Period Story Podcast, Episode 68, Katy Ewen: OCD Is A Shapeshifter

You’re in for a real treat – on this week’s episode of Period Story, I’m so pleased to share my conversation with Katy Ewen, a reflexologist and fertility awareness educator. Katy so honestly shares her story of the effects her menstrual cycle has had on her mental health, navigating OCD and PMDD and what this means for her in the luteal phase. 

In this episode, Katy shares: 

  • How she first became aware of anxiety and OCD symptoms at five years old 
  • The effect hormonal changes have on her OCD and PMDD symptoms
  • The impact eating more and making positive nutrition  changes has had on her mental health and experience of the luteal phase 
  • How exposure response prevention therapy has been a game changer for her 
  • Her work as a reflexologist and the benefit of this therapy for menstrual health 
  • And of course, the story of her first period!

Katy says that understanding her menstrual cycle has given her so much insight into how to look after herself! 

Thank you, Katy!

Get in touch with Katy:

Reflex East Website

Reflect East Instagram





Le’Nise: thank you so much for coming on to the show today, Katy. I’m so excited to speak to you  

Katy: Thanks for having me. It’s lovely to be here. 

Le’Nise: So let’s get into the first question that I ask all of my guests, which is tell me the story of your very first period. 

Katy: So my actual first period was like, say, actually it’ll make sense in a second was like pretty uneventful. I was like just at home and I started and like my mum had always had, like, she’d never, like, hidden her like tampons or anything. So I just knew, like, whatever, if it was where it was, like she’d been really good with me. So like, she was like, Here’s what you need. Like, just make yourself comfortable. And like, that was it. 

But I had some bleeding and like I say, bleeding. It was like, probably like a tiny bit of spotting, maybe like a year before. And I was on holiday with my dad and I freaked out and I was like, I don’t know what to do. And I had my, like, step mum and stepsisters outside the toilet, like try to tell me how to put a tampon in. And I was like, so I wanted to go swimming, we were on holiday. And I was just like having a meltdown. And now I’m like, Oh, it was like the tiniest bit of spotting. And like, I thought that was a period is it’s kind of funny thinking about that now. But yeah, I kind of forgotten that happened and I was reminded a little while ago, so, oh yeah, that actually did happen. So yeah, that’s quite funny. 

Le’Nise: How old were you? 

Katy: I think so. I was 12 when I got my, like first like true period. And then I must have been like 11 when that happened. I was just, like, freaking out. So it’s kind of funny now, but yeah. 

Le’Nise: So you had that spotting and that kind of adventure with a tampon, and then how long did it take for you to get that so-called true period? 

Katy: It’s hard to remember, but I guess maybe a year or so later. It was a while later. 

Le’Nise: Right?

Katy: Yeah. 

Le’Nise: So you had you had that moment with a tampon and the spotting when you were 11, and then you got your period when you were 12 and in between that time had you been spotting throughout? 

Katy: Not that I can remember. It is hard to remember. I’m saying it’s a year, but like it could have been less like it is really kind of and still quite hazy now, but. Not that I recall. I remember, like when I did get my first true period when I was about 12 and being like, Oh, this is quite different to what I had experienced before. Being like, Oh, okay, this is this is what they talk about rather than yet the tiny bit of spotting that. As far as I remember, there wasn’t anything in between. 

Le’Nise: Okay. And so how did you know what was going to happen? So had you been receiving education in school? Did your mum have the in-depth chats with you about it? 

Katy: Yeah, we definitely had some stuff at school, but like, it was pretty minimal. From what I can recall, I think it was like, you’re going to have a period, it’ll come back once a month, like, here’s a sanitary pad, here’s a tampon, And that was it. And then it was just like sex education of. Like how not to get pregnant kind of thing. And I’m sitting there at 14 and being like, Well, I’m gay so none of this applies to me. It was also just an interesting experience. 

But yes, we definitely had some stuff at school. And then, yeah, as I said, my mom was always pretty open and honest about stuff. She definitely had got some like books and things around the house, so like, we’d like read some bits together and stuff. She was actually like, really, really like good with all of it and like, it didn’t feel. Like a shock or like I didn’t understand what was going to happen. I mean, outside of my period, obviously I didn’t know anything about the stuff that happens in between one period to the next. But in terms of like getting your period, yeah, my mom was pretty like good with all of it. But the school education, I mean, that’s another story. 

Le’Nise: And then in terms of your experience of your period, what was what was the first period like in terms of and then I guess after into your teenage years, in terms of like, was it painful? Was it just kind of really easy, you know? So tell us a little bit more about that. 

