Periods suck. But what sucks more than the pain and mood swings? The fact that it is still not normal to be like, "hey, I'm on period today so I'm going to take it easy." In this episode, I talk about periods -- from learning about it for the first time, my first period, periods at work. and what helps me every single month.
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Welcome to a podcast by Pauline. I'm your host, Pauline Narvas. Before we get started, actually, I just wanted to say, I hope that you're all okay. And, you know, handling as much of the chaos that's going on right now as well as you can. And I hope that you remember that no matter what, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. So even if it feels like doom and gloom right now, I hope that you remember that it will all get better. Eventually, even though it feels like it's never ending, and it's nothing good is happening. But yeah, just wanted to say that. And just to make sure that you're all okay. Right. So today, I wanted to talk about normalizing periods. And this actually came about because I was surprised to rise on my period last month, and I openly shared on Instagram about how I was feeling and how it was hurting and how glad I was that I was working from home. And as I was typing it and like just about to share it. I did hesitate to to do it. Because I didn't want people to judge me. I didn't want people to be like you. That's gross, I'm following. But, you know, over the past few years, I realized that I'm becoming more and more open about, like more taboo subjects, because I think it's really important that we talk about them. And it's important that we normalize them as much as we can. And I think, you know, growing up where I was feeling super ashamed about my body and about like lots of things about myself. I didn't want periods being another thing that I add to that list, to say like, Oh, shit, I hate this about myself. I hate periods. I'm gross. I'm blah, blah, blah, and it's awful. So I just wanted to stop that that cycle. So yeah, so that's why I wanted to talk about it today. And hopefully, for those who are listening, you feel less alone in your period struggles. So just in case, you've got it to this far, and you'd still don't know what I'm talking about, and periods make you uncomfortable. So I'll give you a few seconds to stop listening. Because we're talking about periods today. And I hope that's okay, so the first thing I'm going to talk about his period education. So when did I first learn about it? And what was my initial reaction? So I was in like, year five, I think it was. And I don't know how old I was when I was in year five, but I was in year five. And I remember, it was like a year or so before we got like four more education around, get our learning about periods, and like sex education and stuff like that. But it was a year before that. And my friend at the time, I remember she was telling me about how her mom told her about these things called periods, like girls have to go through, you know, throughout our lives. And this was literally the first time I've ever heard of it. So I was like, Oh, that's gross. That's, that's disgusting. And I was like, that sounds awful. I hope that never happens to me. And my friend was like, oh, it is gonna happen to you. It happens to everyone. And like every girl, and I was like, No, no, I don't want to. I'm not I'm not having I don't want to be part of that. Because that sounds awful and gross. And I was like in denial. And then, you know, a year later when I learned about it in like Psh II and along with things like sex education, and learning more about the human body, female bodies. I was just like, what this sounds awful. Like, we can we not opt out. But it's terrible. And, you know, I still sometimes think that when I want period, I'm just like, oh my god, I wish I could opt out. And I don't have to deal with this. But yeah, so this is something like that happened to me. And I was just like, nope, this is awful. But then it happened. And so I'll quickly share the story of when I first got my period. If this podcast isn't or the too much information for you. It's about to get really too much information. I first got my period in actually so I don't actually remember how old I was. I was quite I was quite young. I remember we went so my family and I went to a KFC and we were eating there over like lunch. or something. And it was like just a regular day on a weekend and I was really quiet had no worries in the world. And I remember, usually we go to, we used to go to the same KFC joint. And usually we get like, you know, soft drinks and stuff like Coke and stuff. But like, for some reason that day, when I had my Coke, I just felt awful, like my stomach was feeling or funny. And I remember I was like, before we get because everyone else finished their food, I was like, before we go into the car, I'm gonna go to the toilets, because I just feel a bit funny. And I don't feel comfortable going in the car feeling like this. So then I went to the toilets. And then when, when I went to the toilets, I, you know, just about to go. And then I looked at my underwear, and it was, there was just blood everywhere. And there was blood down to my, my trousers. And I, I had no idea what was going on. Like period. Even though I learned about periods by then I just didn't know if that was the thing that was happening. I genuinely thought I was dying. So I felt really scared. And I felt really ashamed. So after I, you know, sort of composed myself, I wash my hands. And then I left the toilets went to see my family. And then I didn't tell anyone in the car. I didn't tell anybody. I didn't tell my mom didn't tell my dad didn't tell my sister. Because I was so scared. I just felt like I did something wrong. I don't know why I was just terrified. And it wasn't until I got back home. And I just started crying. I just started crying. I told my mom, I was like, I don't know what's going on. I don't know why this is happening to me. Like, please help. What is it? And my mom laughed at me. And she was like, Pauline, it's