I got my period the very day we moved from our home in London to the South Coast. I was 13. Our new loo’s door had that old slippery paint that you could peel off in satisfying strips. As I sat there feeling proud of the stain in my knickers I tore off a cream strip on the back of the door that over many toilet trips would evolve into a child sized dinosaur shaped absence of paint. There was a bumper pack of industrial sized sanitary towels floating around, looking for its own spot in our new home, so I helped myself, a bubble in my lungs. It was happening to me! To me! We hadn’t unpacked all the pots and pans and plates so we went to the beach and had fish and chips from Harry Ramsdens. I can lucidly recall splashing the vinegar over my chips, a smile on my face about my secret, but I can’t remember telling my mum, or my Aunty, or my sister, who were there with me, or what it was like to tell them.
Recently at a gathering for another young women who had had her first bleed we shared our stories of beginning to menstruate. I couldn’t believe how many people’s first bleeding happened on significant day – a big move, first day of high school, a huge accident. It seemed startling to me – why don’t we know more about this?
And I guess it’s because we don’t talk about bleeding. We don’t share info about our cycles. We still live under the shame and female disempowerment that began in the dark ages.
There are a few things I want to write about, but actually sit on for AGES because I can’t bear how perfectly they fit into the “stereotypical hippy” model. This is one of those. But I have sucked it up and written it anyway because whilst on the surface this just might just seem like more hippy shizzle, this is actually something that is crucial for womanhood.
I truly believe that our menstrual cycles are a feminist issue. There is so much shame around our bleeding and such a humoungous lack of knowledge. There has been a systematic dismantling of women’s knowledge of their bodies for many centuries. We’ve progressed in so many areas in recent years but our bleeding has remained in a dark, dusty corner – talk of our moon cycles seems to evoke cries of “wiiiiiitch”…
I think we are all ready to move out of that oppressive stage.
I also want to acknowledge those women who don’t have wombs or who don’t bleed, who don’t experience a menstrual cycle. I want to be sensitive to you. And I want to honour the bodies that bleed. If you can be a part of this conversation, I welcome you totally. I don’t think it’s very easy, in fact, it’s tricky, it’s messy, we are (certainly I am) figuring much of this out through this exact kind of conversation.
Here are 7 ways to bleed well:
I have only just started charting (using Moon Dreams Diary which is kinda meant for younger women but I am finding awesome!) but am already able to associate things I feel with my menstrual cycle. For example, I am sure I get cramping when I ovulate. Much of the medical profession deny this is possible but I know soooooo many women now who experience this.
I can also pre-empt my rage days, try my hardest to get some time to de-rage/ give expression and validation to all the things I’m feeling. I am learning that these hormonal mood swings are not inherently bad, but that within them there is a power that is often dormant or even medicated. (My mood swings were “solved” by a decade on the pill – something I now wouldn’t recommend ever. See video below)
2- Meet your needs
The cool thing is, as you chart you will discover more about what you need. You will find that on days 15-17 (or whatever) you need to have a lot of reflecting time. You’ll know that a couple of days before you bleed you get an intense aching back that is only received with walking, so you mark out time for big walks. For people with really regular cycles, you’ll even be able to book family and friends in to help you out on days where you need time to vent alone. The more you understand your body you will be able to respond to it and make room for your needs.
3- Add ritual to your moon cycle
I’m trying to build more ritual into my cycle, this is about creating a new mindset around mensturation, to make room in our lives for it, to honour the role it plays….