Let's put a period to the drama
"She has passed out twice already", my friend Tanu said, in a worried tone. We went to Shama's room where Shama was throwing up, yet again. I could not see this and rushed out of the room, in tears.
I had always had a difficult time during my periods and they were awfully painful, but I never threw up or passed out. I talked to Tanu and we discussed how everybody's body, physiology and biology is different and my experience therefore might not be the same as someone nextdoor, or for that matter, someone living in the same household.
It was the beginning of my work life. I was a trainee though, but technically, I had started my professional journey. Things were starting to get serious, although earning only a stipend, I was now officially employed. Work was serious and so was I. Taking a day off from work every single month was a complete no no. Popping pills and struggling through the first day of the periods was something I had to live with, for the rest of my life, I had told myself.
Life moved on and so did I, from Delhi, I was now in the city of dreams, Mumbai. I had got my dream job and an in house physician consultant. I had only one question for him, every time I visited him - will I ever get rid of this pain, that comes back like an uninvited guest, every single month! The physician told me I was absolutely healthy and there was nothing wrong with me but he could not do more than just prescribe painkillers for my pain. When nothing helped, I called one of my friends who worked in medical field and who I trusted completely, his recommended medication is something I take to date, to deal with the massive pain that I get every month.
We were a batch of new hires and all lived in the same building. There was a huge park in the compound which I rarely used to see as I worked late most nights. This was perhaps an unusual day when I decided to leave office earlier than usual. As I was walking by the park, I saw Sia, who was sitting there already. She told me she had to come back from work because she just could not bear the pain of her periods, sitting in the office chair so decided to come back home and lie down on the bed. I asked her if she needed anything, but she said she was doing better.
Mumbai, it turned out was not the last stop of my journey, life had different plans for me while I was trying to woo Mumbai for the rest of my life. I moved to the US. I have seen people take time off on the first day of periods. Recently someone from another country visited and told us that their company has come up with a policy of offering one day paid leave to their women employees on the first day of periods. Me and my colleagues commended the move and thought it was a great step towards acknowledging that there may be some people who may genuinely need such leave.
I have many more stories to share, and I am pretty sure you do too. This isn't a secret that many women suffer unbearable pain during periods. Painkillers are seldom helpful, even if they provide temporary relief from pain, there is so much more than just pain that we go through.
I am not saying that everyone needs time off from work during periods, but I also believe that there are many who do. Our experiences may not be the same as that of others. I know some women experience no pain during periods and I also know women who go though hell during that time.
Recently a company in India announced paid leave for first day of periods for its women employees. And I saw many people declaring it "urban privilege" because they never took any days off during their periods. At the cost of repetition, let me say it - your experience may not be the same as that of others. Don't assume that you represent an entire species, every body is different, everybody's physiology is different. Don't waste your energies outraging against a move that is an issue only in your head. Unless someone is abusing this privilege, this does not call for any outrage or drama.
Paid leave on the first day of periods is a positive move and I am glad that it is gradually picking up in different parts of the world. I would just urge women to not abuse this wonderful privilege extended to them so that women in real need of it can benefit from it.