The Irrational Period


Written by: Louise MacGregor

Today is the first day of my period. For those who don’t know or need a refresher, a period refers to the 5-7 days of a menstrual cycle where the lining of the uterus sheds an unfertilized egg through the vagina. I got my first period when I was eleven, in the middle of a school Easter 5K, and I’ve been a pretty regular blood-haver ever since. 

The periods weren’t particularly notable until my twenties, and I now find them reasonably predictable, heading towards my thirties. In the week before my due date, my boobs swell and ache; two days before The Big Day, I get bloated and nauseous – and the cunt herself arrives pretty much every twenty-eight days or so. I will get screeching cramps for the first two days, spend as much time as possible on my back because I’m so dizzy, eat a lot of crisps, and randomly gush blood on and off till the end of my accursed week.

Let me be honest: I’m a notorious bitcher about menstruation. My periods are not even particularly brutal or heavy, but I will still spend 5-7 hours of each of those 5-7 days whining about having to go through it. I feel it is My Right, as a person cursed with the Great Bleed – to moan about it as much as possible. And men, if you had to expel the lining of an internal organ through your genitals every month, you wouldn’t be fucking delighted about it either!

For a long time, I was very, very reticent about talking about my period at all. Not because of the disgusting factor; no, I’m a huge fan of being as gross as possible, and if the above paragraphs didn’t clue you in, the actual biological functions of a period aren’t something I feel the need to be particularly coy about. I’m shooting blood clots from my pussy a week every month – it’s not pleasant, but it is impressive, and I feel like that should be acknowledged.

But it was more the fear of being seen as this irrational maniac because of my period that led me to shut up about it. Something I didn’t mention in the list of symptoms and side effects above is the intensity of emotion I get about a week to ten days before my cycle begins. I generally consider myself a pretty rational person (well, mostly). Amongst my friends, I’m known as the one who will handle the emotion if presented with it, but am also one who doesn’t quite understand the utility of (what I view as) excessive amounts of it.

But I can honestly say that there are times when I have pre-menstrual syndrome (a catch-all term for the changes that happen in the body leading up to a period) that I feel as though I am fully going insane. I start bawling over next to nothing; I am prone to sensory overload at matters that could be handled later in the month, I am more likely to self-harm during, and my anxiety is significantly worse. It’s not full-blown awful every time, but even when it’s mild, it’s still pretty bloody rubbish. I can acknowledge these feelings as a piece of the PMS puzzle and not act out on them in any severe way, but that doesn’t mean I’m not miserable at the time they’re happening. It feels like I’ve been cut loose from whatever tethers me to my hold on normalcy, and that’s a very discomforting feeling. Even though I know where it comes from and that it will pass, I still feel bananas. I hate it.

Truth be told, though, what I hate more is knowing that so many people would read this as an admittance of my own irrationality and untrustworthiness. The notion of the woman who loses her fucking mind in the run-up to her menstrual period has been used to disavow women’s trustworthiness, their skill, their ability, and their competency for so long that it makes me want to scream. It ties back into that deep-seated notion apparent throughout so much of medical and social history that having a uterus is akin to madness. Sally King, author of Pre-Menstrual Syndrome and the Myth of the Irrational Female describes it better than I ever could: 

‘If ill health is caused by the womb then all women are ill.’

This pathologizing of women’s emotions is something that I have always been so worried about when disclosing my own experiences. I’m happy to talk about my physical symptoms because those feel quantifiable and factual, but when it comes to the emotional and mental ones, I’m far more reticent. I may be an irrational woman, but I don’t want to be seen as one because I know it’s all too easy for people to use that not only as an opportunity to dismiss me but other people who deal with the same issues. I don’t want to let the side down by being crazy, you know? I am a person who is not entirely quiet about their strong opinions, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve been hit by an ‘on the rag, love?’ – esque response as a result. The thought of giving someone any ammo to fire back at me is infuriating just to think about.

But these symptoms really do make my life difficult, and it’s not for an insignificant portion of it, either. Like I said before, I don’t even have particularly exceptional periods – there are people who have far more extreme emotional and physical symptoms than I do, like endometriosis or Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder. My case is pretty standard issue when it comes to the Great Bloodening, despite dealing with pretty hefty emotional hits for at least a week out of every month of my fertile adult life.

But to talk about it is to feed into the idea that people who have periods are irrational, crazy, and flighty – that we’re not trustworthy with our own emotions, let alone anything else that might matter. And so, I keep my mouth shut (apart from this extraordinarily long and detailed article – but you get my point) because I don’t want my words to become evidence proving that people who have periods are worthy of dismissal by their very nature.