“When I was 9, I got my period. It was the most confusing moment of my life. I came home from school and there was blood where there had never been. I was given a speaking to. I was told all about uteri and fallopian tubes and eggs and shedding walls,” says DA in an anonymous post on a Facebook page Individuality.
However, DA is not the only one to have gone through the pain and confusion of early puberty. While it is a natural process, it is also a very perturbing phase that every girl goes through. But it can be more unsettling if it occurs when a girl is still busy in her world of her fairy tales and dolls. However, as per a report in The Times of India, there is an alarming increase in the number of girls hitting early puberty in urban areas. While girls from rural areas are still getting their periods at the age of 15-16, a few girls from urban areas are getting their periods even before 8!
Early puberty, which is also known as precocious puberty, consists of changes such as early development of breasts, pubic and underarm hair and menstrual bleeding which occurs earlier than usual.
Apart from the massive mood swings, PMS-like symptoms and other ‘teen emotions’, early puberty also leads to a lot of psychological problems and physical discomfort for the girl as her mind and body are not prepared to deal with the changes.
“My body and my mind have gone through a roller coaster ride through these last 35 years. At times my body and mind hated each other, at times my mind shut down communication with my body and at times they worked together. As I was coming to terms with my “precocious” puberty, my breasts started developing. I was a C cup in the 4th standard! I don’t think I’ve hated my body more than at that time. My mother bribed me with Enid Blyton books so that I would agree to wear a bra,” confesses DA.
The physical and psychological changes are not the only “side-effects” of an early puberty. These girls naturally attract unwanted attention from the opposite sex who start noticing their early developments. Early maturing girls also develop sexual urges at a very young age and are often confused about it as they aren’t matured enough to deal with such feelings!
“Being a naive child with breasts left me vulnerable and where there is prey, there is a predator. I was abused from the age of 9 till 13 by two men, who were ostensibly our “family friends”. My mind just shut down. There was no way to process this. I alternately loathed myself and alternately felt pleasure. These pleasurable thoughts were too much for my mind to bear. I dissociated my mind from my body. So I never had to process my pain or my pleasure,” says DA.
Another problem that the girls with an early menstruation face are an increase in weight. The reason why weight increases in such a condition are because when the body senses that it has extra calories, enough to sustain a pregnancy, the fat tissues release a signal into the bloodstream and that signal then travels to the brain, giving a ‘go’ to the sexual development.
“I was outwardly a good child. I smiled and played and created and studied. I was held up as an example. This mind-body disconnection could not, however, be sustained. I ate. And I ate. And I ate some more. I was obese before I knew it. In fact, I was obese and didn’t know it. Since my mind was so divorced still from my body, I did not ever inhabit my body, and therefore never understood its expanse. The only truth came through photographs. Which shocked me into reality,” recalls DA.
However, no matter how physically developed the girl is, she matures according to her age and hence isn’t able to come to terms with all the changes she is going through. She becomes socially awkward and starts shunning people. These tendencies often lead to depression.
“When I had my periods for the first time, I only comprehended that my body had started to betray me and went into a black depression. I stopped revealing my personal thoughts to anyone, especially an adult. I started becoming independent, but I was just 9! I couldn’t take the burden of my own responsibility,” added DA.
Another factor that DA and girls like DA face in their day-to-day lives are the rejection as they do not fit in the society’s unreal definition of perfection.
“I lost some weight. I fell in love. His mother told me I was too fat for her son. I confronted him with pain in my eyes. He looked straight into them and pretended it was okay. But it wasn’t. And I left him before I could feel his pretence again. I encountered this again and again. Men who were obviously attracted to me, but were so ashamed of it. I became their dirty secret,” she writes.
However, her story doesn’t end here. She started confronting the frightened parts of her mind. Bit by bit. Freckle by freckle. She was able to laugh at her curves, went through an accident, broke her knee, had 6 surgeries in 3 years and became overtly handicapped. However, all this struggle gave her the ability to deal with her pain. And she finally met somebody who loved her not despite her imperfections but with them.
“I now love each scar and each bump. I am working to lose weight, but because I want to be healthy. And I feel sexy for the first time in years. I have found someone. Someone who doesn’t look beyond my infirmity but embraces it. Loves my mind and yes, loves my body. We giggle about its jiggliness, we talk about its strength and we are amazed at its capacity to give and receive pleasure. He has never hesitated to love all of me. And though earlier this would make me feel grateful, now this just acknowledges my own love and allows me to love him without reserve. Life has been a roller coaster and it will continue to be so. But I’m glad of the ride,” writes a hopeful DA.
This story by DA was posted on a Facebook page called individuality and is a part of a project called ‘Body of Stories’ #Bodyofstories. This project is a crowdsourced art project to explore and celebrate the many, varied ways of experiencing the human body.