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8 months ago
Everything I've Learnt About Period Discomfort In My 17 Years Of Menstruating

I was 12 when I got my first period. It left a brownish stain on my underwear, that I thought was some sickly case of grown up loosies. I went to my mother, calm and composed, and told her I have loose motions, and that I possibly needed antibiotics. She, blessed with the instincts of being a teenage girl's mother, asked me to show her my underwear. "That's your period," she said. "Oh!" I responded, matter-of-factly. That's how the entirety of my first period was - matter-of-fact. On day one, my mother stocked me with a bag of whisper. On day 2, she stocked me with a drawer full of sports bras. There were no consolatory pats on the forehead, or congratulatory pats on the back. No euphemisms to embarrass me on the dinner table. My mother called it what it was - period. My life remained unchanged, save for the blood dripping between my legs.

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Over the next few months, I witnessed my girlfriends drop football coaching, dance lessons, and even evening games in the park. I learnt terms like "chums," "that time of the month," and "I am down". I learnt that we were supposed to be coy about our menstrual cycles. That we were supposed to lie in bed, with a hot water bottle, unwilling, or unable to carry out everyday activities. I also learnt that being on your period meant, in some circles, that you are impure. An aunt of mine didn't allow her daughters in the kitchen when they were on their period. So, six months into being a woman, I was at the same aunt's house, and got my period. My mother was there, too. I lay in bed, and refused to even get up for a glass of water. While my cousins pandered to my demands, my mother smacked me of the head, and said, "Get up, and get yourself a glass of water. You are on your period. Not dying." This became the first and the most important lesson I learnt about periods - that it is not a disease or an impediment to your daily life!  

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My mother understood very well what it took to have a healthy reproductive system, and the role of diet, exercise, and even stress, long before self-care became mainstream. She raised me on a daily dose of fresh squeezed juice, green, leafy vegetables, coconut water, yogurt, and of course, pain old water. She was emphatic about the ills of fried food and, in her words, "too much masala". She knew the importance of supplements in the right dosage - those vitamins we so detest - in keeping oneself healthy. And, I will reiterate here - the importance of staying physically active.

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As a result, my dance classes did not stop or reduce when I got my period. Those daily walks with my mother were still taken every single day. I started eating healthier as opposed to using my menstrual cycle as an excuse to eat cake that my body didn't actually need. And all of this was sold to me as a perfectly normal way of being when on your period - there was no glory attached to mood swings (my mother would simply note that I am cranky because I am about to get my period, and leave it that), no taboo around it, and certainly no room for not doing anything I wouldn't do on any other day. What my mother ended up doing was that she made periods NORMAL.

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At 30, into a 17 year long career of bleeding every month, I can't recall too many times when I was left debilitated by period discomfort. Sure, minor annoyances every now and then. But, nothing that ever made me feel like this is an inconvenience I have to deal with. There have been times when I haven't even noticed my periods.

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Lately, I have been thinking a lot about why this is, and I realised that, for me, it boils down to three things -

1. The normalisation done by my mother

2. Healthy diet

3. Exercising

Now, I don't know if this is what the ingredients of comfortable periods are or not. I am not saying that this would work for everyone. But, I do know that research is now showing that period discomfort (and certain illnesses including PCOD) have a lot to do with lifestyle choices. Could we possibly, with minor changes in the way we live, ease period discomfort? 

Picture Credits: Pexels, GIF Credits: GIPHY
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