Katy: I never struggled too much with pain as such, maybe some sort of like grumbling cramps, but that was kind of as bad as the pain got. But I’d always just be exhausted to the point that, like, even my stepdad would like know when I was on my period because I’d just be like, white as a sheet cause I would just be so depleted. So like, that was definitely something that I sort of struggled with. I would just feel, yeah, absolutely exhausted when I was on my period and then going into like my teenage years. Definitely. So like I have a long history of struggling with my mental health. So I’ve got obsessive compulsive disorder, which wasn’t diagnosed like I probably had it since I was five and didn’t get diagnosed until I was 22 or 23. So like a long time of not being diagnosed. And I definitely noticed ten days before my period or as I started to track my period a bit more as in like using an app and then it would be like your periods ten days away and I’d be like, I’m not coping. 

And that would be like the biggest challenge was this sort of the time before my period suddenly having like very intensified intrusive thoughts and like just not being able to cope with them. So I say like PMS, like PMDD, is definitely been like the biggest struggle that I’ve had in terms of my periods and or the impact that like the hormonal fluctuations have had on my mental health as opposed to like the heaviness, like pain and things like that’s definitely been my experience and struggle there. 

Le’Nise: So talk a little bit more firstly because this is really interesting and I’d love to unpack some of this talk a little bit for us about the OCD, so obsessive compulsive disorder. And so you say you were first diagnosed when you were five or you first became aware of it when you were five? 

Katy: I first became aware of being like very anxious and very worried at that age, always worrying about something like the wind would whistle between like in a like an alley between our house and the next and I thought our house was going to fall down. And I was convinced of that. So I think just to kind of like backtrack a bit, I think a lot of people think of obsessive compulsive disorder as and I mean, stereotypes often exist for a reason, but that kind of like tidying, orderly cleanliness thing. But there’s lots of variations of obsessive compulsive disorder. 

So you have the obsession. So the thing that you’re kind of worrying about, essentially that you’re obsessing over, and then there’s the compulsions, so performing some sort of behaviour to, I guess, protect yourself from the obsession happening. So it makes sense in terms of if people were so like COVID being a prime example for a lot of people struggling with OCD is like there’s germs around. They’re worried about them getting sick, someone they care about getting sick, even making a stranger sick kind of thing. So they’ll compulsively, like, wash their hands to make sure like there’s no germs on them. But obviously, how do you know when there are no germs on your hands anymore? So these compulsions can get completely out of hand and like, completely debilitating. 

So my experience of it was having all internal mental compulsions. So like ruminating on things, trying to make sense of like bodily sensations. So I, for most of my life, up until very recently, mistook a wave of anxiety as like a gut feeling. So I would have some, like, awful thought about something and have this wave of anxiety be like, Oh my goodness, it must mean that’s true. So I had it about relationships. I had about my sexuality. Like OCD tends to, the obsessions tend to like pinpoint around things that you either really, really care about or things that you find repulsive, abhorrent. So often comes up around like quite taboo subjects that people find it very difficult to talk about. So I mean, I was a child and I had some obsessions about like it. It’ll come up about things that are in the news. So I’m thinking about like, I mean, let’s be really frank about it, like. I first came aware of paedophiles because of school and being like, Watch out on the Internet, be safe on the Internet. And then I was like, Am I a paedophile? It’s like I was a child then. 

But like getting these thoughts in your head and just going round and round and round and round, round and because I had like, no external compulsions. No one spotted it as OCD. For like over 20 years. So it was completely debilitating and has been very debilitating. Even like I had a really bad episode a few months ago, which really took me by surprise. And and we actually had this interview that you reached out to do this interview. And as I actually can’t at this point, because I was like in the midst of this like episode that I had, I hadn’t had one like that since I was like 19. So it was like quite scary. 

And that’s very much been in line with my menstrual cycle as to when I have these episodes and when they’ll start. So I have to be really conscious of like how I’m looking after myself and like particularly coming into that luteal phase of like, okay, I know that things can kind of ramp up for me here if I have not been looking after myself, like what are the things I need to have in place to make sure that I don’t give any. Like tiny amount of meaning to these thoughts because they don’t have any meaning. Like it’s so much of OCD is basically how you respond to the thoughts.

It’s like everyone has intrusive thoughts. Like I see it in clients where maybe they’ve just had a baby and then they’re worried about like harming their baby in some way. That’s an intrusive thought that we all have them. It’s about how you respond to them. So that’s the thing I’ve had to learn, is to be like, just because I have these thoughts doesn’t mean they mean anything. So, um, so yeah, I mean, that’s kind of the background into the OCD. But yeah, in terms of then my menstrual cycle is like my first girlfriend. I would break up with her on a monthly basis and it was like 100% OCD and like in a completely aligned with my periods. So. 

