Blood and Moon

I hear other Pagan women talking about their Moontides. It sounds sort of romantic and appealing. I guess if you spend a few days with a minimal flow, then the bloody part of the month is no big deal, and may be a time for reflection, magic and a sense of wonder at your connection to the cycles of the moon and the realities of nature. If you have that and can reclaim it, and love it then go you. I may be a tad envious, but I will champion your right to a happy, peaceful, meaningful moontide on your own terms.

Mine are not like that. Or, if we’re talking ‘tide’ we’re talking the sort that sweeps over beaches and drowns people every now and then. There is no attaching a gentle, romantic language to what happens to my body every month. My description of preference is; I bleed like a stuck pig. I bleed a lot, it falls out of my body in quantities that are hard to manage. It depletes and exhausts me and usually it hurts a great deal. It messes with my emotions, and it can last anything up to a week. That’s a quarter of my time, can I just mention. A quarter of my life lived in significant discomfort, courting anaemia and not daring to wear anything pale.

The impact of bleeding has been used as a justification for not letting women do stuff. It underpins a lot of unfair and sexist thinking. The alleged emotional instability of women, the needing time off for it and so forth. There are a lot of women for whom that just isn’t true. Then there are the women like me, who are rendered dysfunctional. I can’t tell you whether we’re a tiny minority, about as numerous as the light bleeders or the majority even. I do not know because it’s not ok to talk about this. It is a big taboo.

In saying that when I bleed I hurt too much to be reliably useful, I feel like I’m letting the side down. My sisters who can get on with things and do not need to stop, do not want to be compromised by the return of the bad old ideas about how bleeding makes women useless. We’ve all seen the adverts with the white trousers and the roller skates, we all know it’s supposed to be like that. Crying in a duvet does not fit the modern picture of your sanitised blue rinse bleed.

For me, feminism is not about having one story about what it means to be female. To shoehorn us all into the same shape as the glorious maiden huntresses who can indeed wear the white trousers and run with dogs, is not fair. We don’t all belong in that archetype. To disempower all because some of us need to crawl into a dark cave and scream, isn’t fair either.

We’ll know that we’ve got all this gender stuff figured out, when it is ok to be honest about what happens to your body when you bleed, and ok to ask for what you need. We’ll have it sorted when no one assumes anything, and individuals are free to deal with what they’ve got. We’re all different.

In the meantime, those of us who suffer chronically every month are mostly hiding it, taking the pain killers, hoping for no awkward leaks, and putting on the best poker face we can find. Sometimes the pain is bad enough that the tears become an involuntary reaction and I cannot control it. I have been like this for more than twenty years now. Even the contraceptive pill did not render my bleeding tame and easily managed. This is the body I have. I’d like to be able to own it, however gross and inconvenient it strikes other people as being. I’d like the right to bleed the way I bleed without being called lazy or being told I’m just feeling sorry for myself and that it’s not a proper illness. I’d like not to be told that I’m making a fuss. I’m wondering if I should take photographs of what comes out of my body and show them to anyone who suggests I’m using it to freeload.

At least at home I get compassion and support, but out there in the wider world, I have learned to be silent, and to hide the blood stains.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

15 responses to “Blood and Moon

  • angharadlois

    It’s about time people started talking more about this (in fact, I have a blog post which I started in August and never quite managed to finish, but will try to finish now with this kick of inspiration!).

    I bleed only a small amount, but then I am fairly anaemic a lot of the time, and even the small amount of blood I lose each month can knock me out. When I have to work, I manage it by dosing up on painkillers and crashing out as soon as I get home. It seems ridiculous that we are not able to work with our cycles, instead of against them, but such is the mainstream of the working world; I’ve had to accept that squeezing myself into the 9-5 weekday box is simply part of what I am paid to do. This brief spell of unemployment has been a boon to my cycles; I have been able to rest as much as I need to, making the most of my energy when I have it. I am back in tune with the moon cycle (I always bleed at new moon when I am feeling healthy, and am otherwise all over the place with all sorts of weird rhythms when stressed or unwell).

    Suffering with terrible periods is part of what brought me to paganism, via herbal medicine; it was one of the wake-up calls that made me think, hang on, is it me or is it in fact mainstream culture that is the problem here? It is one hell of a thing to live with, but it does have its own gifts, if our lives allow us the time to explore & use them.

