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This is not a conversation for fannying around, so I’ll cut to the chase. What’s your relationship with your period? Do you dread it? Tolerate it? Accept it as part of your monthly routine? Celebrate it? Behold it as sacred? And why do you feel the way you do about it?
This is one of those topics that finally is becoming less and less taboo as more women embrace the art of honest conversation without shame or, more probably, embarrassment. If the thought of talking about your period or reading about other women’s menstrual cycles gives you the cringe, then this is the post for you – get comfy, grab some chocolate and settle in. I promise it’ll be bloody awesome (pun intended).
A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post about periods and simplifying our monthly visitor on my old blog site, which I have recently reread (and enjoyed, even if I do say so myself, so please, have a read and see what you think). I found that while I still agree with most of it, I have changed my perception around my own cycle. I actually look forward to my bleed time now rather than the irritated tolerance I used to regard it with.
That last sentence may seem a bit “out there” for many people, but yeh, I look forward to it because I understand it; my cycle, our cycles as women. We are not linear beings but cyclical, continuously revolving each and every month (the clue is in the name; monthly cycle). Think of it another way – if we were linear, we’d be flat lining. If you flatline, you’re dead. I’ll stick to cyclical thanks.
Since I had my first ever period, I have recorded it on either my calendar or in my diary; always tracking when I was “due on” but never gave the other 21 days inbetween a second thought. The cycle was 28 days, give or take, with a week each month to bleed and rage and weep and eat and legitimately be allowed to be thoroughly pissed off for no good reason. When I was working as a Senior Manager with 5 men (around 12 years ago), they actually knew when it was my time of the month and had it on the calendar in the Boss’s office – I shit you not. They tended to stay clear at that time as I was “crabbit“. Even now, I’m still uncertain as how how I feel about that…anyway, I digress… the point is, our cycle is not purely one of bleeding and not bleeding. There is so much more to it, and to us, than that. And these days inbetween are just as important to how we function and live, as the days when it’s our “monthlies”.
We don’t just coast long for 3 weeks then BAM! bleeding for a few days and then back to “normal”. You may notice that you feel a little more tired, less tolerant, or freaking awesome and alive at different points in your cycle, yet be completely unaware that this is because of your cycle you are feeling like this. Who knew this already? I know I certainly didn’t until a couple of months ago, when I began charting my cycle daily. It is an exercise I can heartily recommend, as it opened my eyes to the patterns in my own cycle. This is the 3rd month that I have been consciously monitoring my ebbs and flows, moods, energy levels, primal need for chocolate and the release that only really good/creative swearing brings. I have seen where I am full of energy and motivation and actually achieving the tasks on my to-do list compared to when I get very little done but then there is an upswing in the need to chill.the.hell.out and hunker down. Remember further up this post I mentioned that we are cyclical not linear? This is the reason why I was getting so frustrated with my bullet journal (which I no longer use) and why in some weeks, most of my tasks were being carried over into other weeks, not even just carried over onto the next day, I needed a whole other week to catch up!
We flow through a period of birth, life, growth and decay before returning to rebirth again. We have completely different energies at each of the stages, different needs and experiencing different emotions. What we feel or experience at the time of menstruation is the polar opposite to when we are ovulating, for instance. Are you still with me? If you aren’t familiar with the work of Lisa Lister, I urge you to read her books Code Red: Know Your Flow, Unlock Your Super Powers and Create a Bloody Amazing Life. Period. and Love Your Lady Landscape: Trust Your Gut, Care for ‘Down There’ and Reclaim Your Fierce and Feminine SHE Power – she gets right down to the nitty gritty on this stuff which is utterly captivating.
The research I have being doing into our female cycles all break it down into 4 stages, or seasons, just like turning of the year, only over a period of 28 days instead:
Days 1-7 of your cycle, also known as the dark moon phase, menstruation. Its energy is the estrogen producing, feminine yin. The archetype is the Crone. This is recorded from the first day of your bleed, a time to be reflective, withdrawn (anti-social even), passive, to hibernate, focus on rest, self care, food (including chocolate), bubble baths and plenty tea. Not exactly cracking on with all that roller skating in skin tight trousers and partying the tampon adverts want us to be doin, that comes later.
