Manon is 32 years old and is in a Master's program in French sign language interpretation. Manon talks to us about periods, PMS and how it impacts her life. A rich and benevolent exchange, discover Manon's portrait!
Why did you decide to participate in an Elia shoot?
"I got my period pretty early, I was 11. I didn't really know who to turn to when it happened to me, other than my mom. I feel like it's something that's still not talked about enough, that's still connected to a person with a uterus. I mean, that's the reaction I've gotten from people: "No, no, I don't need to have all the details. I think it's a shame because it's something that's natural. If we talked about it more, we would be a little more prepared for certain things. Especially for the pains, the premenstrual syndromes, which I discovered very late. In my family, we don't really have any taboos. We talk about many things. I have a good relationship with my mom and dad, but I think for my dad it's something he's a little uncomfortable with. I've never been able to talk about this with my dad, and I think that's a shame. It's a part of my life. Every month. I wish I could have talked to him about it, but I never tried because I know he would have been very uncomfortable with the subject. And I think if I had to ask him to go out and buy me sanitary pads, he would have been completely at a loss, he wouldn't have known what to choose, he wouldn't have been able to help me. You have to talk about it, even with the very little ones, you have to explain it to them, from a very young age, to boys, to girls, to everyone."
Do you have any recommendations for learning about periods?
"As a teenager, I was alone with this topic, except with my mom. We didn't really talk about it with girlfriends. It was later, when I started to get a little bit interested in the subject, that I came across some reports. In particular the one called "28 days" which interested me. Then on another one about the composition of menstrual protection that shocked me a little bit and that made me think about all this. The Instagram account @spmtamere also helped me a lot. I felt a little less alone. I recommend it to everyone."
Can you tell us about PMS (premenstrual syndrome)?
"Very early on, because I had severe pain, I was put on birth control (around 15-16 years old) in an effort to ease my pain during my cycles. They didn't explain to me at all what this could create at the hormonal level etc... When I stopped my hormonal contraception a few years ago, I found myself with a natural cycle. I started to suffer from pre-menstrual syndromes. No one had ever told me about it. I felt that it was quite cyclical, these periods where I was not well, or I was more anxious. They came back so I started to get interested. I learned that it was called premenstrual syndrome. While doing a little research I came across the Instagram account @spmtamere and I thought "ok actually I'm not alone". Because besides that it fluctuates. There are cycles where I'll be very annoyed, cycles where I'll be very anxious. A few days before my period. And I couldn't stand to hear this stuff anymore...Because when you're a little bit annoyed, a little bit too hypersensitive, people say "oh my, what's wrong with you, you're on your period?" Well yes, in fact! Yes, I'm going to have my period and it affects me. It's normal and in fact it's not serious. It's like a reproach when you can't control it. We do what we can with it, and we're the first ones to suffer from it."
How do you live your cycle?
"Ever since I got my period, I've always had very regular cycles, which I think is lucky. I can predict, I pretty much know when PMS is going to start, I know when I'm going to get my period. So I'm lucky in that respect. Plus now with some menstrual cycle tracking apps it's even more convenient. I don't have too much trouble with my cycle, I know when it's coming. I live it pretty well."
Do you have pain during your period?
"Very early on, in middle school, every time I got my period I would have very, very severe pain that would prevent me from being in class. I would faint, so I made regular trips to the nurse's office. Sometimes I felt like they were telling me, "Oh, I'm fine. Maybe you're overdoing it a little bit. When it was really unbearable. I was put on birth control. That helped me. However, they didn't warn me about all the things that went along with it. In particular the loss of libido etc... That was not explained to me. I didn't make the connection right away. When I decided to stop taking hormonal contraception because I didn't want it for my body, I recovered all my natural sensations. It was nice to get my body back, but I had to deal with the pain again. That's still my problem today, I don't know what to do about the pain. It's the same, it can go as far as fainting. It depends on the cycle. It's hard to think "I have a really important class, it falls during my period, am I going to be able to do this?" "yeah, no, I don't know." It's a little hard to deal with that way, yeah."
What do you think about menstrual panties Elia?
"I would say to listen to yourself. Listen to yourself and communicate... For me, that's the key."
If you had to sum up your portrait or struggle in one word?
"So this is going to sound maybe a little weird but I think I would choose "Aries". My astrological sign. It sums up my personality pretty well."