[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”null”]The ‘M’ word can never be my secret. Never.Ever.[/inlinetweet]

Everyone knew when it happened. It did not come silently into the night; it came crashing and clanging and it came violently. The merciless throbbing in my groin would eventually take over the lower half of my body and would have me writhing on the floor – crying, vomiting, pacing the room in circles and emptying my bowels frequently. This is probably what childbirth must feel like, I would think.

On a good day, the pain would last for four hours and on others, it would take all of eight hours to subside.

Reprieve always meant somehow dragging or getting myself lugged to a nearby emergency ward. [inlinetweet prefix=”null” tweeter=”null” suffix=”null”]After dealing with a barrage of questions that entailed my answering whether I was sexually active or not [/inlinetweet]or whether it was possible that [inlinetweet prefix=”null” tweeter=”null” suffix=”null”]I might somehow be aborting a child in secrecy, I would then be granted an elixir of relief: a shot of a painkiller right into my hips.[/inlinetweet]

In all of thirty minutes, the ravaging pain would vanish. Burdened with exhaustion, I would then sleep like a baby. I would wake up like nothing happened, like no monster had ever possessed me.

I am now blessed to have this ritual occur only every couple of months as opposed to every month like it did back then.


Was I prepared for it when I first got it?
Yes and No.

Yes, because this was discussed with hushed whispers on the playground along with my girlfriends. We sniggered. We laughed. We spoke about older sisters who got it and who were informed that this was the dawn of womanhood. From this point on, you were either the receptacle of life or that of shame.

No, because nothing really prepares anyone for what you will see and feel; for the physical and emotional alterations that your body ushers in without your consent and for what you will then experience.

I was twelve years old when I first got it. I was on holiday at my paternal grandfather’s ancestral home. My immediate response at the sight of red stains on the cloth was to inform my mother by quite simply saying, “[inlinetweet prefix=”null” tweeter=”null” suffix=”null”]I think I have got my periods.”
At the back of my head, I had self-diagnosed myself of cancer.[/inlinetweet]

Quickly and with organised effort, my father was sent to pick up sanitary napkins from the pharmacy that was a couple of kilometres away,while my mother broached the topic of what this whole affair meant for me.

So this was what that dreaded womanhood talk sounded like! My mind was racing!
Would I be told to sit still in a corner?
Would I not be allowed to play around with my cousins?
Would I constantly be reminded that I was now a girl and that I occupied a certain position in society?
Was this the end of my innocence?
The few things my mother said in not so many words was that I should take it easy, that this is all new but not different and that every woman undergoes this and that it was only a five-day ordeal to be borne every month.

An uncomfortable five days it turned out to be though, thanks to the horror of a contraption of absorption: an elastic band holding the cotton pad at both ends. The ridiculous pad would fall apart thanks to the friction caused by my odd walking style which was caused obviously by the discomfort I felt between my legs. A rather vicious circle if there ever was one.

In all this, I had to figure out a way to hide it so that the men, namely my brothers, father, cousins and uncles would not notice the difference that I was now a ‘woman’ in hiding. I had to learn to adopt the gait of having ‘nothing going on.’ This was my first taste of angst associated with menstruating and I later learnt that it was really the least of all my menstruating hassles.

Within the next few years, the Pain came. I no longer had the privilege of menstruation being a covert affair. When it would appear, my brothers would stay away from me lest I scratched their eyes out in my lunacy. My terrified sister probably prayed that she wouldn’t go through the same and luckily for her, she didn’t. My mother would bring out the hot water bag and pain killers, and if necessary, haul me in the car to rush me to the doctor. My aunt, the nurse, eventually kept the necessary items that I would need to pop or get injected with. It really took a contingent to keep the monster at bay.


I was active in both athletics and swimming but was never asked to compromise them by my family. I was however advised to take it easy as and when it was deemed necessary. It was also treated with great humour – I have missed school exams thanks to this menstrual drama and my dad would just joke that I now had the perfect excuse (albeit a valid one) to avoid appearing for them. The day it would begin, my family would rally around trying to do whatever they could to easy my pain and they still do. The biggest thing they did for me was to not bring up my episodes or treat me any differently after my attacks subsided.

I eventually got diagnosed with dysmenorrhoea and was declared to possess a retroverted uterus – a double recipe for my painful troubles. A doctor had even added PCOS to the possible causes of my five – day troubles. Whatever the diagnosis was, the only control I had in this situation was pain-management. Once you feel it coming, pop a pill and try to sleep. If you end up vomiting out the painkiller thanks to the unimaginable amount of pain, head straight to the doctor’s clinic .

Pain is just three-fourths of the story; the remaining depends on comfort. I haven’t quite understood why nobody seems to think that sanitary napkins deserve technological advancements. Switching from that horrendous contraption, to stick-on napkins, to the winged stick-on ones- eventually got me using tampons .
No feeling odd objects between my legs. No stress over staining garments.
No funny walking.

At the end of all this, I have realised that menstruation seems to teach you a lot about life at large, about society, women, interactions, men and babies. How it is used as a means to dictate what you are allowed to and not allowed to do even. Thankfully, my nurturing and modern medication has enabled me to disregard these limits.

What began as a bodily function must remain just that – a bodily function.


*I don’t advocate the same for others, there are perhaps more effective alternative treatments available but this is what works for me.

*Tampons have been associated with health toxicity issues. Do read the packaging before use.

Author: Kavita Gonsalves
You think dysmenorrhea would really bog Kavita down? Nope, not a chance- in fact, quite the opposite!
When she is not playing a sustainability consultant for the built environment, she fills all her time with extending virtues of ‘self-sufficiency’ to other arenas of the life she experiences around.This includes but is not exclusive to- utilizing baking as a mechanism to crowdsource philanthropy, working within the public domain of art , conceptualizing conspiracies of bringing people together (in a good, good way) and engaging in dialogues of change.If you are ever in her part of town, she invites you to her Wonderland, with lots of tea and Victorian sponge cake included!

Edited by: Divya Rosaline