Op-Ed
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Op-Ed

Stress, Periods, & Cycles

Isn’t stress annoying?

Photo by Timothy Dykes on Unsplash

I allow it to take hold of me far more often than I’d like. As someone that meditates twice daily, it does not escape me that this is the exact purpose for which I practice. Yet, this nagging feeling of grumbling responsibility seems to win every time.

I hear myself blaming others for my stress. I correct those thoughts with reasons for how I am ultimately the one causing it, but that just makes me want to go sleep it off. “If I’m doing so poorly, maybe I should just go to sleep and wake up fresh”. There are times when it is just a symptom of lethargy, this sensation that the walls are closing in on me. Of course, these feelings can coincide with my period (which is, in fact, due here in a couple of days). So maybe that’s what I’d like to talk about.

Every month, women menstruate. Maybe some have more sporadic cycles, maybe some even take a pill that limits them to only having four periods a year. Regardless, its still something we grow up knowing about. We become familiar with those changes in our bodies and we learn to just get through it. Most of the time we act like nothing is happening even if our uterus is screaming as it sheds away. It causes symptoms like, cramping, breast tenderness, back pain, and of course we seem incredibly emotional. I am not one that thinks that we have to talk about these things all the time, but it is obviously something men will hardly know anything about. For women, it is that connection we have with nature and it allows us to understand and experience the cycles of life.

I’ve met a lot of guys that think periods are a “woman’s issue”. I can understand that, I used to get really uncomfortable about the idea of bleeding for multiple days. In fact, as a girl, I had more of an issue with blood than one might imagine, but I’m not so interested in the symptoms as I am in our ability to cope with them in a very private way. Why do women lie so much? Why do we pretend it isn’t excruciating pain? Some of the worst cramps I’ve ever experienced in my life, accompanied by bloating, headaches, sharp pains and this happens every month! The only reason it is a problem is because life has to keep going, because this is a woman’s issue. She is the one that has to carry the burden and not disrupt other people with this news of a regularly scheduled event.

I’m not saying we need to be giving out pity coins for women on their period, but I do think there is a better way that we could live that allows this cycle work better than a 5 day, 40-hour work week. Instead, women manipulate their hormones with birth control, and I have to wonder what this does to their connection with the body. They enter the world of flat-line hormones that men experience. I should say, I think men have their own cycles we just aren’t as attuned to so well. From the brief reading I did to find out, it seems men begin the day with a higher level of testosterone than what they have at the end of the day. This works well with starting the day with work and then relaxing by evening time. No big deal, and certainly no cramping I hope.

The moon’s waxing and waning phases map on to the length of time it takes for the average woman to complete a monthly cycle. Naturally, this beautiful night sky installation inspires awe, while also informing us about our relationship with it. We built calendars around the monthly lunar cycles, and there are observed differences in animal behavior when the moon is full versus when it there is a new moon. This relationship between humans and nature is slowly dissolving as we do everything we can to deny our animal side.

I should add, a lot of this journal was written out of stress and feeling like people have expectations that I can’t meet right now. I imagine my hormones are causing me to feel extra sensitive about it. It feels like I can’t keep up with all the things life needs from me right now. I think about this practice of manipulating periods with hormonal birth control pretty often. I’m happy with feeling life deeply and when it happens to me as opposed to trying to exert control over it.

Originally written in Collective Journaling at The Stoa

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