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Category: Hormone Health

Period Story Podcast, Episode 35: Lauren Lee-Crane and Catherine Lee, Become An Expert In Your Own Body

To round out season 3 of Period Story, I’m really excited to share today’s episode with twin sisters Lauren Lee-Crane and Catherine Lee. They are the founders of Semaine, a health and wellness supplement for people with painful periods. I loved our conversation and am really grateful they shared their story of living with endometriosis, going through various surgeries, being Asian in the ballet world and of course, the story of their first periods.

Catherine said that her first period was very memorable because her mom made homemade Frappuccinos to toast the occasion! Within a few months, she said that she was already asking for a hysterectomy. Lauren says she got her period after Catherine and really didn’t want it.

We talked about being bunheads, which is the term for girls who do ballet at a relatively high level and how they navigated this very structured, hierarchical and rigid world. They were often told that they were too exotic for the ballet world and that they didn’t have the right ‘look’.

Lauren talks about how as ballerinas, they learned to suppress and numb themselves to any pain they experienced and this translated to the endometriosis pain as well. Lauren says they thought of it as just another pain they had to deal with.

Both Lauren and Catherine shared their endometriosis journeys, with Lauren getting diagnosed with stage 4 endometriosis and Catherine getting diagnosed with stage 2 endometriosis. Lauren described the pain she experienced as ‘a bouquet of knives sort of sitting up in her pelvis’. Catherine describes her pain as ‘feeling like she had a bowling ball in her uterus’.

Catherine and Lauren shared stories of their pain being dismissed by doctors and health professional in quite critical moments and how they’ve learned to advocate for themselves in health situations. Catherine says that it’s important to become an expert in your body and Lauren says to trust yourself and advocate for yourself. Thank you so much, Lauren and Catherine!

Get in touch with Lauren and Catherine:

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CATHERINE AND LAUREN’S BIOS

Lauren:
I’ve had painful periods since I was 15. After decades of believing the immense pain I experienced was normal, I was diagnosed with endometriosis and underwent multiple surgeries. I don’t want other women who have painful periods, endometriosis, adenomyosis and PCOS to go through what I have. Finding a natural way to support women’s health and voice their stories are the reasons we started Semaine: a health and wellness supplement for people with painful periods. 

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Catherine:
In my late twenties, I started to experience worsening symptoms from endometriosis. In 2015 I elected to have surgery and was diagnosed with stage II endometriosis. I see learning to live with endo as a journey – taking care of myself, listening to my body, and voicing what I need to be healthy. Normalizing the conversation around periods and period pain, is exactly why I wanted to start Semaine with Lar and her husband Matt.

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SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Le’Nise: On today’s episode, we have Lauren Lee-Crane and Catherine Lee. They are the founders of Semaine, a health and wellness supplement for people with painful periods. They started Semaine after both being diagnosed with endometriosis and undergoing multiple surgeries. Lauren says that she doesn’t want other women who have painful periods. endometriosis, adenomyosis and PCOS to go through what she did. Catherine says that normalizing the conversation around periods and period pain is exactly why she wanted to start Semaine. They wanted to find a natural way to support women’s health and voice their stories. Welcome to the show.

Lauren: Thank you so much, Le’Nise, so happy to be here.

Catherine: Thank you, so excited.

Le’Nise: So can you both start off by telling me the story of your first period? 

Catherine: Yes, this is Catherine. I will tell my story first because I got my period first, which, I was very upset because I thought as twins we were supposed to do everything together. 

And I think I got my period almost like 6 to 12 months before Lauren did. And I remember it very vividly. We were, so we grew up outside of Washington, D.C. and Maryland. And every summer, our extended family had a beach condo in Ocean City, Maryland, which is on the eastern seaboard.

So we were at the beach, of course, so we were at that condo. And I still remember there were two bathrooms in that condo and the bathroom where I discovered I had my period. It had all these like orange and brown daisy wallpaper that I feel like that’s like stuck in my mind. But anyways, so I was like I started my period and I was like, oh no. And I remember I told my mom and she was like, so excited, at least that’s the impression I got. Like, maybe she was like, oh my gosh, what’s going on? But I remember it was when this is gonna age us for sure, but it was like a couple years after Frappuccinos came out in Starbucks and there were no Starbucks in Ocean City at the time. But my mom had found like a recipe to make Frappuccinos at home. So I remember she made, like, took out the blender at the beach condo and like made Frappuccinos. And we all, like, cheered to my womanhood. I was mortified and I was just like, I don’t want this. And I think eventually, like within those first couple of months of having my period, I think I asked my mom for a hysterectomy. Like, I don’t really know what it was. I just thought it was like it meant you didn’t have to bleed every month. So my mom was like, “but you’re going to want to have babies and all the things” and I was like, “Not worth it, don’t want this, get it out my body.” And I was just like, not. And I had I remembered, like, you know, with reading like articles like reading teen magazines and stuff and books like women were or young girls were so excited to get their periods and I was like, I can’t really I don’t I don’t want this at all. And I know, like, Lar, you can talk about it, but I know you were like, equally mortified for me.

Lauren: I remember. Oh Cath was twelve. Yeah. So we were a little bit older, I feel like when Cath got her period, I remember I was just like, ‘Oh my God, thank God I don’t have mine yet. And I, I think the reason why we felt that way is we were both dancers. We wanted to be ballerinas. I feel like most little girls at some point want that. We continued to want that until we were 18 and we danced all the time. We, we did like twenty five hours of ballet every week. That was our life. And as a ballet dancer, anything that’s going to cause you inconvenience or make it harder for you to be a ballet dancer, whether it’s to develop breasts, you know, you just want to be skinny. You just want to be able to move the way that you’re used to moving when you’re 11 to 17. And I remember, it’s like a period is going to be such an annoyance because, you know, you have to wear a tampon, you have to wear a pad. So I remember when Cath got her period and she was saying like she was so embarrassed. It was just me and my mom and my dad there. It’s not like we had other people at the condo with us. And I was so embarrassed for her, like, ‘oh, my God, why are we talking about Catherine’s period? I’m so glad I don’t have mine.’ Catherine’s right. I did get mine six months after her and I actually had mine when we were doing The Nutcracker. So every December, you know, every bunhead in the world does The Nutcracker at some point. And Cath and I were getting changed. This is a, you know, a couple hours before you went onstage and I was putting my costume on and I notice there’s like a little bit of blood on my tights.

And I was like, “No, I think I know what this is though. Why is it happening now?’ Cause of, you know, happening right before you’re going on stage. You’re already sort of like nervous and excited and then getting this thing that, Catherine and I obviously we never wanted. I know there are women you’ve had on your podcast and our friends who are excited to get their period, that was never our experience. And I think a big part of that was being ballet dancers and being so focused on on wanting to do that in the sort of strange culture that the ballet world is.

 You know, I mean, it’s not like our ballet dancer teachers ever said, oh, getting your period is bad. I just remember hearing older ballet dancers talking about it and how painful it could be and how, you know, like I remember the Sugar Plum Fairy one year having to ask the costumers just to keep taking her out of her tutu because she had to go put a new tampon in. And I remember I was like, oh, my God, that sounds like such a headache. So that was that was our experience with with periods and ballet.

Le’Nise: Talk a bit about being bunheads. So for people who don’t know what that expression means, typically it refers to girls who do or who do, is it ballet and does it include gym, gymnasts as well? Or is it only ballet? 

Catherine: I think I’ve only heard it used with ballet and when you’re a, if you’re doing ballet at a relatively high level, like a pre professional level like you, it was until like probably we were 16 that we just assumed we weren’t going to be going to university, that we would immediately go into a company or if if we were lucky enough, maybe we’d apply to Juilliard, you know, which is a very well-known school. But if you did ballet specifically, not modern dance or something like that, you essentially go in to a company as early as, like 16, depending on where you are.

And it wasn’t until we were 16 or 17 that we realized maybe we should get a college degree.

Le’Nise: Tell me a bit more about the ballet world. I did ballet when I was really little. But the only thing I really know about ballet is Christmas equals Nutcracker or. And then Black Swan, the movie. That’s it.

Lauren:  That is totally understandable. I feel like that’s most people’s experience with ballet. And to be honest, Catherine and I have never seen Black Swan on because we were like, ‘it’s going to hit too close to home.’ So we’ve never watched it. But really, I feel like how it changed for us is when we were about eight years old, we decided, you know, this is our life. We started when we were about 3 because we had seen Baryshnikov, famous male ballet dancer dancing on television. And I thought he was flying. And I was like, yes, that is what I want to do. So I think a lot of people assume it’s like the pretty tutus or the pointe shoes. But for as we saw Baryshnikov and we like. That’s it. That that is life. And so we took like sort of the classes everybody takes when you start ballet and there’s like tap and jazz when we were younger and when we were eight, we went into this pre-professional academy. And so we would go to ballet anywhere from like when we were younger, it’s like three days a week, by the time we were in high school or about 13 – 14. We were going, you know, five to seven days a week and even leaving school early in order to go to class longer.

And it’s a very it’s a very, very structured, very hierarchical and very sort of rigid world. So each year, you’re trying to progress to sort of the next year. And within those years, you’re also doing performances. So The Nutcracker is the big one in the winter, but we’d have multiple performances in the spring, in the summer as well. And then in the summer, you’d also be applying for workshops with bigger companies like the Royal Ballet, if we were in the UK or American Ballet Theater, we would do workshops with the Joffrey Ballet Theater. We were often considered a little too exotic for the ballet world. We were told that multiple times. So we didn’t have as much luck with some of the bigger companies because we didn’t have the quote unquote look. This was in the 90s. Things have definitely changed now. Not as much as they should. But, you know, Misty Copeland’s out there, which is awesome. But that was very different for us. And sort of the mid, late 90s, we were just told we wouldn’t fit into the corps very well. So this was happening when we were sort of in our later teenage years. And one of the reasons why we ended up getting out of ballet and going to university instead just because of some of the discrimination we faced. But it’s in when you’re in that world, it just seems like even though you see that discrimination, you see, you know, the body dysmorphia that can happen. And obviously the way we thought about our periods was not particularly healthy. It was still such a dream for us like that, still having such a passion for something that almost nothing else mattered. You knowing you were just going to do whatever it took to get to where you wanted to be. And Cath and I were lucky to have each other because it’s a very, very competitive atmosphere that, the teachers are not particularly supportive. And we never competed against each other as twin sisters. It was like if Cath did well, I felt like I was doing well, even if she got a better part than me. But for the most part, you know, it’s not like a team sport. You are very much sort of alone in trying to be better than the next person next to you. So it’s it’s a very yeah. It’s as sort of a strange way to grow up because that, you know, we weren’t focused. We always had to do well in school because our parents were like, if you don’t do well in school, we’re taking you out of ballet. So we, we got the straight As or whatever we needed to do in order to stay with ballet. But really, that wasn’t important to us. It was just, do as well as you can at ballet. Nothing else really matters. And that’s you know, most people are going to parties when they’re teenagers or doing things like that. And we didn’t. It was just like ballet, ballet, ballet all the time.

