#wombwisdom Listening to your body and honouring your inner seasons to help you reclaim your power.
My First Period
My first period was when I was about 12 years old and it wasn't a pleasant experience, like for many young women. I was in America on holiday with my biological father, my brother, my sister, my uncle who lives in America with his wife and his two children, my cousins. I'm very close with my mum and at this point, my parents had been divorced for a few years and I didn't have the best relationship with my Father. the whole holiday I had been yearning for a vast open space of water whether that be a beach or a swimming pool I didn't care I just felt the need to escape this confined space of the RV and being a water baby and a Cancerian, I have always loved water and swimming, it makes me feel so relaxed and at ease and free and make my mind can be free as well. So every day of this holiday, I had been asking if we could go swimming and the answer was always no. Then one morning my Father came to me and he seemed really excited and he told me we were going swimming and then I felt instant doom anxiety and fear. I'd already been feeling that as I had realised that I was experiencing my very first period.
My very first period and we were going to go swimming. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed and didn't want to tell my Father that I had come on my period and didn't want to come swimming. I couldn't think of any reasonable excuse not to go swimming as I'd been asking the whole holiday if we could go swimming. Without my mother there I had to ask my older sister, who I had been arguing with most of the holiday, what to do. My sister handed me a tampon without an applicator and I looked at it with dread as I had no idea what to do with it.
From that point on there was a lot of fear, shame and stress around my period. As a teenager I always struggled with my periods. I had very heavy periods and they were extremely painful. I would quite often end up on the bathroom floor at school being sick because I was in so much pain, or passing out in lessons. It was starting to affect my daily life so I went to the doctor's. At a very young age before I'd even been sexually active I was put on the contraceptive pill to help manage my hormones and the pain and fatigue that came with my periods. At the time there was very little information given to me about the contraceptive pill, just that it would help me manage the pain I was experiencing. For such a long time I resented my periods and my menstrual cycle.
Now let's fast forward almost 10 years. I had finished University, I was in a full time job, on the outside I was happy, on the inside I was last alone and broken. Unhealed trauma was eating me up. My way of coping? not eating, over exercising, overworking, I had developed an eating disorder. I lost a huge amount of weight, I was fatigued, in pain and feeling anxious, I hit complete Burnout. I had to go to hospital and take some significant time off work. At the time I didn't realise I had an eating disorder. I couldn't understand or comprehend why I was losing so much weight. I had to move back in with my parents and my mum forced me to go to the doctor's. The doctors did not identify that I was struggling with my mental health and continued to do physical examinations to understand why I was losing so much weight. Due to being so underweight I wasn't having periods; known as amenorrhea.
I was so lucky to eventually get the help that I needed to recover, to heal, to develop, to grow, to overcome the trauma and the eating disorder and all the unhelpful coping mechanisms that I was using. I managed to gain weight however received little support in how I could support my physical health. I was managing my mental health a lot better, having less panic attacks, feeling more able to socialise, but I was still in chronic pain and I still wasn't having my periods. I was diagnosed with m.e and fibromyalgia but the doctors did not seem concerned that I wasn't having any periods.
Reclaiming the Power of My Menstrual Cycle
It had been 4 years since I'd recovered from an eating disorder and had a healthy BMI and better mental health but my period still hadn't returned, I felt hopeless. The thing that I once resented, I now missed. I didn't feel like a woman, I felt that I'd lost my sexuality, I felt out of control with my hormones, and doctors just wanted to put me on medication to fix the problem. I finally sought help through complementary therapies and started receiving acupuncture from the beautiful Kimberly shepherd an acupuncturist at life and lemons clinic in Sheffield. A few sessions with her and my periods returned. It was a miracle, I wanted to celebrate. Not only did she use her skills in acupuncture but also nutrition and gave me holistic support, woman to woman. She shared with me how my emotional experience could be impacting my physical experience. She guided me and offered me her love, her support, and her understanding. I felt held and heard as a woman for the first time in a very long time. I also began seed cycling on her advice to help me regulate my periods. You can find more information about this here.
