Welcome to Period Diaries, a series in which we ask real people how they eat, sleep, and live on their cycle in an effort to end the stigma around menstruation. Period.
In this edition, a 34-year-old recruiter from Virginia discusses tracking apps, luteal phases, and cheeseburger cravings.
How many days does your period usually last? 5
How heavy is your flow (1 to 5)? 3 (regular)
How regular is your period (1 to 5)? 5 (very regular)
Symptoms: Cramps, bloating, diarrhea
Are you able to predict when your period is about to start?
I use a tracking app. I’m lucky enough that my body tells me when I’m ovulating (cramps)—and I know the length of my luteal phase, which never changes (#science and the human body are truly incredible)—so I always know the day it’ll arrive.
Preferred Period Care: Tampons
At what age did you start your period? What do you remember about your first time?
I was 11, almost 12. Mostly I remember being surprised! You know it’ll happen eventually, but it’s such a foreign concept at that age. Luckily, I was equipped with a good amount of information, so, while I was shocked, I knew what it was, not to be worried, and what to do.
What was sex education like in your household and schools?
My mom is a single parent, and she felt (feels) really strongly that knowledge is power. She gave me a book in my later elementary school years that explained puberty, and she tried to talk to me about it. I was reluctant—I thought it all sounded scary and gross!—but was later so glad she did. I actually don’t remember much about sex education in school, though I know we had it, and that it was pretty open and honest for a southern state in the ’90s. I remember specifically learning about STDs and consent.
How did your parents and siblings react to you going through puberty?
My mom turned bright red and told me I was turning into a lady. That... did not help me with the embarrassment. I also remember distinctly that she bought me an electric razor for Hanukkah that year, and thought I would love that gift. I sobbed! You don’t forget something like that!
How comfortable are you with buying period care products in public?
Very. My husband has learned to be too!
How easy is it for you to access period care and contraceptive products where you live?
It’s super easy, though in part that’s because I’ve learned over the years how to advocate for myself. No one knows your body better than you do. The more you know, the more equipped you are to stand up for yourself and your needs. If your gut says so, don’t hesitate to go somewhere else or get a second opinion.
4 a.m. — I wake up in the middle of the night to pee for the third time—I chug water at night—and realize my least favorite week of the month is here. I grab a tampon, a couple of preemptive Midol (which are a miracle, by the way), and another glass of water. My cramps are vicious every month but usually don’t appear until a few hours in, so I get a little warning time to take advantage of.
8:30 a.m. — I hop up for work feeling bloated and a little nauseous. Midol are great, but they’re also tough on my stomach. Getting older is the best! I put on my favorite sweatpants, brew some coffee, and chew a muffin hoping it’ll settle my stomach before my first call.
3 p.m. — I finally remember to enter the fact that my period has arrived in my cycle tracker between work calls, and I add the expected date of next month’s period in my calendar. My dog is curled up on my lap on the couch while I take interviews, and I don’t feel the least bit bad using him as my personal heating pack for my stomach. I pop another few Midol.
9 a.m. — I work from home, and my calls are all West Coast-based today. I wake up feeling VERY glad that’s the case because this morning I’m groggy and bloated. This time of month often makes me feel like I’ve got a mild hangover, and today’s no different. I take a couple of meds before my first call.
1 p.m. — I get a break between calls, and as I’m making a sandwich I remember that I’ve only got two tampons and one Midol left. After I eat, I run across the street to Walgreens for both. I can’t help myself and grab three of those truffle ball chocolates at the checkout counter too.
7 p.m. — I dial into my last call for the day and decide that today is a day for a cheeseburger and a 9 p.m. bedtime. I order delivery and ask my husband if he can pleeeease walk the dog tonight. Two more pills, just in case!
8 a.m. — I’ve got more energy today! Day three is typically when I start to feel more like myself. I’ve been drinking decaf this week because of all the caffeine in the meds, but today I can skip the meds and brew a regular coffee.
2 p.m. — Wednesdays are my heaviest meetings day and I realize I haven’t moved since 10 a.m.! I stretch my legs and am surprised at how good I still feel. I drag my dog for a quick walk so that I can get some sunshine.
9 p.m. — This is when the crash happens. I’m feeling less bloated and change into leggings, then I jump into bed where I answer some last emails for the night.
8 a.m. — I’m feeling fully me again! I take a shower and actually blow dry my hair today.
7 p.m. — My husband and I go out for a date night and I’m still awake and energized enough that I can handle a glass of wine.
7:45 p.m. — I’m still pretty alert and take it as a sign to order a second glass of wine! Great decision.
8:30 a.m. — It’s a Friday AND I know my period is ending. It’s a good day! My cycle has been insanely regular for years, with the exception of a few debilitatingly stressful months last year. It’s truly insane how connected the body, mind, and resulting hormones are.
1 p.m. — I call a candidate to make them an offer (best part of my job!), and start packing for a trip we’re taking this weekend while we chat. Excited to be getting away—and that I can leave the meds and tampons at home.