Catherine: And a big part of it, too, was like Lar was saying about the teachers. Like, a lot of it in that world is just like you’re so desperate to get approval from all the teachers that you have, because they’re the ones who, like, you know, can help push you into a company. They’re the ones that give you better roles and different ballets and stuff like that. And then along the same side, of course, and you have the whole, like, body image aspect of it, which you always hear about with ballet.

Lauren and I were very lucky, we never had to worry about weight problems. I think that’s the Asian side of us. You know, we were naturally skinny, so we were very lucky in that. But we also didn’t have, like, Lar said there, we didn’t have the looks and we weren’t blond and blue eyed. And then on top of that, we didn’t really have the body type either. We’re tiny, we’re like 5″3 on a good day and and ah, you know, our pointes, our feet weren’t exactly like perfect. Our legs didn’t come up to our shoulders. We didn’t have super long legs. I think our torso and legs are kind of even. So it was all these things. It was funny because it was like we were very lucky. We had friends that, you know, suffered with anorexia and stuff and we didn’t have that. But for us, it was like growing up, knowing our bodies weren’t quite right for that world. So, like. And then on top of that, you have you get your period at 12, 13.

You know, and so it’s like one more thing to contend with. And the worst part was when, like, bloating started. I don’t think I started bloating. I don’t know. I can’t really remember. I was not in touch with my body at all at 12 and 13. But, you know, you can’t like suck in your stomach. And I remember dance teachers, you know, you want to tell them you were on your period and they would constantly tell you if your stomach was sticking out, you know, you’d be like, this is not my stomach. This is my uterus. 

Le’Nise: Can you guys both can you both talk about how you feel if you start thinking back to what you went through and the comments that were made about your body so to the bloated belly, from what we know now, is endometriosis and the comments about you being, quote unquote, exotic, talk about how you feel looking back on that now. And whether that had any lasting effect on your, the way you view yourself.

Lauren: Yeah, absolutely. It definitely does. We are now in our 30s, so it’s been almost 20 years since we’re in that very dysfunctional world. But for sure, I still, I still remember the comments that the teachers made either when we were on our periods. And I remember the times when I had such painful periods. But you still had to dance.

And I remember the idea was you just shoved down whatever pain your body was feeling and you did what you had to do. And that is still the idea that stuck with me, I think, through my 20s for sure. So even when my endo pain was getting a lot more acute, it wasn’t just super heavy, painful cramps anymore. I was getting sharp jabbing pains in my pelvis. I remember just thinking, ‘OK, this is another pain I have to deal with. You just take some painkillers and you go to work. You know, you just keep doing what you have to do.’ And, you know, part of ballet is, is discomfort and pain. You know, whether it’s pointe shoes, you know, your feet always hurt or just what you’re how you’re using your body is. You know, it’s like any athlete. You’re, you’re also creating a lot of wear and tear on your body because of how demanding it is. But that sort of pain and rigor is sort of, it feels normal. It feels like part of what you have to deal with. And for me, painful periods. And because I feel like a lot of the women who were dancing with also had painful periods. And I don’t you know, I don’t think most of them had endo, but I don’t know if it’s like a body fat thing. You know, you had really irregular periods because you didn’t have a lot of body fat on you and you were probably stressed out a lot. Your body is physically stressed a lot. So I remember just thinking periods were horrible and painful and abnormal and could be super heavy one month and then you wouldn’t get it the next month. And now that just seem like a normal thing to me. And we definitely never talked about that side of our bodies with our teachers. You know, the teachers. It was all physical appearance, like superficial appearance. If you were looking a certain way and I think you know, the other ways that they told us, you know, being too exotic, being too short. And I remember they said our legs weren’t straight enough. And that’s always stuck with me cause my legs were slightly bow-legged, which I don’t think you would normally think about if you were a normal person who had done ballet. But I remember one of our teachers being like, we could have fixed that if you had told me about this when you were younger and now you always have bowlegs and no company is gonna take you. I remember thinking, just like…

Catherine: If you look at Lauren and she does not, I don’t, I don’t think you have bowlegs. That’s the thing, it’s like these little things that get stuck in your brain. You know, for mine, it was like, you know, our arms didn’t straighten all the way or in the right line and our legs didn’t. But like, I didn’t know you had that bowlegged thing. She also has, like, very subtle scoliosis. And it was so subtle that teachers just thought she was not stretching her neck out enough so she couldn’t turn her head. So it’s this constant thing where it’s like it’s on you, you know, to fix things that are wrong with your body. The responsibility is on you. Obviously, we couldn’t do anything about our ethnicity. We never felt ashamed of the way we looked. But it but it was just accepting. There’s a lot of stuff we accepted back then, I think, because we were kids and it was the 90s that nowadays I don’t think they could have gotten away with it, like, you know, just accepting like, oh, yeah, we’re we’re not blond and blue-eyed. So that’s we’re not going to get certain roles, are, you know, or since their bodies aren’t exactly right, we’re not going to be the teachers aren’t gonna pay attention to us the same amount away. And that was just accept, that was to us that was part of the world. We just stayed focused on it. 

Le’Nise: You both have mentioned pain quite a lot, and something I find quite fascinating about ballet dancers is, you mentioned the pointe shoes and how you just have to, it’s painful and you’re putting your foot in a really unnatural way and basically balancing on your tip toes for like, what, 5, 6 plus hours, however long you’re dancing that particular day. 

And do you think that that going through, having to go through that or deal with that pain on an ongoing basis, kind of numbed you to the endometriosis pain in the beginning?

Lauren: Yeah, absolutely. I just remember thinking that, you know, as a dancer, you know, your feet are sort of shaped a certain way and you have a lot of pain. But it’s also something you learn to sort of pull out of a little bit. There’s ways that make it a little less intense. But I think you’re absolutely right using that word numbing because it’s kind of a weird contradiction, because as dancers, you are very self-aware about your body, you know, just in the ways we were saying, because your things are constantly pointed out to you, but also just moving your body and being able to move through space a certain way and control it a certain way. You’re very aware of your, the way your muscles move and the way your centre of gravity is. But at the same time, you do numb yourself out to any discomfort or any pain because that isn’t going to help you, you know, perform. So it is it’s this weird dichotomy of, of being very aware of your body. But at the same time, if there’s pain, or things that are hurting, that’s something to ignore or push down rather than say, I wonder why I have really painful periods. I wonder why my cramps are so intense or is I didn’t even ever question if that was normal. Our mom also had a really, really intense periods and right, I’m sure she had endometriosis. It was probably not the same stage that maybe I had it, but that was another thing. You know, in our household, it was sort of normalized that periods were painful. And my mom is also a very stoic person. But I wouldn’t say I’m stoic. She is a stoic person. And so she never really complained. She would just say, oh, you know, my period’s really hurting right now, but I’m going to continue to cook food for our entire family during Christmas or, you know, clean the house. It’s just part of what you have to deal with this pain.

Le’Nise: Can we talk about your both of you, your individual endometriosis journey?

Because so, Lauren, you said you had painful periods from the age of 15. And then, Catherine you said that in your late 20s, you started to have worsening symptoms from endo. Can you talk? So you both had endometriosis, but very different experiences. So can you individually talk about what happened to you?

Lauren: Yeah, so my endometriosis story is like a lot of women with endometriosis. It took a really long time to get diagnosed. I think the average time for women to get diagnosed is about 7 to 10 years. For me, it was about 15 years. And the reason why is because I think, culturally, we normalise period pain and a lot of ways, you know, not just in the ballet world or not just in our family, but I feel like whenever I went to a doctor and said, oh, yeah, my periods are very painful, they be like, oh yeah, that’s too bad. You should you know, you can go on birth control or, you know, just keep taking ibuprofen. Like, that’s all you can do. So even at the point when, you know, being fifteen years old and my periods were starting to get really painful and it was for me it was mainly really, really, I could have really heavy periods and then I’d have really, really intense cramping where you had to lay down like, I just could not sit up straight. I mean, my body was just like bent double and that didn’t happen every single period. But it happened, you know, often enough. And I always dreaded getting my period. It was never something I was excited about or just thought, oh, hey, I’m bleeding now. I always knew when I had my period and it was painful. I didn’t, I don’t remember skipping school or anything because, again, I thought you just keep doing what you need to do. So, you know, this is something that’s going to happen every month or every other month. If it was erratic and you just had to deal with it and then like Cath and I both had the experience, we were as we move through early 20s, that pain sort of shifted from really heavy cramping. To me, it was a lot of sharp stabbing pain. Like I explain it as sort of it feels like you have a bouquet of sharp knives sort of sitting up in your pelvis. That’s how endo felt to me. And I was lucky in the sense that I’ve only ever had the pain during my period. I know a lot of women with endometriosis, you have pain throughout your whole cycle. And I felt so lucky that it was just that week. But then you have a quarter of your month is something you absolutely dread. And at the time, my husband and I were moving abroad. We went to the UK to live in Edinburgh. And at that point, I was like, you know what, I I’m pretty sure I have endometriosis. I Googled it. I talked to my doctor about it. She’s like, “Oh, yeah. I think that’s what you have.” I mean, that was the conversation. That was it. And so, again, it was something where it’s like, OK, I just need to deal with it and figure it out on my own. And so I tried changing my diet. I went vegan and gluten free, dairy free, all the things. And my pain just kept getting worse because I think at that point I had so much scarring with my body. I also had an endometrioma, which I didn’t know about, which is a specific type of cyst you can get with endometriosis, especially in the later stages. So endometriosis, for those of you that don’t know, are stage similar to cancers of stage one, two, three and four. And I ended up having stage four. I didn’t know that at the time and no one had told me about these different stages. But as I was experiencing worse and worse pain, I would go to my GP in Edinburgh and tell her like it’s getting worse and I don’t know what to do about it. And then at the point that it was about six months before my first emergency surgery, I remember feeling a lump on the left side of my body around where my left ovary would be. And of course, that freaked me out. I just assumed it was ovarian cancer. And I told my GP and she said it’s not really anything to worry about. I don’t think you have to worry. And I really had to push her to get me an appointment to see an ultrasound technician. And I finally got that like, a couple months later. And the technician was like, “oh, honey, I’m so sorry. You have an endometrioma.” And I was just so happy it wasn’t cancer. I was like, I don’t know what that is, but that’s I was fine. And she’s like, but you’ll need surgery. And I was like, okay, you know, I’m OK. Take it out. And I had no idea what it was like. I just I just was like, OK, it’s not cancer. We’ll schedule surgery six months from now. Great. We’ll get it done. And I don’t know if it’s just like experiencing pain. You’re just like, oh, surgery. Yeah. Massive surgery doesn’t sound like a big deal because let’s just let’s just do what we need to do. And before I could have that surgery, that endometrioma ruptured. Again, I didn’t know that’s what was happening at the time. But it it felt like something had kind of broke or snapped in my body. And I just had so much pain flooding into my pelvis at that point. And I remember this is really early in the morning and Matt had to call, my husband had to call 999. And the EMT came and I was lying on the floor. And the guy was like, you kind of look OK, essentially, like he took my vital signs or whatever. And he is like, You look OK. And I was like, I can’t get up off the floor. And he was like, well, you know, you probably have like a sore tummy. Like it was it was a really odd experience. Like I was like, no, I literally like, I’m in so much pain. And he started to like, get ready to leave. And I was like, I have a heart condition, cause I have mitral valve prolapse, which is very common for a lot of women, and it’s never something that bothered me. But I knew if I said I had a heart condition, they had to take me to the hospital. And so he was like, oh, OK. So then they took me to the hospital and they even though I told them I had to be an endometrioma, I have endometriosis. They were like, we think it’s appendicitis. And I was like, OK. So it took them about 24 hours to decide what to do with me. And I finally ended up in the gynecological ward. And I think they thought I had an STD like I was in so much pain. And they did an exam on me with like a speculum. And it hurt so much. And they still kind of didn’t believe what was going on. And I started running a really high fever. And that happened over the course of a couple days. And then during those couple days where they still couldn’t figure out what was going on, my stomach swoll up because of all the fluid that was pulling into my pelvic cavity. They basically it was the endometrioma had ruptured and was like irritating everything. So my body was trying to protect all my organs. I looked about six, seven months pregnant, and that was when they were finally like, oh, OK, we need to do an ultrasound and see what’s going on. So this is like day five of being in the hospital. And they were like, oh, OK. You have 500 milliliters of fluid. You need to go in and do emergency surgery and pull all that out. And after the surgery was when they were like, yes, you have endometriosis. It was a ruptured endometrioma. This is what happened. And so I was in the hospital for two weeks, and that was after the EMT almost didn’t take me to the hospital. So it’s such a bizarre experience to to by your GP, by everyone being told like it’s no big deal. You know, and then this thing happens. It’s very traumatic, big experience happens. And so that’s, it’s just it’s been a hard, hard journey. And since then, I’ve done a lot more research. And a year after that first emergency surgery, I learned about excision surgery, which is, quote unquote, the gold standard for endometriosis treatment. At this time, there’s no cure. Where they go in and they essentially I’m sorry, probably saying this wrong, but laser out sort of like cut through even healthy tissue to get out a lot of the endometrial tissue that’s where it shouldn’t be. And we found an excision specialist in Atlanta. And I had my second surgery about six months later. And since then have had way less pain, you know, instead of being a 10 plus off the charts. Now, my period, I have about like a three or four, which is amazing to me because I never, never thought that would happen. But it’s been a very long, painful road.

