Naomi is an Executive Assistant, drummer, and dog enthusiast, originally from York, but who has been living in Manchester for the past 5 years. She wants to make the conversation around periods as normal as what you had for lunch, and ultimately help banish the stigma that has been holding us all back.
 

1. What’s your role with Every Month? What will you be doing?

I’m both a blogger and packer for Every Month, so I’m involved in writing articles, and helping to make the packs that are sent out to food banks, shelters and charities around Manchester.

2. How did you find out about the campaign?

I found out about it from a friend who’s involved in charity work who sent a screenshot of an Instagram post calling for volunteers. I used to do some journalism work and have been dying to get back into volunteering, so thought it was about time I gave it a go and put my money where my mouth is!

3. What interested you about getting involved?

Every Month is at a really exciting stage where it’s small enough to see how your work contributes to the campaign, but big enough to have a real impact on the local community and conversation generally around period poverty. Every Month takes the topic seriously but doesn’t take itself too seriously and I really like that.

4. Where do you hope the campaign will be in a year’s time? 

I hope the campaign grows and that people become more familiar with the name, and that bigger and bigger names get involved. I think that we can help drive the conversation not only around periods, but all of our experiences. It’s all about opening up and empathy, and people not feeling like they have to hide, and that goes for everything – mental health, gender, and sexuality for instance.

5. Who are you inspired by?

I’m pretty old school, so I’d say I’m mainly inspired by people like civil and human rights activists both past and present. People who speak up for change even when it’s not easy to do so – the Malala Yousafzais of the world. I’m also inspired by a lot of the people around me, friends and family; it’s amazing to see the people you love and care about achieve things you’re really proud of (even if you only tell them that after a wine or five).

6. What books/documentaries/films etc do you recommend to everyone?

If you’re like me and like a bit of power to the people, I’d recommend films like Pride and Made in Dagenham. I love them because they’re a reminder to me that ‘ordinary’ people are often the ones who have changed the world. My favourite book of all time is called The Submission by Amy Waldman, and is pretty dark but is a fictional novel surrounding the events of 9/11. I love it because I think I can be a pretty opinionated person, but the way it presents the story really challenges and makes you question your own beliefs. I read it 3 years ago and still can’t decide what my conclusion is, which I love. Definitely give it a go.

7. What change would you like to see in the way menstruation is currently discussed?

I want to see people become more comfortable talking about it like they would anything else. One time at work I dropped a pad on the floor and the guy next to me said ‘what’s that?’. He genuinely didn’t know what it was. Isn’t it mad that 50% of all the people he’s probably met have had periods almost every month and he didn’t know what a pad was? I’ve never owned or worn a pair of mens’ boxers, but people would think I was mad if I didn’t know what they were. I think the more comfortable we all get talking about it, the more educated and empathetic to each other we’ll all become.

8 What would you tell your younger self about periods?

Talk about them! Every conversation about them starts with one person speaking first.

9. What helps you most when you’re on your period?

Cutting myself some slack. Sometimes your period is going to hit when you’re planning to go the gym or a big event, and you want to just curl up in a ball at home under a blanket instead. I think it’s important to give yourself a break and not force yourself to do things, and to not feel guilty about it. Also, tracking when they are – getting the urge to scream at the sound of someone eating crisps loudly on the train isn’t a coincidence.


The Christmas period. We’re not talking that whole month of jolly festivities that begin December 1st (or the whole two months, for those extreme festive enthusiasts out there who whack out the tree as soon as Halloween is over). We’re talking about when Aunt Flo shows up uninvited to the Christmas festivities expecting the royal treatment. 

For me, Aunt Flo arrives like clock-work around the 25th of every month and she could not care less whether it’s my birthday, my boyfriends birthday or Jesus’ bloody birthday. She never brings a birthday gift and she never lets me know when she’s running late or arriving early how rude! Christmas is such a wonderful time of year, but you can’t be your best self when you’re hunched over mid-cramp weeping into your Christmas dinner. So here are 12 pieces of advice to help you survive the big day bleeding and give Aunt Flow the merry middle finger… 


1. Be prepared 
We’ve heard it all before ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’. GCSE exams had that permanently etched in my brain, but it has some truth to it. This year not only do I need to prepare 70 roasts potatoes, but I need to prepare for my period. Supermarkets are not open Christmas Day and most local shops charge twice the amount menstrual products, so it’s just as important to ensure you have a stock. 

