I first learned about this term called pill shaming when I read some articles about it online, about how the author has always been a victim of the same by her friends and family. After reading the article, I realized how relieved I was when I learned that they have an actual term for the guilt I carry every time I pop a pill to get rid of my period pain. I was 12 when I got my periods for the first time and had to miss my school because of the excruciating pain. It was never uncommon for me to miss school or college or even work because of the period cramps. It comes in waves, it increases and decreases but slowly moves from my back to the legs. I have to lie in my bed all day and sulk about it unless I take a pain killer. I have always heard it from my family that taking a pain killer to get rid of the pain is always a bad idea. A girl should silently bear it and not make too many complaints about it, after all, it is a part of life. But I have always preferred taking popping a pill, sleeping for some hours, and relieving myself from the pain. Who anyway likes to sulk about something and then bearing it for the next 2 days? Can I not simply get rid of the pain without 50 people telling me that it is bad for me? Therefore, I always carry a pack of painkillers with me in my bag and keep it discretely. I do pop it when I get the cramps but always with a certain amount of guilt because a certain amount of people in my life have told me how inspirational they were because they bore the pain or got rid of it gradually through exercise and yoga.
Generally associated with the stigma around mental health, pill shaming is the next big thing. It refers to when a person opens up about using medication to overcome a problem and the people around them passing negative comments about it. It is when people start lecturing the person of how they overcame a similar problem through therapy and exercise. Or when the family members start advising how revolutionary changing lifestyle can prove to get rid of anxiety and stress or any other such problem. No matter how woke or progressive the person is, all of us can be unintentionally involved in criticizing or mocking somebody seeking medication to solve a certain problem and telling them how they can pursue traditional methods like lifestyle changes and exercising for the same. This leads to the victim feeling ashamed about taking medication and they start hiding the fact even though it is just a coping mechanism for them. Not all of us have the capability or strength to bear period cramps. And not just the pain, during periods, women go through a lot of changes in their bodies, like bloating, hormonal imbalance, and mood swings. Therefore, if there is one thing apart from every other complication a woman goes through, which can be cured through a mere medicine, why to be shameful about it?
“Due to my ovarian cyst, I have always experienced an unbearable amount of pain during my periods. My friends and family are familiar with what I have to experience every month, yet they are somehow blind to it, most of them are constantly questioning my need to take a pill, they continuously tell me side effects or how as a woman I should be able to deal this without medication. These narrow-minded people don’t understand a basic concept, it’s a personal choice, it’s about my body and no one else is in any way allowed to question it, they can’t belittle my pain because they believe I should be conditioned to bear with it and therefore, they don’t have a right to make me feel guilty about taking care of myself in whichever way I find appropriate.”
~Soumya Singh, a student who recently appeared for her XIIth class board exams
Every woman has her own story of a complicated menstrual cycle and how impossible she finds dealing with it. Some have irregular periods, some have excessive bloating, some go through no pain at all while others have pre-mature menopause. As women, we should be able to understand each other’s pain and help them cope with their messed up period stories in their own way. In general too, questioning somebody’s need to rely on medication to get over a problem which they find uncontrollable, can be very misleading. Coping mechanisms are personal and nobody else really gets to question them. You might be able to get over a similar problem through no medication at all but others are not you. You mocking at somebody’s coping mechanism can further lead them to not talk about their problem at all and eventually help in increasing stigma around the issue.
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