I must have been 10-11 years old. I remember coming back home one day, crying my eyes out. School was particularly different that day. I had felt it the moment I woke up. While I could feel that something is happening to me, I could not really put a finger on it. It was a white uniform day. I took the physical education class in the first half and by the time we hit the recess, I had begun to feel the cramps. And then I began to bleed.
When the students started sniggering, I realized something was wrong. I had stained my skirt and the class teacher sent me to the washroom to clean up. My periods had started and I was quite befuddled since I had no clue of what was happening. I was the butt of my classmate’s jokes, with someone going to the extreme of telling me, how I would now be operated upon since this was a serious medical condition. Reaching home with swollen eyes, Ma gave me the much-needed solace with a sanitary pad along with a quick lesson on how to wear it. But she missed telling me how to deal with this new phase in my life. All of it was addressed through an all-encompassing statement that pronounced me to be a big girl. What the menstruation cycle was, its significance or implications were all left for me to figure on my own or through divine providence. I was elated to be considered a grown up but a lot of questions went unanswered.
Over the course of time, I learnt the nuances of menstruation but my questions were still unanswered. Many restrictions were suddenly imposed which I could never have fathomed before the onset of my menstrual cycle. Unwritten rules of restricted foods, movement and conversations were new to me. My carefree world would walk into hushed conversations without much explanation on why I couldn’t pray or eat pickle. It made me feel the need to hide the fact that I was menstruating. Speaking with boys about it was out of the question.
While I blended in with this norm of my changing world, a lack of open conversation or adequate answers to my questions may have repressed my emotions, but it led me to counter most of what my family expected of me. A rebel, especially through the hormonal havoc that adolescence played, made me get into ugly arguments with the family frequently. Shutting myself to healthy conversations and conclusions to differences were drawn by the tantrums I threw.
It’s only now that I am learning to channelize my emotions and voicing my thoughts without the fear of being judged. I am learning the need to engage in a healthy conversation without fear or shame, especially about a natural process such as periods. I hope more women can address this deep-rooted fear and stop the shame associated with the cycle especially when we nurture the next generation into healthy adults. It’s time we spoke.
This article was first published here.