The Soap Opera called ‘Menstruation’ – Women at Work on Periods

Who let them periods out during workdays?! Painful periods? What will people at work think if you took a day off? That’s not reason enough for you to leave work and come back to it later. Umm no, NO! You got it all wrong. I say – normalize paid work leaves when women are on their periods. Because clearly, our menstrual cycle does not work around our google calendar schedule.

The history of menstrual cycle in my family is painful (quite literally). Me, my mother, my grandmothers, my cousins, cousins’ mother, we all have it bad. If a normal month has 30 days in it, ours has 28. For me, it’s two days bed rest. Or that’s what I’d like it to be.

For everyone out there who want to understand what it really feels like being on your period, it’s not just physical pain, what makes our lives even more miserable is going through an emotional rollercoaster. After 10 years of getting my periods every month, I’ve mastered the physical pain my body puts me through – I know exactly when my body needs a heating pad, or a minute to sit down during the day when I’m at work. What I don’t know how to conquer is – the mental soap opera I go through. It’s crazy. It’s got all the drama. But here’s a point to be noted – menstruation affects everyone differently. For some, it’s like going through hell. For others, it’s just another normal day.

What I would like for women with periods on work days, is for both women and men to have accepting and open conversations about menstruation. Women are not monsters on their period. It’d be nice to have an ‘ordinary’ conversation about what we go through and how we tackle it. We understand men don’t have periods. But to provide an equal opportunity for both men and women at work, (women will agree) it is important to acknowledge the menstrual cycle. It’d be nice to break free of the myths and taboos. Isn’t our mental health our mental wealth? Doesn’t our well-being come first to be able to break a neck at work?

I’ve had painful periods each month since the last ten years. That’s 240 days wasted in ten years up until now. I’ve been to several doctors, tried different medicine systems, but all in vain. Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Allopathy, Naturopathy, Yoga, using drugs/painkillers, oils, massages – nothing was a sure shot solution, and if it worked – it wasn’t long-lasting. One of my doctors said – “Avoid eating oily and spicy foods before your periods” – tried and tested. Didn’t work. Also, what about my period cravings? Funnily, I’m not alone, there are a million women out there who will agree.

We women want to be equals and want to give our best at work, but we just want a little help recognizing the menstrual cycle and bringing to light the emotional and physical pain it comes with. I can imagine a world where paid leaves for women on periods is normal. I don’t want to suffer in silence because I know it affects the quality of my work. And that is unacceptable for me. Countries like Indonesia, Zambia, Japan and South Korea already have paid menstrual leaves 1-2 days each month for women. It’s high time other countries start recognizing this as an important issue for working women.

So until things change for women at work, here are some measures I take for painful periods –

  • painkillers
  • drinking a lot of water
  • dark chocolate
  • eating on time (not overeating)
  • taking care of my mental health by being mindful of what I’m saying and feeling
  • sleeping on time
  • using a heating pad and pain relief medical sprays for back and stomach pain
  • sharing my happy/sad feelings with people who believe in me when I feel down

I was talking to a couple of my guy friends today, they all pointed out that one of the simplest steps we can take as a society is to stop calling it “that time of the month” and begin calling it Periods/Menstrual Cycle (for what it really is). Having some empathy towards her situation instead of saying “oh! she’s just on her period” is a step towards ending the taboo around this subject in countries like India. Such taboos exclude menstruating women from entering temples. I have witnessed this in front of my eyes. This is absolutely crazy!

What’s your take on all this? Do you know anyone who has painful periods? Do you think ‘period leave’ will ever work? Share it with me in the comments below!