2. Learn to say ‘No’
This is an important one I seriously struggle with myself. Christmas is such a social season and when you’re inundated with invites to parties and catch-ups with old friends, it can be a little overwhelming and hard to say NO. But dare I say it, you do not have to accept every invite. If you’ve got a bloated tummy, being crippled by period paid and you just want to binge-watch true crime documentaries in bed (guilty!) then that’s OK. You do you. Plus, it’s always better to not fully commit to an invite than say yes and flake anyway (also guilty). Learning to say no is hard but give it a go! 

3. Get a good night’s sleep 
This goes without saying and I know you must be so excited for Father Christmas sneaking down your chimney but go to bed! If you’ve got children, this one is even more important. The stress of the big day, plus a lack of sleep and period pains is not a good recipe for being merry and bright. Ensuring you get a good night’s sleep before the big day is imperative! This nicely leads onto the next one… 

4. Ask for help 
If you’re stubborn, this can be a hard one too. Christmas can be stressful, especially if you’re the host and you’ve got worry about feeding the five thousand whilst juggling raging symptoms of PMS and a cramping stomach. If you’re struggling ask for help, get people peeling veg and the kids setting up the table. 

5. Take a moment for yourself
Here’s some professional advice, friend and psycho-therapist Amy Gorton advises that you should…
                           “Give yourself permission to have some space. Families are hard work at the best of times, especially at Christmas. It’s even harder when your hormones are everywhere. You don’t need to spend every hour of the day with your family. Take some time out, give yourself a breather and don’t feel guilty about it! Remember you’re a grown up now and our families always make us feel like we are 10. So, it’s important to do something that reminds us we’re adults and we have our own autonomy now”. 

Solid advice. 

6. All the hot stuff 

Take a hot bath, cuddle up with a hot water bottle whilst watching The Royle Family Christmas Special, drink a hot chocolate (or warm mulled wine) … and relax. 

7. Chocolate 
Christmas is one of two occasions in the year where its acceptable to have chocolate for breakfast, so take full advantage of this. However, if you want the maximum benefit for easing cramps and PMS then stick to high-quality dark chocolate, specifically chocolate with over 65% of cocoa solids. Good quality chocolate dark chocolate has a lower sugar content and contains endorphins which can help lift your mood. Be mindful that a sugar overload can make youeven more emotional but hey ho ho ho it’s Christmas. Give yourself permission to indulge and own it, guilt free! 

8. Magnesium 
This is a life-saver for period cramps! Magnesium is a mineral found in most food sources and without getting too science-y it aids in neuro-transmission and regulates muscle contractions… cramps!! Scientific evidence suggests that magnesium levels drop during the second half of your menstrual cycle suggesting a possible link between low magnesium levels and symptoms of PMS. Chocolate is also high in magnesium, hence chocolate cravings. However, magnesium is best absorbed topically (through your skin). Magnesium spray is a stomach cramp stopper in a bottle when sprayed directly onto your abdomen. I swear by it! It does itch a little the first time you use it, so be mindful. Alternatively,you can throw some magnesium salts into your bath.

9. Go for a walk 
Exercise is another thing you can do to really alleviate stomach cramps and get the happy hormones flowing! Having said that, you don’t want to be smashing out a HIIT session Christmas Day, or maybe you do but going for a Christmas Day walk with the family sounds much more appealing. Not only will it make you feel good, but you’ll be spending quality time with the fam away from the cramped (no pun intended) confines of your house. If you have a dog, even better!!

10. Give a menstrual-cup a try! 
If you’re conscious of the amount of waste produced during the Christmas period (30% more waste than usual – including two million turkeys and six million Christmas trees) then why not give a re-usable menstrual-cup a go. It’s totally hygienic, helps reduce plastic waste and is a one-off payment, winner!

