This Content is a Part of The Menstrual Hygiene Awareness 2021, in collaboration with The Logical Indian and Pee Safe.
Menstruation is a monthly biological process. While we wish it was just about bleeding out every month, periods for many, come with a lot of other issues- painful cramps or dysmenorrhea, excessive bleeding, premenstrual stress, nausea, diarrhea- different women experience different symptoms. And this being a monthly affair, we wish the world around us was a bit more supportive, a little more understanding, and sensitive to our needs during this time.
#MenForMenstruation aims to share experiences of men with women and the role they could play as supporters and caregivers during periods and be an ‘Ally’. This is Farhan’s Story.
Growing up I thought I knew about periods but I had no idea about the impact it had on a woman’s emotional state. I remember buying sanitary pads but was I ever informed or told what they were for? No. I found out from friends and the internet. I knew that a woman bleeds because she didn’t conceive that month. But how many of us know the fall of the hormone estrogen can affect the moods and behavior of a woman at certain times of the month, and that they can have very little control over it?
I came to know what exactly women went through during their periods with my interactions with the women at work and home. I learned that it involves a whole physiological process which, for many, is very painful. While most of my female colleagues were open to admitting they were on their period, others would hesitate. Why won’t they? Haven’t our religions and cultural practices labeled them as impure, and subjected them to a truckload of patriarchal crap that they have to submit to lifelong?
At home too, I watched my partner go through irritability, depressive moods and saw her recoil in pain. Initially, her changed behavior, anger, and mood swings totally took me by surprise as I didn’t know where it was coming from. This would happen before her periods so we never connected it to menstruation.
I was trying my best to be supportive of her during her periods by getting her the sanitary pads and comforting her with a hot water bag. It took us both some time before we actually connected her moods to her menstrual cycles.
During a conversation with a lady friend, l learned that what I thought was mood swings was actually something called PMS. In fact, my friend suffered from PMDD (Premenstrual dysphoric disorder) which is a form of PMS causing severe depression and suicidal feelings. I was shocked! I had no idea that something like this even existed and women could go through this on a monthly basis.
A visit to the gynecologist and later a therapist helped us put certain coping mechanisms in place and get treatment. It made me understand things better and also empathize with her now that I knew where this came from. That was least I could do, since I wasn’t the one handling the bleeding and discomfort every month with the stress!
From my experience, here are some ways to support someone going through PMS
1. Seek Help: Do not hesitate to reach out to a gynecologist or a psychologist to first confirm if this is PMS. Treatments and lifestyle adjustments can help manage the signs and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
2. Educate yourself. Read up about Premenstrual stress to be aware of what it is.
3. Give assurance: Tell her that you are there for her even on her worse days and that she can always reach out to you for support.
4. Comfort her: Ask her what would make her feel better? Chocolates, ice creams, a foot massage, an outing, or just some time to herself? And give her that.
5. Support her: If she is angry, let her vent, if she is sobbing, give her a shoulder, if she is irritable, you clench your fist and hold it a little longer. They have very little control over their emotions due to their hormones.
Who says men can’t support women during menstruation? We can all be a little supportive of our peers. I encourage my lady colleagues to openly talk about menstruation and ask for support when required. We need to create a safe space for them where their moods are not dismissed lightly as just, “Oh it must be that time of the month for her”. Where our workplaces provide concessions for menstruating women and access to menstrual products like pad and tampon dispensers. And stop judging them for their moods: while some women go through PMS, it does not mean their moods are hormone-related all the time. Don’t be quick to dismiss it as PMS.
As told to Tasneem Kutubuddin