53: Sitting with my Sadness (and analysing anger.)

I have been in therapy, seeing a psychologist, for years. I have a history of depression and anxiety. I have been trying cognitive behaviour therapies since I was 4 years old. In my late teens I started trying what my psychologist referred to as acceptance commitment therapy. A.C.T. was the most helpful method I have ever encountered. I began to allow myself to have emotions and have thoughts without trying to control and suppress my feelings. This really helped me to relax and be able to really sit with my feelings and experience them. By doing this I have been able to analyse the way I think and why I react to things in certain ways. Instead of trying not to be anxious I am able to find why I am feeling anxious. When I am sad I look at why. Sometimes the answer is that I have a chemical imbalance or a predisposition, but usually I find that something has triggered a thought in my head and then I spiral. It had helped me feel in control. 

One of the things I have struggled with the most during this process is allowing myself to have negative emotions. I feel as though we are told from a very early age to suppress these feelings. Don’t cry. Don’t be afraid. Don’t worry. Don’t be angry. Don’t be jealous. Don’t be sad. In this way we don’t learn to look inward at why we feel this way or how we can make ourselves feel more comfortable emotionally. We only learn that we shouldn’t feel these things. We know we will be scolded for reacting negatively to a situation. Instead of learning how to have feelings appropriately.

The problem with suppressing these feelings is that when you can’t hold it in anymore you explode. So many people I know have encountered this, when everything just becomes far too much to handle, you find yourself experiencing all these feelings you have ignored all at once. Without acknowledging your feelings and dealing with them, you can become overwhelmed. Sure, some people never have this problem, but in my experience I have found many more who have.
In some ways I had to learn to “self soothe”, to sit with my fear or my anger or my sadness. I let myself cry it out. I let my emotions dissipate naturally and this occurred much faster than when I tried to force them away. So often I have been told to “move on” or “that’s enough” because “there’s no point getting worked up” or “we have been through this”, instead of letting go in my own time. My feelings make other people uncomfortable. I know this. I know that I am an extrovert and when I feel good I want to share it and when I feel bad I seek the acknowledgement of others. I want to be told that my feelings are valid, because even now I feel I need permission to feel. 
I find myself getting more upset now when my feelings are met with disapproval. Once I accepted this new way of feelings it was harder to let other people dictate how I should have my emotions. I know it’s trendy to dismiss people, especially millennials, for having too many feelings. I know that it comes across as self indulgent to allow myself to stop and listen to my emotions. I know how much it bothers my family to hear me repeating myself out loud as I try to process the thoughts my brain keeps playing on repeat. I am sorry that my feelings are causing an inconvenience to those around me. However, the old way caused much more inconvenience to myself. It disrupted my life because these thoughts and feelings never really went away, I was just ignoring them until they became too loud. I didn’t want to feel anything until I couldn’t function at all because of all my built up fizz, bubbling to the surface, overflowing, drowning me. 

We should all me allowed to feel things. I don’t expect anyone else to “fix” my negative feelings. I will find a way to resolve. First I need to know the cause. I need to sit with my body and my mind. I need to look within. I need to hold my feelings like a glowing crystal ball. I need to turn it over in my hands and take in every angle. I need to run my fingers along it, to feel the textures, the warmth or the cold, the smooth or the rough. I need to breathe in and out and take my time, and as I do the ball will get smaller and smaller, and it will become easier to hold. It won’t disappear but it will get smaller. The next time that ball expands and I have to deal with it again it won’t take as long, I will recognise it, remember the details, I can recall how it shrunk away and have faith that it will do so again. 

My feelings are more familiar now. I can soothe myself. I tell myself my feelings are justified because I know why it is I am feeling them. I know myself better now. I trust myself. I still have to remind myself to take time to listen to my inner self. Ignoring my feelings means I am not being honest to myself. I have to remember that I am important. I’ve been told it’s a waste of time dwelling on feelings but life is full of feelings and ignoring the negative is only experiencing half of life.