 

The Christmas Gift 
Christmas can be full of presents but it’s also important to remember to be present. It’s been an important lesson for me to recognise what a gift my period truly is. Getting my period every month means my body is healthy and functioning the way it is supposed to. I practice gratitude instead of grump towards my period and it really does help. A shift in perspective can do you the world of good. 


12. Gift some period joy to another in need
Having said that for some people, periods are not always a gift and can be nothing more than a hefty financial strain. In true festive spirit, why not give the gift of basic menstrual needs. We say just £1.50 can provide one person with one month’s worth of menstrual products. See the link below to make a donation to EVERY MONTH via our fundraising page. Together we can tackle period poverty! 

https://www.gofundme.com/234j5ag4 

Merry Christmas ppl, have a bloody good day whether you’re bleeding or not! xxx

by Hannah De Clegg, EM Blogger

Grace is an anthropology student, a feminist, a gym lover and ‘that kid who’s obsessed with horses’. She’s keen to see EVERYONE be more open about periods, and our time of the month. She’s particularly interested in exploring PMS and how it effects mental health. 

What’s your role with Every Month? What will you be doing?

I’m part of the blogging team – it’s a chance to be creative with a campaign i’m excited about. I’m especially keen on learning about mental health, so that’s my main topic of interest.

How did you find out about the campaign?

A friend sent me a link to EM’s Instagram saying she thought I’d be interested. The art content and sense of humour caught my eye.

What interested you about getting involved?

I can’t believe tampons and pads aren’t considered essential. It’s great we can pick up condoms for free, but surely the same should go for menstruation items? You don’t get to opt out of a period.

I find my time of the month exhausting, so I can’t imagine coping without access to tampons and pads.

It’s clear society still holds a stigma around menstrual blood, which is ridiculous. I think EM revolutionary; it’s educating everyone about period poverty, whilst smashing this taboo on menstrual blood.

Where do you hope the campaign will be in a year’s time? 

I would love to see this campaign collaborate with many more influential speakers. EM is soon to be a registered charity, so that will open more doors!

Who are you inspired by?

I would recommend checking out Florence Given’s art. My room is slowly turning into a shrine of her work. As an intersectional-feminist, she’s stressing the point of always learning, and celebrating the women around you.

What books/documentaries/films etc do you recommend to everyone?

‘What a Time to be Alone’ by Chidera Eggerue as honestly changed my life. It’s challenging the assumption that you’re not ‘complete’ until you’ve met The One. Learning how to look after myself, like someone I love, has made my days so much fuller.

What change would you like to see in the way menstruation is currently discussed?

We need to get over it and talk in plain language! I’m not about to say ‘the painters are in’ or something like that. I’m bleeding out my vagina, give me a break.

What would you tell your younger self about periods?

Don’t underestimate how much they can affect your mental health! We’re encouraged to not make a fuss and get on with life. However, PMS/PMDD can have big impacts on body image, low mood, pain and exhaustion. That’s valid and you’re entitled to get help when you feel rough!

What helps you most when you’re on your period?

Iron tablets. It’s common for women to have alarmingly low iron levels whilst on our period. Having one a day helps energise me, make me feel more normal.

Period sex – having orgasms makes you feel better about life, and sex alleviates period cramps. Win-win.

An Interview with Natalie Byrne

Half the population have periods. Yet for some reason, we’ve been taught to hide it.

To be ashamed.

How many of you have hidden a box of tampons under something else in her
shopping basket? Or slipped one up your sleeve on the way to the toilet? As far as the
patriarchy are concerned, the less said about periods the better. So no one talks about periods.

We’ve even resorted to ridiculous code names to avoid saying the word:

time of the month, got the painters in, Aunt Flo’s visiting etc.

But, as Dumbledore so eloquently puts it, “fear ofthe name increases fear of the thing itself”.

No wonder starting your period is so traumatic for so many people.

So, if people aren’t talking about periods, they must be writing about them instead, right?