completely normal. You've got your period. And I was like, just sat there crying my eyes out. And she was like, okay, we need these other things that you can do to like, you know, collect your period. And when you're on your period, this is what you need to do. I had like my first period talk with my mom for the first time ever there and then in my room whilst I was crying. And then my dad comes upstairs because he was like, what's going on? And then he and then my mom told him what happened. And then he because he thinks he's absolutely hilarious. He started saying, Oh, no, we better call the ambulance. Oh, no, we need to take you to the hospital as a joke. Because I was already like, confused and really upset. That was all happening. I just started crying for more. And I was like, Don't take me off. But, um, but yeah, it was just oh, I don't know, like, my dad thought it was funny. But at the time, like nowadays, I'm laughing because it's actually hilarious. But like, at the time, it didn't feel like a funny joke. And then and then yeah, and then my mom just explained, but now you've got your first period, things are gonna change. Like you're gonna see changes in your body changes in your mood, maybe changes to your skin, which is what happened. And, and yeah, and I sort of just was like, okay, so after having like that crying session and then being told how to deal with it. Once I finished my first period, I was like, Oh, great. Okay, that was that was not fun. It hurt a lot. I hope I don't have to deal with that again. I remember going to school and feeling so self conscious that everywhere I sat in the different classrooms. I left like a trail of blood on the on my seat. And I was always really self conscious. So on my period days, I remember I used to wear like youth, I used to like to pull up a wall like leggings, and then tights, or like tights and then leggings, and then like my skirts and stuff. And I just, I just couldn't, I couldn't have a period without wearing like, triple layers because I was just so self conscious. But I remember after I had it, I was like, Oh, that's great. Never gonna it's never gonna happen again. I don't think it really hit that it happens every single month for the rest of my life. Well, until a certain point, obviously. And yeah, and I think like that was, you know, when I started growing up with my period every month I saw her started having like bad experiences with it. So I think first and foremost, it was just just feeling gross about myself and Feeling like, you know, I mean, no one feels like 100% themselves when they're on that period, which is completely normal, obviously. But I think for me, I just didn't, I didn't, I just felt really gross. And I sort of felt like I didn't want to, you know, like, do anything really, we just again, like I said, completely normal. But I think during that time, as I was growing up, I was quite self conscious, I lacked a lot of self confidence. And I was being picked on a lot at school as well. So that didn't help. So whenever my period came, it just felt like it made everything 10 times worse. But I think as well, one thing was, whenever I did have my period, especially when I started getting into like, ridiculous, like, this is you can't see me, but I'm like quoting, like relationships, because it wasn't really relationships. It was more like, when I had a crush on a boy, and then we like went out for like, a week. But yeah, it was like times, like those were, you know, I'd be, I'd be on my period or something. And then people would treat me a bit differently, like, the person I was seeing at the time would be like, Oh, that's gross. You're like a ketchup bottle and stuff like that. And, you know, it didn't help that people made loads of jokes about periods in general. And making fun of the fact that it happens to was, I don't know, it was, it was really tough at the time, because I was already feeling bad, but having it and my hormones were all over the place, and then seeing other people react so negatively towards it, rather than being sort of understanding that it happens. And, you know, by people, I mean, I mostly mean, like teenage boys that just run around, not growing up for like, the next 20 years of their lives. So they have no idea what's going on anyways. So, um, so yeah, and it did, it was really difficult. I did feel very ashamed when I was on my period, very disgusted with myself when I shouldn't be not nowadays, like, luckily, I'm in such a great relationship now where I can talk about periods and not feel like, you know, it's too much information, or that I'm gross and disgusting. And my partner never makes me feel like that. When I'm on my period. He's very understanding. And I think back then, that's what I sort of needed. I needed, like, just people around me to be understanding that it's happening instead of like, I don't know, saying, and making random jokes about it, and being immature about it. And I guess that this is, you know, there's people say that girls mature faster than boys, which I believe. So maybe, yeah, maybe that's it, it was just a maturity thing. I think it took me quite a long time, especially when people around me started maturing, you know, it just took me a long time to finally accept that it happens. I get, I have a period every month. And it just took me some time to also just be kinder to myself, I'm kind to the fact that, you know, periods, suck periods, make you feel bloated period, change your body for a few days for for a few weeks leading up to it. And that's okay. I'm not only a lot more confident with myself and my body and, you know, periods in general, but just having a very supportive, you know, family member and partner around me just to help me when, you know, I do feel gross and horrible. During my periods. I need that extra bit of like, self care and, and love from someone who doesn't find me gross, if that makes sense. Yeah, the next thing I want to talk about is periods of work. So when, I mean, by the time I started working full time, I was obviously quite trained on what to do when I have my periods and stuff. But, you