52: Expecto Patronum

It’s been a while since I’ve discussed something nerdy. This is going to fulfil that requirement as I want to discuss the concept of the patronus charm. If you are not a fan of Harry Potter, let me bring you up to speed. In JK Rowling’s Wizarding World there is a magical charm used to protect yourself against dementors, which are large soul sucking creatures. Obviously the dementors are a physical representation of depression as they make you feel unbearably sad and literally suck the life from you. The patronus charm is cast by conjuring your happiest memory. The spell is supposedly very difficult to cast successfully. Those witches and wizards will know that they have cast the spell correctly as an apparition made of light in the form of an animal will appear to fend off the attacker. 

According to Pottermore “the patronus is the awakened secret self that lies dormant until needed”, there is a quiz on the website which will provide you with your patronus animal from a preset list. I remain unconvinced by this method of determining what my patronus animal would be. There seems to be a few set rules for what your patronus will be. 
1) It represents protection. Whether this is protection given by the strongest part of yourself or representative of another person or trait.

2) It is unlikely to be your favourite animal. In rare cases a person will conjure a patronus in the form of your favourite animal but this is usually a sign of eccentricity. “Here is a wizard who may not be able to hide their essential self in common life, who may, indeed, parade tendencies that others might prefer to conceal.” (source

3) The form of a patronus can change throughout your lifetime. This is usually caused by a shift in your character whether caused by love or grief. 

4) Usually the animal is native to your own country.

5) It is possible, although extremely rare, for a patronus to take on the form of an extinct or mythological creature.
Having covered all that, I have been curious what this would mean for me. If I were a witch in the Harry Potter universe, what form would my patronus take? I have compiled a list of animals and why I think they might be likely.

Octopus:

Specifically, a blue ringed octopus. These creatures are native to Australia, fulfilling one of the main criteria. The blue ringed octopus is quite small, approximately 5 to 8 inches, yet deadly to humans. They are calm creatures but if handled or irritated they will kill you. Octopuses fascinate me as they are extremely intelligent creatures despite looking very strange. 

Duck:

Ducks are not my favourite animal yet my family seems to associate them with me. When I was a teenager, and a student of photography, I found that ducks were willing to allow me to approach them for photographs. Ducks trust me for some reason. I believe in a lot of way I am similar to ducks. The shape of my feet, for instance, makes me an exceptional swimmer. Also I find that ducks are often considered clumsy or foolish, which are traits I inhabit also. I think it would be amusing to have a duck defend you from a dementor. In many ways ducks are representative of childhood and happiness so I suppose it would make an appropriate patronus.

Cat:

Ask anyone in my life what animal they associate with me and they will answer cats. I have half a dozen pet cats. They are my favourite commonly domesticated animal. I don’t think they would be my patronus however as I don’t believe my subconscious is similar to a cat in any way. 

Platypus:

As with the duck and octopus I have an affinity with aquatic or semi aquatic animals so I think my patronus would be an animal comfortable in water. The platypus is another animal native to Australia. While this animal appears to be a Frankenstein’s monster of many other animals, it is truely unique. A marsupial with webbed feet and a duck’s bill, it is covered in sleek fur similar to a beaver. The male of the species has a secret defensive in the form of a poisonous spur on its rear legs. This poison is extremely painful to humans and deadly to dogs. I believe a platypus would be a surprising patronus yet fitting.

Seahorse:

I love seahorses, they are definitely on my top five list of animals. My favourite thing about seahorses is just how bad they seem to be at survival. In some cases if a seahorse were to let go of it’s anchor object with it’s tail it could float away in the current and not have the strength to return to it’s spot. For a marine animal, the seahorse is not a satisfactory swimmer, moving very slowly and using a lot of energy. Such a fragile creature would be very much inappropriate as a patronus.

Albatross:

Birds are a common patronus so why not the albatross? Albatrosses are large seabirds, some of the largest flying birds in the world, with wingspans up to 12 feet. They’re exceptional fliers and can travel large distances with very little exertion. The albatross has been used as a metaphor for a curse or burden since the publication of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. Albatrosses can be considered a good or bad omen depending on the circumstances.

