By Clodagh Meaney
*Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, or medically trained in any capacity. This is my experience with periods. If you're experiencing issues with your period, please speak to a doctor*
TripAdvisor reviews are notably written by people who've been there, done that, and slept in the creaky bed. They're written by people who wish to impart their knowledge and experience on future visitors. And just like that, I find myself writing advice to you young people who are due to get their period for the first time. I've been there, bled through everything and I've lived to tell the tale.
Let me begin with some context. My sex education was catholic, and minimal. I believed a lot of fodder about tampons breaking hymens, and virginity being an important trait to uphold. I also took everything people said to me very literally. So when I was told my first period would be 'light', I took it and ran with it.
I was 15 years old when I got my first period. A ‘late bloomer’ as they’d call me. And I really hadn’t a clue what I was in for. I really thought my period would be one drop of blood. Ha, was I wrong!
Every person who’s had a period, remembers their first one. Many mark it as the beginning of ‘becoming a woman’. I remember that day thinking very proudly that I was now a woman, which is what society told me to think, but I also wondered what that meant exactly.
The day I got my period, I was crippled with stomach aches, and I didn't know what was wrong with me. I had never felt pain like it before. It started as an ache in my stomach and bled (no pun intended) into a lower back pain. This was completely normal, only I didn't know it at the time. The idea that I was getting my period didn’t even cross my mind.
I was in school the day this happened. I cried throughout my entire English class. No one in my class asked me if I was OK, and looking back, they clearly knew something I didn't know. They were obviously well acquainted with their own periods that they knew what it was.
I rang home to let my mam know I had these horrendous stomach pains, when she didn't believe me, I rang my dad who didn't either. They wouldn't let me come home, so I just moped around, in agony.
Eventually, after a few hours of crying, a friend gave me a pad and told me to keep it in case it was my period. It really never even crossed my mind. I hadn't been expecting my period and I sure as hell didn't know what to do with one if I had it. I went to the bathroom to check, and there it was. My pants were pink and blood stained for the first time in my life. That was the only bit of blood I was expecting, and I moved on. I went back out and told her it was my first period, and gave her back the pad. She was like… 'what?' It was at that moment that I learned that it wasn’t just 'a bit of blood' I could expect, but in fact I was in for days of bleeding and pain. I wasn't impressed by this news.
I went to my next class and rang home. I can imagine my mam was probably a bit frustrated at herself for not believing me, but she came and got me straight away.
When I got home, it was time for me to be acquainted with the world of sanitary products. For the first few months, I used pads. It wasn't until a few months later that I decided to give tampons a go. Initially, I couldn't get one to sit comfortably inside me, but after a few tries, and a through reading of the manual I figured it out.
There is now, of course, the option to try a menstrual cup. They weren't available when I first got my period, and to be honest, I am still yet to try one. However, they are an eco-friendly and cost-effective alternative.
If your period comes and you don't have any sanitary products to hand, don't worry it's happened to us all. You can either ask a friend, an adult or use some tissue roll until you can get a sanitary product.
My periods last about 5-7 days, heavy for the first few, getting lighter. At the start of your period you can expect light red blood. Nearer the end it tends to get a bit darker as the final blood clears itself.
I always worried that boys would know when I was on my period. It is absolutely not the case. And even if they do know you're on your period, it's absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about. It is natural and normal, and it's absolutely healthy. It may be uncomfortable at first, but you'll gain confidence and will eventually be comfortable to speak openly about periods with the opposite sex. In fact, I even get my boyfriend to buy my super absorbents on a regular basis.
Don't be afraid to ask your friends about their experiences. I'm sure they won't mind imparting their wisdom on you. If you're a "late bloomer" like me, there is no shame. Less years of period pain is an absolute plus, and a win if you ask me.
I bled through a lot of clothes and bed sheets, and once again, it happens to everyone so it's absolutely no shame. A good tip for removal is to use cold water!
And as for your pain, you can try over the counter painkillers (ask an adult to get them for you), a hot water bottle or heat patch will work on stomach and back pain. You can also help pain by engaging in light exercise and eating well (and by well, I mean... chocolate).
Best of luck on your period journey. I wish you the bleedin' best.