Lady Bug Magazine
May 19, 2004
By Leslie Botha
Maiden, Mother, Wise Woman…
Which One are you?
You are all three every month…
Life — all life, is a partner in the rhythmic dance of the cosmos. As a human being, from the moment of your birth, to the second you to pass into the next life, you are part of the universal cycle. Humankind, at a cellular level, just like every other life form on this planet, responds, consciously or unconsciously to the cyclic nature of the universe.
The cycle of menstruation is a gift bestowed upon women that enables us to create and bear life to ensure the survival of the human species. This cycle is also integrally related to the cycles of the universe; especially the lunar cycle. There are also links to the solar cycle as well as the cycles of life, death and rebirth on the planet earth.
The cyclical gift of menstruation and its relationship to universal cycles is the reason why, many moons ago, women were revered as Goddesses. It is time to reclaim that title. Not honoring the gift of menstruation is truly killing us. We have forgotten the true source of our beings and because of that have become victimized by the very cycle that is the foundation of our life.
Imagine if you were raised in a culture that honored menstruation instead of debasing it. There is a great amount of discourse amongst researchers of the menstrual cycle on whether the anxiety that comes with menstruation is real or socially conditioned. If we were taught by our mothers, teachers, health care providers that menstruation was healthy, a natural process that empowered instead of victimized would we experience the pain, frustration, embarrassment and humiliation that we do now?
Imagine if all of us men, women and children were taught from the onset that life is a cycle of becoming, a journey; progression of experiences that culminate in growth and self actualization.
To everything there is a season,
and a time for every purpose under the heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill and a time to heal;
a time to break down, a time to build up;
a time to weep and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to lose and a time to seek;
a time to rend and a time to sew;
a time to keep silent and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;
a time of war and a time of peace.
The above is not just a religious proverb; it is a philosophy of life based on the laws of the universe. It speaks of the cyclical nature of life.
But that is not our life – or how the foundation of our culture has been laid.
We fret, hurry, become frustrated and do not understand why bad things happen to us. We over eat, over indulge, self destruct, try again and in the process the body becomes fatigued …and we hurt and are in pain – and then become alienated, and sick.
Too many of us die brokenhearted and broken spirited — this is our culture…and this is wrong.
All of us, women and men have forgotten how to look beyond ourselves, to understand that we are connected not only within, but to each other and with the great beyond. And that life is cyclical – always changing, always repeating, yet always moving forward.
It is up to the women!
Many moons ago, when I was politically involved in the women’s movement I was given a postcard with a woman/goddess holding the earth in her hands – with the above saying at the bottom of the card. Although I have since misplaced the postcard through various cycles of travel, moving, gaining and letting go, I have never forgotten the image…or the message.
I can hear the collective groan …it is always up to us. We see that dinner gets on the table, homework done, the kids in bed, bills paid, laundry, grocery, the garden planted, the vacations planned, all while acting as chauffer, lover, mother, friend; and of course balancing jobs and careers –where often times we are doing the same amount of work for lesser pay. No matter what, we are always taking the lead — yet, as we all know, behind every successful man is a woman — who deals with the details.
However, we know that we are doing all of this at the detriment to our own health. We do not realize that there is a time to birth; i.e. make plans, initiate change, and move mountains. But there is also a time to receive; take time for ourselves, nurture and replenish the body, mind and soul that continuously gives so much to everyone around us.
Through years of research, working with women, their partners and their children –I have found that this simple diagram explains our lives not only with each passing moon cycle, but through each phase of the hormone cycle, and each phase of our lives as women.
I have coached women and their partners, women with hormonal health issues, mothers and daughters, women in detention centers and abused girls from 13 – 17years old. There are many, many terrible and horrific things much worse than cramps and an annoying vaginal infection or herpes outbreak that happen to women because we are not educated about the hormonal changes that we pass through on a monthly basis. And that is simply because we have not related our hormonal changes with our changes in behaviors.
Statistics prove that women – drink more, drug more, leave jobs, husbands, and children, go off treatment programs, diets, medications – get thrown in jail, mental institutions, and attempt suicide at the same time of the hormone cycle. I do not even have to tell you when that is…. But I do have to tell you why that is…
We are not nuts, crazed, wacko, strung out lunatics as we have been made to believe; there is an actual hormonal and immunological change going on in our body. Because we have not been educated about that hormonal change and its influence on how we feel about ourselves and our behaviors – we have become victims of that phase. (Note: I have not used the term “PMS”)
Turning the Tide
My first experience in becoming aware of the cyclical nature of women was when I worked at Planned Parenthood. As many women, do I went to a neighborhood clinic – and because I was intrigued by the education and information that is offered to patients, I became a volunteer which eventually led into a paid staff position. I also took further training through the organization and became a medical assistant. For the five years that I was involved with the clinic, I had access to the director’s library of books for women, by women on religion, history, philosophy, politics, social conditions, mythology, and for the first time my life as a woman made sense to me, and my role as a contributor to society became valued.
