Because it's time we felt free to talk about our periods.

By Lauren Freedman
April 26, 2018

This diary kicks off Health's new Periods IRL series, where we plan to celebrate all kinds of period experiences. 

Lauren Freedman, 35, is a Jane-of-all-trades in Los Angeles. This is what a week in her cycle is actually like:

DAY 27

Cramps. All day. I can feel it coming. The crimson wave will soon be upon us.

12 p.m.: I should definitely tell everyone in the office about menstrual cups now. Even the guys. Because female empowerment. Right?

12:15 p.m.: Maybe I just over-shared?

12:20 p.m.: Nope, they’re cool. Periods to the people!

9:00 p.m.: Screw it. It’s pizza time. So what if I’m gluten- and dairy-intolerant? I NEED PIZZA. And also I NEED IT DELIVERED.

9:30 p.m.: Those last 2 slices aren’t gonna eat themselves.

10 p.m.: Sleeping like a moody little baby in a food coma.

DAY 28

Cramps, same as the day before. And I never, ever have the good sense to take some painkillers until I’m actually bleeding. Like, maybe they’re phantom cramps and it isn’t really happening. If I don’t acknowledge it, it’s not real—right? #Denial

Bemused by the recent re-emergence of a quote from a professor at University College London, in which he said patients have described cramping pain as “almost as bad as having a heart attack.” Nice to get the official OK on the painful existence of period ouchies from a dude, and have the Internet go wild over such an incredible revelation. I love it when the truth of my utterly female being is qualified by a man.

Side note here: I used to get such terrible cramps that it’d be coming out both ends—and I have a pretty regular uterus. (In other words, I don’t have endometriosis or any similar condition known to cause unspeakable pain to those who have it.) I remember sitting on the toilet in my college dorm with a trash can on the floor in front of me, having missed two days of classes and wondering if I’d make it to the next.

It was only at this level of dysfunction that I finally asked my ob-gyn what the hell was going on. She put me on birth control and I was on it for 15 years. While it largely controlled my pain, I’m letting my body take a break now. So far so good. 35 looks way better than 20 ever did. But also… I definitely should have said something sooner, and been taking better care of myself. Or perhaps I should have been empowered to take better care of my lady parts from an earlier age.

I know what will be a good distraction. Lunch with Em!

1:00 p.m.: Meet Em for lunch. Immediately regret all life decisions as she’s on the rag and for sure I’ll catch it now.

Just did a brief Google search on menstrual synchrony (fancy language for “Hey, Google, can periods sync up?”). Turns out, though a lot of us experience this phenomenon and swear by it (I’m one of many and I know it’s a thing), there’s no current fact-based evidence to prove it’s true.

DAY 1

Well, at least I’m not pregnant. (Of course I’m not pregnant. I haven’t had sex in seven months. My doctor just asked if I’m sexually active and I had to say “…not right now?”—like, I swear I’ll be getting some soon. I know I’ve still got my mojo somewhere!)

7:00 a.m.: I’m pretty sure you should have rung the bell if you planned on arriving this early, lady. Le sigh. Out of bed and cleanup on aisle five before I make a mess of the sheets. At least she always has the good sense to wake me up rather than letting me leak. #Respect?

8:00 a.m.: OK, OK, I’m up. I get it. I’m not happy you’re here either! Time to down three Ibuprofen. Just in case. Amirite ladies? And yes, I do plan on drinking two glasses of red wine tonight with my painkillers. Because I’m a grown woman and I can.

9:00 a.m.: Showered, cup inserted (read my last piece here and get on the cup train—it’s worth it), vagina feeling so fresh and so clean.

10:00 a.m.: Back to bed. TGI Saturday!

3:20 p.m : Rachel has been texting and wants me to show up early for the party at her place tonight. Grayson (cat) currently under covers with me, and between that furry radiator and my fatigue, I don’t think I’m going anywhere anytime soon.

4:20 p.m.: I really should get out of bed. Wonder if I should check my cup?

4:25 p.m.: Definitely don’t need to check my cup. She’ll be good for another few hours before I even need to worry. Thank G-O-D I made that switch…from changing super tampons every 2-3 hours to emptying cup every 5-6 hours! Sweet relief.

4:30 p.m.: No, but I should really get going. Rach needs ice!