Le’Nise: Wow, so can you just it sounds like you, you have a really good understanding of the layers of of the OCD and then how then it ties in to the changes in hormones and neurotransmitters as they go up and down through the menstrual cycle. Can you just talk a little bit more about kind of hormonally, you might not be able to speak to this, but I’m just curious hormonally and in terms of what’s going on with the neurotransmitters, what what do you think the primarily the issue is? Is it the drop in serotonin. Is it the drop like the drop in oestrogen which is affected then serotonin, glutamate and acetylcholine? Like, do you know more about that kind of side of it? 

Katy: Not specifically, but I can speak to it in terms of my experience with fertility awareness because I became aware. So I’m a fertility awareness mentor and when I was doing my training, we had to like, learn fertility awareness and use it on our own cycles. And I’d never tracked in that great amount of depth compared to when we were doing this. And my tutor looked at my charts and it was taking me quite a while to get my head around, like how to use the observations and things. So like my chart was quite sparse. There wasn’t a lot of information on there. She just looked at it straight away, went Well, you’ve got a seven day luteal phase and that should be about 12 to 14. And she’s like, I’m not surprised at all that you have such a drastic drop in your mood because your progesterone levels are just so minimal compared to what they could and should be. 

So I’ve always noticed that it was like, yeah, ten days before my periods, the I’m guessing as oestrogen was starting to drop for me that that’s when things would really the intrusive thoughts would intensify. And then that makes sense again with like the serotonin drop. In terms of the other neurotransmitters, admittedly, I’m not that clued up on that element of it, but, but definitely, yeah, that was like a real wakeup call of her being like, well, if you can lengthen your luteal phase, I imagine your symptoms will improve quite a lot. And so we did a lot of unpicking of like how do you improve your luteal phase? And a lot of that to me was like through diet and nutrition and like literally eating more, like I come from a dance background. So you can imagine the kind of messages around eating and things that you can carry from that. And like that alone was a game changer and amongst some other things. And I had I’ve had a few cycles now where like the drop is far, far less. And it just means obviously, like you’re not dreading, like feeling like, well, feeling great before, like ovulation. Like I’ve always felt really good. Kind of like just after my period in, like, a week after. And then being like, here we go, what’s going to happen? And it’s like living like two different versions of yourself and yeah, so. I don’t know if that answers your question. Yeah. 

Le’Nise: Yeah. The, the progesterone side is really interesting because your is that’s kind of one of our feel good hormones. So and we only make it when we ovulate. And then we have the link between progesterone and GABA, which is this neurotransmitter that we make in our brain that is, it’s like natural Xanax. And it’s interesting to me that you immediately were able to make the link between changing what you ate and then the changes and how how much progesterone, because effectively this is about how much progesterone you’ve made when you ovulate. So tell us a little bit more about what you did to increase or to support ovulation effectively. 

Katy: A huge part of it was definitely looking at diet and nutrition and the amount of protein I was eating. Like I didn’t realise all the kind of baggage I was carrying around food from being at dance school. Essentially I thought I’d kind of gotten away quite lightly, really. Like my weight wasn’t commented on when we were there, but there were lots of people in my year that were very actively told, like, You need to lose weight, Your bum is too big, like this and that. And like obviously you do kind of absorb that messaging, like whether it’s said directly to you or not, which I definitely didn’t appreciate until I was challenged on what I was eating. And then and I found it so confronting to be like, Oh, maybe I need to eat more and. Yeah, I really I had so much hesitation around it and was I don’t want to.

And I learned fertility awareness with Lisa Hendrickson Jack. And she said to me, But like, if you want to feel different than like, you might want to try basically just eating more. And I was like, Oh, I don’t know. Like, no, really, like, stressed out about it. And then I was like, okay, like not dancing any more for work. Like, I don’t I don’t need like, no, I mean, no one needs to look the way that, that industry desires you to look. But let’s just try and see. 

And I just started like really thinking about my protein intake because that was very minimal. Upped that considerably like a lot. And, and yeah, just sort of thinking about what I’m eating throughout the day. Like what kind of snacks am I having? I’m an absolute sucker for a 4:00 chocolate break. I’m not just thinking like, am I actually hungry here? Like, do I need to eat something rather than like, just need some sugar? And I was just trying to address those things. And then as a few months later, I was due on my period and I was so confused because I did not at all feel like I was due on my period. Like I felt really good and I was like, okay, I think this is what she’s talking about. 

