Period: Mine vs. Yours
Period is a different experience for everyone. Some of us are more comfortable with it than others, and some are still figuring out how to fully embrace it or to simply deal with it. In this week’s blog, we want to highlight some of the differences between everyone’s period experiences.
“I was 14 years old at the time. I was in grade 9 and during school, I went to the bathroom and then I noticed something suspicious. Afterward, I asked my best friend at the time (who already had her period) if she had any products and confirmed with her that my bleeding was a sign of my first period. Later on, two of my friends were a lovely support system and they even taught me how to put a pad on because I did not know what a ‘wing’ was, and much more. Unfortunately, I experienced a lot of pain on my first day so I had to call my mom and leave school early. When she asked what the reason was I told her and she was very chill about it! So it was a positive experience overall,” shared our second interviewee, Roopali Bansal, when asked about her experience the first time she got her period.
Every girl goes through it and more people are willing to help you and educate you on the topic than you think.
- Roopali Bansal
For me on the other hand, it was a complete 180. I was 12 years old at the time and I was still in the Philippines. I got my period when I was at home and didn’t tell anyone about it; I knew where my auntie kept her pads in the house, so I just grabbed them from hers. They didn’t find out until I got it the second time and my family only found out because my Auntie kept running out of pads for no reason. Weird, right?
It was then when I told my childhood friend and cousin that I got my period - she’s a year older than me so she got extremely anxious to get hers too. For me, it wasn’t that I didn’t trust anyone in our household, but for some reason, I felt really ashamed and uncomfortable about it. This is why I think it’s incredibly important for us to have these conversations, because somewhere out there in one part of the world, there is a girl that just got her period and has no clue what to do or how to feel about it.
I definitely shouldn't have felt ashamed, but it was a combination of culture and my own personality that prevented me from sharing this to anyone - even the people that I trusted. Thankfully, Roopali’s experience was a lot more positive than mine, “I was never uncomfortable with the idea of getting my period nor did I have to hide it. I was already pretty familiar with the concept because the majority of my friends had already gotten their periods at least 2 years prior to mine and my mom never made a big deal out of it so overall, I wasn’t “ashamed” of getting it. However, managing my menstruation schedule and dealing with the frequent pain took some getting used to so probably around a year later.”
Our period stories are all unique. You might find more similarities to my experience or Roopali’s, but either way, no matter what it looked like for you, one story isn’t more valid than the other. What your story looks like shouldn’t deter you from sharing it with anyone, because you don’t know who you can encourage and impact by telling it. At the end of the day, we have our own stories and we have our own struggles associated with menstruation and whether we admit it or not, getting your period isn’t always as exciting. It can really change your mood and can bring extreme pain from the period cramps. Roopali shares her biggest issue with her period journey:
“The biggest issues I had with my period was the irregularity and the pain that came with it. I was a very active person and I never really knew when to expect my period and I had to use a combination of products because I never knew what really worked best for me. Thus, maintaining my flow and the cramps that were associated with my period were probably my biggest challenge.”
If you have ever gotten bad period cramps, you can agree that it is not a fun experience. A gynecologist has stated that period cramps can be as painful as cutting off a finger without anesthesia and honestly, it sometimes really does feel like that. I’ve struggled with really bad cramps and though it is an incredibly painful experience, it’s kinda comforting to know you are not alone. You see, periods can be kinda cool in the way that they can truly bring women together. We have common ground with this shared experience and can relate to each other simply by talking about periods and that’s comforting. As someone who menstruates, you’re automatically part of this club where everyone has a mutual understanding of what it’s like to go through periods. If you need a pad or tampon, there are usually people who will immediately offer you one, or even two because they know what it feels like to be in your position. They know that panic you feel when you sit on the toilet and see that unexpected red surprise, the sudden ache in your back or belly, and the anxiousness in an attempt to DIY a makeshift toilet paper pad. Wherever you are in the world, you may also find mutual understanding in the lack of education in school about menstruation, as Roopali shares:
“Our school taught us a little bit about periods, but it was never an in-depth instruction. They mainly just familiarized us with the topic of menstruation and told us the age that girls could get it and the products they could use being tampons and pads. However, my mom was always very open about her own period and she was probably the person who educated me the most about menstruation. She gave detailed explanations about specific products, the age in which she got her period, the expected pain that could come with it, etc.”
Taking care of yourself during your period and familiarizing yourself with your flow can be challenging at times. We see more and more apps come out to help you track your period so you’re more prepared for it, but I know there are a lot of girls that have irregular periods, so even those aren’t that helpful. I’ve experienced irregular periods too and the really only thing that can help is listening to your body. Track down the things that you are feeling before, during and, after your period and use those as your basis. I’m surely not an expert, but based on personal experience, those have worked well for me in terms of getting indications on when I am getting my period.
As you can see from our first blog and this second one, this is a problem. The education systems have unrealistic expectations that mothers and legal guardians of children will teach them the information about periods and the experiences that come with them. The education system should definitely put more emphasis on period education and dive more into it, especially the key expectations women should have as well as what girls can do to prepare for it. Surely, however, your period experience will slowly get better, and whether what your first experience looks like - will always be true. We asked Roopali about her experience regarding this:
“The experience with my period has definitely ameliorated. Getting my period felt way more inconvenient when I was younger, but I feel more prepared now as I have gotten around the inconsistency of it. The pain also used to be more intolerable at that age and I never wanted to rely on Advil constantly to relieve my pain. To this day I try to follow that rule but I am not as strict on it.”
Taking care of yourself during your period and familiarizing yourself with your flow can be challenging at times. We see more and more apps come out to help you track your period so you’re more prepared for it, but I know there are a lot of girls who have irregular periods, so even those aren’t that helpful. I’ve experienced irregular periods too and the only thing that can help is listening to your body. Track down the things that you are feeling before, during and, after your period and use those signs to compare to your baseline. This might look like recording whether you feel bloated, start to get mild cramping a few days before your period, or if your chest gets a little sore. I’m not an expert, but based on my personal experience, those have worked well for me to indicate when I am close to getting my period.
How to Normalize Period Talk?
“I feel like menstruation should never be something that menstruating people should be ashamed of. Every girl goes through it and more people are willing to help you and educate you on the topic than you think. Personally, if any random girl came and asked me for a pad or a tampon I would be more than willing to give it to them. And lastly, menstruation is not something to be scared of, it always gets better and becomes more tolerable!” - Roopali Bansal
We hope that Roopali’s experience and my own personal experience gave you some confidence in talking about yours too. We want this blog to empower womxn and to let you know that it is okay. We want to be both a voice and a platform for women and girls to normalize period conversations. So, as we said in our last blog, if you want to be a part of this conversation, of this movement, connect with us and share your period stories - no matter what it looks like. We’d love to hear it and it’ll be our pleasure to share it!
We hope that Roopali’s story inspired you to join the conversation. Ask your friends and the women in your life what their first period was like. If you can always check our website HERE, for any updates and stay connected on our social media, or sign-up in our newsletter. You can also pre-order our pads HERE. Thank you for reading! Don’t forget to wear your masks when you go outside and wash your hands regularly. Stay safe everyone!