Le’Nise: What you’re saying about how the EMT didn’t, didn’t. He said, you look normal, but you’re, yet you’re saying to him: “I am in so much pain. I need to go to the hospital.” And every single time I hear a story like that, it never fails to just make me really angry at it. 

Just believe women, believe women when they say that they are in pain. And it so absolutely enraged and enraging.

Lauren: Yeah. And I know that. Yeah. That’s not an uncommon story to hear, you know. And even if it’s not as extreme and you get to the hospital even talking to your GP and saying this is what’s happening, I never had a doctor say, oh, maybe you have endo or maybe there’s some other complication we should look into, even though my my pain was extreme. That was all my own research. And at that time, there weren’t. I’m so glad there’s so much more out there on the Great Interwebs right now about endometriosis. But at the time, there wasn’t that much. And I remember just trying to scour through pages and listen to, especially chat forums where other women were talking about this. I was like, OK, so I’m not crazy. I’m not alone. This is an actual thing because I didn’t get that experience from any doctor that I saw. And and sometimes people ask, like, oh, was it a male gynecologist? I’ve had tons of gynecologists. They’ve all been women. And none of them none of them took my pain seriously.

Le’Nise: That I mean, I it’s not you would say it’s unbelievable. But it’s not. I like it. I’ve heard this so often. Cath, can you talk about your story now? 

Catherine: Yes. Mine is slightly less or significantly less traumatic than Lar and I, it’s a lot of that I give credit for Lar for basically being the guinea pig between the two of us because her, we don’t know if it was partly because she did get off birth control. And that’s kind of what triggered more of an endo pain because I never got off birth control. So when she and her husband had moved to Scotland, I was still on birth control. And by my late 20s, like Lar, I started developing more pain that wasn’t just cramping. I mean, all throughout my teens and twenties, certain periods would be, the cramps would be so bad I would feel like I had a bowling ball in my uterus, like, you know, like it’s such a weird sensation. And I just assumed, especially with our mom, who had painful periods, I was like, wow, this is what every woman goes through when they say they have cramps. So like that, I never even though it was hard to like stand for long periods of time with that sensation, I was like, this is just being a woman. And then by my late 20s, it was actually when I would have my period, on my period, like, wow, I was lucky I didn’t have pain off my period, but on my period when I’d have a bowel movement, the pain like in my pelvic region and I guess around my colon was so extreme that I thought I would pass out. And what’s funny is like, you know, you see movies and stuff. People get so much pain and then they pass out from the pain.

 Like, I was like, why couldn’t that happen? I could not pass out. I would just have this extreme pain, you know, like where I would see stars and. And so that’s. And this is all while Lar was going through everything, which was horrendous and it was horrible too not being close to her and and not understanding the NHS system too, I was so confused by that. They didn’t let her have visitors at night. Like also like in the US, which, by the way, has a very broken medical system, too. I’m not like, I think the NHS is great compared to us, but in the States because everything’s charged to you. And they try to get you out of the hospital as soon as possible. They do like a million scans that first night. You know, they would have realized what she had sooner if she had been in the States. But that being said, she would have still been dismissed. So. So that was very like hearing from a distance, hearing her whole experience was kind of mind boggling to me. And I was, I remember being like, well, I just got to keep my periods not super painful. I don’t know what I would say. I mean, obviously, I couldn’t do that. I would take ibuprofen when the pain got really bad. I did start taking one or two days off of work. And that’s when I was like, OK, this is this is affecting my lifestyle. Like, I had to accept it. And then it was when the pain was getting so bad by my late 20s. And by then I think it was right before Lar had discovered that the Center for Endometriosis Care, which is in, which is in Atlanta with a great surgeon, that that’s when I was like, OK, you know, I think I’m going to have to do this, too. So it was a whole year after Lar had her excision surgery that I got it done too. And I have stage two endometriosis. So a significant amount of endometrial growth in my body, but obviously nothing to the extent that stage four would have. They did remove my appendix, funnily enough, because they did see endometrioma cells on my appendix. So I still remember, it was like they had given me that like horse tranquilizer right before my surgery. And then they come with this clipboard and they’re like, oh, just sign here. It basically says, we’ll take your appendix if it looks kind of weird. 

And I was like, oh, you know, I’m high on drugs. I did. I was like. But the other thing that you like for the surgery prep, especially as I told them, I had so much pain around my colon, was there was a potential for colon resectioning which like by the time I was getting my surgery, I had so much pain, I was like, do it. I don’t know, you know, not really thinking the ramifications. And surprisingly enough, I didn’t, I think they found some endometrial cells around my colon, but not to the extent that they had to do any type of resectioning. So I was very lucky in that sense. And like Lar, since that surgery, I have not had that pain. When I go to the bathroom, the pain is definitely instead of being like a 10, it is now during my period, it is like a 3 or 4, nothing to the extent where I feel like I have to take off work or just lie down. Ah, I don’t even need to use heating pads, which is kind of amazing because it’s like I feel like I always had to use those beforehand. So definitely Lar kind of paved the way for me. We we both grew up knowing somewhat what endometriosis was. We had heard it because our mom had kind of self diagnosed. But we it to us that just meant like literally you just had painful periods. And so it wasn’t until Lar did all her research and she was telling me about it. I mean, I for me, I think maybe it was because of ballet. Maybe it was just growing up as a woman in the 90s, as a teenager. Like, to me, it was just like deal with it, press it down, kind of what Lar said, not being in touch with my body in the sense like I always use tampons, so I won’t even have to, like, feel myself bleeding, you know, like all that stuff. And then.