Frog:

My grandmother hated frogs. My family having a dark senses of humour, would purchase ceramic frogs for my grandmother to display around her home and in her garden. As much as she disliked frogs her grandchildren began to associate frogs with her. My comforting memories of my beloved grandmother can be illustrated by the presence of frogs, therefore I would not be surprised if after her death my patronus changed formed to a frog.

As this is all a work of fiction I will never know what my patronus would be, just as no other fan can ever know for sure. It is fascinating to speculate however.

51: A scary label

Feminism has been a complex and controversial topic since it’s conception. The struggle for equality of the sexes precedes the 20th century. However, most people would associate the suffragette movement of the late 19th century with the beginning of modern feminism. First wave feminists fought for the rights of women to vote and hold fundamental human rights. A second wave came and went along with the ebb and flow of societal changes over time, bringing us to the modern third wave feminist movement. Whenever, wherever, and in whatever form women’s rights activists have presented themselves there have also been those who oppose and criticise the movement. This remains true today. Along with the growing visibility of gender fluid identification and non-binary individuals, the way in which society views gender, sexuality and equality has been evolving. Feminism should play a large role in this progression but as with any change there are those who resist. The way society views feminism has changed in the last few decades as we have seen women gain more rights and move significantly closer to the goal of gender equality. Some segments of society therefore view modern feminism as redundant and believe the movement has fulfilled its purpose. Some believe men and women have achieved equality and therefore feminism has changed functionality in an attempt to elevate women to a level of power above men. Some women have also criticised feminism as they feel more comfortable in the traditional gender roles. The internet allows these groups to voice their criticism loudly and spread their views far and wide. The current political atmosphere continues to demonstrate the importance for equality movements such as feminism. In Australia and globally, feminism is just as controversial as ever.

This is why labelling yourself as a feminist is terrifying. When Emma Watson gave her speech in September 2014 to launch the UN He for She campaign her words really resonated with me. “I decided that I was a feminist, and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists. Apparently, I’m among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, and anti-men. Unattractive, even.” (source). Since I was young and first heard of what a feminist was I felt the identified my beliefs. However I find myself afraid to openly mention my viewpoint on equality. Especially on the internet. 

I own a shirt with the word “feminist” written in thick black letters across a plain white crew neck. My husband hates this shirt. The first time he saw me wear it he rolled his eyes. A reaction I am very accustomed to receiving, especially from men. “I’m just afraid for your safety” he explained. “I hope you weren’t planning on wearing that in public” He continued. I have argued with my husband about this in the past. He isn’t anti feminist but he doesn’t believe in taking a strong stand for or against anything. I can’t imagine living my life in this way. The fact of the matter is that he was voicing my internal fears. I don’t think I am comfortable wearing that shirt out in public. I feel like I will receive criticism and present myself as a target. We live in a small country town and I don’t trust that every person in this area shares my progressive outlook. It’s a shame.

I acknowledge that even within the feminist movement there has been issues with what feminist are actually advocating. It’s a complicated topic. There is so much exclusion in this world. It’s sad to see exclusivity within groups who should be fighting for equality and acceptance. I don’t want to have to be afraid of voicing my opinion in this world. I just hold on to hope that one day we can all find happiness and live in harmony.

50: What I have learned since switching to reusable menstrual products

I have to start this off with a warning. I’m about to talk about menstruation. I’m going to be very open and honest. If you have a problem with that then you probably should not read on.

It has been about eight months since I switched to using cloth menstrual pads. I made the decision based on the way my skin was reacting to disposable pads. I was experiencing unusually long periods due to a hormone imbalance which meant that I was exposed to disposable pads for longer than the usual amount of time. I come from a family of escema sufferers and sensitive skin is just a given for us. A lot of products can give my mother, my sister, and myself, a rash. I am the luckiest of the bunch with the least sensitive skin but after sometimes weeks of using chemically treated disposable pads my skin was not happy.

I had been researching reusable menstrual products for a few years because I knew that my sister was having a similar problem and switched to a menstrual cup (similar to the commonly known Diva Cup). I have never been a fan of using internal menstrual products such as tampons, my personal preference is external protection, so a cup was not a good option for me. Coincidentally around the time I was starting to seriously consider swapping to a less irritating product, i had began teaching myself how to sew. My grandmother had passed away a few months prior and I was sewing as a way to feel connected to her. She bought me a sewing machine for my eighteenth birthday which had barely been used since, although it’s getting plenty of use now.

