I always thought tampons were the best thing since sliced bread.  They were as small as a lipstick and could be discreetly carried around in my purse, during my period week.  I had been using them for as long as I can recall.

I remember the first time I used one.  I was 14 and babysitting for my older sister.  I remember seeing the tampons package in her bathroom cabinet.  So I stole one.

Since I was stealing a tampon like a thief in the night, I had to figure out how to use it on my own.  Thank goodness for the illustration that came in the instructions.  I’d unfolded the large sheet of instructions that was folded so tightly.  It occurred to me, that my sister must not have read the instructions since they were folded so tightly.  I’d have to since I had no clue what I was doing.  I was determined, because the ginormous pad I carried between my legs made me feel like I had a dirty diaper on.

Never mind how noisy they were.

I followed the instructions to a tee.  I planted one foot on the toilet lid so my lady parts could resemble the vagina cross-section in the illustration.  My undies with my bulky pad draped over the ankle of my other foot on the floor.  I remember inserting the tampon as far as it could go and was amazed at how far it went.

I had done it!

I was thrilled at successfully (or so I thought) inserting the first of many tampons into my vagina!  It wasn’t until I sat down at the kitchen table that I realized how uncomfortable these things were.  Who wants to feel “pinched” every time they sat down?!  Something must be wrong.

I went back to the “drawing board” and back to those instructions.  It wasn’t long before I realized I hadn’t read the complete instructions and instead, put them down as soon as “insertion” was done.  What a blockhead I was. I didn’t remove the cardboard applicator!

I eventually became a proficient tampon user and was thrilled that they finally came in so many different sizes!  They offered light, regular, super and super plus.  As I got older, I would use super plus with a maxi pad as a back-up.  At one point I began using super plus, maxi pads, doubled my panties and still experienced accidents.

That’s not the worst of it.

I remember reading an article that was trending on Facebook about a woman who had forgotten to remove her tampon and fell deathly ill.  She had gotten toxic shock syndrome from leaving one inside her for so long.  I was shocked at how many people felt the need to criticize her.  They ridiculed her and called her stupid.  I didn’t because I knew it was possible and could happen to even the most cautious of us.  I left one in for 3 weeks.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I accidentally left a super plus tampon in my body for 3 whole weeks.  To be honest with you, I don’t know how I’m still here today to write about it.  Thinking back, I probably shrugged off any feelings of malaise as symptoms of a yet to be diagnosed auto-immune disorder, since my family was full of auto-immune disease.

Before you point your finger at me, allow me to tell you how it happened to me and how it likely happens to many women who have been shamed for forgetting to remove one.

Sometimes, I used tampons and sometimes I used pads.  Most times, I would use them together.  One time, I realized I needed to use a tampon to go with my pad since my period was really heavy, so I inserted a tampon.  That would turn out to be the second tampon.  You see, the string that’s supposed to dangle between your legs, had disappeared up into my vagina.  For the rest of my period, I would remove the tampon I saw and insert a new one.  All it took was one overly discreet tampon string to nearly kill me.  Despite my “near death experience”  I continued to use them.

It wasn’t until I began my journey of removing toxins in my life, that I stopped.

I specifically stopped 4 months ago.  Aside from my fear of forgetting one again, the combination of heavy bleeding, abdominal pain, vaginal irritation from constantly inserting and removing them had solidified the decision to forego them altogether.  I figured I’d just double up on my maxi pads and underwear, and coordinate my work schedule to accommodate my heavy flow days.

Then things started to change.

Here I am, about 4 months sans tampons and due to have another trans-vaginal sonogram to figure out why my bleeding is so heavy and why I’m cramping so much, and I’ve discovered that my periods are less heavy and even a couple of days shorter.  I even think my cramping has decreased.  While some women may choose to replace tampons with a cup, I’m sticking to pads.

This is my newfound philosophy:

1) Everything out there, that’s meant to be inserted into the vagina during menses, has gone through some kind of chemical process, and not anything I want to leave inside my body for any length of time.

2) If my uterus is self cleaning, then why would I want to postpone “throwing out the trash”?  Using pads allows blood to come out freely and immediately. That being said, my next step is finding safer alternatives for the maxi pads I’m using.  Baby steps.

3) I’ve decided that the only things going in my vagina are those that bring me pleasure, not pain.

If you’ve been dealing with cramps, heavy bleeding and overall discomfort during your menstrual cycle and you’ve been a faithful tampon user, I recommend you giving yourself a break from them.

Give it a try.  You could be as pleasantly surprised as I was.

I hope you enjoyed this post.  If you do, please let me know in the comments below. Feel free to share it with others. 🙂

Elle Catalan

Certified Wellness and Nutrition Coach

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