The Rhythms of Womanhood

I’d never thought about it before — could these abrupt changes in mood be related to my monthly cycle?

Photo by Atikh Bana on Unsplash

Habit Tracking Reveals All

I woke up the morning of the 22nd feeling completely and utterly defeated. I know it’s going to be a bad day when I wake up feeling anxious and nervous.

When a down swing like this hits me, it’s like a dump truck. I’m smacked across the face by equal parts apathy and anxiety, and it’s hard for me to shift that weight and carry on.

I always wondered why this happened to me. Why my mood swings are so insane. I thought perhaps it had something to do with my hormones, but I didn’t realize until recently that it’s connected to my menstrual cycle.

In May, I began tracking my habits on paper. I hoped I’d see some improvement with three months of trying, but the only thing I’ve noticed is this:

Around the 16th to about the 24th of each month, I hit a wall.

I don’t get anything done. All of the neat little rows of X’s are interrupted by this blank white space.

In June, I didn’t write for almost two weeks following this wall.

In July, it stopped me until the 28th, but I got right back on track in the beginning of August.

And now, this month, I’ve hit it again. I haven’t done my morning routine in almost a week, I haven’t written for Medium in two days, and I’m barely keeping up with the easiest X, which is basic self-care.

One thing stood out to me this month that never had before. The first day I started to feel down, my phone alerted me: “Ovulation in two days.”

I’d never thought about it before — could these abrupt changes in mood be related to my monthly cycle?

Photo by Hanna Postova on Unsplash

Digging into the Rhythms

I dug around a little bit. All of the information I found seemed to suggest that there should be an uptick in mood at ovulation time, instead of a downturn. Everyone else reported feeling happier and more confident, and obviously more sexual during their fertile period.

But not for me. And not for most sufferers of PMDD.

PMDD is a severe form of PMS, where “[s]ymptoms emerge one to two weeks before menses and resolve completely with the onset of menses,” according the UNC School of Medicine website. “Many women with PMDD experience clinical levels of depression or anxiety during the week or two before each menstrual cycle. It is not uncommon that the emotional symptoms of depression, anxiety, and irritability can seriously interfere with normal functioning and relationships.”

A little more digging and yes, in fact, I begin to feel fine just after my cycle starts. It’s incredible that I never knew this before — that I never knew before why certain times were harder for me than others.

I feel like nowadays, most people are out of tune with their own bodies. Instead of our bodies being complex organisms we need to learn how to nurture, they are just the carrier of our minds and identities instead. We treat our bodies as disposable containers instead of complicated vessels.

I’ve always known the female body especially to be a complicated piece of machinery, one with quirks I don’t feel like learning. But understanding that my moods, my productivity, and my motivation are all connected to this hormonal cycle is incredible.

Photo by Casper Nichols on Unsplash

Playing Along to the Rhythms of Your Body

Every body is different. Every body has quirks. Mine include: being unable to burp and therefore I cannot drink carbonated drinks; lactose-intolerance; injuries always to the left side (including broken bones); weak wrists and knees; and now, I add a downturn in mood during ovulation to that long list.

I’ve always kind of hated my body. But as I grow older, I find that I am moving along more with its pulls and tugs, listening to what it wants instead of pushing myself to the point of failure.

I think that we were all born into these mysterious vessels and we should’ve been given an instruction manual for our unique model. But we don’t get that. Instead, we must tune into our own rhythms.

It helps to track yourself. I’m a data nerd, and so it was only through analysis of my own patterns that I was able to figure this out. Track your moods, your habits, and you’ll find some surprising things about yourself in the data.

So instead of being angry with myself for my predicted downswings, I’ll be more gentle. I’ll use this as a time to nurture myself, to make sure I can deal with the excess of anxiety and apathy that overcomes me during this time.

We must take care of our vessels, even when we don’t fully understand them. It is only through care and gentle love that we can begin to unravel the mysteries that lie inside of us.

As I grow older, the pride of having a body that moves with the tides grows. I feel myself becoming more myself by embracing my womanhood, instead of less.

I will play along with these rhythms of my body and we shall create the music of my soul in joyful tandem.

I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

— Maya Angelou

Mistress of words and Truth.

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