A Conversation About Menstruation – MHDay2018

When we take away the shame that surrounds menstruation, girls and women will truly be able to walk in freedom.

Being born with a uterus should not be a disadvantage. Being born with a uterus should not stagnate your dreams. Being born with a uterus should not make you spend time away from school or work every month.

To commemorate Menstrual Hygiene day 2018, We For She organized an event at Ronald Ngala Primary School in Mombasa.

It was nice to see boys and girls eager to learn more about menstrual hygiene. A conversation about menstruation is one that we need to have with people of both genders. Menstruation is not optional, menstrual hygiene and health education should be prioritized.

I was invited to speak about menstrual health education and endometriosis. It was good to create awareness about endometriosis even to preteens. I urged the stakeholders present to offer comprehensive menstrual health education to the girls, including stressing the importance of understanding your hormonal functions and how to decipher your periods.

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The Mombasa County Women Representative Hon Asha Mohamed took the microphone and shared her journey with Endometriosis. Her vulnerability and willingness to share her journey was beautiful. We may be one in ten women, but we are more than just a statistic. We are mothers, sisters, wives, cousins, and friends to many other men and women. Our voices matter.

I applaud you Hon Asha Mohamed. Thank you for standing with us and for amplifying our voice.

Tina Leslie of Freeedom4girls shared about period poverty. The reusable menstrual products are a great alternative for girls and women who miss school and work because of lack of sanitary products. Also, these products are environmentally friendly.

The theme of this year’s Menstrual Hygiene days was #NoMoreLimits. Here’s to girls and women achieving their dreams and living their lives to the fullest.

 

 

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Let’s Talk About Periods

I had a beautiful period last month.

It was a nice shade of red, bright, alive, a good summary that my hormone levels are getting better. It was a shade that I never saw in my teenage years. It made me happy, reminded me of how jolly my little one gets when she sees Elmo. Speaking of Sesame Street, a friend told me that she calls her period ‘Elmo’ and that my friends, is how I have closed the Furchester hotel in my mind.

It flowed like a stream, which is a relief since my period has always felt like the ocean on a bad day, like trying to kayak on choppy waters in a raging storm. I told hubby how good it looked, let’s just say that was not what he was expecting me to say. I have talked about periods for a long time, but this was a different narrative.

I love talking about periods. It is one of the topics I could give a talk on without prior preparation. Talking about periods is important. If I knew that my period should be bright red and runny as a teenage girl, I would probably have gone to a hospital sooner. Instead, I suffered in shame. I was horrified by the size of the clots, and the dark purple color was really nothing to write home about.

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We need to talk about periods openly and regularly. Too many girls and women are suffering in silence. So many dreams are unrealized because of menstrual health-related conditions and lack of supplies.

Monday 28th May is MH day 2018, the theme this year is #NoMoreLimits. If you are in Mombasa and you would like to meet up and have a conversation about menstrual health, please drop me a line via yellowendoflower@gmail.com

Please speak up, share your story, initiate a menstrual health and hygiene conversation with women and girls around you. Let them know that being born with a uterus should not be a disadvantage. We can all achieve our dreams.

#NoMoreLimits

Endometriosis and Mental Health

One of the areas that Endometriosis affects women in a great way is in mental health. Endo warriors fight many psychological battles. These have to do with living with chronic pain and reduced effectiveness, infertility, miscarriages, missed opportunities especially career wise, relationship issues sometimes leading to divorce, body image concerns such as weight gain or scarring from numerous surgeries, mood problems caused by hormones gone berserk or by some of the treatments we get to manage the condition. The list is endless.

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Endo Warriors find that these issues sometimes leave them in a dilemma regarding their identity. Wondering “who am I?” A mum in waiting? The sickly one? The divorcee? The fat one?

Generally, people tend to answer the identity question – who am I – with roles we play such as: I am a wife/ mother of two/ nurse/ divorcee/ the clown in the family. But is that really who we are? The problem with these descriptions is that they are all determined externally and could change any moment. The wife can become widowed or divorced, while the divorcee can get remarried. This is bound to create an identity crisis every time there is a change. Secondly, these roles come with society’s perception and expectation of how they should be played. This can also create disillusionment when we try to do things differently from the norm and the society rejects it. For example, in many of our African societies remarriage of a woman is still frowned upon even following the death of her husband.

