter quickly turned to shame. Looking back now, he was the idiot and I certainly had absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. It was all happening to me, I didn't cause it. Since then, I've learned to strictly date actual grown men, not boys.

After 4 years of being in excruciating pain and continuously being told by my doctor at the time that it was because of my weight that the cycles were so heavy, painful, and abnormally long, I shut down and didn't bother asking for advice any longer. I was going through utter hell. With the anxiety inside of me of getting medical attention as it was, I finally muster up the courage to go, only to be told that if I was skinny this wouldn't be happening. Awesome news! So, I dealt with it as best as I could, secretly praying for early menopause.

A year later, after collapsing on the floor during one of my cycles, I was rushed to the hospital and soon after diagnosed with endometrial cancer. Endometriosis was the reason for all the excruciating pain and five masses that invaded my uterus, the cause of the profuse bleeding. Cancer was why, and my weight was the reason why I wasn't worthy of being taken seriously.

Women’s menstruation cycles have been a topic of taboo and stigma for centuries. From ancient cultures to modern-day societies, menstruation has been associated with shame, impurity, and weakness. This stigma has led to the marginalization of women’s health issues and the lack of medical research and funding for women’s health.

One of the biggest dangers of the stigma surrounding women’s menstruation cycles is the spread of misinformation and misconceptions. Due to the taboo nature of menstruation, many women feel uncomfortable discussing their periods and seeking medical attention for menstrual-related issues. As a result, they often rely on misinformation and myths passed down from generations, which can be detrimental to their health.

One of the most common misconceptions surrounding menstruation is that it is dirty and impure. This belief has led to the exclusion of women from religious and cultural practices and has perpetuated harmful practices such as menstrual seclusion and female genital mutilation. In addition, the belief that menstruation is dirty has led to a lack of proper hygiene practices during menstruation, which can lead to infections and other health problems.

Another danger of the stigma surrounding menstruation is the lack of awareness and education about menstrual-related cancers, such as ovarian, cervical, and endometrial. Despite the fact that these cancers affect a significant number of women (both overweight and not), there is very little medical research and funding available for them. This lack of attention has led to delayed diagnoses and treatment, resulting in higher mortality rates.

The lack of awareness and funding for women’s health issues, particularly menstrual-related cancers, is a result of the marginalization of women in medical research. Historically, medical research has been conducted primarily on men, and women have been excluded from clinical trials and research studies. This exclusion has led to a lack of understanding of women’s health issues and the effectiveness of treatments for women.

To address the stigmas surrounding women’s menstruation cycles and the lack of research and funding for women’s health issues, there needs to be a concerted effort to raise awareness and provide education. Women must be encouraged to speak openly about their periods and seek medical attention when necessary. Health professionals must receive adequate training and education on women’s health issues, including menstrual-related cancers. And governments and organizations must invest in research and funding for women’s health issues, particularly menstrual-related cancers.

These stigmas surrounding women’s menstruation cycles have led to a lack of awareness and education around menstrual-related health issues, resulting in the spread of misinformation and misconceptions and the marginalization of women in medical research.

To address these issues, we must work towards raising awareness, educating women, and funding women’s health issues, particularly menstrual-related cancers. By doing so, we can ensure that women receive the proper care and attention they deserve and reduce the mortality rates associated with menstrual-related cancers.

In 2023, it will be unacceptable to talk about a woman's period because of the stigma and taboo that still surround it. Despite the progress made in breaking down barriers around menstruation in recent years, there is still a long way to go in terms of making it a normalized topic of discussion.

One reason for this is that menstruation has been historically associated with shame and impurity. From ancient cultures to modern-day societies, women's periods have been treated as something that should be hidden and kept secret. This attitude has contributed to the lack of education and awareness surrounding menstruation, leading to a cycle of silence and misinformation.

Additionally, the physical symptoms and pain that many women experience during their periods are often dismissed or trivialized. This can make it difficult for women to seek help and support when they are struggling with menstrual-related issues, further reinforcing the stigma surrounding menstruation.

As for why men may find the topic "gross," it could be due to societal conditioning and a lack of education. Menstruation has historically been viewed as a "women's issue," and many men have not been exposed to education about the topic. This can lead to discomfort and avoidance of the subject.

However, it is essential to note that not all men are uncomfortable with the topic and that it is crucial for men to be involved in the conversation around menstruation. Menstruation affects half of the population, and it is so important to talk about it and break down the gender barriers that prevent open and honest communication around the topic.

While some progress has been made in breaking down the stigma surrounding menstruation, there is still much work to be done. It is vital for all of us that there be continued education, awareness, and open communication around the topic to create a more inclusive and supportive society for all individuals who menstruate.

It is such an important thing to talk about, not just with our girls but with our boys too. I say girls and boys because, as we all know, some education, stigmas, and openness around anything begin at home. Make sure you are having the right conversations in the household, and teach those around you that it's okay to speak of these things. It is more important to get the right message out there than the wrong one. Be sure that these conversations always include professionals, so that they can debunk any myths or misconceptions that you may have immediately. And most importantly, make sure that the professionals in whom you are placing some sort of faith are the right fit for you. If you aren't being heard or made to feel uncomfortable, get other opinions, please. Your life may depend on it.

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