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#FreeToBleed: ‘A pool of blood gushed down my thighs. My white socks were red.’

Shame doesn’t start when menstruation begins. It is built in slow steps.

I have a long family history of terrible periods. I remember this one time when I was in grade 11, I went to change my pad during break time. I could only use the big night pads that were super absorbent. I had to wear them all the time.

My school uniform was white, which didn’t make things any better.

It was the end of English class and I was seated towards the front because my surname starts with a K. There were few people in the class whose surnames started with letters from the first half of the alphabet. Our teacher instructed the first row to start leaving the class. I got up and checked if there was blood on the chair. It was clean.

Then I just felt this hot liquid running down my legs. A pool of blood gushed down my thighs. I looked down. My white socks were red. There was blood in my shoes, there was blood all around me.

My classmates asked: “Ursula, why aren’t you leaving?” I just stood there. My teacher urged me to leave the classroom. I started crying.

After this incident, my mother let me go on the pill. My sister had been trying to convince her for months but she thought I was too young. I was suffering; I wouldn’t go to school when I was menstruating.

Even now, I still feel very self-conscious and the fact that I like wearing light colours doesn’t help. When I have those incidents now, I still cry and get overwhelmed by anxiety to the point that my mother has to give me medicine to calm me down.

I went on the pill when I was 18 to help with the pain and heavy flow. It reduced the length and flow of my period. I feel free. I can live my life.

Ursula Kekana (21) as told to Pontsho Pilane. 

Pontsho Pilane is the communications manager at Soul City Institute for Social Justice. Pilane was a health journalist at Bhekisisa from 2017 until 2019.