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Period Pain Is Invisible, But We Need To Talk About It

As someone familiar with acute period-related pain, I can only hope for the day when these conversations at work will be normalized.

Be discreet. I told myself while tearing open the pads’ cover during school. It appeared as though society had cloaked it in layers of stealthy glances and murmurs. I don’t remember how or why but the concept of periods was hush-hush. Even the educational assembly on how to use pads could not break the silence.

I remember my friend taught me how to sneak the pad from my bag to my pocket to take with me to the washroom. A classmate once caught me red-handed and gave me a knowing look that was etched in my memory. I was embarrassed for weeks. Why? I don’t know.

The silent trauma of bearing period pain

I wanted to go back home from school because of period pain. A friend questioned why I had to leave. They said I could have just stayed until the day was over. After all, it was just a period pain which I would have gotten used to by then. Isn’t a woman expected to get accustomed to things that cause her discomfort and live with it?

I grew up watching all the ladies around me struggle silently behind closed doors. My mother, for example, never explained to my brothers what her cycle was. She felt an unspoken awkwardness and felt it would be best to not reveal anything to them. My grandmother used to sleep on the ground and not step into the kitchen during those seven days, as if honoring a timeless ritual.

My aunt was terrorized by her mother-in-law to stay inside a room during her monthly cycle, driven by misguided ideas of purity and impurity. My perspective was reduced to asking, “Is this the extent of what society expects a woman to be”? My role model went through her daily life, her work, household chores, and taking care of her kids as if it were any other day. The taboos and how silence spoke its own story of womanhood formed the majority of my life. In all these cases, I had never seen the spouse support or speak up for the woman while she navigated through it.

Bearing the pain of Endometriosis, an invisible disability

Fast forward to years later after multiple doctor consultations and missed diagnosis, I realized I had endometriosis. It’s an illness that’s widely mistook for a bad period. It leads to the development of chocolate cysts (endometriomas), pain, inflammation, and organ dysfunction amongst other effects. It is a chronic and incurable condition where abnormal tissue develops on body organs and structures as cysts, nodules, or lesions.

I have gone through unrelenting agony for the first two days of my cycle. My body started getting weak two weeks before, creating a shadow over my daily life. It’s not just extreme period pain. I’ve always wished that I was born a boy. I’ve always hated the concept of periods.

When there’s stigma attached, talking is equally uncomfortable

I find it uncomfortable to talk about my illness at work, especially to my superiors. It’s difficult being chronically ill. I already feel like a burden to my family with the help I require from them. It could get difficult if coworkers start viewing me differently. I would not want to lose out on opportunities because I’m frank about my illness. It’s one thing to raise awareness about the condition, but realistically I don’t know if I’ll be able to mention to an employer about a disability.

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I hope it will be easier, to be frank about health with understanding and respect in the workplace. I wish such topics get the respect they truly deserve. I look forward to the opportunity to fearlessly tell my tale to the people who need to hear it the most.

Image Source: Canvapro

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