My Menstrual Cycle Helps Me Connect With Myself
I’m not sure why exactly, but in my first years of womanhood, I was deadly ashamed of my period.
Maybe it was the TV ads that impacted my idea of menstruation? I mean those clips selling pads and tampons, claiming they’d make your period “discreet.” Because, you know — nobody should be aware you have it. Menstruation was presented as something to be embarrassed about.
Or maybe it was the silly kid talk at school, shaming female physiology without any awareness of the consequences?
To this day, I distinctly remember a boy in secondary school informing me that all the blood and pieces of flesh coming out of me as I menstruated were gross. My teenage mind took note not to talk about my period to men, for they’d consider me repelling.
I could tell dozens of stories like these to look for the causes of my embarrassment around menstruation.
And I think this is the experience of many — if not most — women.
Luckily, I reached a point when I can treat my menstrual cycle not only as natural but also as a way to connect with myself. The more attention I pay to my period and cycle, the more powerful insights I find.
I think that, regardless of what we were told, we should treat the feminine side of our nature as sacred, rather than shameful.
In the times when most people live in separation from nature, the menstrual cycle is one of the few things which connect me to it.
It’s long and slow enough to notice the distinct phases my body goes through. But it’s also short and quick enough to observe its repetitiveness every month. This allows me to recognize the amazing workings of biology that regulate the rhythm of my life.
The Greek root of the words ‘Moon,’ ‘month’ and ‘menstruation’ is the same: mene. In some cultures, women’s menstrual cycle used to be seen as closely related to the lunar month, because the two are so similar in length and phases.
While the lunar month is approximately 29.5 days, researchers found that the global average length of a menstrual cycle is 29 days. Some studies even claim that women “synch” their cycles with the Moon, which means they tend to menstruate around the new moon and ovulate with the full moon. Other studies deny any correlation between the lunar and menstrual cycle.
Regardless of the science, I find comfort in recognizing that the rhythm of my cycle has similarities to something much larger than myself — the eternal dance of the Moon, Sun and the Earth. It’s not just the similar length of the two, but also the events in them that seem analogical.
Just like the Moon gets bigger and bigger on the night sky, so does an egg in my ovary. Then comes the culmination, when the Moon reaches its fullest shape and my body becomes fertile, holding the potential to create a new life. Then, as the Moon slowly dies, so does my egg cell. In the period of the darkness, my body discharges and purifies, getting rid of what’s no longer necessary.
Then, the whole process repeats itself. All of this is regulated by forces that are far beyond my humble understanding.
I’m well aware that some people may regard such perception of my menstrual cycle as “new age bullshit.” That’s fine with me. All I know is that I prefer to look at my period and the rhythm around it as natural and beautiful — rather than dirty and gross.
On top of that, giving my cycle the attention it deserves makes me more aware of my body as a whole.
Observing how hormones regulate my physiology throughout the month provides knowledge about my fertile days, digestion patterns and a general sense of wellbeing.
On one hand, this can be treated as practical information. If I ever decide to use fertility awareness as a contraceptive method, I’m already on the right track. I know what cervical fluid appears at which point of the month and how to recognize that I’m ovulating. I’m also informed as to what foods to eat when and what activities to plan for respective phases of my cycle.
But paying attention to the monthly changes in my body is so much more than just practical self-care hints.
On the psychological and spiritual level, it gives me a very intimate connection with myself. For example, I used to believe that certain bodily processes were, by definition, impossible to notice. But since I started consciously experiencing pain as my ovulation occurs, I understood that my perceptual capacity is so much greater than I ever imagined.
I realized I have a huge potential to refine my awareness of myself. This includes my bodily awareness, too. If completely unconscious, biological events like ovulation can be felt — then what else is possible to experience?
Paying close, loving attention to my cycle also allows me to cultivate a positive body image. For example, I realized how my belly swells just before my period when there’s more water in my system. Since then, I stopped obsessing about the need to have a flat stomach in order to feel attractive.
I realized that the way I look always fluctuates. It isn’t wise to get attached to my body’s reflection in the mirror on any given day.
The same goes for observing my cervical fluid and how it changes throughout the month. I used to think of vaginal discharge as disgusting to the point of believing I shouldn’t have it. Now, seeing that it goes through the same phases every month helps me normalize it and love it as part of who I am.
I recognize that all the cyclical changes I’m seeing derive from my natural design. Therefore, they can’t be dirty or gross. They remind me of the visceral, raw part of where I come from as a human being.
For this, I intend to treat my menstrual cycle as sacred.
I hope we can normalize the conversation around our periods, fertility, menstrual cycles and female bodies in general. As a culture, we already know a lot about female sexuality and physiology.
Yet, in the public sphere, we still deny so much of what we know.
We deny it by advertising womanhood as something that’s found in a flawless, smooth and thin body. We treat our periods as something dirty which should be dealt with discreetly. We deny ourselves the right to perceive our bodies as perfect the way they are — bleeding, covered with hair and fat, sweating or displaying other “aberrations” from what we came to consider standard.
The problem is that our “standard” often contradicts the very nature of our bodies. Treating menstruation as shameful is just one expression of this. There are many other claims society makes on how the female body should be treated.
Luckily, there are also various ways to embrace our bodies as they are. Recently, my way has been to acknowledge my menstrual cycle with full attention and love. By doing that, I’m giving myself what society never provided — the unconditional acceptance of my female body, exactly the way it is.
I hope you can give it to yourself, too.