“Culture and Pain: Growing up I’m quite sure my mother taught me about periods and the pain associated with it. I don’t really remember it. When it comes to women’s health, all I remember from my childhood was the first time a girl in my year six class explained to the whole class about her shocking first period.

I remember most of the boys, myself included, thinking it was some kind of practical joke. In time, I learnt to accept that periods were real. But, I never acknowledged the pains that women go through when it came to periods. I grew up seeing my mother carry around a hot water bottle and complaining about cramps every month while my father would say it was normal.

My father is not a bad man. He has always been a hard worker, good provider, loving husband and father. He taught me right from wrong, honour, respect and kindness. There just wasn’t a talk about the birds and the bees nor was there one about women’s health issues. Does culture play a part in the way we all view pain?

I would define culture as the influencing factors of who we are: the environment we grow up in, our education and our experiences. Mum, embarrassingly enough, did try to tell me about the birds and the bees but I probably did what I learnt best from dad and that was in one ear and out the other. Young boys do often try to be like their fathers and from my experience, picking up the bad habits first.

The way I used to look at pain associated with women’s health was a cultural thing, even if it was indirect. I chose to ignore it or mentally laugh it off as if to say “come on, you’ll be right, you just don’t want to (fill in the blank)”. Call me whatever you want but my thinking came from the fact that my mother worked hard through her pain.

So, I grew up thinking pain associated with periods was normal. When my wife decided to go public about her Endo, my mum told us that she had suffered from Endo as well and that she had miscarried once after me. My current environment of tending to my wife during her endo flare-ups, my education in learning about dealing with endo as well as the experiences (maybe I’ll GoPro it one day) is more than enough to make me understand that ignorance is certainly not bliss.

Culture has definitely played a part in how I view pain. How has your culture played a part on how you view pain?

My wife, Hitesha, an Indian who came to Australia 10 years ago explained to me that women’s health problems were never discussed at the dinner table. During menstruation, women are not even allowed to enter the temples. Women who have miscarried are not invited to see a pregnant woman in fear of casting an evil eye. Women who have health problems very often keep their issues to themselves in fear of looking weak or worthless to other family members. The mention of any health issues to a woman’s in-laws can even cause bad rumours or even threats from the husband’s family. I didn’t believe it until after going public we experienced it ourselves.

We went public about my wife’s problems to stop this exact thing. This stigma that surrounds women as the weaker vessel. Pain is something that can be treated or at least worked through. It takes a whole load of patience, love and care. Isn’t that what being human is about?”

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