“Growing up, women of my generation were taught that our cycles were little more than inconvenience. It was more a case of managing the problems that could arise rather than learning the power of our biology.”
Without a whisper, it is back. It has crept in without ceremony yet again. It’s grip vice-like round my being. Swiftly, almost like someone has tripped a switch, I am at its mercy. In one fell swoop, my life force has been drained as if, in some arcade game, my power bars have faded from ten to one. At first, I never understand what’s happening. Then the fear. The fear always comes. The fear that the dark clouds of depression have been blown overhead once more and I am about to tumble down. But hold on, finally, a remembrance and a relief that this will be temporary. A recognition that this is simply the end of my inner autumn and a knowing that this is part of the whole.
And so, my menstrual cycle is queen. Her power is truly awesome. Our power is truly awesome. The hormones ruling nature’s cycle are potent and as I head into the perimenopause, the premenstrual influence is heightened and sometimes overwhelming. As with so many things, I have spent most of my adult life unaware of the influence of my bleed; its effects blocked either by contraceptives or by my own bloodyminded desire to not be ruled by my body. It is only lately, slowing down and tuning in, I have come to know this part of myself better. Growing up, women of my generation were taught that our cycles were little more than inconvenience. It was more a case of managing the problems that could arise rather than learning the power of our biology. Our brand of girl power meant squashing our female-ness, to keep up with the boys, to be more like them, not to celebrate our womanhood whilst still demanding our rightful place in society.
I have learnt that the premenstrum is a mimic. Time-travelling me back to dark moments when my not-enough-ness threatened to destroy my world. There have been many times in the past when I was hopelessly depressed; unable to look ahead, stuck in the mire of dank desperation. At the end of autumn, my cycle triggers a bodily remembrance of this time. The cognitive slowing is almost audible as the inner workings creak trying to cling on to meaning. There is a heaviness and corpse-like my limbs have no will to move. Migraines fly by and my vision is exploded into thousands of bright sparks disorientating and disabling. Two days ago, I single handedly cut six feet off the top of an unruly plum tree. Today, I am as lifeless as the branches I sawed down.
Just as I embrace the bounty of the summer of my cycle, riding on a crest of oestrogen, joyfully flirting with the world around me as I feel my power, I must embrace the slowness too. The progestogenic mist is a time for reflection and being present. I must accept that as the autumn fades, my almost catatonic state and irrepressible irritability are telling me that I need time to be alone and rest. Perhaps if I had understood this dark side of my cycle earlier on, I would have saved myself some suffering? Rather than the paralysis of the fear of the onset of yet more depressive days, I could have learnt to recognise my pattern. For this is not, a deep, despairing, twisting, painful time. This is my body urging me to slow down. It is a reminder that we too have seasons. That I am as much a part of the natural world as anything green outside my window. That sometimes nature knows best. That there are times for stillness and reflection built into our lives, if we will only follow their lead.
It only lasted 36 hours this time and at the end, a beacon of hope for a different experience for my children. One of my eight year olds said to me tonight at bed time, “Mum, you seem different to yesterday. Did your period come?”