Free Periods Canada: Period Story Project
The Period Stories You've Been Waiting For
In today's society, there is a hush hush mentality that still exists around periods. Unfortunately, this means that many menstruators feel the need to hide their periods for fear of being judged and shamed. In one of the period stories you'll read, a menstruator calls in sick to work due to menstrual health problems, provides a doctor's note from their OBGYN, and is then harassed by their supervisor to the point they resign from their job. This is not an isolated incident.
Free Periods Canada has created the FPC Period Story Project so menstruators everywhere can share their period stories in a judgement free space. Sharing period stories can not only help menstruators take up space and reclaim their voices, but can also empower other menstruators to embrace their periods and share their own stories. The more real life menstrual experiences the world hears, and the more empowered menstruators become, the less in the dark the world will be when it comes to how people with periods are treated, and the sooner menstruators can be treated better.
Let's put an end to period stigma, period shame and overall period inequity by sharing and reading period stories.
My Uncomfortable Period
If I had to use one word to describe my period it would be "uncomfortable". This is because I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and get really bad period cramps during the first two days of my period. I’ve had to make lifestyle changes to regulate my period, such as exercising regularly with yoga, but I still experience intolerable pain due to cramps almost every month. I’ve also realized, as the founder of Ruth, that many of us menstruators aren’t educated on the period products that can help us each month, and that there is a silence around periods that leads to feeling uncomfortable. Conversations and education around periods and period products needs to become the norm so period stigma, shame, and the silence that exists around periods can end. I hope my period story can help other menstruators by inspiring them to talk openly about their periods so we can make change.
My Irregular Period
The one word I would use to describe my period is “irregular”. I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) so my periods tend to be inconsistent or even absent at times. They also cause me intense stomach pain, hair loss, acne, mood swings, and depression. I used to think these symptoms meant I was unhealthy and that I was responsible for it, but I eventually came to terms with the fact that it's genetics. I hope my period story can help other menstruators with PCOS realize that they are not alone or at fault for their challenging and/or irregular periods.
My Period Connection
I’m a queer non binary trans human and a poet who loves ritual and magic. Having my period, to me, is flowing with my release cycles, finding ways of connecting to my elemental movements of the month, and even ways of building intimacy and trust with my partner, who is another trans masculine person. Being able to show up and be vulnerable with where my body is at, what my needs are, and what is moving through me and holding that space for myself and in my relationship is huge. I hope everyone can connect with themselves through their period in whatever ways feel right to them.
My Unpredictable Period Experience
If I had to use one word to describe my period, it would be “predictable”. Ever since I started my first period when I was 11, it has been consistently predictable. There was only one time it became unpredictable, and everything changed.
When I was 20, I had a copper IUD inserted. Although I was aware that a copper IUD could make my period heavier and my cramps stronger for several months, it was a risk I was willing to take considering how moderate and predictable my period had been for 9 years. After having the IUD inserted seamlessly, I was surprised by how much pain I found myself in the following month. The second day of my period, I was in so much pain that I couldn’t stand up straight. My flow was so heavy that a tampon and a pad didn’t last for even two hours. I called in sick to work, with a note from my OBGYN.
My supervisor (55 year old cisgender male) emailed me to inform me that if I called in sick again, I would be fired. When I arrived at work the following day, I learned that my supervisor had told my coworkers that I had called in sick because I was hungover from partying. The accusations and subsequent situation snowballed to the point where I resigned from my job due to continued harassment from my supervisor. I hope that my period story can help other menstruators who experience workplace discrimination due to their period, by letting them know they’re not alone.
My Mother's Period Poverty Story
I have a story about menstruation that was shared with me by my Mum. She began asking me about my work with Days for Girls in January 2021. As I told her, "We help girls with their periods,” our conversation began to grow. She then told me about her menstrual experiences growing up in England when my grandfather passed away and my grandmother was left to raise 6 children in extreme poverty. My Mum told me it was incredibly difficult to manage her period growing up in a household where 4 people had periods and there was no money to buy menstrual supplies. Although my Mum passed away in September, our conversations around menstruation are something I will always cherish. For me, they created a stronger bond between us and reinforced how sharing period stories can make a difference in the lives of menstruators.
My Exhausting Period
If I had to use one word to describe my period, it would be exhausting. This is because I struggle with PMDD and severe physical health symptoms due to my period.
Two weeks before every period, I go into a state of Major Depressive Disorder due to hormone fluctuation, which is called PMDD. It affects my self confidence, my relationships, and my ability to remember things or get things done in my everyday life. During the first few days of my period, I experience hot flashes, heavy bleeding, excruciating cramps, numb legs, a sore back, fatigue, and lightheadedness.
I think the hardest part about my period is not being able to function the way I normally do, because it's scary. Every period exhausts me starting two weeks before it begins, until it ends. I hope that this can change one day, but there is no cure for PMDD right now. I also hope that my period story can help other menstruators feel less alone in their own struggles with their period and PMDD.
Growing with My Period
If I had to use one word to describe my period it would be "growth". This is because, after switching to reusable menstrual products and their benefits, I learned so much more about my body. I became more confident in sharing my experiences, speaking openly about menstruation with other menstruators, and learned to embrace my period (along with all the cramps and nausea) as a sign of my physical and mental strength. I hope that my period story can help other menstruators by empowering them to be proud of their periods and their bodies.
A's Exhausting Period
If I had to use one word to describe my period it would be “exhausting”. I have experienced heavy periods and cramps since my teenage years, and was prescribed birth control pills to manage it. The pills made me depressed and I felt entirely alone in my journey, despite being very vocal about menstrual health advocacy. I remember switching to a different birth control pill, and it resulted in a 40 day period. YEP, you read that right!
For a long time, I thought I had a low pain tolerance because everyone told me the pain I was experiencing was normal. It took me almost seven years and many different primary physicians to be diagnosed with fibroids, which finally explained the cramps and heavy bleeding. Although the diagnosis didn't alleviate my physical pain and suffering, it meant that the period pain wasn't in my head, and that it was NOT normal. It was like this approval that I needed to be kind to myself on my period. I still experience heavy menstrual bleeding and cramps, but these days, I am not afraid to take Advil, reschedule my plans, and lay down the whole day if needed.
J's Untamed Period
If I had to use one word to describe my period it would be “untamed”. This is because my first period, at 11 years old, lasted for three whole months. I found out this wasn't normal after I asked my mother for more tampons, and she asked me, “How did you finish the Costco sized pack already?” I was given no tests at the doctor to see what was causing the issue, but was placed on birth control. I wish more tests were done to give me comfort in what I was going through and hope that my period story can show other menstruators who experience untamed periods, that they're not alone.
K's Stressful Period
If I had to use one word to describe my period it would be "stressful" (at times). This is because there is a lack of menstrual health awareness and it inhibits my ability to vocalize what I experience. The hormonal changes and cramps are hard enough, but even worse when you can't talk about them because you're not sure how you'll be received. Coming from a south asian background, I have not had the opportunity or safe space to express my period pain. I hope that my period story can help other menstruators who experience similar stigma and shame, and a sense of silence around their period, to feel that they are not alone.
We want to thank every menstruator who has taken up this space and shared their period stories with us. We know period talk isn't always easy, and want you to know that your bravery and honesty are inspiring.
There is a need for more period talk and safe spaces for menstruators, so we have decided to continue taking submissions for the Period Story Project on an ongoing basis. We hope this can provide you with an opportunity to share your story and engage with other menstruators going through similar experiences.
Another safe space for menstruators is CHARMS, Free Period Canada's digital network and online menstrual community. We hope to see you there!