Ending PMS hell — the power of charting your menstrual cycle


My name is Livnam Kaur, and as of the writing of this, I have just turned 28 years old.

I was born 15 weeks prematurely, and during my last 5 weeks in the womb, I was without the amniotic fluid. Being a "premmie"-child brings along challenges, but I did well. Or so I let my parents believe. At the age of 14-15, I was diagnosed with non-verbal learning disorder, and then at the age of 17, Asperger syndrome. However, I got no help or useful information about the latter until I was 23.

Why am I telling you this? Because I was well into my 20s before another Aspie-girl told me this: "Did you know that girls with Aspergers get up to three times more sensitive during that time of the month?" Say what!? No, I did not know that! Why hadn't anyone told me that before?

So, if anyone reading this has Aspergers or know anyone with AS: now you know. And knowledge is power.

I got my monthly cycle when I was 11. I don't remember much of it, other than having heard somewhere that it meant I was growing up, and it meant that blood would come out somewhere between my legs. I remember going to the bathroom one day and seeing some brown-red-stuff in my underwear, and went to my mother and asked for pads because I had gotten cervical fluid. She came with me to take a look, even though I was mortified. "No, but this is the menstruation." she stated. (FYI: I don't like the word "menstruation", it sounds so old-fashioned and weird to me).

I thought it was annoying I had gotten the cycle on that particular day because I was going horseback. There was one bonus to having the monthly cycle: "Klikk Libresse". A club for girls aged 11 – 16, where you would receive a package either every month or at least 4 times a year. In that package, you would get free samples of pads, a tiny little calendar to mark when you bled (hey, I learned about charting early!), and a magazine with information.

In the magazine was also a column where you could send in your questions and a nurse would answer them. Later, they created the website, and you could chat directly with the nurse and ask your questions. "Klikk Libresse" helped to demystify the period somewhat, but for me, the cycle was no fun. Having to deliver a note from my mother to my teacher before PhysEd that said: "She cannot have PhysEd today because of the usual", which was a message every teacher knew what meant, was embarrassing. Having to dodge the questions from the others in my class was a different story. Carrying the pads with me without anyone knowing became another issue. I stuffed my backpockets with pads and regularly took trips to the Ladies Room to change.

One day, however, I noticed that the blood had gone through the (night)pad, through my underwear and jeans, and even onto the chair. Having to ask the teacher to drive me home in the middle of the school day to get fresh clothes and more pads was humiliating. My mother was furious. Why, I still don't understand. Then we moved when I was 13, and I have purposely forgotten what happened to me during my 13th – 17th year.

I will give you some hints: depression, learning difficulties, self-harm, crying. Enough said. Having Aspergers and being a woman is no fun. Aspies are often portrayed in the media as being extremely intelligent, especially in mathematics and computer-related issues. I am not good with either of those, so if anyone of you are thinking "Oh, just like Sheldon from Big Bang Theory!" I will gladly and without regret slap you across the face. (No, I won't, but you get the point!)

I was an on-and-off vegetarian for years until I decided a few years ago to exclude meat, fish and chicken from my diet. I had read somewhere that it made you healthier, but my PMS was hell. To call my PMS "hell" is to call terrorists nice. I am not exaggerating, it was a nightmare. I didn't have that much pain physically speaking, but for 7-10 days every month from the age of 11, I felt as I was literally and physically losing my mind and sanity. I could accidentally bump my head into a door, and I would kick, scream and curse down the entire world before cutting myself in punishment for me being the worst creature in the world. Seven to ten days. Every month. From the age of 11. How I even survived is beyond me.

I guess we women are stronger than we think... My best friend and I have a saying: "You want evidence that God has a sick sense of humour? Girls with Aspergers!" I was a devout Catholic from the age of 12 – 19, so much so that nuns who had been cloistered for 50+ years said I was more Catholic than them. I thought my PMS and Asperger was a curse from God for many years. I read a poem called "God" written by Michael Jackson in his book "Dancing the Dream" sometime in 2009, and was floored. He calls God "She" in the poem. I was terrified and thought I was having visions. How dared he call our Heavenly Father a woman?? But my curiosity was piqued, and after reading the novel "Endymion Oracles: Nina's Story" and another book I cannot remember, I realized that MJ wasn't off his rocker after all.

Of course there is a Feminine element to the Most High! Discovering Goddess was liberating, as I discovered more about myself. I had lived alone in my brother's old apartment from August 2008 – January 2010, and in March 2010 I moved into an apartment in the basement of a large house. There's a garden here, and it's a tiny bit more rural than the apartment building I lived in before. So, my life took a turn for the better.

I began eating more organic food and tried every now and then to exercise. Bleeding-wise, I came across cloth pads and was quickly converted to them. But my PMS was still a nightmare. I tried using the birth control pill at one point. I was working at the time, and I couldn't lie and say I was sick 5 days each month, so I needed help. The pill did work, it calmed down my PMS, but it removed any trace of sexual feelings. I could not get aroused even when I tried. And the pills stopped working after 3 months. So I gave them up.