And like, I’d put on a tiny bit of weight. At the time I was very stressed out about it, and now I’m like, Well, my clothes still fit me. Yeah, I need to buy a size up pair of jeans, but I feel good. And like seeing that difference of like actually appreciating, oh, maybe I need to eat more to feel better was just this massive. Like I felt like my mind had been blown a bit and it’s something that I’m really, like, passionate about talking to clients about. Like when I teach fertility awareness or even just with reflexology as well as you need to make sure you’re eating enough. And I’ll always point people to nutritionists if they need additional support, but like seeing at least my experience and then now with clients experiences of like I feel so different because the messaging I’ve been told my whole life is like, move more, eat less isn’t necessarily true of how to like feel good. And I said, Oh, it’s such it’s so sad that. Particularly women, we’re like, socialised this way to be as tiny as you possibly can be. And now I’m like, No. Like, So yeah, that was like a huge part of it, like some supplementation, but like really making sure that the groundwork was there before adding supplements in. So like, now I’ll take magnesium, I’ll take B6 in the luteal phase, that’s kind of what I’m doing at the moment. I think I’m going to start on some agnus castus, so vitex just to see. How that works for me. But I’m. Yeah. So that’s kind of in. 

Le’Nise: Just the just a note of caution. With agnus castus. 

Katy: Yes. 

Le’Nise: You want to be really clear on when you take it in your cycle because you know, this is you know a lot of listeners will have heard of chasteberry, agnus castus, vitex is known by all three names and it’s like one of those supplements has herbs that’s always recommended as a kind of this will help to fix your period. 

Katy: Yeah, like a bit of a cure all. 

Le’Nise: Exactly. Like, like maca. It’s, that’s another one of those herbs you have to be really careful with maca. You have to be careful because it’s can be very oestrogenic. And so with somebody with fibroids, you don’t want to be taking maca.  But then with agnus castus, you want to make sure that you’re taking it typically in the second half of your cycle, just just around ovulation because it’s so powerful and you use it to really help support ovulation and progesterone production. And, you know, I know this isn’t in a consultation, but I just wanted to add that it. 

Katy: Yeah. Yeah totally. 

Le’Nise: Because I see them recommended so often. I actually had this brand approach me saying did I want to work with them? And I had to say no because they did it in and they were saying take this all cycle along. And I was like no no they can’t. Yeah. But when it works it can be so powerful. 

Katy: Yeah. Like I’ve heard this and I haven’t tried it yet because of like all the kind of like caution around it. Like again in my training, it was like, this shouldn’t be your first resort. Like, get your foundations in place, make sure you’re eating enough, making sure like you’re you’ve got like stress management practices in place. Like look at your exercise, like looking at all these, like sort of like foundational elements before being like, I’m just going to take this thing. And because like, you don’t want to be missing out on the other good stuff and the impacts that can have on all of the systems of your body, not just like your reproductive system. Yeah. 

Le’Nise: Yeah. What I think is actually really interesting alternative to vitex, agnus castus is vitamin E. Oh yeah. So vitamin E is really powerful for supporting the balance between oestrogen and progesterone, and I like to recommend it for clients who have issues around ovulation where either they or they’re not ovulating every cycle or they’re not making progesterone when they when they ovulate and I personally think that there are, it’s a fat soluble vitamin. So you need to make sure you’re taking the right dosage. But it’s definitely I think it’s a better alternative to vitex, which is so powerful on the brain. Yeah. So yeah, that’s just a kind of a few thoughts from me on that. 

Katy: Learn something new every day. 

Le’Nise: But then to just going back to your story, because I, I find this so fascinating that you, you know, you have this, you have these experiences and although, you know, we you often hear people talk about their stories and they don’t not they don’t always talk about how they’re coping with it currently. So you people in this space talk about their period problems they’ve had in the past, but they don’t talk about what’s going on with them now. 

And yeah, I really like the I really applaud your honesty about, you know, what you went with went through at the end of last year and the episode, as you called it, that you had. And I think that’s really important because with all of this, health is a journey and things change and new things will come into play. Like you might experience a new stressor, like COVID, for example. Yeah, and it can throw some. Even with mental health, it feels like it’s almost like almost like Tetris, not Tetris, Jenga in a way. Yeah. It’s like this tower that you’ve created and everything is in nicely. It’s stacked nicely and want something can come along like COVID. And take a few of the like blocks out and it’s teetering. And I like I just think it’s so interesting to be able to say, okay, this is what I’ve done in the past but current events have affected the way I feel now, and I need to revisit and be aware that this is an ongoing practice. And then just in terms of. Then layering on. You called it you said PMS, but you’ve also said PMDD. How, how does that come into play? 

Katy: With the OCD in like. Yes, but yeah. So. It’s definitely. Yeah. Historically it’s always been about like ten days before my period comes. I’m like, okay, here we go. I can feel like these intrusive thoughts, like creeping in, whatever they’re about. OCD has a wonderful habit of being like, a shapeshifter. So, like, you’re just sort of get to grips with, like, one obsession. Then it’ll just move on to something else. You’re like, Great. 

