“Mum, I hate it when my period is due, everything just feels more tense. I hate everything about myself. I look in the mirror and it’s painful. Like, I feel bloated and ugly and then I binge eat on what could easily feed a family of four. On top of that, I feel completely depressed and find myself dramatizing everything.I’ll be on the train and see a trapped pigeon or something and get this sudden urge to cry. I’m at a point where I’m actually beginning to dread my period and the build up to it”.
“Yep. We (women) have been suffering with this for years and have just got to get on with it. You’re lucky you were raised during a time you didn’t get shunned for it. Hey! Maybe you should write about this in your next blog…”
“I can’t, that’s so embarrassing”.
“Most of your blogs are embarrassing”.
“Yeah, but I feel really uncomfortable”.
“It’s good to feel the discomfort. You have a bold writing style, you’ll be selling yourself short if you resist pushing the boundaries”.
“Ugh discomfort, like a tampon which hasn’t been inserted properly.”
“Darling that’s disgusting. But look, I think you could make a
really interesting blog out of this, think about all the women
who’ve been cast out due to something which is completely
“You’re being really controlling”.
“Oh! Am I?”
“No. I’m just pre-menstrual”.
Before a baby girl is born – at around 20 weeks old – the female fetus already has up to seven million eggs. S-E-V-E-N-M-I-L-L-I-O-N-E-G-G-S. Let that sink in. I was 11 when I first began to discharge blood and mucosal tissue from my uterus lining (hey man, just being technical here). I remember thinking I must have shat myself because strange stains appeared in my knickers and I didn’t know what the hell they were. After a discreet meltdown, I was relieved to later find my mum at the school gates (by this point I realised that I’d actually started my period). And there she stood: box of Always in hands, a pink candle with a ribbon on it and a sympathetic smile with tears in her eyes.
Oh. Dear. God.
1920’s, India. My poor grandmother hadn’t a clue on menstruation as nobody dared educate her. Unlike my own experience, after disclosing to her mother that she was bleeding “down there” she was pushed into a bathroom and told “not to speak of it again”. As a result, her monthly bleeding was something that she simply learnt to deal with. Baring in mind there were no tampons or sanitary towels back then, my grandmother would improvise using cloths and string. Spending her first few years of menstruation in secretive shame, my grandmother believed she was dying from a genetically rare disease. You can hear of this disease within girls locker rooms: “Yo Joanna, got a pad? Painters and decorators are in!”
Victorian doctors previously branded menstruation as a crippling illness, where women were seen as “out of order”, unable to rationalise and focus. They were made to feel unclean and embarrassed of their bodies, not realising that their monthly cycle was (and still is) a sign of a healthy working body. Varying religions have their own views of a woman on her period. For instance, some Hindu’s believe that a menstruating woman should avoid the kitchen as well as temples, bathing, having sex and even sleeping throughout the day. Muslim women are not to pray or perform other religious activities whilst on their period and Jewish women are branded as ritually unclean. Growing up within the Catholic church, there were mixed feelings on whether a woman was clean or unclean but hey – I’m atheist now and I still shower.
As a child, I’d always notice my mum acting a little crazier than usual when that time of the month arrived. For starters, her hot water bottle was a chief indicator to act accordingly: avoid, avoid, avoid.
How was I to know that my mother’s estrogen levels were on the rise? That her shifting hormones caused a sensitive irritability out of her control? Nah, I had no empathy, I just thought mama was super sensitive sometimes and couldn’t tolerate me bouncing off the walls. It was only when my own period was born (when I found myself sitting on the floor in a heap, sobbing hysterically) that I began to truly understand how women must fight to hold themselves “together”.
I’ve noticed how hypersensitive I am toward the presence of others when I’m premenstrual. A girl who typically surrounds herself with friends, family and co-workers, I go into self-deflection mode and fight the urge to murder someone simply for existing.
I’m aware that our periods are no longer a stigmatized taboo however, I still feel that they get misunderstood and overlooked. As women, we seem to endure these painful cycles and bless each-other with silent acceptance. We carry on as normal despite excruciatingly painful lower abdomens, tender breasts, sore backs, rapid mood swings, appetites of elephants and tempers of titans. It’s kind of weird to comprehend that our “equals” – men – will never fully understand (no matter quite how hard they try) the physical and emotional depths of what we go through literally every….single….month.