by Rowena Stewart, Somerset, UK
The initial elation at beginning my menstruation at 13 soon evaporated as month after month brought increasing pain. To begin with I could just about tolerate it. As I grew older I started to take paracetamol to control the pain, but as this was only a management strategy things got steadily worse. Eventually I would prepare for each period with paranoid dread, always making sure I had a huge stock of painkillers to see me through, often taking time off school and in later years, days off work, in order to cope with the pain. Looking back on it now, it seems odd that no-one in my family considered this to be abnormal or sought any professional advice. It was just considered to be bad luck and to me, an unavoidable curse that was destined to continue month in, month out, year after year for the rest of my fertile life.
In my late teens, I tried the pill. The initial motivation behind my decision was being able to have sex without the fear of getting pregnant, and the knock on effect was that my periods were lighter. However, there were other unforeseen consequences such as a major increase in migraine headaches and a deadening lethargy. My doctor offered some medication to counter these effects, with the warning that too much might cause gangrene, so the Pill and the antidote went in the bin. The period pain kicked in again, and by this time the usual over the counter painkillers were not strong enough to smother it. Further consultations with my doctor resulted in my being prescribed medication so strong it made me pass out. After one course of ‘pass out therapy’, that went in the bin too.
In the 1990’s, an over the counter anti-inflammatory painkiller came on the market. It soon became my best friend. On the first day of my period there would be little blood with lots of intense pain from my groin, up through my lower abdomen and searing through my spine. The first round of medication would have no effect and I would have to wait 4 hours before I could take another dose. The pain was so severe that I could only resort to bed with a hot water bottle clutched to my stomach and escape into my imagination in order to cope with it. I would write books, think of pictures to paint, clothes to make, design houses; in short, think of anything to take me away from the pain. Then the second dose of painkillers would finally kick in and I could engage with life again.
In my mid 20’s depression now accompanied each period and every month, stricken with pain, I would need to take at least 3 days off work while I bled, cried and suffered chronic sinusitis. It was during this time that I felt I really needed help and began to seek a solution to my condition.
So over the next few years I tried reflexology, acupuncture and Chinese herbs, a rather expensive course of homeopathy, reiki, chiropractic, Alexander technique, leg of toad and wing of bat, before finally settling with two types of management tools; hatha yoga and a very strong form of kinesiology.
There were some changes to my periods and my life. I now understood I had Endometriosis. I would get raging pre-menstrual tension, bloating and sore breasts. The anti-inflammatory painkillers took effect on the first dose, my flow had improved a little bit and when it did kick in, the safest thing was to pad up and stay put. My depression transformed itself into a silent, potent anger and I began to make some big changes to my life, such as leaving an 11 year abusive relationship and starting over again a long way away.
My life changed considerably in the external sense. I stopped smoking pot and tobacco and took up drinking red wine instead. My boyfriend, habitat, lifestyle and job were radically different, but my periods remained the same, every month taking lots of anti-inflammatory painkillers, sometimes the whole packet (16 tablets) in 3 days. I became a professional Kinesiologist and so my life continued with practising and teaching this work, accompanied by the familiar monthly bouts of depression and crippling pain until one day, at the age of 40, I met Universal Medicine and began to have regular Esoteric Breast Massages (EBM).
The Esoteric Breast Massage practitioner asked me to consider how I was choosing to live and love myself as a woman. This was a remarkable and baffling question. Every other therapy I had engaged with had been interested in my symptoms, but little else. My lifestyle and choice of expression had never been examined. I had to stop and take time to stare inwardly, to reflect on my history of intense, physical hard work, my drug and tobacco addictions, my alcohol habit, my choice of partner and lifestyle. It became obvious that not only had I not been loving myself, I had definitely not enjoyed being a woman. In fact, on much closer inspection, I was carrying a lot of self-loathing.
I slowly recognised that most of my life I had spent trying to prove that I was as good as, if not better than a man! Throughout my adult life, I had always involved myself in a male oriented world and sought to outdo men. If they could fit kitchens, mend roofs and mow the grass, then so could I… and do it better. I knew all about D.I.Y, fast cars and garden machinery. If I could have lifted the darn things, I would have been fixing car engines too. Even one of my old jobs had been a man’s job: paint stripping doors and furniture. All this effort and competition took my petite five foot three inch frame to its limits, resulting in five serious accidents in as many years, a damaged disc in my spine and carpal tunnel syndrome on my right hand. I was living this strange paradoxical life of loving and wanting to be with men, while all the time proving that I was in fact just as good as, if not more manly than they were.