But yes, about ten days before kind of can feel the intrusive thoughts out creeping in. And it’s just basically like, I don’t it’s like I don’t feel as resilient to them. Like sometimes these thoughts will come up and I’ll be like, Yeah, I know exactly what that is like, move on with my day. Forget it even happened almost. And then there’ll be other times where something will come up and it’s like, it’s like it’s got a bite to it and you’re like, Ooh, what was that about? And then you kind of start exploring this thought, and that’s basically giving the thought meaning. Hmm. And, and it’s just so once you start doing that, it’s just a slippery slope. 

And like, as I hit, my period will approach and like, hormonally as less and less supporting, you like that just intensifies and snowballs. And then it would get to like the point of my period and I would just be a mess, really? Yeah. Like, there’s been times where, like, I’ve been so disassociated. I’m like, I couldn’t tell you what was real. Almost. And so then it’s like my period will come, and it’s just like this massive wave of relief of, like, Oh, okay. Like, I think this has been and it’s like every time, like, if it’s particularly intense, it’s like I sometimes forget that, like, okay, my horrmones aren’t really supporting me at this point. So my period will come, it’s almost like, Oh, thank God. Like, and the few days after that, like, it can take a while to kind of if you’ve been in that heightened state of anxiety, it can take some time for that to de-escalate. So then it’s like you have those few days of bleeding and it can de-escalate and you kind of maybe calm down and then it’s like, okay, get to like day like three or four and then be like, okay, I think think I’m alright? Yeah. If there hasn’t been too much of like an aftermath for of whatever the OCD is like, picked up that I might be able to kind of like recover and be like, okay, yeah, I’m good, right? Here we go. 

Then there’s maybe like a week, ten, 12 days, and then it would be like off it would go again. So, like, I mean, it’s not always as extreme as that. Like, it gets much more. The shifts can be more subtle. It’s like, like you say, depending on your Jenga tower and like, what kind of how stable that is at the time. Then like, I’m far more able to like, cope with different things. But yeah, just sometimes things can knock you a bit and then if they, if that like those foundations are shaky, then it can just really take hold. But something yeah, I’ve had to really learn is like I just have to not give these thoughts any meaning from the start. It’s like as soon as you start to give them meaning, it’s just so easy for it to snowball into something that. Because yeah, when you’re very anxious, like your rational brain isn’t working in the same way. So like, you can just take yourself down these roads that you, you think at the time are very logical and then you can look back and be like, How on earth did I get from like A to Z in like. 2 seconds like because it can be fast as well. That’s the thing. It can just once it was, yeah. Snowballing, isn’t it. Whereas that once it goes, it goes. So yeah. 

Le’Nise: And so have you had any, any support from like a mental health professional to help you with. Yeah. Like a toolbox for when these thoughts do come in. Yeah. 

Katy: Yeah I’ve been really fortunate that I’ve been able to access therapy for the last four years and like that has been privately. So like, got to acknowledge, like the privilege there of being able to, like, see a private therapist for that amount of time. But that has truly been life saving for me. And so I’ve had it’s a type of cognitive behavioural therapy. So you often hear CBT mentioned, but there’s like kind of gold standard treatment for OCD is exposure response prevention therapy. 

So it’s essentially you being exposed to the things you’re obsessing about and that is going to raise your anxiety. And then you have to sit with that discomfort and not perform your compulsions, whatever they may be. So compulsions, people perform them because they temporarily reduce that anxiety. So if you don’t do the compulsion, the anxiety is going to increase for a time. And then naturally you kind of realise, oh the bad thing hasn’t happened and then it comes down. So you’re continually exposing yourself to different things. And like, it’s it’s it’s hard work is really hard, like. And then yet in time you basically sort of come to realise that that particular thing isn’t necessarily true or it’s not as you’re making it out to be in your head, it’s not unsafe. 

I think that’s the thing is like people have these compulsions largely because they’ll feel unsafe or uncertain or scared about something, and you just learn that nothing is not going to happen. And as I said, OCD can be a real shapeshifter. It can pinpoint itself on to different things. So you have to do different exposures for different things. And it’s definitely like ongoing work, at least it has been for me. And yeah, so definitely like accessing therapy was like the biggest game changer. Like I actually originally came to reflexology as a way to help manage the anxiety, but I was undiagnosed at that point and my poor mum didn’t know what like she didn’t know what we were dealing with and she, she’d seen a reflexologist that had really helped her calmer and I think that was kind of the approach we took for a while of how do we manage this, because I don’t think we really recognise what we didn’t, we didn’t recognise it for what it was because that definitely at the time was so little information about OCD, particularly in the way it was presenting for me. So yeah, like had support with like reflexology and like tried to do some therapy before like counselling and things but just was undiagnosed. So some approaches when,for all mental health conditions you need to have the right therapy to make sure you’re receiving the correct support. Yeah. 