It only took a couple of YouTube videos before I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to make my own cloth pads. The first one I made was constructed from an old T-shirt and a face washing towel cut and layered to fit. I had sewed it by hand which made it less structurally sound than is ideal but it did the job. I was inspired to make more.

I’ve now made over a hundred cloth pads in various styles and different fabrics. I’ve become much better at sewing and now know my sewing machine like the back of my hand. My sister and a family friend have received sets of the pads from me but I don’t think I will sell them to the public.

I now use cloth pads exclusively. My cycle is much more comfortable and I don’t break out in a rash from the chemicals in disposable products anymore. I find myself excited to get my period for the first time in my life. I love the patterns and how comfortable the cloth is. Yet I still hesitate to tell people that I make pads and it’s even more intimidating to let people know I actually use them. I expect that people will think they’re “disgusting” or “unhygienic”. My husband is surprisingly supportive of my choice. My family know about my project and I’m now known as the “green” one for wanting to avoid chemicals and reduce my waste production. The few friends I’ve talked to about it have been accepting of my choice to my surprise. I’m sure I will get mixed reactions when this goes up however.

The thing I have noticed the most is that people are more comfortable talking about menstruation than you would first expect. Using cloth pads has made me much more comfortable with my body and my period. In the end it is a normal occurrence, yet I spent so many years ashamed and confused. I was uncomfortable with my own bodily functions. I am so grateful that cloth pads have changed my life and my outlook. If anyone is reading this because they’re considering the switch. I would definitely recommend trying it. If you’re reading this and you’re finding yourself repulsed… that’s your viewpoint and I respect that.

49: Seven and counting

When I was growing up I had a charm bracelet. I loved the idea of collecting small symbols to represent my interests, my experiences, my life. This bracelet has gotten too small for my wrist, I plan on buying a new one, but I have noticed that my tattoos serve as a permanent version. I am marking my body with meaningful symbols. Sometimes these meanings aren’t clear to outside observers as they are linked to my own memories but I don’t mind. 

I have seven tattoos so far. I want more. I have my next three designed and another two planned. I love them. 
Sometimes I forget that my tattoos are there. The beauty of their permanence is that even if I forget, when I see them again and I smile. 

I have written about my first tattoo experience before. I was 20 years old, I had been through a tough couple of years. I got a Latin phrase in cursive across my collar bone. It translates to “not always prepared, no always perfect”. Words I constantly need to remind myself. It’s been a journey of self acceptance and my tattoo is there as a symbol of my humanity. When my perfectionist anxiety kicks in and I’m driven to control every outcome, I read my tattoo and remember.

My second tattoo is an abstract mermaid. Some people see a wave, others a fish, or a shell. I designed it to be that way. I have been obsessed with mermaids my whole life and have discussed this on here years ago. 

My third tattoo is my blood type. O positive. It is in black ink on my inner forearm. I have been told by many that at first glance it can be mistaken for the female symbol. Also known as the symbol of Venus. I am okay with this association. O+ 

My fourth tattoo is a crescent moon around my ankle bone on my inner left foot. My sister got a sun tattoo during the same sitting. I designed both. The inner circle of the sun fits with my crescent moon. There are four stars included in my tattoo. Four is my lucky number and the age I was when my sister was born.

My fifth tattoo is a seashell on the inside of my wrist. I grew up by the ocean and some of my fondest memories involve collecting shells. This is one of my most visible tattoos. It hurt the least she has the crispest lines. It is also my only tattoo so far that I had done by a female artist. I got this tattoo done in Port Macquarie last October. 

My sixth tattoo was done in December 2016. It is a quilted flower in memory of my beloved grandmother. A needle appears to be under my skin and the thread attached is twisted in a way reminiscent of a cursive letter ‘G’ (the first letter of her name). I love this tattoo. It is on my left calf and healed very poorly. I got an infection and lost a lot of ink. Lesson learned: summer sweat will mess up your tattoo.