Yes, so similar to what Lar was saying, like pushing the pain down, trying to ignore it or just like, quote unquote dealing with it. To me that was like from that all the way to, like, even using tampons all the time instead of pads. So I don’t feel myself bleeding and stuff. And it wasn’t until my pain got so bad. And I think my, I was just so inflamed. Every time I was on my period, I could almost, I couldn’t really use tampons or if I did, I could only use the light tampons. And before we went on birth control, I think we went on, I can’t even remember. I think it was in our later teens and it was mostly for acne and it didn’t do anything for me. But once we started birth control pretty consistently, our periods weren’t super heavy. But when we first our periods first started and we were doing ballet so much, our periods were so heavy. I remember classes were like an hour and a half to two hours and I would have to use the bathroom at least once or twice to change out like a super tampon. But by the time it got to my surgery, which I think I was 29, I can’t do the math right now, but late 20s. I wasn’t even able to use tampons at all. So that’s, I mean, that alone, I was like, okay, something’s more serious here, but yeah, just the whole experience. I mean, it was traumatic. Lauren and I, actually one of the similarities we did have is after surgery, we both got post operation infections, which even our surgeon, who was a great guy, he was like, oh, you have less than one percent chance of getting a post up infection. And I remember Lar had gotten one after hers. And I was like, oh, I bet I’ll get, I’ll get one too. And the doctor was like, no, no, no, there’s no chance. Totally did. And once again, it was that that experience of being dismissed. I remember the doctor they kind of put me with after the surgery. It’s not the surgeon. You know, I would constantly call him because my, I had this low grade fever that just won’t go away. And something felt wrong. I think this was like a week and a half after my surgery. And I would call the hospital and be like, this is, I would call the doctor and say, you know, this isn’t right. Why am I having a fever? I can’t really keep food down. And I remember he just kept saying, oh, this is part of, like, surgery recovery. And he would brush it off and brush it off and brush it off. And then finally, I was talking to my mom. I was like in tears. My mom was like, that’s it. We’re just going to the emergency room. And sure enough, they like, there was an abscess. They had to drain an abscess. And I was in the hospital for another three days, which in the US, being in a hospital for three days is a long time, like Lar was in the hospital for two weeks. You know, the NHS, that’s a long time. But like three days in the US, they try to get you at a hospital as soon as possible. And it was just recovering from that. And I remember it. And the antibiotics that I had to take from that probably made me feel much worse than any surgery ever did. And I couldn’t eat. But you had to take the antibiotics and stuff. So we both, Lar and I both had that experience, too, which was us, so we, our recovery took a lot longer, I think, than most women. But just, you know, that’s another example of being kind of ignored, like after you’ve been through this very intense surgery. And like knowing your body, knowing like this doesn’t feel like just a recovery. Something’s going on. Like, my head felt like I was on fire 24/7, I think from the fever and just being dismissed after having gone through all of that, you know, and it, it just blows my mind. And then even today, like Lar was telling you, you know, I’ve had male and female gynaecologists. Before my surgery, I would tell them I had endometriosis and they would always say the same thing like Lar said, just take birth control, take pain meds. And then even after I had my surgery where I was like I have proof I have stage two, you know, and I would tell different gynecologists. I specifically remember when he was just like, oh, yeah, that’s oh, that’s rough. Like, that was literally the response. It wasn’t like, okay, well, like we understand that you stayed on birth control to kind of manage that and, you know, talk. There was there’s no discussion. I even had, I have some scar tissue. I think it’s up towards like the top of my vaginal wall. So it makes penetration with sex very painful, like full penetration. And that I didn’t start feeling until like six months after my surgery. And I remember going to the gynecologist and just, like, crying, because I was like, I don’t know what to do about this. And like the for some reason, it wasn’t my normal gynecologist. It was another woman in the practice, who was like, I think a robot. And she basically was like, well, you’re just going to have to get surgery again for that scar tissue. And I was like, but cutting away scar tissue causes more scar tissue. And she’s like, Yeah. And that was it. She was just like, you need to talk to your, and this is after and in the US, like our surgeon wasn’t covered by any insurance. He was outside that. So you’re paying so much money. I mean, a lot of women can’t get the surgery in the first place in the US because they can’t afford it. Their insurance obviously is not going to cover it. Or they cover a specific surgeon who maybe doesn’t do full excision surgery. They just do ablation and that’s not getting to the root of the cause. So, I mean, there’s all these things where you’re dealing with this medical world, too, that does not want to support you at all. But then, like, when you’re going to a gynecologist who’s supposed to be, you know, knowledgeable and be focused on female bodies, there’s like there’s it’s more like indifference than anything, which just blows my mind. 

Le’Nise: I mean, I’m nodding along as you’re talking and everything you’re saying. I am. I keep thinking it’s just trauma and then more trauma and. I want to know, everything you’re going through now. And I want to talk about the company you founded to help women have better periods. But before we talk about that, I just want to talk about how you have gotten past or if you’ve gotten past the trauma of the surgeries and everything and dealing with the various doctors and medical professionals who questioned professionals who dismissed your pain or tried to downgrade your pain.

Lauren: Yeah, I would say that I’m still working through that trauma in a lot of ways, I think it’s almost been one of the unexpected advantages to starting a company sort of about period pain is I’ve had to think about my experience more, which has been hard, but also a really positive thing, because otherwise I would have reverted back to my usual, just push it down, don’t think about it. And I still like, I think on a day to day basis, like now Cath and I talk about it so much and we have a whole community of other women who have endometriosis pain in Atlanta, but just also online and just talking to women about their period pain in general. It’s so like life affirming and empowering in some ways because you don’t feel alone. You realize everybody is different. You know, you experience pain differently. Even if I talk with another woman who has stage four endometriosis, their experiences are completely different. So there’s, there’s so much good that’s come out of this, too. But Cath and I still talk about how before we go to gynecologists, even for just a normal routine exam, like we’re like we know we’re gonna cry in the office. Like, I don’t generally especially you, Cath, I don’t think you’re a big crier, but like, I just know I feel so vulnerable in that situation. And even if I talk through with my gynecologist and I usually bring my surgical like photos, like photos from inside of my body and I’m like, this is what I had. I’ve had the experience like Cath, where it’s still sort of worn off. And so you just always feel the sort of vulnerable existence when you’re in the doctor’s office and that you have to fight like, okay, I need to get my fighting face on because I need to make sure they believe me. I need to advocate for myself. But at the same time, I’m not completely over the trauma that’s happened to me before. So I know I’m going to feel really sort of teary eyed and then the doctors aren’t going to take me seriously and all this stuff that’s usually still was playing through my head. So, yeah, I would say I’m still working through the trauma, still working through some of that pain, but there’s been a lot of positive having to go through it. 

Catherine: And I think the other thing, too, is that it seems sort of like the dark ages, but like any an gynaecologist you go to, their focus is on fertility. 

And if they you know, they they, most gynaecologists have very little experience or got very little education on endometriosis. My guess would be the same with adenomyosis and PCOS and all the other things, PMDD. And to them, it’s at least the ones that I’ve met, it to them means potentially could affect your fertility. And so even when I try to have these conversations with the gynecologist, they always turn it around to like, well, I think you could get pregnant, or especially now, since we’re with, like, geriatric moms if we ever got pregnant. Right. We’re 37, 36, 37 in two weeks. We’re 36. And so, like, when I go to the gynecologist, every discussion, it’s always like, do you want to freeze your eggs?

Which in the States takes I think it’s like at least $20,000 to start out and like they talk about it so casually, like everybody has that amount of money, but also that that’s always how they focus on your body as basically as a baby making machine. And it I feel like even the surgeon too who we loved it, it’s still like he’s very used to having the conversation around fertility. Like, how does your endometriosis, how will that affect your fertility in that kind of thing? And both obviously, neither one of us have kids. We’re not. Neither one of us have decided whether we want kids, even though, you know, it’s getting a little late for us. But to me, it was always like, no, I. I want to focus on fixing my body first before I could even think of having, you know, a parasite. You know what I say? I was like, why? Why, why am I going to focus on kids now when, like, I’m in so much pain? But it’s just funny. The whole like the whole dialogue around it, even at doctors offices, even if they like, you know, kind of ignore your pain. It is always about fertility and how you’re basically worthy as a woman because of your level of fertility. That’s how I see it. And like Lar, I always have to prep myself before I, actually have my annual is on Monday. And I know, like, I’m going to get there early, I’m going to do breathing exercises. I’m going to be ready for the doctor to just dismiss me. Ah. You know, I want to talk about freezing my eggs again, even though I told her last time I saw her I was like, you need to write down in my file do not talk to me about freezing eggs. And even when I said that, even when I met with her last year, she was like, Really? Are you sure?

And I was like, come on, lady. You’re educated, listen to me.

So, like, it is still is like it’s something we deal with. And I think Lar said starting Semaine has kind of forced us to have those difficult conversations and revisit it. But I think that’s very healthy and something that we need to do. And it’s been so empowering and hearing other women’s stories and knowing that we’re not alone. And the fact that we could we could create this thing with Lar’s husband that actually helps women through their pain.

Le’Nise: What you’re saying about having to prepare to go and see your doctor, to see your gynecologist. I, you know, I think it’s really important because in an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to do that. We could go and our doctors would have the time to spend with us and have the time to ask questions and really figure out what’s going on in the moment. But certainly in the UK, there’s 10 minutes and you have to make the most of those 10 minutes. But I love what you’re saying about, you know, you do your breathing exercise. You’ve got your notes. Lar, you were saying you take the photos of your prior surgery. You know, you you you tell them to refer back to the notes you ask them to make on your file before. I think all of those are really important for women to remember. They have to go in prepared and be prepared to advocate for themselves. And if they don’t feel comfortable doing that, bring someone with them who can do that for them. I want to go on to talk about your company. So is it Semaine? Because I’m thinking French Semaine means week or how do you pronounce it?

Lauren: You’re completely right and you’re saying it correctly. As Americans, we say Semaine. So, yes, it is. It is the French word for the week, but, we, we, we. But you’re an American French. Oh, yes. That is the name in it. It came from from the fact that the supplement that we created, which is a plant based anti-inflammatory, is just for the week of your period or whenever you have the most pain on your cycle. Generally, even women who have sort of pain throughout their cycle, that might be the worst pain is during ovulation, maybe or maybe it’s right before your period. But for me personally, I’ve always been really bad about taking supplements continually. And so when Matt, my husband and Cath when we were creating this, I was like, I am not going to take something every single day. I won’t remember. And I don’t like the idea of having to take a pill every single day, even if it is all natural and plant based. And so because we were focusing on the inflammation aspect of period pain, rather than balancing hormones, making sure you have more estrogen or less estrogen, we we could really focus lowering that inflammation when you need it the most on your period. So in general, this is something that I had no idea about before we started Semaine. My husband did, he’s a research scientist. He has PhD in bioengineering, that on your cycle over the course of 28 days, roughly. Of course everybody’s different, but that your immune system sort of works that quickly as well. So when you’re moving into your ovulation period, your immune system pulls back a little bit, just in case you are you have foreign DNA that enters your body, you know, and you’re impregnated. So your immune system’s like, okay, we don’t we don’t want to attack that. Let’s pull back. And then if you’re not, if you’re not getting pregnant, your immune system kind of comes roaring back in the next two weeks and reaches its peak as you start to bleed. And a lot of the times with that immune system, that that causes a lot of inflammation, that your immune response and inflammation is connected. And so those of us with painful periods, not just with endometriosis, but with just painful periods in general, you’re having sort of a stronger immune response and more inflammation. So the thinking behind creating an anti-inflammatory is we’re lowering that inflammation levels So it’s all about, you know, like helping your body do its thing, have its period, but with sort of supported help of lowering the inflammation markers that are happening and causing a lot of pain. And that has been tremendously helpful for me because I know I was always sort of nervous about taking different things that regulated my hormones because there’s not a lot of research behind endometriosis, behind PCOS, behind any of these period related conditions. I think there’s not a lot of understanding of exactly how our hormones are sort of out of whack and that that can vary from person to person. So I really wanted something that could address the pain without having to be like, I don’t know, is my estrogen too high? You know, a lot of people do think endometriosis is estrogenic. So there is a link there, but they’re still not sure. I mean, again, because this is a, quote unquote, woman’s disease. The research is starting now. There’s a lot more research than there used to be, but there isn’t a lot of you know, there hasn’t been in the past. And just generally in medical history, you know, there hasn’t been a lot of research on women. I think a lot of people probably heard that that study about how women experience heart attacks different than men. But the symptoms we’re taught to look elsewhere are the symptoms that men usually have. And I remember reading, this is a study done like, you know, ten or fifteen years ago on cervical cancer. And they they tested the drug just on men who don’t have cervixes, you know, so it’s like. It blows your mind when you learn about this stuff. We were like, wait, you have to be doing these studies on women. And a big reason they don’t do the studies on women. And then prior to human subjects, why they don’t do it on on like female rats is because the hormones and having menstrual blood is very complicated and it complicates the results. And you’re like, yes. But the people taking it 50 percent plus are going to be people who have menstruated at some point and have these complex hormones. I, even when I was in the hospital actually in Edinburgh, it was a female doctor who was super sweet. But I remember at one point she said, you know, it be so much easier for us to figure out what was going on with you if you were a man, because all your bits are on the outside. 