I also had to quit work and have been disabled because of AS since 2012, so I'm at home on Social Welfare. (and no, I am not rich. But if I try to work, I will end up in a mental institution)

Women in the Goddess movement refer to the monthly cycle as "Sacred Blood", and I laughed at that for a long time. "How dare they call my monthly nightmare "sacred"? These are women in their 50s and 60s who haven't had their cycles in a long time and have forgotten what it's like!" Somehow I came upon the magazine "She Who Knows", and subscribed to it. (Loved it from the first page!) There I saw an ad for Red School, and I groaned and thought "here we go again! Another group of menopausal women who are lying to us about the oh-so-amazing monthly bullshit!" But I looked them up, and took the "Hormone Harmony"-course.

As part of the course, I was invited to write a letter about my monthly cycle. I did, and while writing, I had a minor revelation: I did not hate my monthly cycle. Having a regular monthly cycle meant that my body was functioning and healthy! What I was desperate for, was a way out of the mental hell that trapped me each month. I had charted my cycle somewhat for years. In every one of my calendars, you will find certain days has a tiny red dot next to the date. But no more than that.

Red School encouraged me to do something more than just mark some days in red: write down how you feel. Notice how you feel. Don't judge how you feel, just notice them and write them down. So I did. First using the charts they provided, then as time went on, I bought a notebook (with red covers, because of course!) so I could elaborate a bit more.

I use a red pen during the bleeding days, and a blue pen during the rest of the month. After 3 months of charting, I was able to look at my calendar and know that "Oh, it's Day XX, then it's not weird that I feel this way, because I felt that way last month and the month before. Good to know." (Day 27 = stay away from me! I need a break from people and the world, please!)

I have also discovered that on Day 3, I am craving candy and all the foods in all the world, and I'm also downright depressed. I went back through my notes and saw the pattern. What an eye-opener. Because I charted, I was – and am – able to recognise and know which days I need to relax. And this is the thing: Women: it is not a sin to take a break! You are not a bad woman for saying "no" and lounging on the couch with your favourite chick-flick when your body says so! Take that break! 2016 started off in a funny way: I got my bleeding on the 1st. Isn't that something! And what's more: I found I was looking forward to it. I began cutting back on candy and soft drinks – I could easily empty a large bottle of Coca-Cola in one day before – and I eat mostly a vegan diet. Although, I let Fridays be "vegetarian"-day and allow foods with dairy products.

My recent menstrual altar, April 2016, complete with a stunning cloth my sister-in-law made for me

menstrual altar

I created a ritual to celebrate my monthly cycle: I set my altar with a red cloth, a red candle, a Maiden-Mother-Crone-chaplet, my birthstone (amethyst), and a little Red Tent Goddess-figurine. On the first day, I read the Gospel of Mary Magdalene and chant the Adi Shakti-mantra to honour the Feminine aspect of the Most High as well as honouring Her in myself.

Creating this ritual has helped me see and experience the monthly cycle in a more positive light. They teach in Kundalini yoga that nothing is more powerful than a woman's prayers, and a woman's prayers are amplified when she is bleeding. In the days leading up to the cycle, I do my best to avoid candy and unhealthy foods. Which, I confess is easier said than done. (So far, a few cookies hasn't harmed my cycle!) I also take the first day of the bleeding off. No TV (unless there's a rerun of "Grease Live", which hasn't happened yet but I'm praying for it!), no computer, no surfing on my cellphone. I relax. I do the ritual. I listen to music. I read. I take it easy. And: I literally lighten the burden: no tight clothing whatsoever. Seriously, why didn't I think of that before? Wear sweatpants and big t-shirts – and take off the damn bra! (ahh, taking off the bra...that's a pleasure men will never understand!)

Charting and thereby being able to recognise what days I need to relax on, and taking the first day of the cycle off, has been a tremendous help for me. Just knowing that it's my body saying "Hey girl, time to take it slow and don't rush!" is so great! I can't think of any other word than "great"! Because I now know what days I may feel a bit off on, I can plan my days accordingly.

Nope, can't go on that lunch date, because I'm about to bleed! Better be done with the housework before that date, so I can bleed in peace!

Ladies: start charting. I mean it. Get a notebook and get to work. On the first day of your bleeding, write "Day 1" and the date, and how you are feeling physically and above all, emotionally. Then keep doing that, and before long, you will see a pattern, and you will feel so very much in control of your own body and health and life, it's rejoicing! My monthly cycle is now a joyful part of my life, and I wish I had known sooner that just by changing my eating habits and noticing my emotional and physical health, a lot of pain could have been avoided. Thank you, She Who Knows magazine, for running the ad and getting me on the right track. And THANK YOU to Red School for encouraging me to chart. You changed – and actually saved – my life.


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