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I’ve tracked it on my calendar for years. It’s always about 28-30 days, give or take a few. Still every month, the same events seem to surprise me: around day 23 or so I wonder why I feel so bloated? and why as the days of this week pass I seem to be more and more disgusted by the sight of my body in the mirror when only a few days ago I wasn’t so much? I have to force myself to move, take a brisk walk, go to yoga. On the last day of this week, around day 26 or 27, I cry for an entire day (or more) without understanding why I’m crying? Ultimately I get a throbbing headache, dehydrated from all the crying (note to self: drink more water) and then the intense craving for sugar hits. I’m convinced I need marshmallows, ice cream, chocolate sauce and gummy bears. Sometimes I think about eating them all together in one big bowl. If it’s bad enough I actually drive to a store in the dark and get them just to silence it (yes, even though I know better. I’ve read everything about how that’s exactly what I should not eat at this time). I take two Aleve and go to bed.

In the morning I wake up wet, soaked in blood. I hold myself to avoid dripping on my way to the bathroom where there are no feminine products left from the previous month. I sit on the toilet and clean up as much as I can while I contemplate what do to next. Calling out to my kids for help at 5am seems dramatic. Instead I think about whether or not there are any tampons hiding out from last month? I hold myself, with toilet paper this time, and go to the closets to search. I search all my bags and pockets. If I’m lucky I find one lonely one in a jacket and if I’m not so lucky, I make a pad out of paper towel (grateful at least I have that) and hope for the best.

I dress, make sure my homemade pad is secure and not too obvious. I head to Walgreen’s and buy one box of O.B.s, thankful I’m not out camping in the woods or that I don’t live in a remote village without such luxuries. While I’m in line, I consider the possibility of renewing my Costco membership so I can at least buy a bigger box for $10 or perhaps start shopping on-line with monthly deliveries? I decide to get right on that…but I never do. As Dr. Phil might say, something about this routine obviously works for me.

Then the cramps start, but at least I respond well to Aleve (somehow I manage to keep that on hand) and I also don’t hate seeing myself in the mirror anymore. In fact I wonder why I even thought I did? Was that the same me? I go back to laughing again and craving things like raw kale salad and protein and yoga until it all starts again with the cycle of the moon.