And I was just like wait what? What is it? Oh, my God. Like, this is the extent of of medical knowledge. Sort of like really a big community. I was like, we don’t have a chance in hell. Like, how is this, this is like the the response? In starting Semaine, we’ve learned that up to 80 percent of women have painful periods in their lifetime. So this isn’t abnormal. You know, it’s like everybody has has pain and you experience at different levels. Definitely our stories are a little more acute. And having endometriosis is is something that not all women have, though. More than 10 percent of women do have endometriosis. So none of these things are super unusual. And the fact that there aren’t hardly any pharmaceutical drugs specifically for women’s pain or even a lot of like natural things that we can do on the market right now, is really telling to me the fact that women’s pain isn’t taken seriously. If there’s, if PMSand endometriosis and all those conditions were something that men experienced, we’d have gobs of research. We’d have so many, you know, if they’re 5,000 pills for erectile dysfunction but nothing for, you know, period pain specifically, except for maybe Midol or Pamprin, which hasn’t changed in the last twenty five years. Something’s wrong. Something’s broken with with innovation in health care for women. 

Catherine: I always think of that line in the show Veep. 

Did you ever watch it? I don’t know. It was. I don’t know if it would come if it was in the UK at all. Because it is very specific to the US. But it’s the main character at one point. She was like, you know, if men got pregnant, you could get an abortion in an ATM by now, you know, and that’s what I always think about. It’s like it’s like it’s so true. What I think is so cool about Semaine is that so, Lauren and Matt, after Scotland, they moved to Seattle and that’s when Lar was especially, even now, when we get cramps and stuff, I think we’re a little triggered by experiences before we had our surgery. So even though we know the pain is not going to get as bad, it’s still very triggering. And so Lar’s husband, he’s a scientist. He has a PhD and was working for the University of Washington at the time. And he started doing research and reading up on white papers and peer reviewed papers on anything that could possibly help. So he started getting all these like extracts like in powder form and adding them to her smoothies. And it was I always joke that like the few times I would like go and visit them and see had all come to their kitchen. They had all these like jars of random powders or things going on. So he played around with the formula, I would say like that two years. Right. So and Lar was telling me how much of a difference it was making and I was like, send it to me because I, you know, I’ve been in Atlanta this whole time. And they literally sent me, it was a jar you sent me like a little scoop. And with like Lar’s handwritten instructions like how many scoops they should put in a smoothie each day. And I remember the first period I had using it, like my pain was reduced so much. And when I was and it wasn’t until we started talking about it, we were like, well, if this works for us, then maybe it’ll work for other women. And that’s how it got started. Like literally from them having a kitchen full of jars with powders in them. 

Le’Nise: Wow. And so then you found that this worked for you. And then what was your, talk about the process of getting it onto the market? 

Lauren: Yeah, that was that. That’s been a long journey because we started, Matt and I started testing those different plant extract powders. So it was like powder of green tea and curcumin. And I feel like those people have maybe heard of us as far as being good anti-inflammatory as are antioxidants. But we were testing other things, like some thing called resveratrol, something called boswellia, which is from frankincense. Matt had been doing research at the University of Washington about chronic inflammation and aging. So that’s how it was sort of in his mind already about like maybe we don’t address hormones, but we address the inflammation that’s happening every month when you’re on your period. And so after about two years of trying this and Cath and I being the guinea pigs, we opened it up to a larger test group of about 10 women who had period pain. So a couple of them did have endometriosis, but most of them just had general period pain. So not just pelvic pain and cramps, but maybe they got migraines or leg pain. You know, there’s lots of different types of pain that are associated with getting your period. And we had really good results from from that test. And so after getting those results, we’re like, okay, let’s start this as a business and let’s see if we can launch this as a product. And so originally it was, we were just putting the powers in pills ourselves, but we found a manufacturer and we, Matt and I quit our jobs in Seattle, moved to Atlanta, where we’re now living with Cath, so fun. And we focus on this full time. And we started an Indiegogo campaign in the fall to just sort of raise awareness and also a way to raise a little bit of money, but mainly to get sort of the name out there and make sure people are hearing that we’re doing this thing for period pain. And then in February of this year, we launched full time. And so right now, we sell Semaine directly from our web site: semainehealth.com. But we’re hoping to branch into retail so it’s more readily available to everyone. We do ship internationally, but most of our subscribers right now are in the States just because international shipping is really expensive. But we’re hoping, you know, eventually to expand and we could have distribution centers in the UK and Australia specifically because we get a lot of great feedback from those countries. But that’s how that’s how it started. It was literally trying to find something to fix my pain. We weren’t thinking of it as a business at all. But then when Catherine was like, it’s working for me. And the woman we had in our study was like, yes, you need to make more of this. We were like, OK, we want to help other women. You know, it was such a relief to have less painful periods, the fact that we are now helping other people have less painful periods, like I couldn’t ask for a better purpose in life, really, because I just never thought that was possible. I don’t know if it was because of years of being told that, oh, this is the only thing you can do. You can go on birth control. You can take ibuprofen. That I just thought that was kind of it. It didn’t even strike me that, why aren’t there more products out there for women? You know, and I think it’s such a great time now because people are talking about periods more openly. You have this wonderful podcast where people are talking about their first periods and hearing the differences and those stories are amazing. I think it’s so great to normalize those conversations. And I think that will change the way innovation help, that happens around women’s health care. Just the fact that, you know, people are making organic pads or reusable menstrual cups and like all of like The Honeypot Co. I don’t know if that’s big in the UK yet, but it’s here in Target that, you know, having said feminine care wipes like that, you know, something that’s in like the vernacular that we growing up, you know, we’ve never talked about that sort of thing, you know, and that wasn’t on the shelf at Target. And now you see that and women are interested in trying more natural solutions or just any solutions to try to make their periods better or more manageable and not this hush hush taboo thing that you can’t talk about.

Le’Nise: I think it’s incredible what you you both have done. And I love that you you took an issue that you had and you then created something that would not only help you, but would help loads of people with the same problems. So amazing. I can’t wait to see it here in the UK, but to round up our conversation. You both have said so many amazing things. What would you want someone to think to take listening to the podcast, to take away from what you individually have said? 

Lauren: Such a great question, Le’Nise. I would say, as hard as it is always trust yourself and advocate for yourself. You do know your body better than anybody else. Better than any doctor. Better than anybody in your family. Being in tune with your body and knowing something doesn’t feel right. Push your doctor, push your health care provider to give you answers. If I had known that when I was younger, I know I just always assumed, oh, this person went to medical school and is a doctor, they know way more than me. If something was wrong, they would tell me. And I think, you know, doctors are amazing and they’re great. And I’m so glad we have the health care available that we can go to them. But that doesn’t mean that they know you better than you know yourself. Listen to your body if something feels wrong, you know. And also listen to yourself and not just assume that because one treatment works for one person, that that’s what you need to do. I think a lot of the time in the health and wellness space, we’re like, oh, I found this diet that cured me of this thing. You know, my endo is so much better because I stopped eating gluten. That is amazing. And that works for a lot of people. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work for you and you have to do that same thing. If birth control works for you, if you need to be able to take that in order to get to day to day life, you know, do that. Don’t ever feel ashamed because people are pushing a certain solution on you. I think that’s so important. 

Catherine: At the same exact thing, reiterate, advocate, advocate, advocate for yourself. I think that’s the big thing. 

IF I could go back in time and talk to my 12 year old ashamed self with my period, just giving myself grace, but also telling myself, like, you know, trust yourself and be comfortable with your voice, especially when you’re with doctors. And then the other thing. What Lar said exactly, we’re identical twins and we’ve had very different experiences. You know, I compared to Lar, I eat garbage, you know, like I’ll eat fast food. I love I love to drink Coke. But Lar is much healthier than me. And part of that is driven by the pain that she had and kind of the PTSD left over from her experiences. But for me, diet does help. Absolutely. Without a doubt. But if I had just started looking into not just endometriosis but period pain and seeing all these like wellness warriors who can, you know, eat just kale for a day and, you know, that works for them, that I would feel kind of alienated from that. So I think reiterating what Lar said, like you figure out what works for you and then give yourself grace. You know, you’re not going to be this perfect pinnacle of health and you’re gonna have bad days and good days and and just celebrate the things that do work. But, yeah. That that some women don’t want to use tampons or don’t want to use hormonal birth control. And that is great. But some women would do. And that’s also great. So giving yourself grace and and figuring out, like Lar said, become an expert of your own body and what works for you. 

Le’Nise: Thank you so much. I honestly feel like I could talk to you guys for another hour. It was just so brilliant.

Lauren: Thank you so much, Le’Nise. So much fun.

Le’Nise: You mentioned the website URL before. Can you just mention it again? So listeners know where to find out about Semaine.  

Lauren: Yes, thank you. It’s semainehealth.com And we’re also very active on Instagram. So and that’s just @semainehealth. So thank you so much , Le’Nise. Yes, that’s where you can find us. We’re there all the time. We also have a chat on our web site, and that’s us answering questions. We love when people pepper us with questions about Semaine. So please feel free to do that.

Le’Nise: Thank you so much.

Period Story Podcast, Episode 31: Maria Purcell, We Need To Learn About Our Menstrual Health From A Young Age

On today’s episode of Period Story podcast, I had the pleasure of speaking with Maria Purcell, the co-founder of the Hood, who recently launched their teen wellness journal (a period and mood tracker!), Girlhood: The Story. Listen to hear our conversation about Maria’s experience navigating her period as an athlete, her decision to come off the pill, how she used tracking to help her better understand her body as she was trying to get pregnant and of course, the story of her first period! 

Maria says she hid her period from her mum for a few months, because she felt that she could deal with it all herself and thought it was no big deal. Listen to hear how often Maria first thought she was going to have a period!

Maria’s experience as a student athlete shaped the way she thought about her body and her belief that periods were something that needed to be ‘dealt with’. She says that when she stopped taking the pill, she finally began to tune into her body and said that it was challenging because as an athlete, she was so used to being in control of her body.

We talked about how Maria started tracking what was happening to her body and how this helped during her fertility journey. She says that all the planning and tracking came naturally to her and helped her feel more confident and better about herself.

