This article was originally posted on HerAfter.com, a site for women learning to live fully after cancer and other physical and emotional battles.
It's time to end our war with our "time of the month."
For too long, women have been pretending our periods are some kind of hideous beast that arrives to ruin our lives every month. But it's time to stop treating it as an inconvenience. It's time to stop using it as an excuse for our inability to practice willpower, or as logic motivating our bad behavior, As with the debates in our culture on weight, on women in politics, on sexual prowess v. slut shaming, and so much more:
It's time to stop shaming our bodies. That includes its functions, its needs and all its miraculous cycles -- including the "period."
Having a period isn't a burden, it's a blessing. It doesn't make us irrational or unbearable, it makes us human, beautifully human. It's an essential function that gives us the ability and choice to have children, a choice that is individual and personal and should be taken seriously.
Though this is not at all an article about women's reproductive rights (though if you're looking for one, Bri Seeley's article on the choice not to have kids is a great read), it is still important to realize how powerful it is to have reproductive rights, to have the political and biological the choice to be a mother. Because today, rather than be shoved in tents while we menstruate, or having our worth decided by our ability to bear heirs, we have the freedom to reproduce or not, to function in society while menstruating, and so much more that women before us fought hard and bravely for.
If you're looking for more about how your mother and grandmother fought for your ability to be self expressed, check out this recent article.
It's also a monthly reminder. With all the roles women take on today -- mother, boss, entrepreneur, role model, sister, friend, confidante, girlfriend, the list continues -- we could use a reminder to slow down, honor our bodies and offer a little rest, relaxation and reward.
Yes, the side effects are serious, and can often need medical support. The pain can be unbearable, the emotional roller coaster of it can be overwhelming. But the act, and the time, should be sacred.
This will sound crazy, but it shouldn't: I enjoy having my period. During my chemo, the doctors essentially "froze" my reproductive cycle, so as to protect it as much as possible from the therapy. It took full years after treatment in which I didn't have any cycle at all -- a dream to some girls, a nightmare to me, who was in a hurry to get my body back to normal. When it finally did return, it was happily welcomed with gratitude. To this day, 10 years later, I'm still happy to get it every month as a sign of my body's incredible ability to heal and renew.
Here are a few ways to turn your "week of hell" into a week of healing, of physical and emotional cleansing, and most importantly of self respect:
If your body is feeling overly-tired because of the cycle, pay attention. Allow extra time to rest and recuperate from the important work your body is doing internally. Getting enough sleep and time for the muscles to rebuild and restore is very important.
Honor your body.
Fit into your schedule restorative activities like gentle yoga (no inversions!) or long, hot baths or a massage. Don't punish your body for what it's doing, offer yourself chances to see how miraculous and beautiful your body is by honoring it like a temple.
Keep a journal.
If you're the type who's hormones go haywire during this week, sending you into tears at the site of just about anything (read: me), keep a journal. It will help you express the emotions that come up, identify your triggers, and give you a deeply personal and intense look at the power of your feminine capabilities. After all, isn't it incredible that our hearts can feel so much from our cycles? Isn't it incredible the way our body can affect our mind? Isn't the body magnificent?
We like to pretend that it's our week to "be bad," and overeat. But products like dairy and sugar, as rewarding as they might seem, can make things worse. Be sure to drink plenty of water, eat well, and keep your relaxation time geared toward positive activities rather than passive ones (IE reading rather than hours in front of the TV). This will ensure you finish the week with a feeling of peace rather than bloat. That said, eat a little chocolate. And make sure its the good, expensive kind.
Rachael Yahne (@RachaelYahne) is a writer, blogger, and 10 year cancer survivor. You can read more of her articles about healing from life's big struggles on her website, HerAfter.com. Articles cover topics like beauty, well-being, purpose, and pretending to be 'normal' after treatment and recovery.