Today I want to talk about menstruation (without sounding like your junior high health teacher!).

I am having my period again for the first time in over eight years.

Let me explain: My doctor recently removed the intrauterine device (IUD) that I have been using ever since my first year in college, when my periods were long and painful. After one particular cycle when I bled for over a month straight, my doctor suggested that I might benefit from hormonal birth control, which would regulate my periods. I tried taking "the pill" but I had trouble remembering to take it every day, and so I switched to the Mirena IUD. About 30% of women who use this IUD will stop having their periods after a few months, and I was one of the lucky (I thought at the time) few.

So now that I don't have my IUD, my periods are coming back. And, surprisingly, I am quite happy about it! I felt a little burst of excitement when I saw blood again; it reminded me of the first time that I had my period, how grown-up and mature and womanly it made me feel. Of course, it's messy, it's inconvenient, and I keep forgetting that I need to bring tampons and pantiliners with me everywhere -- but some part of me is still really happy to be having my period again.

These eight bloodless years remind me of Federico Garcia Lorca's play Yerma, about a barren woman in a barren land who longs for a child but cannot conceive. The whole landscape of the play is desolate, empty, desperate. Part of my life during these years felt like that, too: the part connected with my eating disorder. Many women with eating disorders stop having their period (amenorrhea is still a criterion for anorexia); in my case, it is hard to tell if my period stopped because of my IUD alone, or because of the IUD and the eating disorder. My doctors never knew what to think, either, when I told them that I hadn't had a period in years.

Well, now I know that it was mostly the IUD that was responsible, because as soon as it came out I started to bleed again. I mean, almost immediately -- within hours -- as if the blood was just waiting to start flowing again. But even though I can attribute my barrenness to a medical device, I still feel that the return of my cycle signals another step towards healing myself of my eating disorder, by replacing the desolation of my inner landscape with a fertile course.

What else has been dammed up inside me, waiting to get out?

What sources of creativity and fulfillment have been blocked in my life?

How can I release the pent-up waters and bring bounty back into my life?

I don't have the answers, yet. But I am profoundly grateful for the blood between my legs, for the spring that is rising, and for the irresistible pull I feel towards wholeness, and redemption, and sanity.


Lisa said...

Every time I read a blog about periods, I recommend Emily Martin's book The Woman in the Body. It's fascinating.

I lost my period for almost two years. Even when I had gained some weight back, my period didn't return, so my gynecologist put me on the pill. You don't know if you lost your period due to your eating disorder or your IUD; I don't know if I got mine back from recovery or my contraception. The world of ED is strange indeed.

jenny said...

You might also check out the wonderful contraption that's come out in the last 8 years--the diva cup ;) I recall you having been with me when I bought my first one...

Gaining Back My Life said...

What a beautiful correleation (comparing this to what else is dammed up inside of you).

Life begins anew.