My seventh tattoo is an anchor with the claddagh symbol incorporated. The anchor goes with my nautical themed tattoos. While the claddagh represents love, loyalty, and friendship. My sister was my maid of honour at my wedding and I gave her a claddagh ring to show my appreciation. 

I can’t wait to get more tattoos. I have no problem with people who receive tattoos for purely aesthetic reasons but I love my fleshy scrapbook. My charm bracelet now lives under my skin and tells stories of those who mean the most to me.  

48: Chasing my tail

I am the kind of person who needs closure. It bothers me when something remains unfinished. I am driven crazy by all the unknowns. It has taken me years of therapy to come to terms with the fact that I can not control everything. It has been especially difficult to remind myself that I can not control the actions of others. I feel this compulsive need to know what people do the things they do and sometimes I don’t ever get an answer.

This all rolls back to my ongoing existential crisis. I will never know what happens when you die. I can not control when or how I will die. I can not control the way people will remember me. I suppose the latter statement is true in life just as much as it is in death. People perceive one another in various ways, influenced by various factors, and we can not always control this. No matter what we do there will always be someone who seemingly hates you for no reason. 

When people leave your life you can’t help but wonder why. In this situation it is common to never get the answers a person like myself craves. It is not always easy to overcome but we all learn how to move on eventually. Unfortunately this requirement my anxious mind imposes on my psyche is not exclusively reserved for important people or interactions. I will obsessively filter through an event or conversation in my mind until I drive myself to emotional exhaustion. 

This analytical mind is not always destructive. I have learned to live in harmony with my anxiety in a way that forms a cohesive synergy. I use my analytical mind to learn and remember. It makes me crazy but it also makes me smart. 

I am grateful of those people in my life who will humour my incessant need to rehash all my experiences. I have discussed one interaction in detail for hours until my family is driven as mad as I am. I am well aware of how bothersome this can be for those around me as it is not a fun game for myself either.

I need closure. I need to understand things. I will always feel compelled to comprehend our world, our actions, our minds. I’m awkward, I know, but I am also extremely self aware. I live my life by honesty and communication, two key ingredients for understanding each other. I only wish more people would agree with that sentiment.

47: Don’t even ask….

Stop asking married couples when they will have children. I have seen a million articles detailing why not to do this. I just wanted to chime in with my own experiences. I am an extremely open person. If you ask me when I will have children or tell me that I need “to get on with it” now that we are married, my extroverted attitude will kick in. I will tell you in detail about how long I have been trying to concieve. I will make you feel uncomfortable when I tell you about my periods and my miscarriage. I will make you squirm as I talk about my ovaries and my cervical mucus and how often my husband and I have sex. Or I won’t. It depends how I feel that day. I might just nod and smile and say “hopefully soon” like most people in my situation would do. 

The other day I picked my mother up from afternoon tea with her friends. I walked in to a room full of middle aged women staring at me. “Your mum wants grandkids”. Yes, I was aware of that. The insinuation was that I wasn’t cooperating in providing my mother with bragging rights. My mother is the only of her friends (who have adult children) without grandchildren (to my knowledge). This isn’t a reason for anyone to have children, I’m not exactly sure what the expected outcome was but I just nodded and smiled. “I know”.

When my husbands relatives ask me when we will have children I am tempted to argue. I want to be annoyed at their presumption that we even want to have children. When I say “soon” they respond with “oh, so you do want them?” As though our ability to conceive is connected to our desire for reproduction. If I say “we’re trying” I get told that I’m trying too hard and that “when you stop trying it will happen”. I can tell you that when you’re trying for longer than a year you can go crazy if you don’t “take a break”, especially after a miscarriage. 

In the end it comes down to how well you know the person. If you’re not prepared to hear the details or to be lectured about their decision not to have children, then don’t ask. If you’re an open person who is genuinely interested and wanting to have an honest conversation about the complicated decisions that go along with reproducing, go ahead, ask. 

46: To breed or not to breed?