Maria shares how she lost her period at one point and what she did to get it back. She says that all the tracking and learning she did around her menstrual cycle and fertility eventually led to the idea to launch a journal for teens to help them understand their moods and eventually their periods, when they arrive. Listen to hear how she was inspired by her niece and how the journal helped them connect.

Maria says we need to learn about our menstrual health from a young age, so that we feel empowered and we understand our bodies. She says this will change the narrative and reduce the stigma around female health issues. Thank you for coming on the show, Maria!

Get in touch with Maria:

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MARIA’S BIO

Maria Purcell is a commercial business leader with extensive experience in the fields of strategy, growth, advertising, sales and marketing. She is committed to challenging traditional business models and ways of thinking, and to helping customers to find the solutions that work for them. With over 13 year’s experience gained at businesses like Facebook and Uber,

Maria is a results-oriented digital expert with a passion for all things tech. Maria has a Bachelor’s degree in Advertising and Media Production and a Masters in Design. A dedicated mother of 2, Maria was recently recognised as one of the Top 50 Sales leaders in the UK and is the founder of The Hood, who recently launched their teen wellness journal, Girlhood:The Story.

SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Le’Nise: On today’s episode, we have Maria Purcell. Maria is a commercial business leader with extensive experience of strategy, growth, advertising, sales and marketing. She is committed to challenging traditional business models and ways of thinking and to helping customers find the solutions that work for them. As a dedicated mother of two, Maria was recently recognised as one of the top 50 sales leaders in the UK and is the founder of the Hood, who recently launched a teen wellness journal, Girlhood: The Story. Welcome to the show. 

Maria: Hi. Thank you for having me. 

Le’Nise: So let’s get into the question that I start each episode off with. Can you tell me the story of your first period? 

Maria: Yeah. So my first period, I had my first period when I was eleven. And it was a pretty much a non-event for me, mainly because I was so focussed on something else that day when my period actually came. It was more of a “I’ll deal with that later”. I do think , I’ve been telling loads of people this recently and it shows my age as well. But 101 Dalmatians had come out at the cinema. And me and my mom had this thing because I had older brothers and sisters, but I’m kind of just always missed out on the stuff that they were old enough to do. When they were just old enough, I was still too young. So it was like New Year’s Eve. I think it was that everybody was out, you know, doing their thing with their friends. So my mom was like, okay, well, we’ll go to the cinema. And I’d been so excited about the fact, I love the cinema, I always have, I was just so excited, I was going to the cinema. I was like, you know, all day I was obsessed about it. And then just before we were about to leave, I quickly popped to the loo and then my period had started. 

And I was like, Oh. OK, no problem. So I got a pad because I shared a bathroom with two of my sisters. Got one of the pads, popped it in, didn’t say a word to my mom because I was like, I want to go watch this film. And I know if I tell my mom she’s gonna make a big deal out of it, we might not be able to go to the cinema. So I just completely didn’t say anything and just kind of carried on as per.  I remember having just terrible cramps in this cinema, but really focussing on the fact that I wanted to see this film, which wasn’t even that good anyway. But and it was until months later that my mom found out that I had actually started my period. And I remember she was just like, ‘oh, wait, what? Oh, my God.’ And she felt so shocked that I hadn’t said anything. And I, you know, was typical, typical young girl, ‘Yeah, right. No big deal. Get with it. Whatever.’ That was, was pretty much it, that was how I started. 

Le’Nise: Why did you wait so long to tell your mom? 

Maria: I think, to be honest, at the time, I generally didn’t think at the time it was that big a deal. 

I don’t know why I maybe because being with my older sisters all the time, I just knew I was going to come at some point. And also, yeah, actually, I also remember when I did have a conversation with my mom and she was like, ‘you know, you’re a woman and all this stuff is going to happen. Do you want to talk about it?’ And I was like, ‘No it’s fine. I don’t get what the fuss is about. I got the pads. Sorted it out. And then you, what I’m going to have to do this like once a year or something?’ And she was like, ‘what do you mean, like once a year?’ And was I like, ‘you know once a year, once every six months?’ And she was like ‘No, no, this happens monthly.’

And then I was like, ‘wait, what?’ And she was like, ‘yeah.’ And I was like, ‘to everyone?’ Yes. And everyone knows this. Yes. And I was like, ‘for how long?’ And my mom was like, ‘well pretty much for the rest of your life.’ What! And I remember being like, ‘Wow, this sucks.’

And at the beginning your periods are so irregular, right? You don’t really, you know, put it on, and it’s only when you’re like this is really rubbish now. So yeah, I think I was a bit like, what’s the big deal? Whatever. 

Yeah, very much realised. It’s a pretty important part of your life. Once a month, you know, for the rest of your life.

Le’Nise: And are your are your sisters older or younger?

Maria: Yes. Yeah. I’m the youngest.

Le’Nise: And part of your your confidence around your first period. Do you think it was also because your you had seen what your sisters had been doing? 

Maria: No, I hadn’t. You mean my sisters are actually talking about this the other day and I hadn’t actually seen what they were doing. There was no talk. There was no chat. I remember one time at the dinner table, my sister, you know, mouthing off to my mom. And my mom was just like, hey, just because you’re on your period doesn’t mean you can be a B. I remember the whole table being like ‘oooooh’.

Oh, really? have no idea why I didn’t. I mean, we’re all we’re a bit of a cocky bunch. Me and my sisters, you know, we’re pretty confident, you know, three Black females. All within a couple of years of each other in teenage years. Not a fun place to be for my mom, but confident about everything, to be honest. And also, I think you had that feeling back then that you kind of just dealt with it. It wasn’t a ‘let’s enjoy this. This is so special.’ This is it was more like, let’s just get it done and carry on with our lives. So I think that’s why I didn’t think it was such a such a big deal at the time. But yeah, no, I’m not sure why it wasn’t more of a more of a thing.

Le’Nise: And when you had that conversation with your mom and you, she told you that you get your period every every month. And how did you then get more education about what was what was happening to you? 

Maria: Well, I remember thinking and this is probably a common theme throughout throughout my life. I remember thinking how how is this such a big thing and no one talks about it? I remember being like, really monthly. And this to me, sounds like this is important. But I remember being like eleven, twelve, being like, what do I know I’m eleven or twelve. And and the first thing I did was talk to my friends. So the first thing I did was like hop on my phone and I text my friends being like, hey you started your period? I just talked to my friends about it and then I played a lot of sports. I was really, really into sports. So I think the people I was in the teams with, the girls I was with, teams, I think I relied more on the conversation with them because you’re naturally in the changing rooms. You know, you you talk about your bodies quite a lot because your you’re athletes. So I think it kind of came with them. And again, because of that athletic nature. Athletes are very much like, if I want my body to do something, I then have to do X, Y and Z. And I have to train this way. I have to eat this way so that I think athletes are just a lot more body confident because they understand what their body responds to. And so I think being in that environment helped me just have more open conversations with people. OK. I want to do high jump, but I’m on my period. Suggestions? People being like, yeah, yeah, just use tampons. And I think I graduated to tampons very, very quickly, which I think well, from the research that we’ve done from the from the book that we were looking at, for young girls, we realise that actually that tampons are not necessarily such an early entry product for this age, but for me and non-applicators tampons are also very much far down the line. But for me, it was like non-applicator tampons about three or four months in, again, because I just, I want to go swimming. And yeah, I think it was my network of friends like my my gang of girls I hung around with, they were they were the definitely the ones that gave me most information and even products. Right. So we build on that side shuffle of, you know.

Le’Nise: Do you think that playing sport, you said playing sports should make you more confident and athletes or female athletes are generally more confident? Do you think that that had and did it have any effect on your period? 

Maria: And yes, I think probably that’s why for a while they were maybe not as. Probably not as disruptive. I think to my everyday, because I think I had other things I was focussing on and like some cramps, for example, you know, a lot of people have really bad cramps and things like that. But I had bad cramps. But then I also had really bad muscle pain in general from playing sport like every single day. So I think I just kind of lumped it all in together. Which in hindsight, I wish I hadn’t done I wish I’d focussed on it more, but in my mind, I was just like, that’s just how it is, you’re an athlete and get on with it. And I definitely think I had a lot of girls that were in my kind of circle of athletes on. Funnily enough, actually, I’m not sure this is anything but none of my black girlfriends complained about it. But then I do remember, there was a lot of my white girlfriends, my Caucasian friends. They said they would have like debilitating cramps, that they couldn’t even come into school. You know, it was really, really bad. And I just I do actually remember thinking, like, why doesn’t that affect. I mean, you know, like Black girlfriends. Why does it affect this group of girls but doesn’t affect them? I mean, I can’t really explain it. And then that and they were all athletes. 

Le’Nise: And do you think that your Black girlfriends, they had them, but they just didn’t talk about them? They didn’t complain? 

Maria: Yeah, I think so. I think I because we’ve I’ve grown up with these girls and we talk about it now. We definitely complain about it now. But yeah, to be honest, I think there was a maybe in our culture there was more of a, kind of the things that you don’t really talk about or I think we’re Black females are kind of given this, ‘you know, you’re strong, you’re a strong Black female, you’re a strong Black woman’, you know. So I think that’s kind of rammed down our throats a bit more and we aspire to be like that. I know, I know I aspire to be like my sisters who are badass, very strong, physically and emotionally. So I think yeah, I think that definitely had an impact. 

And also, I think, you know, we just had other things to talk about. 

I don’t remember any of my of my friends having a day off because it was that bad or or not not competing or not playing sport because it was that bad. 

Le’Nise: And when you did you play sports all throughout school and then university?

Maria: Yes. So I, I, yeah, I did I did sport all the way through high school and then I, I kind of switched over from college into more dance gymnastics style and then at university carried on the gymnastics kind of element. So it was at the time it was it was called, competitive cheerleading, but it was the acrobatic style of it. So there’s a lot of being thrown in the air and wearing very tight spandex, that kind of stuff. So again, very physically intensive, which I didn’t stop doing until I was about 24, 25 years old. 

Le’Nise: So there’s a lot of research that shows that female athletes who do a lot of intense activity, especially gymnasts. They have issues with missing periods. Did you ever have that happen to you?

Maria: No, I didn’t have any, I didn’t have any issue with missing periods. I’ve always been very regular. Even when I was trying to conceive, even after having children, my body goes very quickly back to its kind of template of this is how we operate. So which I’ve been very lucky. Lucky in. 