Days 8-14, the waxing moon phase, pre-ovulation. It’s still in the estrogen producing phase but the energy is masculine, yang. The archetype here is the Maiden. This is when we come back up for air, after hibernating. This is all about new and fresh ideas, new beginnings, the rebirth, full of dynamism and enthusiasm. Beware however, although this is pre-ovulation, if you are looking to get pregnant, days 10-16 are generally HOT! (this is due to sperm being able to live in the fallopian tubes for up to seven days after sex, meaning its ready and waiting for that egg to be released at ovulation)
Days 15-21, the full moon phase, ovulation. Remaining masculine in yang energy, now producing progesterone. The archetype is the Mother. Remember the scene from Pretty Woman when Kit was encouraging Vivian as she approaches Edward’s car? “Work it, work it baby, own it”, YAS! This is you right now! In your A Game! You are at your peak, your optimum, getting shit done! This is a very expressive and social time. Get those white jeans and roller blades on and get going. While the phase lasts a week, it is worth noting that actual ovulation is a very short timescale (as in the once the egg is released it can only survuve 24 hours unless fertilised), which coincidentally matches that of the British summer time, blink and you miss it!
Days 22-28, the waning moon phase, pre-menstrual. Feminine yin energy returning, still producing progesterone. The archetype is the wild wise woman. This is time to store reserves of energy, take stock of the previous month, winding down readying for winter. If you suffer, then this is PMS central with the cramps (try raspberry leaf tea. I drank it by the bucket load when I was still pregnant 12 days over my due date, but it is ace for period cramps too). Your emotions may be
temperamental fragile, swinging back and forth and tears may be more readily available. And do you know what? It’s allowed. It’s yours to feel so give permission to yourself to feel all the feels, because they are yours. Own it.
*Disclaimer – I am not a dr and my finding have been based purely on my own personal experiences and upon the research I have conducted myself. Not everyone will have a 28 cycle. Cycles ranging from 24-35 days are equally normal.
Edited to update 04/03/19
Having now been tracking my entire cycle for the past 2 years. I noticed very clearly that my seasons didn’t fit neatly into the 7 day boxes as described above. MY own personal seasonal cycles look more like the following:
Spring – Days 4/5 – Day 10 (Lots of energy and in a generally good mood with plenty of creative juices flowing)
Summer – Day 11 – Day 18 ( I am a Goddess and am getting shit done!)
Autumn – Day 19 – Days 25/26 (Generally around days 25, don’t even speak to me)
Winter – Day 26/27 – Day 3/4 (Day 1 I CRAVE solitude and tend to keep my diary as free as much as is possible).
So how does all this fit in with modern living? It is not exactly practical to take time off from family/work for 3 days every 4 weeks to menstruate. Have you read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant? The women, whose cycles are all in sync both with each others and with the phases of the moon, bug out together in the Red Tent for 3 days, no men, a sacred space for themselves and each other at the new moon, to bleed. It is reported that in Native American tribes, women went to the moon lodge at their moon time and they were revered for the power. This all sounds pretty amazing if you ask me, but anyways, today we don’t have time for a wee 3 days holiday. We have lives and careers and families that we need to get on with, not taking out that sacred time to rest, nourish and gather. We pretend we are linear and we rely on paracetamol. I am no different in that respect; a busy mum with a full time schedule, but I have started making some changes, such as ensuring I don’t plan anything outwith the necessary in my winter week, up the number of bubble baths and thankfully have a Husband who knows when to bring home massive slabs of Galaxy chocolate bars without being asked. The dishes will not always be done, the clean laundry not put away and the general state of the house becomes just that: a state. BUT when that phase moves onto the next, everything is caught up with again and more. It’s all about balance and listening to your body. Slow down when you need rest and go for it when your energy spikes, and plan according to the flexibility you have.
I think if we are honest, menstruation is all hushed up and by some, still referred to as “women’s stuff”, because in the past, that is how we were taught about it. I remember being in Primary 7 (so 11 years old) and having the talk with the nurse. All the girls in our year were in the classroom and the boys were all sent out to play football for the duration. They had no idea what we were being told, truth be told, in hindsight neither did we; plain facts of body function followed by a selection of pads and tampons to look at and a pamphlet to read. And there in lies the problem – excluding the boys, and relying solely on the facts about what happens then, rather than looking at the cycle as a whole and all it encompasses. If they/we knew what we were dealing with, perhaps then it would be far less ignorance around the subject. In particular, a greater understanding from the male species with regards the mood swings and emotional peaks and troughs experienced by their mothers, sisters, friends, girlfriends or wives. Too many men , and to be fair, many women too, completely disrespect women with judgmental and ignorant comments such as “she’s emotional/hysterical/bitchy/insert any other [in]appropriate name” . It would be helpful for those holding such beliefs to understand that feelings are not wrong or inconvenient, they are a barometer of how you experiencing something at any given moment. To experience emotions is human, without them we would be as good as dead. Also, it’s worth noting that as our emotions are heightened around the time of our period, so too is our bullshit detector.
Climbing back down from my soapbox, I say let us connect to and understand our own cycles, celebrate the wonderment of them and what they mean to each of us (it’s taken me almost 25 years to get to this point).
We are women and we are bloody magnificent – yes we are!