I am bitter. Let me tell you why. I am 24 years old and I am struggling to get pregnant. Yes, I know this is still very young. I know some women don’t start trying until they are in their 30s. However, in the area I live in, it is not considered so young. Also it’s important to note that it’s commonly considered easier to get pregnant when you’re younger. So why am I having such issues? 

My husband is the same age. He has four brothers, all of whom have children, he is not the youngest of his siblings. Some of our neighbours have had two or three children before they turned 21. The problem I have is that I was taught this was not appropriate. Growing up it was stressed upon me by my parents and teachers. Don’t get pregnant. I went on the pill at 16, I wasn’t even sexually active. I had a long term boyfriend at the time and I was so determined that if the relationship was to advance in that way, I was not going to get pregnant. I wouldn’t become sexually active for a further 3 years. I was under the impression that I was “doing the right thing”. 

Being on the pill wasn’t a problem. Going off the pill was complicated. They say that the pill doesn’t affect your chances of getting pregnant but my experiences have been evidence towards the contrary. Last year was rough. In January my grandmother died. In March, two weeks before the wedding, I had a very early miscarriage. In the five days between the wedding and our honeymoon we found out that my darling sister (and best friend for life) is gene positive for Huntington’s Disease. I will have to write separately about my sister’s diagnosis another time. I got pregnant again on the honeymoon but that ended very early also. After over a year of trying to get pregnant I had two consecutive miscarriages. They were extremely early, before six weeks, and I am aware that it could have been worse. There are explanations for everything that I don’t want to go in to detail here. I have come to terms with the knowledge that getting pregnant is not going to be easy. I’m still young at 24 but when most of our friends have children already, this just adds to a feeling that we are missing out. 

I don’t want to seem ungrateful. I know some people have it much much worse. It’s hard to remember this when so many people around us have fallen pregnant so easily. I have encountered so many people who complain that they fell pregnant accidentally. While I appreciate how difficult that must have been for them, my emotional side can’t help but feel bitter. Logically, of course, I know that every person is different and every lifestyle is different. What is a good time for one person might be vastly different than another’s. My uncle is in his 40s and expecting his first child. My neighbour is 22 and has three children under 5. While some people don’t have any interest in having children at all, for example, several people I went to high school with and my very own sister.

I love my nieces and nephews whom I inherited when I married my husband. One of my best friends finally had a baby girl this year after years of trying and I love her daughter. I know I love children and I want children, however, recently I have began to have doubts. I think we thought it would be easier than this. After my miscarriage I began to doubt if I have the strength to persevere. Will I be a good parent? Is it ever going to be the right time? What if things never work out? What if we wait and miss our chance? If I’m struggling now then I can’t imagine what we would have encountered if we waited until our late twenties or early thirties. 

People say that there’s never a right time to have children. I’m also told I will be a good mother. This doesn’t help my doubts. If I was a person with more faith I might consider our fertility problems a sign of fate. A divine force intervening and sending the message that we shouldn’t be reproducing. I am writing this because I know that I will look back years from now and I hope that I will have gained some insight. I don’t have any insight at the moment, I only have doubts and fears, yet I hold on to hope. It’s a very confusing feeling, so hard to define. I hope that at least one person reading this can relate. This story isn’t over yet, and neither is yours. Please don’t judge me on my indecision. I’ve come to accept that it’s okay to be confused. I’m not always prepared, I’m not always perfect, and I can’t always explain how I feel but I will never stop trying.

45: Shifting keys

I like to think I’m more than a little strange. I hope that my friends and family find this endearing rather than just irritating. Recently I did something that was a combination of both. This story starts in December. I had just started to get interested in eBay and one day I saw a piano. My family had a piano growing up and I thought it would be lovely to have one now. My living room is so large and it could use a statement piece like a piano. The bidding on this particular piano started at 99c so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to bid $1 maximum. With a week remaining and being be first bidder I assumed the piano would sell for a much higher sum and I just wanted to feel as though I was a part of something. 