The experience that changed my life however came with the opportunity to sit behind the front desk, with a patient’s chart in hand and noting time and again, that women were coming into the clinic every month to the day – with the same type of physical, mental, and emotional symptoms. I asked the women if they realized that they were in the clinic for the same problem the month prior – and the answer was always “no.”
The symptoms that the patients were experiencing ranged from migraines to vaginal infections and herpes outbreaks to depression. And of course, they were pre menstrual. This was my first clue that there was a cyclical nature to our hormone cycles that had a direct correlation to the physical ailments and mental/emotional states that women experience.
How many of us had, partners, children, or friends who have said to us, “it must be that time of month again.” And although we fervently deny it, we know they are right. But many of us do not even realize where we are at in our cycle until the first sign of blood.
Health care providers and triage assistants always ask a patient “What was the first day of your last period”, and if the patient can even remember, they jot down the date in her chart – and that is the last reference to a very important piece of information. That date is a key to understanding why the patient is in the clinic in the first place and the underlying reason for the severity of her ailments. The only reference the first day of the last menstrual period is used for generally is whether a woman is pregnant. And that needs to change…not just on the health care provider’s part. Knowing where a woman is in her cycle is crucial to understanding why she feels the way she does.
This knowledge is liberating. For the first time, a woman will be able to trust what her body is doing and how it is affecting her mental/emotional state, instead of feeling like she has to “control” herself all of the time. She will be able to glide with the hormonal transitions instead of fighting them.
I believe that our hormonal health is a key to understanding our women’s physical, mental, emotional behaviors. Unless we are educated about this integral part of our body’s functioning, we will always remain victims of an industry, quite frankly that is making billions of dollars off our body’s – mostly with hormonal regulators – which has been called the “largest uncontrolled experiment in medical history.”
Why have we bought into this? Basically our fundamental right to valid and relevant information about our health care has been denied. Not only that, women have been taught that our hormone cycles have no importance other than for our ability to reproduce. So we spend most of our lives, hiding the fact that we menstruate, while fattening the coffers of the pharmaceutical industry that sells us all of the scented products and little pills or chemical concoctions that effectively allow us to deny our womanhood.
But we are struggling, unhappy, frustrated and becoming ill because of the suppression of this natural and wonderful cycle. How many us feel like we are holding on to a tightrope trying to control our mental and emotional behaviors in a society driven by testosterone – which never fluctuates. It is like the Eveready bunny; it just keeps going and going and going.
This is not how our hormone cycle functions, and I believe that the root cause for our mental, emotional and physical struggles in our lives is not only the negative social messages that we have all received about this beautiful process, but that we are living our lives irrespective not only of the hormone cycle, but of the cycles of nature and the universe. We are cycling creatures – and in order to reclaim our lives and our health, I believe that we must once again start living with the cycles that surround us
The Cyclical Dance
Think of your hormone cycle as a wave that is rushing to shore. Another analogy is the moon – both are relevant to our mental and emotional changes that occur on a monthly basis.
Wave –builds in power, strength and momentum so that it can crest
Moon – as the earth rotates around the moon it becomes visible earlier in the night sky, glowing more with each phase change
Women– three to five days after our menses begin, our hormones slowly rise – and our energy levels begin to increase
Wave – in the midst of its cycle, the wave rises high above the ocean and crests
Moon – in the midst of its cycle becomes full and brilliant, sending out vast amounts of lunar energy*
Women – in the midst of the hormone cycle, ovulates; which is not only a time of fertility, but great creativity and energy
Wave – after it crests, folds back into itself, before it rushes to shore, then retreating once again back into the body of water from which it came
Moon – Wanes nightly after the full moon, retreating back into the sky from whence it came
Women – After ovulation, hormone levels, drop, the immune system becomes inhibited and the body is trying to slow down to release the uterine lining in the uterus if conception has not taken place. Women retreat into themselves, to reflect on what has occurred in the past cycle, and nurture themselves to prepare for the next cycle.
Let’s look at our own lives – without hormonal awareness
We feel crummy during our periods, hormones rise, energy levels, rise – we feel good, are active, create produce, balance job and family on one hand; never miss a beat. One week after ovulation, the energy levels drop, but we keep on trying to juggle everything and it gets harder. All of a sudden, we get cranky, the kids, the husband, coworkers, boss – all say what’s wrong with you….last week you did everything with a smile and this week you are a crank. Sound familiar? And suddenly we are saying, “What’s wrong with me?” And we begin to doubt ourselves.
