This week I got in touch with my friend Karly, for a good, old-fashioned period chat. We spoke candidly about what it’s like to be someone who bleeds, how we cope with PMS and how the woo-woo approach to dealing with premenstrual anxiety doesn’t have to be all “peace, love and far out dude…”.
A heavy bleeder
Karly shared her period experience with me, in that she has always been a heavy bleeder. She said she was always the one to have leakages and dramas because of her heavy flow, which lead her to using the contraceptive pill in an attempt to slow things down. She flitted from one form of contraceptive to another, until she decided that the negative side effects she experienced were not worth it. Enough was enough.
Since stopping the pill, Karly told me her periods have been extremely heavy. Cycle days 1 and 2 were so bad that she felt unable to leave the house. But since she has become more in tune with her cycle, she has found that, while still heavy, her periods have become more manageable.
We each talked about our contraceptive experiences and Karly told me that she had used the contraceptive implant as a means to stop her periods altogether. Unfortunately for her, this didn’t exactly work out as planned. Instead of stopping her periods, the implant meant her periods were irregular and almost impossible to track. Karly also noted that her moods were affected in the time she used the contraceptive implant and in the end she had it removed.
I spoke to her about my experience using the pill injection. My periods stopped altogether in the time I used this kind of contraceptive. Sounds great, right? Except I didn’t feel like it was. I see my period as a sign of health, and to not have one didn’t feel right to me.
For me, it has to be Mooncup.
Mooncup is an economical, eco-friendly alternative to tampons and pads. It’s my all-time favourite period product and it totally changed the way I feel about that time of the month.
the emotional side of your cycle
Being a heavy bleeder had always been a struggle for Karly, but one other thing she found difficult was the emotional side of her cycle. “I think it’s something that I never expected. I knew people got mood swings (like, oh you’ve got PMS because you’re moody blah blah blah) but I didn’t expect it on the scale I was getting it. I didn’t even realise it was my hormones that were doing it to me. I’ve been diagnosed with anxiety and depression… realistically, that was hormonal”.
Karly told me how difficult it had been to navigate her moods. She would feel up and down, not knowing whether she was coming or going. She didn’t fully understand the impact her cycle could have on her moods and behaviour.
We spoke about how getting to grips with the cycle and understanding how your moods are affected can give you a sense of freedom. Karly told me ” knowing what I know now, I can see when I’m gonna have more energy and a happier mood, when I’m gonna be more tired, when I need to be more patient with myself”. This kind of understanding of her cycle means she can navigate it with way more ease, and less confusion than she used to.
In learning how her cycle affects her emotionally, Karly has learned to differentiate her sense of self from her hormones. While she once thought that she was anxious and depressive – she now understands that sometimes her hormones have her feeling this way, but it does not define her as a person.
We talked about how not understanding how your cycle affects your moods, can leave you with a sense of identity crisis. When you’re bouncing about from being happy, to depressed, to anxious to carefree – it can leave you asking “who am I?”. Which version of myself is the real me?
coping strategies for pms
Talking about PMS and the anxiety, mood swings and feelings of low mood that can come with it, is something that I do more and more these days. Since I discovered how deep the menstrual cycle goes, I’ve been hell-bent on sharing as much information as I can with other people who experience the same thing. I asked Karly what coping mechanisms she has in place for when the PMS moods hit.
“Breathing has been a massive, massive help for me”. Breathing exercises are great because they can be done anywhere with no equipment. If you’re out and about and you start to feel anxious, you can start a breathing exercise and no one will notice. Once you’ve taken a few deep breaths it’s then easier to collect your thoughts and rationalise your feelings.
On the other hand, my personal approach to finding some calm during PMS week is through guided meditation. Meditation really just requires you to sit quietly and calmly and to clear your mind of any thoughts. Anytime you notice you’re thinking, you simply push the thought away and refocus on your breath.
Another way Karly copes with her PMS is through yoga, and this is also something I am an acvoacte for. Yoga can be so calming. Just setting aside a little time each day to do something for yourself can really help reduce stress.
I know what you’re thinking. Breathing, meditation, yoga – doesn’t this all sound a little bit woo-woo?
the woo-woo approach to pms
One thing me and Karly spoke in depth about, was the idea that these kind of stress-relief strategies are all a bit “hippy-dippy”. For sure, yoga and meditation are spiritual practices – but that doesn’t mean you have to be the kind of person who is up with the sunrise, performing yoga on the beach in their undies. As with all things in life, you can take what you want from it, and leave what you don’t.
I, for one, don’t claim to be very good at yoga. Whenever the instructor says “feel that connection to the earth” I’m left thinking “what the heck does that mean?”. In all honesty, I don’t know. I’m not out here having moments of enlightenment while I stretch my calves. But am I having a nice time? Yes – so I’m gonna roll with it! Take what you want, and leave what you don’t.
This kind of spiritual thinking often shows up in the menstrual cycle awareness world. I’ve heard so many people talk about how menstrual cycle awareness makes them feel more connected to their intimate feminine energy, and honestly – I don’t always feel that.
I don’t claim to be overly spiritual. I’m less concerned with feeling connected with my womb, and more concerned about how my menstrual cycle plays out into my life in a more practical way. How is my cycle affecting my moods? My behaviours? My energy levels?
This is what is so great about the world we live in. There are so many different approaches to these topics. We are all free to take what we want and leave what we don’t.
To hear this conversation in full, check out the Podcast Episode.