When it finally happened, everything I knew about menstruation was a misinformed lie!
My story actually begins a few years before I began menstruating, when I was about 7 or 8. I discovered my mom’s menstrual hygiene napkins among her things, and started playing with one of them. It absorbed a lot of water, and I thought it was a “blotter” or stationery of some kind. When asked, my mom agreed (somewhat awkwardly, in hindsight) - that it was a blotter, but for body fluids. Hold that thought.
Periods come how often?!
Now fast forward to me at 11 years of age. I’d just gotten my first period, and was shocked by the amount of blood coming out of me. Until that date, everytime I came down with some illness, my little sister had also caught the same bug, promptly.
I was sure I had some serious illness, and was dying. I decided to “save” my sister by staying as far away from her as possible. Of course, it didn’t help either that my mom was sad about the end of my childhood and had a somber, wistful face around me.
A few months later, when my butt brushed against a boy’s when we were playing volleyball. I completely panicked that I’d “become pregnant”
I spent 3 days secretly crying before my mom discovered that I wasn’t moping for the same reason she was - and she explained to me that it’s normal. It was happening to me alone because I was older than my sister, and that explains the “blotter” I was to begin using. She also gave me a version of the “birds-and-bees” talk. Which in summary was telling me that I shouldn’t play games with boys that involved physical touch anymore, and if I do, I may fall pregnant.
Great, at least I wasn’t dying.
Nevertheless, the squelchy feeling wasn’t fun, and I spent 3 days with my butt glued to a chair until it went away. The experience wasn’t fun, but I was still alive, and it was over.
But then it happened again the next month?! I asked my mom why it was happening again, periods are a one-time thing in one’s life, right? Wrong.
Notice that my menstrual education until this point had missed informing me of the key fact that my period was a 4-week cycle that would happen every month.
Ugh. That explains why mom had stored “blotters” even years after her “period”.
It took me quite a few months to get over the squelchy feeling of a pad, and the monthly evil of napkin-rash. (If you’re asking why I didn’t switch to alternative menstrual care products, that’s because “in-body” options like tampons and menstrual cups were taboo in my culture).
At least I didn’t really have any debilitating period symptoms like cramps to deal with. (I didn’t figure out that my crippling migraines were related to my menstruation until decades later).
And if I did, I’m sure I would have been told to bear with it as part of the “female experience”. I can’t imagine how much trauma and mental baggage that causes a child - to be told that their physical pain is normal and something to tolerate. I’m sure it has lasting repercussions on how soon people who menstruate take action on serious illnesses. Maybe it even accounts for how women experience heart attacks differently than men, who knows. Very little research is being done, after all.
And I’m not even going to go into the story of how, a few months later, when my butt brushed against a boy’s when we were playing volleyball. I completely panicked that I’d “become pregnant”.
So that’s my story - and my motive for growing up to start my company, Femcy. We focus on menstrual and sexual education, and help people get atypical menstrual symptoms diagnosed sooner. We also offer personalized lifestyle regimens that can help manage chronic menstrual conditions, and fix nutritional imbalances that can exacerbate those pesky PMS symptoms.
If you have debilitating period issues, don’t wait months (or years) like me to learn that it’s not typical. Reach out, get help.
Because periods aren’t supposed to be a pain. Or even squelchy.
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