If it wasn’t for Judy Blume or Rosanne indoctrinating young ladies about the thrill of womanhood in the 90s, I am sure I would be a bigger prude than I already am. The only conversation I had with my mother about the birds and the bees was before I attended Girl Scout camp around 5th grade. There must have been a question on the application for camp that asked if the girl attending knew something about periods and such.

My mother’s line of questioning was as follows: “There are pads under the sink in the upstairs bathroom if you ever need them.”

That…was it.

No warm fuzzes. When I did get my period, no one said anything. Even getting a bra came late. I had boobs in fourth grade, but my mom didn’t finally get me a bra until 6th grade, when a gym teacher told her I was distracting the rest of the class.

Due to this, I don’t think I was ever really comfortable with the idea of being a girl. I feel very much like a girl, but I didn’t want to deal with the mechanics of being a girl. When our health teacher told us in fifth grade about menstruation, I remember wishing I were a guy so I wouldn’t have to deal with it. The idea of giving birth was even worse.

I went through school trying to be as low key as possible. I was horribly teased in middle school for my weight. I grew up in a fat family, and I had been overweight since 3rd grade. I think this was compounded by the weirdness of everyone touching upon their new sexuality in middle school. I loved guys, but only to the point of wanting to play soccer with them at recess.

There were a handful of guys who made my life the biggest living hell during middle school. I always thought it was because I was fat and ugly. In retrospect, maybe some of them were hitting on me and I didn’t get it. In order to avoid the pain, I isolated myself. My parents, teachers, and friends never really took any steps to help me counteract the bullying. There was no real push to do so back then. I also didn’t ever complain or say anything about it. In some ways, I thought it would just solicit worse attention back at home.

During these years, I locked myself up in my room nearly every day. I felt like my mother HATED me. My father was usually traveling for work. My motto was to just be out of the way. I feel like I lost a lot during these years. I missed a time to be more social. I lost time to be more vulnerable, to feel loved.

I lost a lot of weight before high school, and things got better. I still always found it difficult to relax and be myself around people. I wanted to desperately find a boyfriend, but never really did.

I was so lonely in college that I would go for late night drives and cry in parking lots. Why could I not find anyone who wanted to be with me? I had started to believe I looked good, but I never really got asked out. As I grew older, I cringed every time that someone asked me if I had someone special in my life. While my friends got married, divorced, and remarried, I would be told that I was going to be a “mature” bride.

When my mom passed, while I was 24, I just sort of gave up. I figured that if it was going to happen, it just would. I was cute during my late twenties. Fat, but still cute. I would sign up for dating websites, but I was never really impressed with the offers. I refrained from sex for years.

When I developed PCOS and bleeding problems, I kept myself off the dating scene even more so. I thought I was so ugly and so unworthy of being loved. I definitely hated my lady parts.

I write this because I don’t think there is any woman under the age of 40 who gets endometrial cancer and doesn’t have this problem. It is through our hatred of our own bodies that we don’t seek the help we need on a more timely basis. If a doctor assures us nothing is wrong, we believe him because we don’t want to spend any more time thinking about our lady bits.

It was through the love of my friends that I began to learn to love myself. I found out that finding new people to hang out with didn’t have to be that difficult, and that you could really find a man in a minute if you wanted to. The problem wasn’t my physicality, it was my sexuality. I had spent so much time trying to mold myself to the example of a straight relationship, that I missed the inevitable signs that I was a lesbian.

Now, I haven’t had tons of experience in this new world either. I feel like it is so new and I am only beginning to wade through it. I have been so distrustful of others and so deeply afraid of being hurt that vulnerability for me is excruciating. I know that in order to heal from my current health problems, this is what I really need to tackle.

I know I might piss off people I love. I know that I am not who I might have previously advertised myself to be, but I can no longer be something that I am not. This has been revolutionary for me. I believe that if I would have been diagnosed a year earlier, I wouldn’t have what it takes to face my new demons head on.

In some ways, this has been a life affirming as well as changing experience. I believe I might have died if I wasn’t able to fully embrace the beauty of who I am. Everyone needs to embrace who they are. When we deny ourselves to be “deeply seen,” we deny our very existence. We can’t make proper choices. We can’t fully enjoy this gift called life.

If you are a mother of a daughter, reach out to her and let her know how beautiful she is. Don’t make her feel that having periods or having sex makes her dirty. When you can embrace what makes our human, or even female, we can embrace a fuller life. I only wish I would have received this message much sooner.

Some Interesting Reads:

What I Wish I Knew About My Period

Periods are a Wondrous, Horrible Thing

Ode to Vaginas

A Period Care Kit

The Care and Keeping of You