Wrong. Enter Natalie Byrne.

When illustrator Natalie Byrne was told there were NO books about periods, she couldn’t
believe it. She trawled through bookshops and libraries to no avail. There was only one
thing for it. She had to make one. This hard-hitting realisation, and several late late nights,
resulted in the birth of Period.

We had the absolute pleasure of interviewing her ahead of her book release on 1st November.

Natalie Byrne fell into illustration after realising her dreams of being a graphic designer weren’t so dreamy after all.

“I have always kind of been drawing, but I always thought I was going to be a
graphic designer in an agency.”

As many of you will relate to, Natalie was interning whilst working a retail job and trying to
figure out what she wanted from her career, when 2016 happened.

“Trump started gaining popularity and talks of Brexit starting happening. And I
had a lot of feelings about it.”

Drawing then became a way for her to reach out to her friends who, like her, were
struggling as the energy in England hit rock bottom. It became a way to really connect with
people and vent.

“My illustrations have always been a way that I can communicate what I think.”

It was in this way that her work naturally developed a feminist edge.

“Feminism was never a word I heard [and understood] until after I graduated.
When I was going through therapy towards the end of uni, I found the word
feminism and it really started to make sense to me. It became the closure on my
therapy, to really understand that certain situations might not necessarily have
been my fault and more a systemic problem of being a woman.”

Initially, merging feminism and her career was a daunting prospect. And her openness
about periods was something she feared might hold her back.

“I’d never been in a room with people who were having these conversations in a
professional environment.”

An understandable problem for a talented young woman being interviewed by men-only
panels. (But that’s a whole other topic for another time). Luckily for us, Natalie was getting
enough interest from the right kind of people. People who respected her openness and were
dying to work with her. People who’ve enabled her to create her own work full-time. People
such as NYX make up , The Washington Post and Break the Habit Press.
Break the Habit Press, who are publishing Period., are an independent publisher of feminist
non-fiction who want to give a platform to the unheard and under-represented.
So, what can we expect from Period.?

Period. is everything you need to know about periods. PERIOD.
A book for everyone – children and adults, mums and dads, womb-owners and
ex-womb-owners. Overflowing with practical tips and advice, from what a period actually is
to who does and who doesn’t have them, this inclusive book is a myth-busting must-read.

“Informative, funny. Like a sleepover where you talk about everything for the first
time.”

The answer to a LOT of girls’ questions, Period. is everything we wish we knew at 13. When
I asked Natalie what she would tell her younger self about menstruation she replied, “to
read this book”. But as someone who struggles with heavy and painful periods, it was the
fear and shame that hit her the hardest. Something education and open conversations
about periods can help tackle.

“Self love helps your relationship with your period.”

And as for the pain and discomfort, now she’s an advocate for exercise and a healthy diet as
a way to tackle those pesky pains.

“It’s okay to leak.”

The point of the book was always to help people, and help people it will. Not only will
Period. blow the conversation around periods wide open, ten percent of net profits for each
book sold will be donated to Bloody Good Period (an organisation providing menstrual
supplies to asylum seekers, refugees and those who can’t afford them).

We applaud you.

Written by Aisling Holling, Every Month Blogger

In case you missed our exciting news, we’ve OVER THE MOON to announce we’re joining forces with the badasses at OHNE!

OHNE are calling time on toxic tampons, offering 100% organic tampons (with biodegradable applicators, if applicator tampons are your thing) and free delivery! They are also super-committed to ending period poverty, both through their support of the Girls Programme in Zambia and, now, through their support of Every Month!

Everyone who donates to Every Month on our GoFundMe page will get a special code to use at OHNE to receive a pack of OHNE tampons FOR FREE!

So, what are you waiting for? Your donation will help us to get more period packs to people in Greater Manchester experiencing poverty, AND  you’ll be rewarded with lovely organic tampons! Everyone’s a winner!

To learn more about OHNE, their tampons and their work in Zambia, why not pop over to https://ohne.co/ (after you’ve read this and donated, of course!)

By Emma Barratt, Every Month Blogger