Taking a day off

Menstrual cycles are still an incredibly taboo subject of discussion. With the diverse symptoms that come with menstruating—some of which can mimic the flu—it is time to destigmatize the legitimate struggles millions of people who menstruate go through.

Those who menstruate should have the right to take mental health and sick days off of work, school and other responsibilities.

For biology junior Payton Morel, periods have always been stigmatized. She believes the conversation regarding the physical and mental health tolls connected to periods are often undermined.

“A lot of men or fathers, from my experience, are uncomfortable with buying their kids tampons,” Morel said. “It’s not something that we talk about in society enough. Women are typically looked down upon for having emotional issues on their periods and are just viewed as incoherent because we have too many emotions.”

The belief that women are often looked down upon for menstruating is also true. Not everyone who menstruates is a woman, but women have had to, unfortunately, bear the brunt of the negativity that comes when expressing their emotions.

Menstruation has a myriad of side effects. Some are emotional, with some women having to take anti-depressants to combat the mental health symptoms the week before their period arrives. Others take the shape of body aches and headaches, resulting in the inability to function normally throughout the day—the same effects that come with sickness.

“A lot of women are diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD),” Morel said. “They have to take antidepressants the week before their period to lessen their symptoms. They mimic a lot of flu-like symptoms, with body aches, back pain, fevers, overall not feeling well.”

It is common for employers to have sick days allotted for their employees. However, they often do not account for sick days for those who menstruate. Those who menstruate are told to fight through the pain, but the pain is far too much to handle while still functioning and living out a normal, uninterrupted life.

“With how severe some women’s periods are, if they need to take a sick day off from work or school because of their symptoms, they should be able to,” Morel said. “A lot of symptoms make it unsuitable to work sometimes, so they should be able to classify those days as sick days.”

With PCOS and PMDD, the symptoms that affect the body physically and mentally are harsh to work through. Going through everyday life with these symptoms should not happen.

Those with bodies that allow for menstruation are often taught at a young age to remain quiet about their periods and hide what their bodies are going through. Morel strongly believes in educating everybody—regardless of whether they have a uterus and the ability to menstruate.

“Sex ed classes need to be better taught," Morel said. "When I first got my period, I didn’t know what to do—I read the back of a tampon box instruction. You don’t expect an 11 year old to get her period. It’s different for everybody.”

Those who menstruate need to speak up and shine a light on the struggles that come with menstruation. Hiding the conversation only hinders progress toward understanding one another.

“Personally, I started using a Diva cup but had never used it before,” Morel said. “It’s something that’s saved me a lot of money on tampons, and it’s not something that women talk about a lot because of the stigma around periods.”

Although sick days are allotted for Texas employees, going through the process of getting a sick day approved is difficult. Employers and university professors sometimes require a doctor’s note—and those who menstruate should not have to go to a doctor monthly for a natural and recurring function of their bodies.

For one, scheduling a doctor visit is sometimes time-consuming and expensive. Many college students are uninsured, and booking an appointment with their respective health centers can take time.

A person’s tolerance for pain should not be questioned. Further, menstruation is natural and should be treated as such; the physical and emotional toll a period can take on a person is real. 

No individual should be expected to go through her, his or their daily life in pain, physical or emotional, and those who menstruate are not overreacting when they request a day off to take care of themselves.

After all, there are sick days for colds and the flu—why is a period any different?

- Valeria Torrealba is a public relations junior

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