But from for the ages of 15 to 24, 25. No actually, longer than that, 28. I think I was on the pill the whole time and that essentially meant no period for the type of pill I was on. I mean, I would stop and I would get a few periods and obviously they would come back with a vengeance. I would be like, oh my. So there’s a large chunk of my early days where I didn’t have this kind of. Appreciation or exploration of my body. In that my female health, I kind of again, just like, oh, it’s something to be dealt with. And oh, I can have a pill that stops it completely? Absolutely. With hardly any education around what I was taking, and really why I was taking it. And so when I got to 28 and then I stopped taking it. And then I started to really get into tune what was going on. And that’s when I’m to think about, you know, I was going I was getting married the next year and I was like, I know I’m going to want to have kids and I hope I can, my cycle goes back to normal, like quickly. But you hear those stories where it take years and years and years to get back to normal. So, yeah. Unfortunately, I didn’t I didn’t have much of that in my younger life, but just basically because it was in my my periods or something to be dealt with, periods were just something to move along and the pill for me at the time was the answer to that. 

Le’Nise: What made you go on the pill when you were when you were 15? 

Maria: So I think it was one: the no periods and that was a few of my friends was like I just take the pill and I don’t have periods and I was like oh, that sounds good, magical pill. But then also I think the all around kind of I guess it’s all kind of wrapped into one. But the whole education around, you know, sex and getting pregnant and all of that kind of stuff really is rammed down your throat when you’re, you know, in that age is like you have sex, you will get pregnant. And again, when I was there trying to conceive, I was like, that’s not the… But if you have sex, you will get pregnant. Here is a pill. Do something. And nobody wants to be carrying around like, you know, going in to buy condoms, just like sweaty, sweaty palms and asking the guy, you know, all about everything. A little classic narrative of like just being like ownership of your body and ownership of your sexual preferences. This wasn’t a thing when you were a teenager, you know, later on in your life, you’re like, hey, no glove, no love, so do one kind of thing, but you don’t get to have all of that. So I think the pill was also a way of all of the kind of female health, all of the kind of female reproductive stuff pushed to the side dealt with one pill. Go about my life, which is actually quite sad when you really think about it. 

Le’Nise: You you you’ve used that phrase dealt with. Deal with it. You just needed to deal with your period. When you came off the pill when you were 28, how did you transition away from this idea of just dealing with your period?

Maria: So I, I’ll be very honest. It took me a long time to actually. Well actually the reason why I came off my contraceptive was because I was like, I’m going to get married and I know I want to have kids. And my husband at the time was in the military. So he was in the Air Force and he moved around loads. We weren’t always together. So a few months at time, sometimes we wouldn’t see each other. So I knew that was it. I wanted to make sure that timing, if we decided, let’s go now, we could not, we didn’t have that luxury of time. So it was so uncertain of what we were doing that point. Let me just take off and, you know, fully in the next five years or so, then my cycle, be it. We’ll start to think about having kids, but actually the way the things that, life never kind of goes to plan, obviously but the way that things have kind of happened was that my husband shipped off to Afghanistan pretty much straight after we got married. So whilst he was away, we missed each other so much when he got back I was like I want to stop this now, I want to get on this baby making thing right now because we know it’s going to take a while. And, you know. I miss you and I want to get on with my life, and it actually was really difficult for us. And it took three miscarriages before I was able to successfully carry my, to term, my daughter, Bernadette, who’s four now. And it was at that point. That was the real kind of when the penny dropped. I was like, I don’t understand my body. And it was a real struggle for me because my as I said, like, I was used to being an athlete. And I I knew that if I did this to my body, it did this. If I wanted to learn a specific skill, I knew I had to practise and I would do it. I would get it in the end. So it was very disturbing for me to not be in control of my body and also to not understand it because I’m one of these people. If something’s going bad, someone something’s wrong. I’m very much like, OK, cool, but what’s the plan or how do we? What’s the formula? How do I deal with again or work around it. How do we find a solution? And yeah, there wasn’t one. And when I was talking to doctors, they were like, yeah, well you know, sometimes it just happens. I was like what do you mean, it just happens. Surely there are studies, surely there is data. And they were like, not really no. And I was like what? Could the pill have contributed to this? I’ve been on the pill for, like, however many years. And he was like, maybe. I was just like whoa. It was just such an eye opening moment for me, so I, I basically did what every kind of mom trying to conceive does and just go like headfirst into Google, Pinterest, anything that I could find of information. And I start to catalogue just everything from menstrual health to diet and nutrition to kind of mindfulness and anxiety and stress and cortisone levels, just everything. And very interesting. And I’ve never kind of looked back, but that was really the moment I realised, well, this is I’m never touching anything to put in my body ever again. I will never put hormonal. I’ll just never touch hormones, basically any kind of medical hormones. I did have to again when I was pregnant. But that’s a different story. But I was just like, what the hell? This is when you really read about what’s in it. Yeah, I was going through all of the type of things that you put into your the most absorbent part of your body. It was a real mind, can’t say the F word. 

I remember just getting so woke and really quite annoyed at myself. I think, you know, it took that to quite a horrible part of my life to actually start to listen and be interested in my own body. 

Le’Nise: But you know that that’s quite common. Typically, women who are trying to conceive. That’s a point where they come off the pill or they come off hormonal contraception and then they start to get more in tune with their natural cycle and know what menstruation actually looks like for them. What ovulation looks like. So you’re definitely not alone. But I want to just go back to what you’re saying about all of the kind of extensive tracking that you were doing. Was it kind of like an iterative thing when you would start to look at one thing and then you would keep on things on? 

Maria: Absolutely. I think. So obviously, when I first started tracking, I love as I said, I love planning. I just kind of put things together. As an athlete as well, you make a lot of training plans. You make a lot of that kind of stuff. So to me, I had like a whole binder, journals thing that I would like do and it kind of made me feel confident and make me feel better about myself that I was writing this stuff down. I could flip through it. So at first, I was like, when does my period happen? Like, that was kind of it. And then I was doing more reading and it was like, OK, what’s what’s the temperature? What’s your temperature changes? And I was like temperature changing, That sounds pretty militant, every day taking your temperature. But then I spent several weeks on cervical mucus. That’s a terrible word. Obviously, a man came up with that because it’s called cervical mucus. All right, cool. I’m going to have a look at that. And then it was my oh, this is my day of ovulation. OK. This is where I’m at in my cycle. And actually, it was, it was a means to get pregnant as well. It wasn’t a, cause I was interested in it. It was this is the means to get pregnant. And and then I had medical assistance to get pregnant and then I had to take hormones and things like that because they that’s what the doctors advised. Again, probably not something I would do again, but that was something that. And then that kind of through my cycle out of whack. And it was only because I’d been tracking it. And then when I took that, then I had to take quite a few different drugs. But when I took I really started to see how my body then went completely out of whack. And so then when I had these mood swings and when I was having, like, hormonal breakouts and all this kind of stuff, I really did start to connect the dots as to. Oh, this is what’s happening here. OK. And I could say to my doctor, no, this is throwing me out of whack. I know this because every month like clockwork, this is what happens. And I’ve missed this point. I mean, maybe take my little scrapbook and look and see what’s happening. And so, again, it was a means to an end to get pregnant. But then when I was pregnant and then I did have my daughter afterwards, then there’s a whole other kind of stuff of like, oh, my God, nobody tells you about all the other stuff that comes after the pregnancy and children and just how your body react reacts. 

That’s a whole nother podcast.  But what I wanted to do was get back to normal. So then I really started to more appreciate what that looked like in terms of how do I get back to being me? And how do I get back to being pre mom me, which never really happens. But in my mind, that’s what I was thinking. And my cycle, was a massive part of that, it’s a huge indicator of, yes, your body is now back on track. It’s not just thinking you’re here to feed and host another being. And that’s when I started to read more about just the cycle. Just just to kind if not not for a goal, not for anything else, just to generally know what to look for me. And how does that kind of affect everything else I’m doing? That’s really was the kind of, I’d say, the second inflexion point for me. 

And kind of getting getting into it. 

Le’Nise: And all of the all of the information and the tracking that you’ve done, have you? I know you have a younger child. Have you? Did you take that into trying to conceive your next child? 

Maria: Yes. Yes. No, I was very much. I knew that when my second child I kind of the goal was that I would love to not have to have, the medical assistance. I knew there was loads of things that I, linked with diet and things like that, that really, really helped me. The first time around, so about six months before I was even thinking of conceiving, I was like, I would need to get my diet in check. And the diet I was doing was a low sugar diet because I had a lot of inflammation. Again, I think from doing a lot of athletics and things, I had a lot of inflammation in the body, so reducing my sugar, really helped just tons of things. And then but that I really I noticed again, I was I was removing all the sugar and then I actually started to lose a lot of weight. And I think I got down to like the lowest I’ve ever probably been, like in my adult life. Just from just removing sugar, not really doing exercise or anything like that, but just removing sugar. And then my period stopped. OK. I was loving this diet I was on and it was giving me so much energy and I looked great and I was fitting into my clothes. It was cool. And then my periods stopped and I thought, whoa, that stuff is the messing with my body. And so then I started kind of easing up into when my period then started tocome back again. OK. But again, that’s like a whole new view on food. And what that can do and how that connects. So so I did take that into account. And I didn’t need the medical assistance to the same degree to to get pregnant. I did need it make much, much later on in the pregnancy and towards the end. But right at the beginning, it was we actually got pregnant accidentally. We were actually like, OK cool, we’ll have a baby, we’ll start at Christmas. I end up having my baby at Christmas. And again, I do put it down to the fact that one, I’d had a test from before and I knew what I was kind of doing this time. But also I was just so hyper aware of everything that my body was doing and not doing. And then like adding that extra layer of nutrition onto the tracking of what I was eating. So there was a lot of tracking. But that really did then help me find my my natural groove, I think. 

Le’Nise: When you say that you lost your period because you had cut out sugar, was it just like sugar, added sugars into food, or was it carbohydrates as well? 

Maria: Yes, carbohydrates as well. So it was first, it was like sugars into food. It was kind of like a process of elimination. So I was having blood tests done as I was cutting things out. We kind of we didn’t really know what it was going to end up looking like. But the nutritionist I had spoken to was just like the best thing to do is just start by process of elimination. And first, it was just like gluten. And I was like, what is gluten? And I thought, oh it’s in everything! But it was gluten, didn’t really have an effect, so I got the gluten back, which was brilliant. 

And then, yeah, it was like sugars and then it was carbohydrates. 

And then when it was with the sugars I saw, I did see a little step of there was like a reduction in my T cells, how they reacted and they just started to get a little bit less aggressive. So a lot of them and they were very aggressive and they wanted to take the sugar down to kind of chill them a little bit. And then when I took out the carbs, pretty much the numbers of them dropped and they just completely relaxed. So the levels of inflammation in my body started to kind of drop. The more I eliminated all these different things. But, yeah, like like I say, brain fog completely disappeared. When I got rid of sugar because I really suffered from that post, my first baby, like brainfog, I would be talking and all of a sudden it was like when I was like completely like two years later I was still doing it. So it was a really weird moment for me. But then the getting rid of sugar is like really, really helped. But then, yeah, I was eliminating, eliminating, eliminate, eliminating. Then I knew I’d gone too far when my period started to go very light at first and then a little bit erratic and then just it was like two months. I actually thought I was pregnant cause I started to think, well what’s going on? And I wasn’t pregnant. I was like, OK, let me just, I’ve lost a lot of weight. Let me just try and put some weight back on and see if they did.  