After some time of reclaiming my menstrual cycle, I met my partner. Knowing that I did not want to fall pregnant, I sought advice from GPs, who again instantly wanted to prescribe me a contraceptive pill. I explained to them that having a period was my way of understanding my body and knowing that it was healthy. I did not want to have a synthetic period that had been created by unnatural hormones that hadn’t been created by me. Fear of slipping back into eating disorder tendencies, I knew that if I did not have a period, I would have to get help and that it would be a good indicator that I had lost weight or wasn’t doing too well. The doctors couldn’t comprehend why I wanted to be in control of my own body and not just take the pill.
Finding the Right Contraception for You
In the end, we settled on trying the copper coil (non-hormonal). I had some friends who had chosen the same method and they highly recommended it. I gave it a go. I was told that I could experience heavier periods for up to 6 month. But everyone’s experience of pain is subjective and so I did not realise that the immense amount of pain that I was in was not normal, that the enormous amount of pain that I was in, was not normal. Because I was told I would be in pain and have heavier periods for up to 6 months, I stuck with it. I was passing out regularly, I was working, laying down on a hard floor, dosed up with pain killers and a hot water bottle on my back and on my tummy. I was so fatigued I could barely stand. I told myself I would stick it out for 6 months at least as it might ease as they said it could be like that for 6 months. I became more and more sick. I went to the doctors as I could barely walk or stand. They did some blood tests and they found that my iron levels were extremely low due to the amount of blood I had been losing on my periods and that was what was causing me to be so fatigued.
Understanding Your Body
I spoke to my acupuncturist Kim, and she explained that because I have fibromyalgia, my body could be a lot more sensitive compared to other people. That my body responds to pain differently and it will respond to foreign objects in the body differently and that it was likely that my body was trying to reject the coil. Why hadn’t a medical professional told me this before I got it? It would have saved me almost 1 year of pain and illness.
I now realise that no contraception is right for me. Why? Because my sensitive, primal body was never meant to experience it. I now use more natural forms of contraception and I listen to my body. Everyone has to do what feels right for them and that might not necessarily be what the doctor prescribes.
I am now more in touch with my body and can honour and respect it without guilt. For every person with a womb, I think it is crucial that they are aware of their inner seasons: Winter: Menstruation (bleed) may need more sleep, deeper rest, more intake of calories for energy and root veggies for grounding. Time to turn inwards and reconnect to the self.
Spring: Follicular phase, Oestrogen peak, time for renewal, inspiration and new ideas Summer: Ovulation phase, testosterone produced, more energy, time for playful activity and socialising and ideas coming into fruition. Lighter foods such as salads.
Autumn: Luteal phase, progesterone peak, reflective period, preparing for winter phase.
In our patriarchal society these inner seasons are not respected or acknowledged. We are pressured to work against our energy instead of with it. We are expected to perform at our optimum even when our bodies are asking us to slow down and rest. We don’t listen to the inner whispers of our body and this can lead to burnout.
I invite you to pay more attention to your menstrual cycle and see when your energy is at its optimum and when it's at its lowest. There are some really easy apps to use to track this such as clue. Next time you feel you are in you winter phase, ask yourself
How can I give myself permission to rest?
What does my body need?
How can I offer myself that?
This is how we reclaim our power, because nothing in nature blooms all year round and neither do we. - unknown
Flow with your inner seasons and not against them. When you push through, you hit burnout, when you flow with, and don’t shame yourself for resting in your winter phase, you actually have more energy, inspiration, excitement in your summer phase.
To find out more about this, listen to the womb wisdom episode of the shine podcast here.
I am so grateful that I have created a life where I can listen to my body and honour its needs and structure my days, weeks and months so that I am moving with my natural energy and not against it. Curious about how you can do the same? Book a connection call with me here.
Here is a reminder to listen to your body and honour it. There is no shame in needing rest, that is a conditioned belief constructed by society, we can choose not to trust in it and form our own more empowering beliefs. Do what feels right for you, rebel against the norm.
Sending You Love, Light, and Healing, Stephie Be x