The only thing that is wrong is that we are ignoring the fact that our body needs to slow down – and we keep forging forward – putting a great deal of mental, emotional and physical stress on our bodies until they finally breakdown. Women experience menstrual cramping every month, headaches, viral and bacterial infections, because we are not nurturing ourselves during this time of decreasing hormone levels and an inhibited immune system. The uterus is trying to release the lining that has built up over the month, needs to be soft and pliable to release the lining – and yet, when we keep moving at 100 miles an hour – the organ becomes stressed and we have cramps. Ever notice that you stumble more, stutter over words, have more mishaps or accidents, and make more mistakes during the latter part of your menstrual cycle? It is all the same thing. The body is slowing down, the mind keeps racing forward. It is simple. But it is crucial to understand this so that we can start living with our cycles to regain our health and well being.
Need more proof?
How about a “clipping” that I found in Glamour Magazine in the early 90’s:
“Keeping in step with your body’s natural rhythms could add years to your life, especially is you are one of the 40,000 to 50,000 pre-menopausal women who will face breast cancer surgery this year. According to a recent Lancet study report on a twelve year study of forty-one women with breast cancer, those whose surgery is performed near the times of ovulation are four to five times less likely to suffer relapse and death than those who are operated on during or nearer their menstrual period.”
Why the dramatic difference? Researcher William J.M. Hrushesky, M.D., senior oncologist at the Albany VA Medical Center in Albany, N.Y., speculates that a woman’s immune defenses are likely to vary with her menstrual cycle and may become most potent with ovulation. So her ability to fight disease may be significantly higher that point of her cycle.”
Or another “clipping” from 1993 – that appeared in McCall’s Magazine.
“While most women hardly need to be told that their hormone cycle affects their body; few of us suspected it could make the difference between life and death. But research with breast-cancer patients is starting to suggest that scheduling a patient’s surgery according to her cycle may increase her chances of being cured. And that’s just the most prominent example to emerge from a small but growing exploration of the relationship between women’s monthly hormonal changes and common illnesses, ranging from migraines to irritable bowel syndrome.”
I don’t know about you, but in my humble female opinion, this information should not have been a “clipping” or side bar news found on the obscure inside pages the magazine. This information should have made headline news and been on the front page of every newspaper in the world. But, no, this would give women too much power. Can you imagine a woman scheduling her surgery around the timing of her menstrual cycle – instead of her physician’s golf game or vacation?
In 2001, the results of another study were published that reached the same conclusions–about the timing of breast cancer surgery and the menstrual cycle. The study did not garner any fanfare or media attention. Not because researchers did not try, the media was not interested. The link to the study is listed below.
Timing of Breast Cancer Surgery, Menstrual Cycle & Prognosis http://www.ucop.edu/srphome/bcrp/progressreport/abstracts/innov/4EB-5900.html
Victim or Goddess
It is Your Choice
Not only is the timing of breast cancer surgery, crucial to our health, alcohol, prescription medications, food, and exercise all should be examined for different reactions at different times in our cycle. Then we must change our behaviors accordingly.
Many moons ago, I taught my workshop at a local detention center. Five women dressed in orange and me; a novice – just beginning to put all of this information together. When I was at the part in my workshop, where I was telling the women that four or five drinks during the preovulatory phase of the hormone cycle may not affect them, but the same amount of alcohol during the paramenstrum could have dire affects on their metabolism, five out of five women said to me, “No wonder we end up in jail month after month and get our periods!” These women hung out in the local bars and were thrown in jail repeatedly for “disorderly conduct” and “indecent behavior.”
Are they criminals? No! The crime is in their not knowing how alcohol affects our bodies differently at different times of the hormone cycle. Can you imagine how many women we have locked up and thrown the key away for a phase in their cycle? The implications are staggering.
When I was the Health Educator at an in house treatment program for abused girls ages 13 – 17 and after teaching them how their behaviors are affected by their hormones, the joke in the class was asking new girls coming into the program– was whether they had their periods while they were in jail – and the answer, yes, yes and yes.
Are they criminals? No, the crime is their not being educated about how their hormones affect their behaviors.
I would also propose that many of the arguments in the home between mother and daughters also occur when one or the other – or both are premenstrual. Can you imagine how much hurt and anger could be avoided, if mothers and their daughters were aware of where they were in their cycles?
Leslie Botha, author, women’s health educator, radio and television talk show host and nationally recognized expert on women’s hormone cycles has been teaching women about the relevance the hormone cycle has on their lives for over 20 years. Botha is a member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research and the International Association of Human Caring.