Working in a corporate environment for over 12 years, I’ve always struggled to go to work during my period. On some occasions, I was fortunate enough to have understanding employers who allowed me to work from home or take a day off. However, most of the time, I’ve had to grin and bear it, which meant trying to numb myself all day with pain killers, sitting at my desk with hot pads, hiding my tampons, and wearing loose dresses to cover my excessive bloating. I would suffer quietly all day long, counting down the hours, and then collapse into bed as soon as I got home.
I always questioned this widely accepted norm of women hiding their periods, acting like nothing was happening, and trying to be as productive as every other time of the month. I started to look into this misogynistic view and explore menstruation stigma. I wasn’t surprised to learn that women’s health is hugely overlooked in Canada’s healthcare system — from research and treatment options to policies and programs. I was shocked to learn that women were excluded from most healthcare and medical research studies up until as recently as the 1990s. Apparently, researchers couldn’t deal with our complex monthly hormonal changes and were concerned that we might become pregnant during the studies. Therefore, many treatments that women are prescribed for their unique, female health issues have been based on the male experience.
The latest medical treatment that I underwent was chemical menopause using Lupron®, which causes the rapid and artificial onset of menopause. What I didn’t know at the time was that this drug was originally developed for men with advanced prostate cancer. While some women do find relief to treat their endometriosis, PMDD, and fibroids, more and more women are coming forward, claiming debilitating side effects after using Lupron. I specifically questioned my doctor about the side effects of this drug before taking it. She did warn me that I might have slight menopausal symptoms but failed to mention that there was a chance of me developing life-altering ailments as a result of this drug. Some of these women report having lost their health, jobs, spouses, savings, and quality of life and experiencing these side effects from six months up to five years after their last dose.
It’s not just our healthcare system that needs reform; it’s also our society’s stigma towards menstruation. We are still bombarded with negative messages about women’s cycles, period blood, and PMS and subjected to disgusted or shameful responses to any mention of periods. But it wasn’t always this way. In some ancient cultures, menstruation was celebrated, revered, and viewed as a time to reconnect with other women, nature, and the spirits. In ancient Egypt, period blood was even used as a medicinal ingredient to treat sagging skin and other skin conditions. Things changed for women when religions during the medieval times began viewing period blood as shameful and a reminder of Eve’s original sin. During this time, women had no choice but to hide their periods, and unfortunately, this shame and stigma continue even today.
Although my period can be arduous, exhausting, and often extremely painful, I’ve come to accept it as a sacred and divine time of connection and introversion — a time to reconnect with myself, mother nature, and my spiritual practice. Other women and cultures around the world are also bringing back the ancient ceremonies and moon rituals that their ancestors used. For example, the Hupa women and communities in Northern California partake in the Flower Dance. This ancient running ceremony allows women to take a break from their routine, honour their sacred feminine energy, and reconnect with other women and elders. To feel more empowered during my period, I developed my own version of a moon ritual. Below I share some tips on how you can create your own divine feminine ritual during your period and celebrate the beauty and wonder of being a woman.
Create your own Moon Ritual:
1. Listen to your body — I have learned to slow down, rest, and be really tuned in to what my body needs. I try not to plan any commitments during this week and surround myself with understanding friends, who don’t take it personally if I have to cancel or reschedule. I do the bare minimum and let myself sleep (a lot), binge Netflix shows, wear comfy, loose clothing, burn the to-do lists and the bras, and read in bed. Most importantly, I don’t feel guilty about it — because I’m taking care of and honouring myself.
2. Give in to your cravings— A few days before I start bleeding, I begin to crave all sorts of food. I do my best to listen, eat intuitively, and give my body what it’s craving in the purest and most wholesome form. I tend to crave a lot of fruit, sweets, carbs, and soups during this time, so I make sure to have healthy versions of these foods stocked and ready in the fridge and freezer. I’ve learned over the years that staying away from processed sugar, alcohol, junk food, and caffeine — makes me feel so much better. However, there are still those days where I give in and have the cookie or a cinnamon bun. My favourites are the gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan treats from Cocoabeans.
3. Have a witch bath — I am intensely drawn to water and find a warm bath eases my cramps and relaxes me. My favourite things to have on hand are crystals, a candle, bath salts, essential oils (put a few drops into the water), and some plants or flowers. I meditate, chant, read, and listen to soothing music. A favourite bath recipe of mine is lavender Epsom salts, three drops of eucalyptus oil, dried rosebuds, and mint leaves. Right after my bath, I give myself an Abhyanga massage using warm grape seed or sweet almond oil.
4. Listen to soothing music — Right before and during my period, I become sensitive to light, sounds, and smells. To help with this, I listen to healing and soothing music, such as Juliana Barwick, meditation music, or sound baths. I also could not live without my Calm app, which I use daily to listen to guided meditations, sleep stories, and calming music. Another one of my favourite things is to listen to this powerful Shamanic meditation before I go to sleep.
5. Find your bliss — Because my emotions are all over the map this week, I do my best to surround myself with positive vibes, people, and activities and stay away from anything or anyone that triggers me. My favourite things are cuddling my dogs, hugging my boyfriend, watching an inspiring show or movie, meditating, doing some light stretches, going for a short walk, and watching animal rescue videos. Also….chocolate, lots and lots of Lindt Excellence sea salt dark chocolate.