Menstrual Matters and me…

OK, so the Olympics is on and I’ve been staying up late every night whilst also trying to prepare for the Menstrual Matters website launch in September… So, please forgive me for opting for a slightly more ‘free form’ blog post this week! [P.S. Let’s hear it for Fu Yuanhui for smashing the menstruation taboo on top of winning an Olympic medal:]

Recently, a few people have been asking who is behind the Menstrual Matters blog series: Some out of sheer curiosity, and others because they want to know if they can trust the content… So, I thought I’d better tell you a bit about myself and how this project came into being.

Name: Sally King.

Occupation: I’m the founder of Menstrual Matters- an awareness raising information hub about the relationship between the menstrual cycle (and hormonal medication) and chronic health issues; specifically anxiety, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, migraine, and chronic fatigue.

Location: London, UK.

Menstrual Motivation: Well, I have a 21-day menstrual cycle so I guess I’ve always been slightly more concerned about this miracle of nature than most people.

However, in 2012, I started experiencing severe nausea and vomiting symptoms which took over 2 years of visits to the GP, and a misdiagnosis of an anxiety disorder, before I realised that the symptoms were caused by my menstrual cycle:

I searched for information about 21-day cycles, and nausea/ vomiting as symptoms of PMS and found very little (either online or in medical textbooks). So I decided to do some research in my spare time…

Fast forward a few years, and I am now working on this topic full time (self funded- using my life savings!) with the aim of carving out a new career for myself, whilst helping people to better understand and manage their chronic health issues.

Menstrual qualifications: I’m not a doctor! I’m actually a social scientist by training (anthropology), with a master’s degree in research methods and statistics.

I spent 10 years working in human rights organisations, developing research reports and learning resources around various topics including gender inequality, climate change, social enterprise, and leadership development.

I have now been researching the menstrual cycle and associated health issues for the past four years, collaborating with clinical consultants and healthcare organisations, to ensure that Menstrual Matters content is up to date and endorsed by medical experts.

2diagnosis-murder

Menstrual musings: I have now spoken to over 200 people about their menstrual cycle (and/ or hormonal medication), and general health. Nearly every person, at least 98%, had a tale to tell!

Even the people who start off by saying “I’ve actually been very lucky, you know…”. Usually, within 5 minutes, they will add something like, “Well, except for those three years when I suffered from terrible migraines”, or “I did get awful depression on one pill but then changed to another after a year and was absolutely fine…”.

There’s a lot of personal, and professional, denial of hormone-related symptoms. This is understandable since the menstrual cycle, in particular, has been categorised as a weakness (and worse) for at least 3000 years.

“Yes dear, of course I believe you’re ill…” Frans Van Mieris, ‘The Doctor's Visit’, 1657.
“Yes dear, of course I believe you’re ill…” Frans Van Mieris, ‘The Doctor’s Visit’, 1657.

Menstrual memories: Oh, but there are so many! Here is just my favourite one. A few years ago I was lucky enough to be on a work trip in Shinyanga, Tanzania. One weekend, we were able to drive to the nearby Serengeti National Park. I was so excited, it was just five of us in a 4x4 jeep, with a local colleague acting as a guide.

We got up before dawn and entered the park. Within just a couple of hours we had seen elephants, crocodiles, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest… And several prides of lions. It was amazing!

Mingling with the locals…

Then my period started. We were in the middle of nowhere, I was the only woman, I had no sanitary or painkiller supplies with me, not even a tissue. Nooooo!

I subtly informed one of my colleagues about my misfortune. He looked a bit shocked, not because of the menstrual taboo, but because he was thinking the same thing as me, “Is it wise to go to the toilet on your period, in the open, surrounded by lions?” I was also a bit concerned about how to deal with all the blood without tissues, right next to a car full of male colleagues.

However, just as I was wondering how I was going to get out of this tricky situation, the most amazing thing happened. Out of nowhere, we spotted a small building. I asked if we could drive over to it, thinking that I might at least be able to hide behind it as I sorted myself out.

As we approached the building, I could hardly believe my eyes. It was a toilet. A proper one! With a flush, and beautiful, wonderful, toilet paper wafting on the breeze… Salvation.

Serengeti_loo
My favourite toilet in the world. It turns out we were near a landing strip for luxury holiday tours… Phew.

Menstrual miscellany: I’m a huge menstrual cup fan, particularly the Mooncup (although, other brands are also available). It ticks so many boxes (ahem)… It’s an ethical (in some cases), environmentally positive, cheap (when compared to disposable options), empowering, informative, and effective product. What’s not to like?

I’m also a big fan of using a healthy vegetarian diet and regular exercise to manage my mood, energy levels, hormone balance, and related symptoms. I feel it’s better to try to solve the cause of the problem, rather than taking medication to simply treat the symptoms.

Next week!

Sex… Chromosomes and hormones.


Originally published at menstrual-matters.com.