This is one of a series of interviews where women share about their relationship with their menstrual cycle. I am entirely grateful and humbled that they’ve not only taken the time (within their busy lives) but that they’ve let us in, so that we may all find ourselves somewhere in connection with the many stories shared. Thank you!
I had the pleasure of meeting Jessica through the Southeast Wise Women Herbal Conference four years ago!
She is a gardener, herbalist, stonalist and the creatrix of the most beautiful apothecary allies. There’s something about her energy that drew me in the first time I met her!
Enjoy this interview and make sure to connect with her around the internet town!
What was your experience of your first menstrual cycle? Were you prepared and how did it make you feel?
My first menstrual cycle is now a classic story in my family. My parents were divorced and I was at my dad’s house for the weekend. I thought I started my period but I wasn’t 100% sure. Looking back, I don’t know what was so confusing about it! But rather than talk to my dad about it (I don’t know if I was more nervous of my potential embarrassment or his), I just kept quiet and made myself pads out of toilet paper. At one point my dad loudly asked my sister and I, “Why are we going through so much toilet paper? It’s like you girls are eating it!”. I kept quiet as to why the toilet paper was mysteriously disappearing. When I got back to my mom’s house on Sunday night, her best friend was over and I told them. They jumped off the couch, cheered, cried, and then ran out the door to the store to “get you supplies”.
I had talked to my mom about it years prior to starting my menstrual cycle so I had some idea of what to expect. I remember feeling very shy and quiet about all of it, and yet a bit relieved because my friends had all started their cycles.
What has your experience of menstruation been as a woman?
As a woman my experience of menstruation has been very powerful. I enjoy the rhythm of my body but the unpredictability is really difficult. I was diagnosed with endometriosis in my early twenties and before that I had already been in pain for years. Each month is different, with some being extremely painful to where I am unable to leave my house. From my knees to my neck, everything joint and muscle is inflamed and painful for 3-5 days. I have worked with Western medicine, herbalism, acupuncture, nutrition, and a list of many others in order to try to ease the pain, but with no success. The most relief I find is with stone medicine and I have been working more intensely with it to ease me through the pain.
How do you currently feel about your menstrual cycle?
I am trying to plan my life around my cycles, knowing that there will be days that staring at a wall and crying is all I am capable of, and that other days I will be vibrant and full of energy. I am just now learning to plan my projects and interactions with the world around my personal energy cycle.
Endometriosis is a tricky thing for me to wrap my head around. Normal endometrial tissue is acting exactly how it should be, thickening, breaking down, and bleeding each month. The problem is, it isn’t all in the uterus. It can accumulate in joints, form adhesions, and form scar tissue. Your body will leave the endometrial tissue alone because it is normal, just in the wrong place. So here I have a perfectly normal acting body and cells that are perfectly normal, some of them are just in the wrong places. Things are healthy, just misplaced. And that is what I am recently trying to wrap my head around. In trying to control the pain in my endometriosis, it feels like I am waging a battle against parts of me, my cells, that are perfectly healthy and doing what they are naturally programmed to do. It doesn’t feel like a natural battle to wage. So how do I deal with extreme pain for 3-5 days at a time, when no natural treatments have worked, and my body is perfectly healthy? I work with these feelings all the time and continue to evolve in this relationship with my body.
What is one way you currently try to respect your cycle?
At home I am an herbalist and artist. I also recognize that my Moontime is the most powerful time for me to make herbal medicines and dream up creative projects, infusing both with a magic I can only access during that time.
Out of my home I work a M-F, 9-5 office job. Although it is not always possible, when I can manage to, I take the first day off of my Moontime. I dream of the days of Red Tents and the quiet seclusion they would have offered. I try to create that for myself.
I work around my cycle without judgement. I love moving and being productive. To lay on the couch and stare at a wall, or watch a movie to distract me from pain, those acts of surrender are difficult for me but I am learning how that fallow time is important for my body and active mind.
The only things that have ever helped the pain were Western medicines- birth control pills, and prescription hormone suppressants. It has been over 7 years since I have used any of those modalities for pain relief. I honor my body and respect my cycle by not subjecting myself to the side effects that those medicines cause. By sitting in the pain, going to deep dark places while in pain, and trusting that it can’t last forever and I will emerge from it.
If you are a mother how do you honor your own body rhythms alongside of the pace of motherhood?
Although I am not a biological mother, I have a dear husband, wonderful family, and snuggly cats. I have learned to voice my needs and set boundaries with respect to my body rhythms. There are times when I literally can’t muster up the energy to talk or take care of anyone else. Over the years I have kindly taught everyone how to take care of me and respect my boundaries and limitations during my Moontime. We try our hardest to make it a time of rest for both my husband and I in our home.
Thank you, dearly, Jessica! xx
Wish to change your relationship with your menstrual cycle? Check out She Cycles