Period pains at ovulation. Period pains before my period. Bleeding when I wasn’t on my period and mother of all period pains on my actual period: not to mention the mood swings.
I was 26yrs old and displaying all the symptoms my Mum had, had at that age; my Mum who went on to have cysts, fortnightly migraine periods, operations and a few years ago she ended it all with a hysterectomy.
One particularly painful ovulation an unimpressed male GP told me “We can have pains at ovulation’ to which I inquired, “We?” “Yes,” he responded, as if I were stupid “‘We’ the human race.” I left the room and promptly burst into tears.
Well-meaning friends tried to shove various drugs on me, but I couldn’t: I couldn’t work out how that could be a solution now and for the next 30 odd years. For months doctors prodded, poked and shoved many things up inside me, including their rubber-gloved hands, all to no avail. Their concluding suggestion was to go on the pill. That had not worked for my Mum, I did not want to go down that path. Still there was a niggling question in me: if this is something natural how can something so fake be a solution?
One insanely painful and particularly emotional pre-period found me writhing on the floor for hours trying to find comfort. I picked up the Brighton Festival brochure that included a day workshop: Creativity and your Menstrual Cycle. It sounded incredibly hippy, but I was desperate.
I sat with women who had endometriosis, no periods, suicidal thoughts with PMS, women desperate to conceive, peri-menopausal women and women who loved their cycles and just wanted to learn more. Everyone had their own story. The workshop was run by Red School who taught us about the menstrual cycle on a practical, physical and emotional level and to how to use it to support our creative process. They taught us about Menstrual Cycle Awareness: their shared archetypical story and knowledge, contained all of ours.
Over the next year, with no drugs whatsoever, I completely rid myself of my pains and debilitating emotions. It was a series of small life changes.
Tiny details in my diet:
- Post-bleed and ovulation – fine for pizza and pasta, the rest of the cycle, not so much.
- Pre-menstrually – green food with a green food side.
- Just before a bleed – drink one glass of wine max or completely regret it.
Tiny changes in my sex life:
- Day 17 I am most likely to make tenuous contact with exes! Being aware can either prevent it or at least tone it down.
- Days 23-25 always use a condom with male partners – avoids the painful reaction to his sperm, or immediately wash afterwards with female partners. Rest of the month is fine (something to do with alkaline and acid reactions apparently: fascinating!).
Tiny changes in my work as an Opera Singer:
- Days 25 onwards my range actually reduces a whole tone (takes the top Bb off).
- Days 28-5 I need a longer warm up time.
- Do not book a gig on crossover days if at all possible – performances can be a little unhinged.
- Days 1-7 I am more likely to be nervous before a performance so should arrive for the get-in earlier.
Tiny changes in my sleep:
- day 20 onwards I am allowed to do it for longer.
This is a snippet of my personal list, it is not the same for every woman. So, by discovering my own advice list I want to just write it again: with no drugs whatsoever, I completely rid myself of my pains and debilitating emotions.
But not just that: I also learnt how to use my whole menstrual cycle to my advantage. Need a clear out? Use the no-nonsense pre-menstrum. Need to be super productive? That’ll be ovulation. Need new ideas for a project? Have a look at pre-ovulation. Not sure about a decision? Bleed on it! Over the last eight years I have used this knowledge of Menstrual Cycle Awareness to alter small things in my life. I communicate my cycle needs with friends, family and colleagues (it doesn’t need to be explicit) and now I can harness the power of each part of my cycle to my advantage, and gosh does it make for a strong effective woman!
For the last four years I have been in a relationship with a woman, two women cycling around can make for a forceful relationship: I completely believe that without Menstrual Cycle Awareness we wouldn’t have lasted. Our shared knowledge and experience creates a respectful and deeply insightful partnership. I often make sure that both of us have ‘bled on’ any major decisions we make – this way we are more likely to spot any potential problems before we make any final choices.
I am so much more in control of my mind, body and emotions than I was eight years ago. I have learnt the Art of Menstruality – it’s completely addictive and there’s definitely no going back!