I had never, ever focussed on expressing myself as a tender, beautiful woman. In fact, I didn’t really feel like a real woman. I found it very challenging to engage with women who I felt were real women. If I ever went out with a group of women, I would find myself assuming the manly role and take it upon myself to fiercely defend these delicate ladies who didn’t know how to change a flat tyre or jump start a car. I was a tough, feisty little creature and definitely not to be messed with. Everything would be okay because I knew how to manage without a man.
With progressive Esoteric Breast Massage treatments, I came to understand that I had spent most of my adult life fiercely protecting my own fragility, keeping it hidden and ‘safe’ behind a physically hardened body. I had learned throughout my childhood and beyond that showing my vulnerability didn’t seem to stop aggressive or abusive behaviour taking place around or at me, so I just toughened my body up to stop feeling it. In the process I had toughened up those delicate, soft and special parts of my body to such an extent that they could not function properly, hence the immense pain and disruption that came with each cycle.
Successive Esoteric Breast Massages and other sacred esoteric treatments and the Universal Medicine healing workshops presented me with a new challenge: to embrace and claim myself as a woman. Golly, these were unchartered waters. Slowly and gently the treatments and the loving guidance of the practitioners, women who were not afraid to claim and express their graceful fragility, enabled me to realise that underneath that tough little exterior lay a beautiful and delicate woman; one who held all the resolutions to her own problems. I began making huge changes to my choice of foods and beverages, my sleep patterns, the physical tasks I was choosing to do and how I was doing them, and these changes were having a positive impact on my monthly cycle. It encouraged me to keep looking inwards, facing the scary and horrible parts inside me, and seeing that all of that underneath was the real me, something worth taking a great deal of care of.
Seven years on, my periods are very different. With the continued common sense, glorious support and Love from all the Universal Medicine Practitioners, coupled with my continuous focus on supporting myself, I now love instead of dread my periods. The crippling pain has ceased, the depression has been healed, the pre-menstrual fury has vanished… and somewhere in the house I have a packet of painkillers that are most likely out of date. When my period starts, it’s great to lie down for a few hours, hands and healing eye pillow on my tummy, tuning into my body and enjoying a deep stillness within that invites me to rest. I notice that the pain feels more like an intense cold, which reminds me to stop thinking about other things and come back to myself and be tender. When I do, the cold disappears.
I now know, understand and fully appreciate that my period is there to show me exactly how the choices I make each day of my life affect my body. It’s my body’s way of sharing its deep wisdom with me. If I get the balance right in my daily ritual of work and play, take time to treat myself and my body with love and tenderness, follow what feels right to eat, exercise gently and not let my very active imagination get out of control, then my period is gentle, pain free and a pleasure to go through. Any deviation from this experience tells me that it might be a good idea to reflect on the month past, identify some not so great choices, and then have another go.
I am now looking at maybe the last three to four years of my periods. At one time in my life, reaching menopause was the only light at the end of the tunnel. Through my engagement with Universal Medicine and the Sacred Esoteric Healing modalities, my whole understanding of my cycle has been completely transformed. Now I can fully appreciate and enjoy my last few years of menstruation, before embarking on the next phase of being a woman.
Embracing myself as a woman is a still a huge work in progress. The biggest shift I have seen in myself is in allowing men to be men, while I focus on connecting to and expressing myself as a fragile and tender woman. I can see now that my desire to prove myself came from a deep need to be recognised and seen as an amazing woman and an equal, but I was going about it the wrong way. I truly know that men and women are equal; equal participants in Love and Life, but with completely different and truly complimentary expressions. My fragility and tenderness are my strengths, not weaknesses – and at the times when I can really express those qualities I feel how both men and women respond and reflect those awesome qualities back to me. My amazingness is about how I feel, not what I do. My cycle is no longer a curse but a huge source of joy and wonder. Now I am enjoying my little body, and my little body is at long last enjoying me!