Le’Nise: Two follow up questions up in the back of that? So the first one is, do you talked about these thoughts and how there’s anxiety around them? Are there and is there like a positive side of it? You know, do you have any find that are there like any positive obsessions, things that you get obsessed with, but it’s like actually positive? Like maybe see the work you do, like you get obsessed with a certain aspect of it. And that’s actually quite motivating. 

Katy: I guess so, I mean, there’s not I mean, it’s great that there’s not the same like anxiety driving it, but because I think like that’s because I often think, gosh, if I could like use my brain in like the speed that it can perform, like when it’s obsessing in a negative way. But I guess, yeah, like I can definitely I’m very interested and passionate about this work and like, I guess you could call it an obsession. So I think it can kind of, having a mind that can be very particular, I guess can be a really good thing in like when you’re running your own business, like you have to be like quite on top of stuff. So I guess like there are positives. It’s funny, I’ve never actually been asked that question and given it that much thought. So that’s quite it’s quite funny thinking of it like that. 

Le’Nise: And then I wondered what your thoughts are on, you know, when you hear people say, Oh, like I’m so OCD when they talk about, you know, like I think of David David Beckham talking about how the way he organises his kitchen cupboards and how the labels have to all be face forward and how he talks about it as being part of his OCD and no I don’t know if he truly has OCD. Yeah, I remember that. Just thinking in my mind, thinking like that just felt weird, and I just wondered what your thoughts were about, you know, the way that people talk about OCD kind of in the culture. 

Katy: I mean, honestly, it drives me up the wall like it’s it’s so and I get it like, again, talking about the stereotypes of things of like orderliness, cleanliness. And people just go like, like someone to, like, tidy up the house and be like, I’m just a bit OCD. I’m like, I think you like to live in a tidy environment and like, that’s fine. Like, great. Like, I think most of us do, but. I think if people understood the distress and the destruction and how like debilitating OCD can be, I don’t think people would talk about it like that. 

Like, I like I genuinely feel like I lost my teenage years to OCD and just being anxious and and like I say, anxious but like, it’s a it’s like a debilitating type of anxiety. But also there’s so much energy behind it. And like, I was really struggling when I was at dance school, but that environment, weirdly not in a positive way, but kind of like lent itself to that kind of like frantic energy because I could just burn it off because I’d be dancing all day and I’d stay when I was in these, like, heightened states or in the midst of, like, very difficult episodes. I would be getting praised by the dance school for being like, Oh, like you’re staying, like bearing in mind had been there eight until six. I’d stay 6 to 9 and do extra classes because I was like, I need to exhaust myself because I’m running off of adrenaline. Dancing literally for about 12 hours at that point because I was too scared to go home because I was like, I am going to be obsessing and I’m just too scared to go home. 

I think if people understood what it was like to live like that, I just don’t think people would be like, Oh, yeah, just, you know, I’m just like, Sure. And that’s kind of how I like often when people say things, I just I don’t go into it because it’s like you don’t necessarily want to pour your heart out every time of being like, this has been like the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to face throughout my life. And and I know other people that have struggled with it. And it’s just like you just wouldn’t wish it on anyone. You wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. So for people to be like, ha ha. Yeah, I’m just a bit OCD, I’ve colour coordinated my books. 

Le’Nise: Well, I really appreciate your honesty, and I think this will be really helpful for anyone listening who has either said something like that. 

Katy: Yeah, like we’ve all done it. Like, I. I mean, a completely different thing. But when I was a teenager, everyone is be like, Oh, that’s so gay. And I like to say it, and it’s like, I’m a gay person. Like, I like, like we’ve all we’ve all done it. Like, we just have to learn. 

Le’Nise: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. That’s so retro, actually. A retro insult. 

So let’s shift gears a little bit and talk a little bit more about the work that you do, because you mentioned it as a way as kind of an entry point to managing the anxiety around the OCD. But talk a little bit more about what reflexology actually is. 

Katy: Yeah, so reflexology is a holistic therapy where it’s performed, well I mostly work on people’s feet, so everyone’s like, Oh, you touch feet all day, But yep, and I love it. So we usually perform on the feet, the hands. You can also do it on the face and the ears. And we believe different parts of the body are mapped out in these extremities. So these little areas that you can like massage into using different techniques. So these areas we call reflexes, hence reflexology. And we believe that by working into them, we can have an impact throughout the whole body. 

So it’s like a similar concept, not it doesn’t like the theories behind it all different, but similar concept to acupuncture in that like we’re working on one area of body but having an impact elsewhere. So it’s like a deeply relaxing therapy. Like that’s one of the things that I think people find the most surprising about it is that like it’s you’re just working on the feet and it’s it’s non-invasive. I give quite gentle treatments and I think people are really shocked at the full body impacts they can feel during the treatment. And then after, like a lot of people feel like they get sort of like tingling or these waves like going through their body and there’s like a real full bodied experience, even though like we are just working on the feet and like the lower part of the calf sometimes, like that’s as far as well, that’s as much of your body as I’d be touching. 

