This week I was wanting to talk about women and our monthly cycles. I’m still learning about mine and, honestly, I am frustrated that it is not talked about with more transparency. When I went on oral contraceptive birth control just as I was getting married it was considered the “best” option for preventing pregnancy. Coming from a medical family my mother was great at giving me a lot of details about the various options and efficacies of each method. And I felt quite well informed. But I was not, in fact, well informed about all of the side effects and things that shift as we age, and even that perimenopause is even a thing.
Now, over a decade later, I’ve had my tubes removed and am off of hormonal birth control. I’ve mentioned over a few posts that I’m still discovering the differences in my life in the last two years since I’ve stopped taking birth control. And what I’ve learned is that I was not taught to understand my monthly cycle. I was moody, bitchy and sometimes depressed. Looking back I never understood that it was happening on a cycle…even though I understood that my period came every month. I consider myself lucky that mine was and is rather like clockwork. And yet I still didn’t exactly get that I was moody because of the things that were going on with my hormones each month. I was simply aware that I got bitchy and overly emotional suddenly and seemingly without warning.
Why am I only now, in my thirties learning how the mysteries of the hormone cycle works each month? That I’m more likely to cry and feel depressed before my period, PMS. That I’m more likely to feel energized and social in the weeks leading up to ovulation. Why was all of this not passed along to me? As a woman I feel it is my right to understand myself this way. The more I learn as I’m adjusting to even having a hormone cycle each month the more I wish I’d learned all of this sooner. And I’m thankful to be learning, period.
I was definitely a sensitive child even before puberty hit, the monthly cycle amplified that seemingly 1000 fold. I felt ashamed that I couldn’t control myself and that it would happen so explosively and unexpectedly. Part of it, I’m learning, may have some to do with trauma and/or neurodivergence but my cycle is still an important integral part of that understanding.
This help in understanding my cycle has been radical. I was stuck in my old thinking that I was crazy, weird, and broken. That I shouldn’t be feeling what I was feeling, whatever it was. Often because it was just so big and in many ways unprompted or unexpected. And, as a woman, I’m learning that I cannot remove or discount my emotions, hormones, or stage of my cycle in dealing with the ins and outs of daily life. Everything in my life is affected by my cycle.
What a relief to know that I am not alone. Nor am I broken or too emotional. Though some of that relief and acceptance comes from other avenues I’m researching and learning as well there is absolutely nothing that doesn’t also interact with the hormonal cycle that makes me a woman.
And the biggest gift of this growing understanding, is the fact that there are positives. My point of view from puberty and teen years often settled on the perceived negatives. The bitchiness, the crying, the yo-yo-ing between happy and sad and not feeling as if I could pick an emotion and stay with it. The sudden irritability that came out of nowhere, wreaked havoc and then left me feeling spent, tired, and so ashamed that I couldn’t bear to be seen for a while. The glimmers were never acknowledged because they felt far outweighed by the fact that I wasn’t acting nice, controlled, or calmly for part of the month.
Coming off of birth control was a ride, and one that while a choice I made intentionally and happily, I still have my old perceptions to contend with. I’m working my way slowly towards a better, more holistic approach to life. And for me, as a woman, that includes what happens during my cycle. Learning what is happening, why it is happening, and figuring out how to work with it rather than pretending I should live life by some other playbook.
I’ve been reading Moody Bitches by Julie Holland which has been helpful in getting a better idea of what is going on each month, what things I may expect as I age and, unexpectedly, understanding my mother a bit better. Some of it can feel like an info dump of medical/scientific terms…there are a lot of those to keep track of and in some cases I’ve wanted more personal experience stories. That is how I connect best to a lot of information. It is still good information and though I’ve not quite finished the book I would recommend it.