Tell Your Period Stories
What do you need every month? A tampon, your phone, and an express card because without warnings, you’re caught red-handed with the unbearably uncomfortable realizations. Women’s periods are seen as normal or just inconvenient when in reality they can be debilitating for some women. What if we told our personal stories and fix the shame and lessen the stigma around this issue? With enough exposure and support, we can actually make a difference in changing people’s perspectives on what it is.
So many friends have messaged me telling me they are having this cathartic thing happen with their periods, that they never talked about. You know? Like it doesn’t always have to be light-hearted.
We all know periods are awkward. Add to the mix trying to socialize while on your period, and it gets even more embarrassing. A time-honoured tradition of secrecy has for decades determined what girls consider “appropriate” menstrual etiquette. We’re saving our reputations by pretending everything is hunky-dory for the sake of not standing out. My friend, if you are tired of feeling embarrassed, tell your own period stories. The summer I turned 12, the only one to make it out of all my friends who menstruated, I was thrilled. The remaining months of living as a pre-teen were awesome as well because I could buy tampons and bury tampons deeply in my pockets instead of being paranoid about someone finding them – particularly my mom. Periods are an intimate experience that is one of nature’s ways of helping to move us towards procreation – to create new humans. This article has stories that cover our inner thoughts, outward appearances and interactions during periods
My Periods: Why is period pain so misunderstood?
Back in the 1960s and decades before, women and school-aged girls didn’t talk about menstruation openly. There’s an assumption that shutting menstruation up sets up the traditional gender roles. Women were supposed to be pretty, thin, [and] aware of their periods. The pain they cause and the many emotions and experiences they unleash on a person. When we talk about periods, things get automatically taboo. I’ve often wondered why that is? One time when I was in elementary school, a friend of mine said that she didn’t need to use tampons because she bled a lot and it drained out on its own. This puzzled me. I was in the health sciences field at the time and menorrhagia [heavy periods] was one of the topics covered in the Textbook of Family Medicine. It states that menorrhagia is usually not painful but I never heard much more beyond this.
We are all wired to feel pain in the area of our uteri when menstruating, but it is up to us how we react to this phenomenon. Whether or not you deal with the pain through an expression of anxiety, anger, annoyance, fear or rage- it will still be there. I always wanted to know why my periods were unbearable. I started getting my period at 12 years old and it hasn’t been a good experience since day one. When it came to my period pain, I was devastated. I’d hear words like “normal” and “to be expected” when I asked health care providers for relief. But the inability to sit at work or now attend my kids’ activities or take part in my favourite outdoor activities always left me feeling anything but normal. As the years went by, the pain only got worse. I suffered from horrible period pain. All I wanted was to be able to go about doing my day like a normal human being and experiencing the same things that other girls did, but living in chronic pain every day put an end to that wish.
Back in the day, whenever it was time for school, I would sob because I knew walking around for six hours and sitting at a desk in no way anything anyone should ever have to endure in their body. It is a topic that gets swept under the rug, seen as embarrassing and shameful. Very often, the questions asked about menstrual cycles are directed at women who menstruate – not providing them with what will undoubtedly be an embarrassing conversation.
I have always had pain during my period. I have some days where it gets so painful that I can’t do anything for more than an hour. Throughout the years, I have seen tons of doctors trying to figure out what was wrong with me because no one could pinpoint why this happened to me. It wasn’t until college that I figured out what was wrong. After a long process of elimination, I found out that I have endometriosis, a disorder in the female reproductive system’s lining which causes it to form outside of the uterus. It’s not like I’ll die but it explained the horrible pangs I experienced.
Now, let’s stop pretending that menstrual cramps are equivalent to getting kicked in the stomach. They’re not. Menstrual cramps don’t come from a tear in the cervix or happen on a fixed day each month. Menstrual cramps actually happen because of hormonal fluxes so, yes, they can get better by adjusting your body’s chemistry with a braver bra and a brighter tampon. In case, you didn’t get it I was just kidding.
Recently, we heard that the UAE has declared period blood as “najis”- making it one of the five substances forbidden by Islam and all schools of Islam. Of course, our first reaction was to laugh and say how ridiculous and outdated this whole thing is. It’s not those periods – it’s those ridiculous old people who still think periods are shameful!
Many people continue living in constant pain, feeling neglected and misunderstood because they don’t even know where to start. I felt that the menstrual blood running down my leg, after being kicked by an opponent in 7th-grade dodgeball, wasn’t just a monthly annoyance. I felt humiliated. I felt ashamed. I realized then that things were changing between my period and me, now it’s time for the rest of society to realize this too.
According to WHO and PAIN foundation, period pain is classified as either primary or secondary. Primary damage only happens with urgency and lasts for a few hours but can also be severe and last for days on end. Secondary pain is caused by conditions such as adenomyosis or uterine fibroids which can’t be identified as pelvic organ prolapse syndrome. One of the most popular myths around periods is that tampons will “dry up” your vagina and can result in infection or even lead to infertility. Read it again, it’s a myth! Tampons will not lead to infection or infertility.
It’s no secret that periods are just not really understood by society. It’s shocking how little education is given to this regular biological process. But why is period pain so misunderstood? When I have my period, I start to feel irritable. Sure, it may be scientifically due to hormones, but there are other stressors that go along with having a period.
Know your rights with periods
The period policy for high schoolers is up in the air. Twelve per cent of girls report being told to stay home on their period, while only four per cent are offered pads, tampons, etc.
What to do with your menstrual cycle?
If your days of the month correspond with a 28-day lunar cycle, access to a clean place to change clothes and a comfortable place to lie down, this might be a difficult period for you. You can minimize some pain by going with soft, light ” compressible” panties that best shield the area from excessive pressure. Make sure that whatever you wear is at least loose enough so as not to snap back during periods of vigorous activity or they might feel like sandpaper on your vulva and labia.
We talk about all sorts of things on the internet, but there are some topics that are still considered taboo or spoken about only in hushed tones. The worst one of these, for me, has always been menstruation. But finally, I face it head-on and share my personal stories here. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about – may as well make the best of it!
Relationship with menstruation
Discussing menstruation is an important factor in pursuing safer sex. Ignoring this topic can lead to heavy periods, irregular cycles, breakouts on your face or back, and excruciating cramps. For example, if I didn’t know when my last period started, it’s possible that I was never on birth control before. Issues like this make it imperative to discuss our menstrual cycle openly with whoever we’re having sex with.
Tell us your period story in the comment section below.
Written by Katherine Joseph