For anyone close to me, you know how much I love talking about cycles. Period.
Lets start at the beginning shall we.
At 11 years old, I knew about periods because I 'had' one. I knew it was something that 'happened' to women, but that this flaw shouldn't prevent them from doing 'normal' activities, like an RPM class in white leggings immediately followed by an impromptu dance sesh (thanks Libra).
I remember the first time I bled. Looking into the toilet, I called out to Mum. She showed me how to put a pad on, and that was that. I was the first (that I knew) of my friends who 'had' their period. I kept pads in my school bag, skulking off during class to change it obsessively. I remember being completely self conscious that someone would smell that I had my period, or that it would leak onto my skirt.
Accompanying my monthly bleed was SEVERE cramping and heavy blood loss. I quickly became anaemic, and often skipped school due to nausea, diahorrea and unimaginable pain (imagine being stabbed repeatedly with a blunt knife and having it twisted through your uterus). Props to all you endo women out there you are the real superheros!
I was soon prescribed the contraceptive pill, which works by evening out your hormones so that your body basically thinks it is pregnant. Skip 10 years later, I read this post and made the decision to come off the pill.
And yes, it was horrible. But I promise there is a happy ending.
After 10 years of being hormonally oppressed, SHE came back with a vengeance. The pain was unbearable. I broke out in cystic acne. I cried every 10 minutes (or at least it felt like that). After a round of antibiotics to clear my skin, a laproscopy and 12 months of agony, I was diagnosed with endometriosis.
Endometriosis affects approximately 1 in 10 women, and only recently has the government started funding to endometriosis research. Some workplaces even allow you to take extra time off if you are a woman because of this very reason, which is fucking awesome.
But we still have a long way to go. The reason why I don’t go around telling the world that I am bleeding is because I have been conditioned to believe that it will make other people uncomfortable. That if people knew I had my period, they would think differently of me.
This lack of appreciation for women's' natural cycles reflects a deeper, entrenched story that negates the feminine and worships the masculine. We live in a society so focussed on constantly doing, achieving, succeeding and moving forward that the concept of slowing down to take stock of the last month is seen to be weak, or lazy, or perhaps even a waste of time.
One of the reasons why I am so passionate about connecting with the menstrual cycle is because of the power I have reclaimed through understanding these hormonal changes throughout the month.
However, there is a common misconception that a woman's menstrual cycle is limited to the physical processes of menstruation and ovulation. But there is so much more to experience through the subtle shifts in hormones. These are loosely grouped into four different phases or 'seasons'.
Menstruation // Winter - Day 1 - Day 7
Pre-Ovulation // Spring - Day 8 - Day 13
Ovulation // Summer - Day 14 - Day 21
Pre-Menstrual // Autumn - Day 22 - 27
Being in tune with the weekly shifts in my physical appearance, mental and emotional capacities (or 'super powers') has not only revolutionised my self-worth, but has impacted positively upon my relationships in a way I could not have known (more on this in the next blog post).
I feel more connected to my intuition, and have developed a deep reverence for the power of the feminine. I have even come to eagerly anticipate my menstrual phase, which for someone who has always had pain at this time is definitely a break through!
Right now I am in the ‘Autumn’ phase of my cycle. This is the phase leading up to menstruation, where we are transitioning to the point of lowest energy in our cycle. Like Autumn, this phase is all about letting go, and reaping the fruits of our labour planted through the seeds in our Spring and Summer phases.
I can recall times during this phase, particularly on days 24 and 25, where I am completely beside myself with anger and frustration over the most dumb hick-ups. Usually this is followed by a turbulent array of tears, and grief, often about nothing in particular. I also become increasingly aware of irritating or jarring noises, and catch myself thinking everyone around me is an incapable idiot.
Hormonally, women experience a decreases in oestrogen and progesterone at this time, which scientifically explains why we can sometimes feel like a crazy bitch. The ability to do and be everything to everyone in my inner Summer starts to wane, and I have less patience for people than I normally do. If I don't consciously slow down, I feel easily overwhelmed.
I've come to the stage where, I sit back and literally laugh at how ridiculous some of the internal mind chatter I get around this time. The other day I was pissed off because the guy next to me at yoga was breathing to loudly…
During this phase leading up to menstruation, I also find myself able to extrapolate the most RANDOM connections, which is extremely useful for creative projects like writing or making art. I turn into a mother-fucking poet from Day 23 - 25, which is also great for working through the crazy emotional roller-coaster that can sometimes be part of this phase.
Have you ever wanted to start a meditation practice, but always put it off or couldn’t stick to a routine? I have found personally that the creative phase is the best time to start a meditation practice. As the right and left brains start to come together (in preparation for your #sorceress powers during menstruation) I crave space and silence from the bustling, doing energy of the world (especially if people have been breathing too loudly around me hahaha).
Anything that you have consciously or unconsciously being avoiding will rear its head during this phase. Beware not to take ACTION on anything too outrageous during this phase. I find I want to quit my job, run away to India, cut all my hair off, donate all my clothes to charity and tell every person exactly how I feel about them. At the same time.
What doesn't work so well during this phase is logical or structural thinking or starting new projects. Instead of feeling frustrated or resisting these abilities, I try to embrace my monkey mind by creating art, writing poetry and magnificent passages of prose, or delving deeper into a meditative practice.
Knowing this phase is only around for a while, and will return again the next month also helps when it’s a particularly emotional time. This 'Autumn' season of is all about letting go and creating space for the new, which can sometimes be painful and difficult.
Here are some tips for your inner Autumn // pre-menstrual // C R E A T I V E phase:
Play out the story. What is triggering you right now? Feel the emotion in your body and let it out. It might be grief, anger, frustration, sadness. Then give voice to the story: "I am making up a story in my head that [insert person] is holding a grudge against me and that is why they did [insert situation]". I often write it all down and read it back to see whether there is some truth in it. Or laugh at how ridiculous I sound! And then forgive. Always, always forgive yourself. You are only human!
AUTUMN LISTS - This is where I write down everything that is on my to do list which feels overwhelming to tackle right now. Everything from errands, to difficult conversations I need to have, to washing my car, to cutting my hair off. If you get that urge to chuck everything out, I try putting it all into bags, and going through it during your inner Spring (in the past I have prematurely chucked out stuff and later regretted it because of cray cray autumn feels). I then look back at this list in my inner Spring and start prioritising the important things, because during my Autumn it all feels important!
Physically S L O W D O W N. I usually go to yoga before work, so during my Autumn I might switch it up and go after work to give myself the sleep in. I also try to consciously walk slower, feeling my feet on the ground, my hips moving and my breath entering and exiting my lungs.
Keep exercising. I struggle with this because I really look forward to bleeding and so I tend to slow down too much. Sweating it out really helps to make space in the body and mind. Go to the sauna, run, RPM, hot yoga.
YIN YOGA - Just. Do. It. All the time, but especially during this phase.
Clean and clear your space - I change my bed sheets, wash the floors, light incense, smudge sage and put everything in its place. Creating space during this time in my environment really helps me stay centred and feel spacious.
If this is a topic you would love to read more about, please comment or email me with any questions and I'll do my best to answer them in another post!