Period Positivity: Embracing Your Inner Moon
by Jessica RenaeFeminist Wednesday Staff Writer
At 18 years old, I explained to my doctor how the week before and during my menses I felt worse than usual—I cried more, was anxious and severely depressed. My doctor shrugged it off, replying how it is just our time of the month that pulls us into a cycle of being happy then sad, and happy then sad again, and how we have no real control over our emotions. It is just an endless curse women must endure. I felt my voice stifled, and my words swallowed back down into the pit of my stomach. My doctor’s response legitimized my experience and feelings as invalid because being so up and down emotionally was just part of being a woman. I spent the next four years of my life buying into this stigmatization and believing there was nothing I could do to change the negativity surrounding my menstrual cycle.
There is not enough literature that documents and analyzes menstruation, so it has been argued back and forth between premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual depressive disorder (PMDD) as mental disorders in need of attentive diagnosis, or as social constructs that prevail the idea that women are emotionally unstable. I am not arguing between what interpretation is right. I do not have enough scientific or psychological evidence or background to make that conclusion. However, I can only draw upon my own experience and how it’s helped me realize what menstruation should really be understood as.
I got my first period a little late when I was 14 years old, just after I graduated from middle school. Three months later, I began experiencing extreme episodes of depression and a severe lack of self-esteem. I started seeing a therapist and taking anti-depressants. I struggled with mental health issues from a young age: anxiety, phobias and a major bout of obsessive-compulsive disorder. But it didn’t seem like enough for my parents that I was “depressed” as well. They needed a source that could explain my sadness. I don’t blame them for their reactions or determination in finding me a clear solution; they were just worried, desperate parents with a daughter whose unhappiness seemed to stem from nowhere. Coincidentally, since my period began around the time of my depression, my family assumed that I was suffering from PMDD. While my parents and psychologists believed this to be true, most doctors waved off the idea because it’s just how women are supposed to feel during that time of the month.
It is not to say that my premenstrual symptoms are not unusually severe. I react more. I cry more. I feel more. But it translates in society as being bitchy, uncontrollable and irritable. In the last eight years, it never helped me to see myself as an overreacting bitch, or as someone with a mental condition that can’t be fixed. My feelings were negative, and the situation I was in was negative. There was no positive light surrounding how I felt about my period.
As I’ve become more exposed to feminism in the last six months—having more feminist friends, reading daily articles, watching documentaries and participating in women’s rights projects—I’ve become increasingly aware and bothered by the stigma attached to menstruation. In my yoga class, my instructor said how she was on her “moon” and could not do any inversion poses for that day. I was curious as to why she called her period her “moon”, and after some research discovered that in ancient societies, women on their periods were referred to as being “on their moon” because of the moon’s influence over the female cycles of menstruation and fertility. According to Dr. Christiane Northrup, a medical doctor specializing in women’s health and wellness, studies have shown that the moon governs the earth’s fluids (such as the ocean’s tidal waves), as well as human fluids, in that female cycles follow the cycle of the moon. Studies suggest that rates of ovulation and conception peak around the full moon and decrease during the new moon, when a higher number of women begin their periods. As this concept soaked in, that I was somehow connected to the powerful energy of the moon, that something treated as a curse was actually viewed as sacred in ancient times, my perspective began to change.
During menstruation, we are more creative, receptive and intuitive. Lunar energy is flowing through us, and we are more internally aware of ourselves and our lives. As Northrup points out, during the luteal phase (from ovulation to the onset of menstruation), we are more in tune with our inner knowing since we are “preparing to develop or give birth to something that comes from deep within ourselves.” While I am hypersensitive during my moon and my feelings are overwhelmingly enhanced, I’ve realized I’m not crying over nothing and I have gradually used the information I receive during this time as a way to reflect on my life and my choices.
Unfortunately, society still interprets this powerful intuition as something exaggerated, useless and bad. However, I’ve learned that viewing my period as a gateway for positive reflection has actually helped me with my own struggles with depression and premenstrual symptoms. Instead of seeing myself as unexplainably miserable and angry, I’ve stopped, slowed down and looked within—not for the root of the problem—but for better understanding of myself. Instead of viewing this time of the month as negative and painful, I’ve finally embraced it as a beautiful part of being a woman.