And so yeah, it’s, yeah, deeply relaxing, like on another level, kind of relaxing and I think, yeah, that’s definitely why I came to it was to help kind of bring that anxiety down like a level or two and, and the reflexologist I used to see I like, I would definitely feel so much better for going, but I definitely didn’t fully relax because I’d be sat up watching her being like, what are you doing, what was that, what’s that bit. And I was just so fascinated by it. Like before I tried it, I was like, That sounds like the biggest load of rubbish. Definitely not the word I used. It’s just like that. That can’t be a thing. Like, I don’t understand how I could work like big eye roll like, alright, I’m like, fine, I’ll try and came out just like, Oh my God. 

Like she knew like, like I was having headaches. She asked me about my periods. She could tell I had like, like my hips were sore because like, I was like training a lot dancing at the time. And I was just I didn’t I just was so shocked. I was like, I don’t understand how this works. And so, yeah, like it’s it’s a really great treatment. Like particularly around, like stress, anxiety, it’s great for sleep and then also supporting like other conditions. So the menstrual cycle or digestive issues, I’ve definitely seen it have very positive impacts on. 

And as I was sort of training in this work, my partner has endometriosis and because I needed feet to practise on, I was always practising on her feet and she was like, This is making a massive difference for me. This is weird. And so the more I kind of went into it and then discovering there’s this whole areas of reflexology that are purely about fertility and supporting the menstrual cycle, and it just really sparked this passion and interest and obsession about, about this work. And that was how I kind of segued into the fertility awareness element of it all. But yeah, just seeing the impact that this very gentle treatment can have is just incredible. And like seeing the difference, like as with a lot of holistic treatments, it does kind of require some consistent sessions and it does have an a cumulative effect. The kind of the more frequently you’re able to come like, the more you’re going to kind of see those changes. Obviously, working with a menstrual cycle, sometimes we don’t see those changes until like 3 to 6 months. So some immediate relief definitely. But like kind of maybe the stress around it, some PMS symptoms like a reduction in some pain, but that kind of like long term effects we’ll see later down the line. But when you get to work with clients and you see those changes, it’s like this is this is really cool. Yeah. 

Le’Nise: And so is it similar to it? Or actually can you differentiate between reflexology and massage because I know some people will think, Oh well, I can just get a really great foot massage and is there anything. So can you just delineate the two? 

Katy: So with reflexology, if you see a reflexology, they’ll be trained specifically on where these different areas are mapped, being able to tailor a treatment. So we’re working into reflexes that are going to support you. So I always have a consultation with people beforehand. So like I really understand their history, what issues they’ve been having and that really helps me to tailor their treatment or to understand where they are in their menstrual cycle. So again, I can work the correct reflexes in the correct way. So we have different techniques that we use. So compared to a massage where it might just be kind of more of I can’t think of a better way to describe it. It’s kind of like stroking, like rhythmic kind of movements. Like there are elements of that, but we’re really working like a lot with the thumbs, like a lot with the thumbs and like individually pressing, imagining if your thumb trying to think how to describe this without having a visual of your thumb, sort of like walking up different areas of the foot and like working into that with these tiny little sort of caterpillar steps is a way to describe it. 

And so by working into these individual reflexes, the other thing that would differentiate, aside from the treatment planning compared to massage to reflexology, when you’re with a reflexologist, we’re trained to detect where these sensitivities are. So when you’re having a reflexology session, there might be certain areas where you’re like, Oh, that’s quite sensitive. Or when you get a knot in your back, like that sensation in your foot, but on a much smaller level or almost there’s bubble wrap under the skin. And we’re working specifically into those areas where we feel those sensations because that’s where we would say there’s like a blockage and we want to kind of try and ease that up a bit. And sometimes these areas like these congested areas are going to show up consistently. So someone’s got an ongoing condition or health diagnosis. And so say someone had like Crohn’s disease, for example, like their digestive system is going to continually feel congested. If someone has endometriosis where they have endo, these reflexes are going to continually feel congested. So we want to make sure we’re always working on them. But if you’ve got something like you’ve had a headache or a cold, like the reflexes, so like your fingers are your sinus reflexes, for instance, like you want to work into those, but the congestion might kind of like come and go as these things come and go, if that makes sense. 

Le’Nise: And can you can you do reflexology on yourself? 

Katy: You definitely can, yeah. So I do a lot of workshops with people showing them how to do reflexology on themselves. It’s great if you can get someone to do it on you. So if like I do workshops, I’ll kind of sometimes encourage that If you’ve got someone around you to do it on each other, like that can be really nice because that way you get to switch off a bit because I think the magic comes from the treatments because you are able to just fully switch off. So I really encourage clients to do like some reflexology on themselves. This kind of maintenance, like if they’re really struggling with sleep, then doing some before they go to bed can be really like nourishing and like calming way to like wind down and like prepare you for bed and things like that. 

