The following post is a part of the #BleedingLove photo series—a campaign which aims to break the stigma around periods in the South Asian community and around the world. We came together to raise awareness about the struggles women face in regards to menstrual health in the hopes of promoting menstrual equity and in turn, gender equality.
Clenching onto the white porcelain edges on my apartment’s tiny tub, while the hot-hot-hot water hits my knotted, bare belly — I uselessly lay there, eyes closed so tight sparks flash behind my eyelids.
This is usually the opening scene to my monthly period.
On that first day, I always feel like I’m about to furiously implode, as though my own body is rejecting me. The pain in my uterus is mind-numbing, and as my body suffers my mind flitters between two thoughts: One, I’m going to die, and two, I have to get up.
I’ve felt like that once a month for the past 15 years. And I’ll be the first to tell you, you never get used to that level of pain.
The doctor will tell me upon my eighth or ninth visit, as I pray and beg for the now predictable yet unconscionable throbbing to go away, that the miracle I’ve been waiting for comes in a foil package of tiny round white, green and blue pills — birth control.
I used to take it regularly to maintain a sort of homeostasis, to gain some control of a body that is wildly mine but proves that it won’t be tamed.
And, I was temporarily elated when it worked.
The pain escaped and the next year was a dream until I started to spot between periods. And then the second type of birth control didn’t make the spotting go away, so now I’m constantly, non-stop, why-is-this-my-life type of bleeding. I eventually stopped taking the birth control not wanting to trade one tyrant for another.
Each month my life is a balancing act around this pain. I track my period obsessively. I know that I have a small gap of time to eat and take medicine on day one, if I miss that window the cramps wind themselves so tightly they shoo anything that wants to enter my body away — leading to relentless nausea.
And yet, I persist.
All women who have terrible, heavy, light, cramped, feverish and exhausted bodies during their periods, simply endure.
Because as women there is no other option. Especially in the workplace setting, where talking about your period can be perceived as weakness, we don’t always have the option to say: “Hey there, I feel like someone just dropped a piano on me from the 50th floor and before that I was punched in the stomach repeatedly by baby kangaroos — and I just need a moment, a second, a minute, I just need to breathe.”
We have to walk in the room and say, “Hey there fellas, let’s discuss the metrics report, here’s what I was thinking could be a creative solution to filling in this gap.” All while our guts wrench and our tampons are drenched.
And then one month from now, we repeat.
I grew up in an Indo-Caribbean household with a single mom, I was aware of the fact that I would get my period and I had the necessary pads to get the job done when it finally arrived.
Yet nothing prepares you for the jarring experience of having your first period.
I still had a lot of questions I didn’t feel I could ask. I didn’t understand the connection between what having a period truly meant for my body. There was no detailed explanation of sex, PMS or pain. Sadly, the lack of sharing this type of information is common in a community that is predominantly sexually conservative.
[Read Related: #BleedingLove: The Bloody Truth About Periods]
We need to break the cultural quiet and recognize our own strength and resilience. We get a lot of s**t done while we bleed, it’s a matter of fact, one that needs to be applauded and then normalized in society.
Let’s talk about our bodies without shame, learn from one another honestly and break the taboo that your period needs to be a hidden facet of life.