So, what if we looked at our identity from a more intrinsic perspective? That instead of waiting for society to tell us who we are, we look inward and see what we are made of – those things that we have control over. Identify ourselves by such things as our values, our thoughts and beliefs, our likes and dislikes. For example, even though the society may mount undue pressure on an Endo Warrior married for a number of years but still trusting God for her miracle baby, she can still walk with her head held up high telling herself that her value as a person is not dependent on being a biological parent.

To achieve this level of self-awareness and confidence, our beliefs play a big role. Our thoughts and beliefs are the lenses through which we interpret the world They affect how we feel and act. Negative thought patterns will certainly make us feel sad, depressed, frustrated, overwhelmed and are likely to make us act irrationally. Some Endo Warriors end up giving in to negative thought patterns and end up feeling overwhelmed while others in the same boat rise above the struggles and end up excelling in their spaces of influence.

One healthy habit that Endo Warriors need to cultivate is guarding their thoughts. This needs to be a daily intentional action. Eventually this forms a habit and it becomes more natural to think rationally. Some of the ways to achieve this is through:

  1. Scheduling some down time – Incorporate quiet time as part of daily routine. Even better if this period includes spiritual nourishment like some uplifting worship music.
  2. Differentiate between what you have control over and what you do not – change whatever needs to be changed and quit worrying about what is not in your power to do so.
  3. Be kind to yourself – Acknowledge the struggles and respect the limitations that come with endo. Remember you never wished this on yourself – you just happen to be one of 176 million strong soldiers worldwide on this assignment.
  4. Self-Awareness – Begin to be aware of when your thoughts start to spiral down the abyss, then stop them. One trick of stopping these thought is to have a rubber band around the wrist. Each time you find yourself thinking negative thoughts, snap the rubber band and the slight pain usually jolts one to the present moment and away from the unhelpful thoughts. Try it!

Faith Osiro first shared this with Endo warriors at the March 2018 Endometriosisis Foundation of Kenya Endomarch event. She is a counsellor based in Nairobi. If you would like to get in touch with her, please reach her on 0737 861671.

The Endo Blues ~ Battling With Depression

I thought I was losing my mind. Instead of feeling better after the laparoscopic surgery I was feeling worse. Granted there was no pain in my abdomen, but I felt like a sedated prisoner in my own body. I desperately wanted to fight, but I was often too tired or sleepy and disinterested.

Getting out of bed was difficult, leaving the house felt impossible. I remember I would cut two pieces of paper, write ‘Yes’ on one of them and ‘No’ on the other and then pick one with my eyes closed. As I picked, I prayed that I would pick a ‘No’ so that I wouldn’t have to leave the house. Sometimes the voice inside overrode the ‘Yes’ I had picked and I would stay at home.

I was depressed, and I had no idea.

The hormonal treatment to treat Endo combined with Endo had hurled me into a dark corner, burdened my shoulders and I was forced to surrender. There was no happiness. There was no joy. Laughter was a mystery. I dragged my feet as I walked, and wondered why the nights were so short. I slept but never felt energized, and desperately wished that this aspect could manifest itself physically.

My doctor was only looking out for the physical implications of the disease. Not once did he ever ask how I was doing, psychologically and emotionally. Perhaps it wasn’t his place, but he could have brought someone to the table to shed some light on that aspect.

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I was nineteen and lost at the big blue sea. I was drowning on dry land. I was fighting phsycially and paddling to stay alive. I hated it. I cried bitter tears, if we wrung my pillow we’d fill a bucket or two.

I felt alone.

I was told to pray, and I prayed. The blues, well, they remained, the dark shades made way for the lighter hues. And as time went by, I begun to see the sun in my sky. I begun to feel the warmth of it’s rays on my skin. I knew that I would be okay.

My heart goes out to Endo warriors who are grappling with this darkness. You are not alone. You do not have to walk alone. If you would like to talk to a professional please call Faith on 0737861671. She has graciously agreed to help Endo warriors navigate these choppy waters at a discounted rate.

You can reach me via yellowendoflower@gmail.com

You are not alone.