And that maintenance kind of, if you have digestive issues that like run with your cycle then like working into those reflexes at different times. But I think the magic really comes when you are able to just like, totally switch off. For sure. Yeah. 

Le’Nise: So there there’s basically there’s a map of the foot. And I’ve seen them, every part of the foot is related to different parts of the body. And so I guess in theory, you know, it’s I guess it’s like, as you say, it’s like acupuncture where they’re different. Is it meridians? 

Katy: So in acupuncture, it’s meridians, as know, as much like research into reflexology, which is like such a shame. I wish there was, but there’s lots of different theories. So it’s kind of like one of them is zone theory. So there’s different zones of the body. So your big toe, if you it’s kind of like run down the first of the big toes, like the head reflex and that zone one again, the whole way down that like inside edge of the zone one. And then with each toe you go out a zone and that’s kind of like then going like from if you had a line running down the centre of your body, then going out the way of the zone. So like your shoulders are in zone five. 

So we kind of often think that’s like just underneath your little toe is like the shoulder reflex, which is underneath your little finger would be the shoulder reflex. So there’s this kind of theory of zones. If there’s like a blockage in that part of the zone, maybe there’s going to be in like the rest of the zones, so kind of making the zones more balanced. 

And there’s also another theory like you do reflexology at the extremities. So there’s lots of nerve endings in the hands, in the feet. So one theory sort of being that by working into these nerve endings, we can have an impact, sort of like sending these signals back up the body. So that’s like another kind of theory, so slightly different to acupuncture. And like I say, there isn’t the same amount of research into it, which is like I love the science, so I wish there was. But that thing of it I guess is anecdotal evidence. We have to kind of acknowledge some of that. But seeing the difference between clients when they come in and when they come out of a session and having had regular sessions like I think for a lot of people it takes experiencing reflexology to be like, Oh, wow, this is this is great. And that definitely was my experience because I was like, That’s not a thing now. And now I do it for a living. Yeah. 

Le’Nise: So someone has period problems. So like painful periods, they could come to you for a series of sessions. Yeah. They would see a difference in their period pain.

Katy: Yeah, it’s different for everyone. Like I say, some people get more kind of immediate relief. Some people it can really help in the kind of the longer term or help with the symptoms like around their cycle that they get as well. So I really like to see people thinking of that kind of supporting people through all stages of their cycle. I really like to see people ideally once before they ovulate, once after and or depending on when they get their symptoms. 

So if people find like they, they start to get pain a few days before their period or like they know their period’s due, I’m like, okay, I’d like to see you a few days before that to kind of, let’s keep this at bay, let’s keep it everything nice and calm and like stop anything like flaring up too much that we know about, like stress and inflammation on the body and all those things. So if we can keep that calmer, then like that’s going to have a really positive impact. Or someone who has an experience like myself, for instance, of knowing their mood really dips, I’ll be okay. I try and come a few days before you know, that happens if you’re tracking your cycle, let’s get you in a few days before that and then maybe like a week or so later to kind of really keep this calm. So it depends, and treatment plans depend for different things. And the app before and after ovulation is a good way to start having regular sessions. And then, yeah, pinpointing depending on the issues so like whether that’s pain, pinpointing the treatments around. When you experience that moods changes, pinpointing when you, they experience those changes. 

Le’Nise: Okay, so someone’s listening and they they’re thinking, I need to move that. How can they get in touch with you? How can they book in for a few sessions with you? 

Katy: So you can go to my website, which is www.reflexeast.com. I’m also under Reflex East most of the time. So you can book in there or find me on Instagram which is just @reflex_east and there’s all the booking links there so feel free to DM me and have a chat about it if you want to discuss anything beforehand. My DM are always open, but otherwise you can just book in like that. 

Le’Nise: Great, you’ve shared a lot of your story. You’ve been really open about your experience, which I think is amazing, and I know that will be really helpful for a lot of people listening. What’s the one thought that you would love to leave listeners with today? 

Katy: Well, I think just really understanding your cycle gives you so much insight into like how to look after yourself. I think so often we’re used to just sort of like running around and like ignoring the things that our body is telling us. And it’s like tracking your cycle, understanding when symptoms, whatever they may be, come up. And just really listening to those and being like, What can I take from this that’s going to positively support me? I think, yeah, that understanding is just invaluable. 

Le’Nise: Amazing. Thank you so much for coming on the show today. I so appreciate your openness and your honesty. Yeah. Thank you again. 

Katy: No, thank you. I’m really happy to be here. Thanks for this. 

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