I’ve been irregular for as long as I can remember. I have never been able to predict a specific day, or even week, to expect my unreliable period’s arrival. (This is a sick bit of karmic justice because I am notoriously late for everything.)
My erratic menses means I’ve basically been free bleeding since puberty, caught off guard and tampon-free nearly every time, forced to throw away dozens of my favourite undies. Hookups are an exercise in Russian roulette—complete with the bloody consequences—since I’ve unexpectedly found myself, avec partner, in a messy situation worthy of True Blood.
Now, at 25 years old, I’ve learned that this can be chalked up to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, a common disorder that causes hormone imbalances and can lead to irregular periods, ovarian cysts and fertility issues. Others with PCOS—or anyone who has experienced the soul-crushing anxiety of a mysteriously missed rag—have also likely gone through the five deeply unsettling stages of MPP, Missed Period Panic*.
It’s been a while since you’ve bled. As your friends bitch about vacations and hook-ups ruined by their untimely leak week, you realize yours hasn’t surfaced in quite some time. If you are as disorganized and tardy IRL as you are in your menstrual cycle (check), you’re now racing through your calendar trying to remember how long it has been…Days? Weeks? YEARS!?
When you’re overdue, logic and sense of time fly out the window. Paranoia sets in. You buy handfuls of pregnancy tests and shakily try them all throughout the next few days as you huddle over the toilet in despair. Because the only reasonable explanation is that you’re pregnant. Even though this happens to you every month. And it’s been over half a year since you last had sex.
Still you must obviously be with child. That extra bloating? Couldn’t be the beer. You do what any sane person in this situation would do. You bargain for your life. You bargain with the universe, with greater powers you had never previously acknowledged. “I will never have sex again if I get my period,” you promise to no one in particular. “I swear I’ll talk to a doctor. I’ll download an app!” And, my go-to; “I’ll stop complaining forever if I just have my bloody period already.”
4. Mad Googling
The pregnancy tests, of course, come back negative. But you can’t shake the feeling that something dire must be happening. You self-diagnose with everything that pops up in your Google search, from premature menopause and liver disease to thyroid imbalance and celiac disease. You read that stress and increased exercise may play a factor in disrupted periods. So you meditate like hell until your vocabulary consists only of Zen and Om and you immediately cease all physical activity.
5. Menstruation, at last!
One day shortly thereafter, when you’ve come to terms with this angst-filled state of waiting, your lower abdomen begins to cramp with that unmistakable stabbing. Your boobs ache, your bloated stomach is nearing Goodyear Blimp status and you’re unreasonably emotional when you reflect on the unattainably beautiful friendship between Abbi Abrams and Ilana Wexler. Finally, you greet your period like a long-lost friend, grateful for every normal and healthy ounce of your flow. You spend the first few days basking in the glory of womanhood, before resuming the usual PMS-fuelled grumbling you swore you’d forgo.
All is right in the world. Until next month.
*Not a medical term
On the Rag: Know Your Flow
On the Rag: My Bloody Job Interview
On the Rag: My First Tampon
On the Rag: The Rise of the Artisanal Period
On the Rag: Death by Tampon
On the Rag: I Tried 3 Pairs of Period Underwear