4:45 p.m.: Grayson just puked everywhere. I am quick to jump to conclusions and hate the universe. Not today, Satan. Not today! Note to self: as annoyed as I get when mum asks if I’m expecting my period when I’m being a moody a**hole, she may have a point.

Note to my mum and everyone else, especially the men in my life: You're all a little out of line if you even feel the need to ask if I'm on my period when I'm being a grump. But hey, the next time you are moved to condescend to me about my attitude, the odds are about 1 in 5 that yes, I am on my period. Good for you! And: back off, and consider choosing a more productive way to tell me you want me to adjust my behavior. K? Thx.

(Additional note: I shouldn’t have to tell you, but if you’re a colleague or, yes, even my boss—don’t even think of participating in the above conversation with me when you think I’m acting crabby. Absolutely, positively not appropriate. Are we clear?!)

5:30 p.m.: I am at a party and I’m wearing my cup! This sorta feels like my first outing with a tampon. Oddly enough, that was also at a party. I was 16 and I felt like an effing champ. My friends and I kept winking at one another across the room all night. (Cue montage of self-congratulation, and awesome friendship.)

11:00 p.m.: I am tired but also I may need to experiment with period sex some more. For this article. Research, right?

11:05 p.m.: Slightly inebriated and sending suggestive texts to reliable gentleman friend-with-occasional-benefits, Mike. He’s into it.

11:15 p.m.: Heading home, Mike en route.

11:45 p.m.: Have run home, put all dishes in wash so I don’t look like a total pig, and am in jammies because they’re cute and also much more comfortable than real clothes.

12:00 a.m.: Mike has arrived, we have had an awkward greeting, and cuddling has ensued. He is fully aware of shark week. What a stand-up guy!

1:00 a.m.: We talked so much that we never got jiggy with it. I’m gonna take this as a good sign. Also, I’m exhausted. Goodnight.

DAY 2

10:00 a.m.: Give Mike a play-by-play, shouted from the bathroom, as I empty my cup. He asked!

10:10 a.m.: He is regretting he asked. “Sometimes you’re just too transparent.” (It doesn’t help I’ve also just brought up the time he pulled off my underwear and found TP in my bunghole. Literally. I’m still laughing about it and, for better or worse, not at all embarrassed. At least I wipe—and thoroughly!)

3:00 p.m.: Ah, there you are, my old friend. Period colon blow. You were bound to show your face at some stage this week. I used to get the runs more before my period. They tended to come with my cramps, and make my life a living hell. Now, they’ve calmed down and they come a day or two in. Much more manageable. That said, I never took note until now—and even if it’s more manageable to have the sh*ts without cramps, it still ain’t a party.

5:00 p.m.: Back in bed. Alternately writing and napping. Grayson tucked under my legs and keeping my butt warm. Maybe periods aren’t so bad after all? Or maybe that’s just weekends?

6:00 p.m.: Do I have to go to work tomorrow? Surely what my body is going through requires a sick day. (Also: some countries are beginning to adopt PTO policies for periods…Hey, America, maybe time to get on that one? And while we’re at it, how about tax-free/free feminine hygiene products? Because if men got periods you know they’d be getting that stuff for free somehow. See: Viagra vs. birth control.)

DAY 3

Still rockin’ my cup. Had a moment where I thought I’d had leakage. It was just sweat. #StayClassy

DAY 4

Jumpsuit day because I feel fat and fabulous. Nope, not bloat. Just fat. Why yes, I did have ice cream for dinner last night and no, I do not regret it.

DAY 5

It’ll be light spotting from here on out, maybe for another day or two. The end can't come soon enough.

I am proud to live in a functional female body. But honestly—this period of mine is a major inconvenience. Between cramps and cleanup, it’s a lot of maintenance to make it look like it’s business as usual down there.

And that’s the thing, isn’t it? We’re taught to make it look like business as usual down there. Every single day. But you know what? It ain’t always business as usual. And while it’s becoming less taboo to talk about your period, I definitely harbor a deep-seated anger over the fact that it’s been considered taboo at all.

While I was writing this piece, I sent it to my mum. And not to my dad. But you can bet I’ll be sending him a lot more from now on (sorry not sorry, dude). So that’s why I’m here, telling you all the dirty details. Because we need to keep talking about our bodies—and we need to focus more on normalizing natural processes than on normalizing silence.