You see, this little girl had started bleeding. And she didn't know what was wrong, because she was only 10, and hadn't had the pleasure of those kinds of motherly talks yet.
I read somewhere once, that after you get your first period, you typically have a couple of months off to recover before it shows up again...
From the very first day, of my very first period, I was on a 31 day cycle.
School was embarrassing. I would hide in the bathroom, and try to unwrap the bulky maxi pads without making a sound. A few times, I would overhear conversations between older girls. They wanted this. They looked forward to the day when they would need pads and tampons and Advil. I would hide until they left the restroom, readjust my pants, then wash the traces of blood from my hands.
By the time I was 11, I was a pro at using tampons. Tampons were way better than maxi pads. Tampons didn't make your pants fit funny in the back. You could wear them while swimming. They flushed down the toilet, and fit into your pocket. They didn't chafe your skin, and you didn't feel uncomfortable if you used them correctly.
To say that tampons saved my teenage years would be an understatement.
No longer was I hiding in the bathroom. In fact, I explained just how to use them on more than one occasion.
The next few years were fine, by my standards.
Because when your only experience with something is extreme, it's your normal.
It was normal for me to be severely incapacitated a week out of the month.
It was normal for me to get blinding headaches, and vomit every last thing out of my system.
It was normal for me to feel like I was being stabbed, over and over and over again, in the gut.
It was normal for me.... so I never realized anything could be wrong.
I got married when I was 19 years old.
Before I got married, I went to the doctor so that I could get on birth control.
Not that it would matter in the long run.
The year I was on birth control, was good and bad. Good because, for once, I wasn't completely bowled over in pain for days on end. Bad, because the hormones made me crazy.
I would fight with my husband over the stupidest things.
And I remember after one particularly awful fight, I got in my car and I drove away.
I drove for hours to clear my head.
It was during that drive that I realized that something was wrong with me.
It was during that drive, that I knew that a part of me was broken, that it always had been, and that it always would be.
That long and lonely drive shifted my perspective in ways that I can't explain.
When I went home, my husband and I had our first real talk.
And for the first time, in over a decade, I finally felt like I could be myself.
Acknowledging that there was something physically wrong with me, even if it was just to him, lifted a huge weight off of my shoulders, because that was the day that I finally realized that I didn't have to do this alone.
Then I got sick....