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Mind Over Menses

In the spirit of counting blessings, I have a story to tell. Last Tuesday, during a bout of insomnia, I called in sick to work. For the sake of context, I work at a bakery, a bubblegum-pop franchise in downtown New Orleans. Many have asked if I find it triggering to work around sweets all the time, but aside from the questions like, “how in the world do you stay so skinny?!”, I pretty much do okay.

I got this job back in April of 2017, at the end of my senior year, and remained till I shipped off to college. My position was that of Customer Service Rep, or (familiarly) “CSR.” According to Corporate, I’m “Queen of the House.” I swift, I sweep, but most of all, I sell sweets: 6 inch tortes, 12 inch pies, and cupcakes by the 10-count. That’s right, folks: only by the 10-count, and if you don’t like our standard variety, prepare for a half hour wait.

Funny story: while working there last year, I was still dealing with my eating disorder, so I never tried the product. My manager would grace me with goodies to try, and I’d happily plop them in the trash. But your girl’s a performer, and I’ve mastered this gig. For each customer who comes in, I have a new favorite treat; it’s like a rotating schedule at school. “You must try the mango, it MELTS in your mouth.” “Oh sir, I can’t possibly in good conscience send you away without this 12-inch Turtle pie. For Heaven’s sake, it’s our last one!” And they eat it upliterally. It’s a captivating game. As a matter of fact, our branch has won not one, not two, but three customer service awards, all thanks to CSR Isabella. That’s right: Corporate knows my name; your gal’s got a future in franchise. But sarcasm aside, I love my job. It’s a pleasure to make people smile.

Oh wait, my funny story! Yes: this one’s great. One day last summer, our head baker Audrey called my name in sheer panic. “BELLA!” she shrieked. “Emergency. Help.” I flew through the swinging door and bounced into the kitchen, where I was met with a mountain of Hazelnut tortes. I blinked, and an unfrosted morsel plopped into my hand. “Taste this,” said Audrey. “Tell me if it’s dry.”

Fuck. I was screwed. But so, too, was she. Having never tried her dishes, I could be of no real help. But thank god for Stefan, a colleague of mine who’s more than obsessed with the torte. He was cornered as well, though happily so. Together we dug in–I nibbled, he chomped–and I carefully followed his lead. “Tastes fine to me,” he declared. “Yeah, tastes great,” I said. I guess it did. I truly don’t know. But it couldn’t have tasted bad. Anyway: that’s the story of the one time I tried what I sell.

These days, in recovery, I’m not afraid of sugar–I happily sampled dessert on my birthday–but I genuinely don’t crave it. I’m so sick and tired of the people who think I’m lying to myself and denying myself what I want. When I see a Snickers, my mouth doesn’t water. I’m like a vegetarian who doesn’t crave meat. For years, I was addicted to sugar. And nowadays, I’m clean. I’m free of both eating disorders, and it’s a beautiful place to be.

Whew, what a tangent! Let’s come back to the now. Right now I’m nearing the end of a life-changing summer. From May through July, I lived alone in New York, producing my first full-length play. I wrote, directed, and starred in it, with relatively minimal help. Of course, it takes a village to get this kind of thing done, and to my friends, family, colleagues, and mentors, I’m eternally grateful. This feat, for me, is major, and I’m about as proud of O Negative as I am my Recovery.

The show closed on July 22, and just one sleep later I was back in the swamp. Time to relax, right? Nah; not I. Not 24 hours post-hitting the tarmac, I was back in my company khakis. For the past few weeks, I’ve been busting my bundt for a whopping $8/hour, and as my Body will attest, I’m reaching my limit . This brings us now to last Tuesday, to the “sick day” that opened this post. [Okay, that’s not fair; I rescind those air quotes; I truly was unwell.] I spent the day in bed, but alas, sleep escaped me; both Body and Brain were wired. So, I seized the opportunity and I booked a MASSAGE!! Oooooh, deep tissue, here I come.

Here’s where things get serious: If I’m being honest, I haven’t had my period in 6 months. In fact, after I got it in December, I only had it three times. And while I know I’ve abstained from restriction, I’m surrounded by Recovery doubters. The longer I’ve gone with dry panties, the more my anxiety’s spiked. Lately, however, I’ve been listening to podcasts, my favorites being Mind Love and the Moth. In a recent episode of Mind Love called “The Gratitude Formula for Success,” a guest made a powerful declaration: If you want to achieve a goal, tell yourself you already have it. She used weight loss as an example: “If you want to lose ten pounds, say, ‘thank you, Body for being healthy and fit,’ and your body will manifest that goal.” She’s right; as my gratitude practice has revealed, what you focus on does come true. So when I emerged from the massage table, knots newly unwound, I decided to play a little game. I went to the bathroom, claimed my complimentary tampon, and proceeded to penetrate myself. It had been a while, so there was a slight pinch, but the insertion was relatively smooth.

You will not believe what happened next. I’d planned to keep it in all night, but the luxury, tri-faucet shower encouraged me to extract it (I wanted all of my crevices cleaned). “Well, this was fun, but I think we’ve had enough,” I said to myself (out loud). I went back to the bathroom and took a slight squat, preparing to remove the tampon. I tugged on the string, and lo and behold, I found myself holding pink cotton. “Since when do they sell colored tampons?! I guess you miss a lot in 6 months.” I hopped in the shower, and when I emerged, my towel too bore dark pink spots. At that point, I knew: this was period blood. There may not have been clots, but there were plenty of spots. Spotting: that’s just what this was.

I had been having cramps all day. And as I’d been telling the doubters for months, my lack of menstruation was solely due to stress. Thus it stands to reason that with my massage, releasing tension released my eggs. With that, I was connected, connected to my power: my power of intention and my power to decide. I had sent my Body a message; I told it we had our cycle. And my Body manifested that truth.

The next day, I called my trusted Fairy Godmother, and she was over the moon. “You SEE, Bella!” she exclaimed. “This is what I’ve been trying to teach you. You don’t need me and C******** to validate you; YOU can validate your SELF.”

And she’s right. I can. Which brings us to Wednesday. While flowing on my yoga mat, my center gave me a message. Validate Yourself, it said. I whipped out some flash cards, did some designing, and an hour later I had the message on my arm. And here it is: the latest and greatest message from my Body to my Mind; the latest and greatest expression of myself:

Peace, love, and patience to all. Happy Sunday, and Amen.

*For the sake of confidentiality, all names have been changed.

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