know, I just don't think it's talked about enough in the workplace. I don't think it's people care about it too much in the workplace. And I don't know it can be seen as unprofessional when you speak about it, but you are like it happens and it should be sort of taken into consideration and how companies are like, set up there should be like rooms for people who are like in a lot of pain and can move or like, you know, some couch or something where people can lay down under the period and support just in case you know, people forget some things for their periods and things like painkillers and like I feel like a little like a box of like things to like self care box or something where you can go with And then get some stuff when you're on your period to help you relieve any pain or stress or whatever. But But yeah, like, you know, I work in tech that is very male dominated, and my experiences as a woman in that environment is no one really. I mean, the the environment isn't set up for for women, it doesn't take into account things like periods. And it's not normal to talk about it. Like, it's not normal for me to say, Sorry, I can't do this presentation, because I am in a lot of pain and I can't stand. You know, that is that is not spoken about. And I don't know, I feel like slowly, it's, you know, periods are being normalized, a little bit more people are slowly talking about it in the workplace, but it's still something that people would just rather not think about, because it's not their problem. Whereas, you know, people who, men straight people who go through it every month, it can be such a painful experience that, you know, we need to make sure that we cater for everyone, and that it's, we create, like an environment that is comfortable for everyone, no matter what, whatever reflects back at the times when I was on a period at work, and how I actively hid it from everyone. And no matter what anyone asked me to do, I was like, yeah, sure, even though like, I could barely get up, I could barely, like, stand up without like, experiencing a lot of pain. Like when I think of the times where I was at work on my period, and how I had to like sort of smile through the meeting, or had the presentations I have to do, or the you know, just even just sitting there at my desk. It, it's just, it's just a bit insane, because I sort of had to, like no one knew how much pain I was going through during that time. But I still had to like sort of put on a show, sometimes we just need like a comfortable environment so that I can still work but maybe at a slower pace. Because periods just, you know, it's really uncomfortable, it's really painful. And sometimes All I can do is lay on the couch, lay on the sofa, with my laptop, you know work from from there. And this is actually something I'm really thankful for right now, as we're all working from home and working remotely. This is great, because whenever I'm on whenever I'm on my period, I don't have to like worry about, you know, making sure I wear the right thing. So that my paranoia of me leaking all over the office chairs or whatever goes away. And other things like just being in pain and needing to wear my hot water bottle around me all day, or needing to wear like very, very comfortable clothing like that sort of, I can sort of just do that now we're working remotely, which I'm super, super thankful for. And I mean, like when pre COVID, I used to try and work from home on my first and second days of my periods, because I literally couldn't do it. I couldn't sit there sometimes. But sometimes I just sort of went with it and did as much as I could, and just like try to rush out at the end of the day to like, go home and be so quite comfortable. So So yeah, I'm sort of like, you know, thankful that we're all working remotely. But at the same time, I think employers need to be a bit more mindful of you know, every month or so, the women in that company may be dealing with the stress and the anxiety and the pain that comes with periods and all of the other, you know, side effects as well. So, so yeah, I think there's still a long way to go in terms of normalizing in the workplace. But I think, you know, just talking about it, and being open about it, and like, you know, this is what exactly what I'm doing now, like being open about it on my platforms being open about it on like, social media will hopefully, you know, it will make some people uncomfortable. But hopefully this conversation will then sort of spark some change in the workplace so that people can think about how other people are feeling at certain times of the month. And just be mindful to like cater to their needs, where as and when. So what I use for my periods like this is something that I get asked about a lot on Instagram, actually. So there are a few things that I use for my periods to make sure that they're as comfortable as possible and that I must comfortable as possible, whatever. Like I'm working remotely and my period comes. So the first thing is I've been using this app for years and years. It's called clue. So clue is like a period tracking app and it's been literally like my best friend when it comes to periods because Nowadays not surprised when my period comes because it's like, oh yeah, clue knows and notifies me a few days before, when my period is about to start and loads of other, it also just loads of other things. And you can enable loads of different notifications, like, for example, when you've got a predicted like PMS coming up, or when you're most fertile, for example. So, yeah, you could track all sorts of things on clue. But I've really enjoyed using it for period tracking, because nowadays, I'm no longer confused, or surprised when the period pain start to come up. And it's been a really good indicator to me, of what really triggers a really, really, really bad period. So one of the things I've noticed over the years, whenever I track on clue is that the periods that I literally cannot move, I am in a lot of pain, those periods are usually the ones where earlier in the month, I'm so stressed out later in the month, it really