A week passed and as fate would have it, I was the winning bidder. I bought a piano for $1! That’s when I realised that I had failed to factor in the logistics of purchasing and transporting a piano. Especially as said piano was in Sydney… 12 hours drive away from my home. I informed my family of my error and I wish I could say they were shocked. There was an attitude of acceptance that this was just another of my shenanigans. In the end we decided that the piano would be too difficult to transport. I paid the seller via PayPal and apologised for the inconvenience. Months later my family still recalls my illogical decision to purchase a piano. 

This brings our story to last week. I was knocking on the doors of some of my neighbours to inform them that my husband’s pet ferret, Leroy, had escaped. This was when the lady next door asked me “do you know anyone who wants a piano?” My eyes instantly lit up. “Maybe” I responded. I knew that her household had a lovely old piano but I didn’t know they were looking to get rid of it. The woman informed me that they were in the middle of renovations and wanted the piano gone as soon as possible. 

Two days later, my step father, my neighbour, my husband and I started devising a plan to move the piano from my neighbours house to my own. We needed more muscle so I started making calls. Luckily I have one of the most reliable friends on the planet. An hour later four guys and I were struggling to lift a piano in to my stepdad’s ute!

I can’t say we are starting a piano moving service any time soon but we managed to successfully move the piano into my living room. I am so happy I knocked on my neighbours door. It might not be my $1 piano from eBay but it was free and is much more attractive looking. Not only am I pleased with my new instrument, I also gained an amusing story about that time we moved a piano! 

44: I should have listened to my doctor! 

I have to start this off with a warning. I’m about to talk about menstruation. I’m going to be very open and honest. If you have a problem with that then you probably should not read on. 

This was written in 2015 but I was not comfortable publishing it until now. I wrote this because when I was having the problems I describe I couldn’t find anyone else talking about their experiences. I have found many women find comfort in sharing their experiences with one another so I wanted to put my story out there.

I got my first period on October 19th, 2005. I remember the date because my small town has an agricultural show every year on a Wednesday in the middle of October. That year it fell on October 20th and I was so excited to go. The show is similar to a carnival mixed with contests for livestock, plants and baked goods. I suppose it could be compared to a country fair. The local school children get that Wednesday off to attend and it’s generally a fun family day out. I did not have much fun at the show in 2005. The day before I woke up and got ready for school as usual but when I went to the bathroom I noticed something different. I have received a lot of education on the subject at school and at home. From grade 5 in primary school our teachers began teaching us “sex ed” which was actually just about preparing us for puberty. My mother had also been talking to me about periods since I was nine years old, which I wasn’t particularly impressed by. I knew what to do when I was finally “blessed” with “becoming a woman” (a period does not make you a woman). I had that first day of my period off from school. My mother wanted to celebrate but I did not want to make a fuss, I was embarrassed more than anything. I didn’t want to talk about it or acknowledge it at all. 

I was glad I stayed home from school because as I discovered I was also “blessed” with a genetic predisposition to intense abdominal cramping. I spend the first day with a hot water bottle on my stomach but I was determined to enjoy the show on the second day. I woke up feeling very dizzy and unwell. I felt very nauseous and hot all day. I don’t usually experience motion sickness but that day I sure did. My cramps gradually got worse throughout the day and I found myself having to sit down or I would be doubled over in pain. My mother convinced me to eat but it didn’t stay down very long. I did buy three live ducklings however which made my day much brighter. Every cycle was like this from then on. For years I had to force myself to attend school feeling feverish and sick. I got better at handling the pain most of the time but would still have to take strong painkillers on the first two days. My cycle was usually a 30 day cycle but my period always lasted about 10 days. It was very inconvenient and made me feel awful. Many of the women in my family had the same experiences so I knew it wasn’t abnormal for myself but all of my friends thought I was strange and boasted 5 day long periods much lighter and less painful. If my family didn’t talk so openly I would have felt very confused. 

When I was sixteen I had a serious boyfriend. Many of our friends were also in couples and were sexually active. I was determined to save my virginity for as long as possible. I told people I was waiting for marriage but what I really meant was “the right person” and “not in high-school!” I was spending a lot of time at my boyfriend’s house and although I wasn’t intending on taking things that far I was aware that if things “accidentally” went to that level I needed to stay safe. I did not want to make a mistake and the ever present threat that I had a coin tosses chance at having Huntington’s disease loomed over head. This was only a fraction of why I decided to go onto birth control however. I knew many other young ladies who had found success in using birth control to regulate their periods. I was told they helped for shorter, lighter periods and would probably stop cramping too. I told my mum and went to my doctor. 