    Good luck with it! xx

  • Sybil

    I feel you, particularly the part about pain. Before the appearance of ibuprofen I spent a lot of time with my heating pad. But I say to you that you do not need to suffer. Go and find yourself an herbalist. There are herbs which can balance your system and relieve your distress.

  • Potia

    I agree that we need to talk more about the differences and realities of menstrual cycles. I hate the advertising for feminine products that is all geared around concealing aspects of our bodies. And most of the advertising is for products that are not environmentally friendly either. I bless the day I found out about menstrual cups such as the moon cup. No more spending a fortune every month on different products for different flow rate days for me thanks.

    When I was much younger I had severe headaches that either just preceded or started with the onset of my bleeding. Painkillers took the edge off enough so I wasn’t crying in a corner and the headaches went on for a couple of days. This happened both before I started on the pill and afterwards. Like you I had to carry on regardless though.

    Two children later and my body now has a gentler cycle for me which is usually every 26 days with bleeding lasting about 5 days in total. I only get a couple of days of moderate to heavy flow, sometimes with intense cramps, sometimes without. Even with an experience that sounds much gentler than yours is Nimue I can want to stay in bed with a hot water bottle but life doesn’t usually allow us that even if our family will.

    If we don’t talk about what the range of menstrual experiences what kind of example are we giving the next generation of both men and women? And how are women supposed to know when they need to seek medical advice about their cycle if we don’t talk about the range of experiences?

  • susannablaauw

    I really identify with this – thank you for your eloquent honesty.

    For me, I’d say it influences about 2 weeks in 4 (roughly) as I am emotionally far more sensitive, moody and raw the week prior (I’ve started noticing a pattern of being more of a tiger mum about my kids at this time as well – worrying about them, overprotective, etc) as well as the week-long bleeding during which makes my legs, back and belly ache, and is just so, well, … draining, really.

  • lornasmithers

    Thanks for sharing Nimue. This is something I rarely talk about and try not to think about in between changing what needs changing… which has made me question my attititude…

    In contrast I have light periods but every 21 days. During the 5 year period I moved out with a boyfriend then we broke up and I lived in Herts and Yorks working as a groom they shut down completely suggesting my body wasn’t up for working properly if I wasn’t ‘at home.’ During this time as I’d already decided I wasn’t ever going to have children I was just glad they’d gone away…

    I’ve never really tried to make meaning out of my cycles although I guess that the rate is out of synch with the moon might be caused by the fact I push myself hard and put myself under unneccessary stress?

    Sounds like at least you’re listening to your body and accomodating x

    • Nimue Brown

      Thanks for sharing, that’s a whole different experience again, and I’m guessing no more or less normal than anything else. There’s a lot of diversity out there.

      • lornasmithers

        Considering further I think I really am quite lucky. As someone involved with horses most of my life the white trouser + strenuous exercise have been a strenuous exercise. Riding a dressage test or course of showjumps in white jodphurs with a heavy period could have been a bloody disaster!

      • Nimue Brown

        Something you’d need full concentration and no pain for as well, I am guessing. It’s funny, I hardly ever wear pale colours at all, I never feel quite safe in them and I hadn’t even noticed.

  • M. Shaffer

    I love your blunt honesty! Sometimes it sucks being a girl. I saw a Facebook meme once that showed how similar our uturus is shaped like a sharks brain and that we should call our periods shark week, and so I do 🙂

  • syrbal-labrys

    I don’t miss my “moon tsunamis” that left me exhausted, anemic, and doing piles of laundry while fearing to be more than 30 minutes from a bathroom for a week each month. Any woman complaining within my hearing about menopause and “I don’t feel like a woman anymore!” will likely be greeted with guffaws and a vivid description of how I celebrated my first year free of increasing the profits of Kimberley Clark, Inc!

    I never found anything romantic about periods, only a frequent sense of relief that, “Whew, another month I did not get pregnant!”
    Because yeah, all the happy birth control methods didn’t work for me EITHER.

    Womanhood is simply not as sweet and tidy as some rhetoric makes it out to be!

    • verdant1

      “Sweet and tidy womanhood”?! Bwahahahahaha!
      I LOVE my early menopause! The romance and spiritual what-nots of stomach cramps, aching back and really achy vagina completely escaped me…
      Now I feel like a human (well, as long as I take my herbs to avoid the flushes, nausea and disorientation…)
      Hmm, maybe there are reasons why I have a fondness for the ‘messy’ goddesses of creation and destruction (hello, Sekhmet and the Morrigan!)

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