it sort of just kicks me up my I was gonna say kick me up my butt. But the other way, also feels like sometimes I'm hearing you. So yeah, and like, so stress is a really good indicator for me. And I'm really thankful that clue exists. Because like that is a pattern, I wouldn't have noticed otherwise, if I wasn't actively tracking. So there's all sorts of different things that you can like track on there. And it's it's absolutely fantastic, highly, highly recommend. So in terms of like relief. When I'm on my period, I try to take a try not to take painkillers where I can because I don't know, I've always just been someone who's like, I don't want to take too many like drugs or like medication for anything. I think it's because I used to take a lot of medication for all sorts of things like anxiety and depression. And it just made me feel terrible. So I think whenever I see anything like, like a medication that I could take, like, even like painkillers, I get really stressed out. And I'm like, No, I don't really I don't want to do it. But whenever it's terrible, I do take painkillers, but also I want relieves me is tea, so green tea and peppermint tea, and also CBD oil, which is something that Matt introduced to me. And surprisingly, it's helped a lot whenever I'm having a really bad period pain. And other things included that hot water bottle I was talking about earlier. So I rock it every single time I have my period. Sometimes I take selfies of it, but it's like a hot water bottle that you put into this like thing that you wrapped around yourself and this thing that you wrap around yourself. It's like a bag. And mine is basically a koala. And it's just it's so cute, but and so soft. And it's really nice and warm. So I really like using mine, I just like walking around with that on. And it's really funny because sometimes I put my T shirt on top of it, and it looks like I'm pregnant. That's something I like to scare Matt with. But yeah, so and also just like laying down and try to relax as much as I can. A period pain hurts the most, when I'm really tense. So if I'm really really tense, it just like hurts even more. So I try to be to relax as much as I can. Another thing I just want to quickly talk about is like collection periods blood collection, I've been using like tampons and pads for most of my life until at the start of 20. I think it's Yeah, the start of 2019 or maybe mid 2019, where I decided I wanted to be more friendly to the environment with things that I use. And one of the things that like sprung out to me in terms of waste was my tampons and pads that I use. So I wanted to go for a more sustainable approach. So many different options. So one of them was like the menstrual cup, or the or like period pants, and I actually tried a menstrual cup, but I left my bathroom, and it looked hot. It looked like a murder scene. So I decided that that's definitely not something I want to do again. And yeah, I just really it just didn't work with me. So I wanted to look at alternatives and something that people kept talking about, like online was these things called period pants. And at first I was like that sounds disgusting. That sounds like you know, like a bloody diaper but it sounds awful. But you know, the more you know, I actually tried it out with a company called Modi body and they are absolutely fantastic. They've literally changed my life. And now I know it sounds really disgusting and probably really gross but like it's the thing that I use every single month. It's like completely leak proof. It's just, it's really comfortable. It feels like I can just get on with my day without, you know, putting without, like wearing a pad and feeling uncomfortable wearing a tampon it feeling uncomfortable, I could just literally, it feels like it's just another day. And it's not just the period day. So yeah, I've been using that for a couple of months. And I absolutely love it, I stand by it, definitely recommend that for a more sustainable approach towards periods. And finally, I wanted to just talk a bit more about how we can all normalize periods a bit more. So the thing I'm doing is talking about it, like, like I said earlier, talking about all my platforms, and social media, and now my podcast, it's really important for me that we have these conversations about, you know, the female body and be, it's been such a great thing for me to do, I've been like in the process of like, being a bit more vocal about it on social media, I've had a lot more like women approach me and say, you know, thank you for sharing, you make me feel a lot more confident about how I approach periods. And my You made me feel confident about like my body and how things have changed that things do change during the month. So, so yeah, and I feel really good about it, like sharing about it with other people, because I know it's still like quite a taboo subject. But it's something that if we want positive change, if we want things like change at work, or change in how other people like the CV with your in your period, to normalizing it and talking about it is so, so important. I think the more I've been quite vocal about it to like my friends and family and even some colleagues, the more I feel less grossed out that, that you know, it's gross thing that happens every month, the less I feel gross about myself. And the more I feel more like, empowered, that this is a thing that happens I've just become more accepting, but bodies change over the month. And periods are completely normal. And it's completely natural. And that's okay. It's not a gross thing. It's not something I should be ashamed over. So. So yeah, and that's something I want to continue doing. So thank you for listening. And thank you for giving me the space to talk about it. Let me know about your period stories I'd be really interested to know and if you do want to talk more about like normalizing periods or periods in general, you can find me on social media! On Twitter, at @paulienuh, on Instagram at @paw.lean or on my blog, pawlean.com. Thank you so much once again for listening, and I'll see you in the next one. Bye!