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.