Some of the girls I have talked to said that their doctors just wrote them a prescription without asking them any questions. This surprises me because my doctor was very through. He asked me if I was currently sexually active (I wasn’t) and if there was any chance I could be pregnant (there wasn’t but he got me to take a pregnancy test anyway). He then asked me about my relationship status and told me that even with the pill I wasn’t protected against STIs. My doctor made sure I understood what was going on before he gave me my prescription but didn’t judge or try to persuade me against sex or contraceptives. 
I was on the pill for roughly five years. At first I took the “spacer” pills as directed, sometimes called the placebo or sugar pills they are meant to make your body experience a period. I didn’t have any cramping and my period was a much shorter and more manageable five days. After a few months I decided to delay when I would take these spacers. I would schedule my period for the school breaks when it was much more convenient. After almost two years of having my periods quarterly instead of monthly I started only taking the spacer pills once a year. I had been talking to some other girls on the pill who did this and did some searching on the Internet which told me there wouldn’t be any negative consequences to doing this. The theory being that the pill tricks your body into being pregnant and although the spacer pills caused a slight drop in hormones and a light period it wasn’t a “real” period anyway. I’m not a doctor and neither is the internet. I figured this all made sense to me so it wouldn’t be a problem. 

In hindsight I really don’t recommend this cause of action. You should always do what your doctor says when it comes to prescription medication or at least follow the instructions on the packaging. I was told that I should continue taking the spacer pills as directed because it would keep my cycle on a schedule. I was taking the pill to control my periods and specifically my pain. For the majority of the time I was on the pill i wasn’t even sexually active. My doctor always made sure I checked in with him and occasionally would get me to do a pregnancy test (and sometimes even a blood test). 
For the most part I didn’t have any problems when I was on the pill. I’ve heard women complain about acne or hair loss while on the pill. I didn’t experience either of these issues and my acne actually cleared up a bit while I was taking the pill. I’ve also heard women have problems with irregular bleeding and spontaneous spotting but I never had any problems with unexplained spotting/bleeding. The only problem I did experience for myself while on the pill was weight gain. I definitely found my metabolism wasn’t what it used to be while I was taking the pill. I also found that any medication I take tends to cause weight gain so I suppose I am just predisposed to that side effect. Most importantly it did its job! I never got pregnant while taking the pill.
The most common problem I heard while on the pill was people complaining that either themselves or somebody close to them got pregnant while taking the pill. What I’ve discovered from these stories is that usually the woman who got pregnant was relying on the pill as her sole method of contraception and/or they were not taking the pill on time everyday. The pill only works if you take it the same time every day with no more than four hours difference either direction. If you miss a dose then you should definitely use a second method of birth control for at least week (it says this in the instructions). The pill worked exactly as it should have for me.

The biggest problem I have had with the pill came after I stopped taking it. However I blame myself for the problems I have encountered since I went off the pill. At the time of writing this I have been off the pill for almost ten months and I have experienced very irregular periods that have varied from very short cycles (21 days) to very long (50+ days). I also have had lots of days of random spotting mid cycle that I never expected before or while taking the pill. My menstrual cycle (post birth control) has been completely impossible to predict and much more inconvenient than before I started taking the pill. I believe if I had been taking the spacer pills consistently for the last five years then my cycle may have remained on a more predictable routine. I have spoken to my doctor many times since going off the pill and it is his opinion that my body is just trying to regulate my hormones after being on the pill for so long. It is the popular opinion that it should take six months for a woman’s cycle to return to normal after the pill but I have also read of it taking up to two years! I hope that’s not the case for me and that my levels even out soon. 
A few months after this was written my doctor checked my hormones and they were in fact low. I was put on progesterone during my cycle for three months. This significantly helped regulate my cycle. 
Please don’t take any of this as advice. I am not a doctor and I wish I had listened to mine over the suggestions of my friends.