Guiding Pains: How cramps taught me to love being a woman

“The pain. Oh my god, the pain.” I remember thinking that as my right leg shook out of my control while I laid down at the nurse’s office at school. I remember thinking that while crouching on a desk in an empty classroom at my university praying to god to “please, make it stop.” I remember thinking that while sitting on the floor at the hotel I interned at and hoping my nausea would go away while I got gawked at by passersby.

It baffled me how such a natural process like menstruating could hurt to the point that it put a halt to my daily life every single month. There had to be a solution besides popping some pain killers, sipping herbal tea and using heating pads which, for me, weren’t very effective in soothing my cramps in the first place.

And so, I tried going vegetarian, exercising regularly and even seeking medical help, but with no luck. I was left to face the fact that my period cramps were “normal”, and I would have to deal with them for the rest of my life. That meant that I would be puking from intense pain almost every single month till menopause.

I’ve always had the notion that the world punishes women for being women, and not having a solution for my period cramps solidified that. I could spend days complaining about how unfair it all was.

My mother did try to hint at the fact that my mentality and stress was linked to the pain and suggested I try EFT, which involves tapping certain parts of the body to treat physical or emotional distress. I regretfully dismissed it at the time as I didn’t understand that negative emotions and mental beliefs could show up in the form of physical pain.

It was only years later that I got to experience having light cramps that went away as soon as I focused on my breathing, and it was only possible because, during my three months of unemployment, I decided to work on my wellbeing and genuinely loving being a female instead of thinking of it as a burden.

It was my eureka moment, except that my severe cramps returned as soon as I started working as an intern from nine in the morning till six or even six-thirty at night. I no longer had the energy to work on my wellbeing and found myself feeling stressed often.

Seeking some balance, I took a yoga class on the weekend where I learned about how periods connect us to the lunar cycle of the moon, and that in ancient times women would gather to reflect and relax during their periods. Muslim women rest during that period of time as well by taking a break from the five daily prayers and fasting during Ramadan. Resting isn’t a sign of weakness but a way to rebuild our strength as women.

I was led to believe that periods are nothing but trouble, but now I know that it was nature’s way of telling me that I need to focus on myself and that my mental health is a priority. Periods are my body’s way of communicating to me on what I needed. They were never punishing me. They were merely guiding me in a very demanding manner to love myself.


Former film student and avid psychology lover, Maryam Al Shawab, aims to add a new perspective through her talent with words.

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