I do like to think of myself as a mostly sane individual with fairly frequent but brief ventures into the land of kooky-quirk. My head does have a tendency to be in the clouds at times, but generally I am level headed enough to blend in with the general population.
Not so for 3 days of the month. For 3 days of the month my emotions are fragile at best and completely erratic and frightening at worst. 1 day out of the month I am one of the lucky women who gets lower abdominal pain that feels like someone is gently, but persistently, digging their nails into my womb. I take 2 Ibuprofen in the morning, and by the afternoon I feel irritable, bloated, but better able to impersonate the non-menstruating version of myself.
I didn’t use to understand women who made a big deal out of periods. Yes, 1 day of mild cramping and 5 days of bleeding but so what? Buy a pad and get over it.
But then one day it started to happen.
And since then, the odd month out of the year, my hormones and my womb lining decide to see if they can impersonate WWF and my womb literally bounces from side to side inside my pelvis. I know this is technically medically impossible, but I know it happens because I can feel it.
During my time of month, inevitably one of the men in my life – be that father, brother, or the rare significant or non-significant other will pipe up “Are you on your period?”. My Dad, God bless him, says this with genuine concern and fear. He doesn’t understand periods but he believes that they can be horrible, horrible things and I can see the distress in his eyes when I tell him that yes, “it”, is happening to me. “Do you want me to get your Mum?”. I tell him no, I am 25, I will get through this one alone.
Other men say it with a smirk and a twinkle in their eye. “On your period?” they quip, when you snap at them for doing something irritating. These type of men deserve to be temporarily castrated. Why? Because periods for some women are not, as in my case, mild discomfort and mood swings with the occasional bout of bodily terrorism.
For some women, each month brings levels of pain and distress that one would expect with a serious illness. For some women, each month their female organs remind them that until age 52, they are living in a form of purgatory with monthly purges. For some women, their periods are so crippling that they have major surgery to remove their womb to escape them. I’m sorry, but anything that can possibly mean that you may require major surgery is not to be taken lightly.
So why is it that if I am suffering a level of pain that requires me to take codeine, I still won’t call into work sick? Why is it that male colleagues seem mildly disapproving if I need to sit down for 20 minutes because I am physically unable to walk around? Why is it that women who claim that their periods are actually regularly debilitating them, aren’t taken seriously?
We’ve accepted a “grin and bear it” attitude towards periods that doesn’t reflect the severity of pain that some women experience. Granted, there will always be the shirkers who exaggerate their pain to get out of various things, but my bets are that the majority of women aren’t fakers.
I’m not advocating being over sensitive – banter between men and women about periods comes with the territory. At the same time, it irritates me when the banter turns into a dismissal of genuine illness. Vomiting, nausea, excruciating abdominal pain and persistent anaemia do fulfil the definition of illness. They aren’t irrelevant just because it happens to be associated with a woman who’s bleeding from her vagina.
So rather dramatically, I urge my fellow uterus havers to not suffer in silence. Period pain is real.
(And on a serious note, if it is that bad – do consider going to your doctor, there might be some underlying cause)
(Also, this was inspired by the woman who ran the marathon without a tampon while on her period. I personally think this was highly unnecessary and unsanitary, although I do agree that we need less stigma around periods)