Le’Nise: What you’re saying is so interesting because, you know, there is a real, especially with women. There’s a real fear around carbohydrates. And I hear this a lot. You know, if I just cut out carbs, I’ll, I’ll lose weight. And this and that. But then what? A lot of people don’t realise just how important carbohydrates are for menstruation and a healthy menstrual cycle. So it’s really interesting because a lot of the research around this is actually being done on men. And so things like no carb diets and also like intermittent fasting. The studies are typically focussed on men and not that have not been done on women because the researcher say, well, it’s too it’s too comp complicated. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So we see lots of things saying, oh, well, the research shows say low carb diets are great. But that research is on men. Yes. Oh, yeah. 

Maria: Forty five. Forty five to forty five. White male. 

Le’Nise: Yeah. Yeah. So how long did it take you to get your period back? 

Maria: It didn’t take me that long, actually. It took me probably about two months or so, I’d say. I remember being really worried that I’d done some lasting damage, like oh God. But luckily, it took not that I think because I wasn’t training at that point in my life. I was exhausted because I had a three year old. But it didn’t take that long and I, I knew which dial to kind of amp up. I did very gradually, I didn’t just switch because I knew that would throw my body into craziness as well. So I did it by gradually, bit by bit. So I think that helped. Yeah, it took a couple of months, but I was pretty, I was four weeks in before I realised. And then so all in all, I’d say I had a probably a gap of about three months of no period.

Le’Nise: And thinking about all the tracking that you’ve done, your first and second pregnancy, did that feed in to the idea that you had for the journal that you’ve.

Maria: Oh, yes, massively. Yeah. So when my niece saw the whole the whole the story, it all came about because my niece got her period when she was nine. 

And my niece is very different, do you remember I was talking about that confidence that I had when I was younger with my sisters. We still have that, if anything has been turbo boosted as we got older. And my niece is very much not like that. She is not yet a force. She isn’t like, you know, kicking your arse and on your case. Which me and my sisters definitely were and are. But so for me as her auntie, I really wanted to connect with her anyway, just in general. I want to connect with her. And I want to be like I want her to feel that kind of like sisterhood. She doesn’t have any sisters. And it’s always been very difficult to reach her, so it’s been having to kind of kind of get in there without being like, you know, not cool or embarrassing. And I never had this problem with my nephew. You know, he’s like this is fine. But my niece, it’s always been slightly awkward. So when my sister messaged us and said, sisters, it’s happened, I was like, well, she’s not pregnant because that would be a national manhunt. 

And I said what she started her period and said, yeah, we were like, oh, my God. Because we knew it was coming. We could see me, my sisters. We could start to see the changes in her. Even then, we were like, now you’re all safe. So I knew she likes she loves drawing. She loves journalling, she loves like anime. And I love that. When I was younger, I love the drawing and the doodling and making characters and all this kind of stuff. And I also really love now. You know, the kind of mindfulness colouring that you can do and bullet journalling and that kind of stuff. So that’s really where and Girlhood came from, because I thought, what if I could try and make something for my niece that kind of doesn’t feel like it is a hey, here’s a book of periods. 

We all got that book when we were younger. It was like 70s style with full on full frontal nudity and you’re like, oh my God.  

And I didn’t what that. I wanted to give her something. What she was like, oh, this is kind of my half journal, half education. And that’s how we talk about it, part journal, part guide. And in there, the first thing we start with the tracker, is there is a period tracker that you can colour in. And again, just by the habit of colouring it and you start to see the shape, you start to see more visually what’s happening. I think not everybody is like a day ahead and not everybody is kind of doesn’t leadings to technology. And even on the period apps. I have a lot of period apps I’ve used and they’ve always been lacking that certain realness to me, it kind of feels like I’m just dealing with I’m just putting it into an app that I’m dealing with. I’m not really exploring what’s happening. So the we start we have this period track. But really, the emphasis in the book actually is the mood trackers that are there every month, because that to me is really the hormone signal. When you’re a teenager, those mood swings are so much more. If anything, I had more problems daily with my mood swings than I did with my period. My period was like, okay, well, you played. Here’s a product. Take some painkillers. Moods, there was there was no product for that. And that probably more shaped my relationship with my body, with my self esteem, with my confidence, which in turn then kind of knocks on to how I look at my my female anatomy and how I look at everything to do with being being a woman. So really, for us, the mood tracker, it was something we wanted to add as much opportunity to colour and see a pattern that is kind of aesthetically pleasing, but also feels like you accomplished something when you’re colouring it in. And that’s the mood tracker, it actually is more of the focus and the period tracker’s kind of like a you know, as an add on to the book. It’s in there, but the focus really is the mood tracker, because that will that will happen for months and months and months before your period actually starts. And we wanted. I think the best way to say is that when you talk to everyone, I’m sure you have, like six or seven people about the first period. It’s very rare I hear somebody say they were prepared for it and that it didn’t just happen to them. And most people’s first periods stories are absolutely hilarious. Like, I’ve listened. I don’t even know how many because Girlhood: The Story has loads of them included, some really cool women into that. We talk to a lot of people about their period. I’m known now as the period, the period lady because you know what happened. And they’re always hilarious. But at the time they’re pretty much mortifying or embarrassing. And that’s usually because they were unprepared or they hadn’t noticed what was like. They were prepared for it, that they hadn’t really noticed what their body was doing to go something’s about to happen. Oh, here we are. Great. And what we wanted was a journal that essentially somebody could give their daughter, sister, niece, friend before the period begins so that by the period of time the period starts, they can start to see.I think I’m going to start my period soon. And then when I do, I know all of this stuff already. And I know where to go. Like, there’s even a page in there about all the different period products, cups, pants, pads, tampons, because, again, you just I don’t want my niece to have to justdeal with it. 

And again, talking about period products. One of the most one of the most hardest things when you talk about periods is that you have to stick something in your vagina or in your pants. Yeah, I talk about blood, and that’s a lot of where the friction comes from about having these open conversations, because a lot of people can’t even say the word vagina. They don’t know the difference between vagina vulva, like all of that kind of stuff. And so we wanted to show that in the book. So it was just like it’s there. So my niece might. Well, now my niece doesn’t use tampon. She uses period pants and she knows, cool, I’m on my period I use these pants when I’m not my period, these pants. 

And how easy is that compared to the conversation you have with your parents were like, well, this goes here. And if you pick the leg up like this. No, it won’t fall out. It was, you know, kind of stuff. It’s just a lot more easier. So. Yeah. 

The tracking element really does guide through the book, but it’s wrapped in all of this kind of colouring and stories from other people and places for them to jot down their own story at the book. What’s your story? So they can remember it and maybe even show it to their daughters when it’s full of friends or whatever. So, yeah. And the tracking element, they’ll probably graduate to an app as well, which would be brilliant. But knowing a bit more about themselves before, because, you know, you put in a lot of data into those apps and you don’t really get much back from. Yes, it’s on Thursday. So you really get it. 

Le’Nise: I used up my Apple Watch to track my menstrual cycle and I got a notification that said your period is due in the next ten days. And I was just thought, like, how is that helpful?

Maria: Yeah. Thanks for that. Yes. In the future. Yes. Yes. So this plan. Yeah. Yeah. 

Le’Nise: Where can people find the journal if they want, if they listen to this and they’ve really connected with what it’s all about. Where can they find the journal? 

Maria: So listeners can’t see this right now. But I’m currently in the Hood HQ, which is the top of my house, and I’m surrounded by journals and books because they all arrived yesterday. So we actually did a Kickstarter campaign to kick off the Girlhood journal.

Because we made one for my niece. Right. But then lots of people said I want want one of these. 

And then we’re like, OK, well, let’s do it big over there and we’ll just do a Kickstarter and we’ll see. And that arrived at yesterday, which is fun for me. So you can go to We are the hood dot com. And on that there is the ability to buy the book. And it was pre-orders. But now, as well as of next week, it will be that you can order it and get it within a few days. And we’ll also be listing it on Amazon soon, that will be going off to a fulfilment centre soon. And also, on www.wearethehood.com you can download those two downloads. One is the book as a download, just if you want to get. A lot of people have their own binders, stickies and with washi tape and they like to customise things a lot. And there is also a lot more affordable, the printable. And so the actual journal itself is 20 pounds. We’re trying our best to get that lower, but we can only do that when we have volume coming in so that we can now. Our aim is to get it as low as we can, but it’s leather bound comes and three colours. Really lovely silk coated pages because we want this to be a special gift. Not the textbook horrible brown paper. We wanted it to be really lovely, but we did understand that there are people who like my mom with three daughters. 

She’s not about to whack out 60 quid on a journal. So we said, okay, well, here’s the five pound option. And also, it gives more people the chance to customise, add in things that they want. And then also we have a free downloadable, which is just the period tracker. So you can kind of get a taste of what that looks like. It doesn’t come with the stories or anything like that. It’s just like a one to print out on an A4 and start to play with, which we’ve had over 500 people download the free tracker. And about half of them have gone on to even buy the digital download or the book, which has been brilliant. It’s a great way to kind of start the conversation with your daughter or nieces, whoever is.  Hey, would this be interesting? Is this cool? So that’s all available. And wearethehood.com and it’s the only product that we have on the site. So it’s pretty easy to find but should be available soon as well. 

Le’Nise: And I’ll put all the links in the in the show notes. So if if listeners take one thing away from everything that you’ve been saying, what would you want that to be? 

Maria: I think, um. I think the biggest journey for me, having gone through this all myself, but then reliving this when we were building the journal with my co-founder and the team very much is I mean, education is power. It’s not covered off in our curriculum. So we shouldn’t rely on schools and teachers to have this conversation with the. 

And I think from a young age, if we care about what’s going on with our body, not just from our biology lesson or whatever, but from female health, if we can start to install that, hey, this is the kind of the way that you can self learn self teach. So it’s naturally embedded in all of us to want to know more about our bodies. Want to know more and take ownership of it. I don’t think it’s about sitting down and saying, OK, I’m going to give you a lesson now, OK? This is how it is. I think you should empower all women to want to know. It should almost be a, you know, as cool as knowing, you know, a different language or as cool as it should be, like. Yeah, I know. Or, you know, what the hell is going on. 

And I really think that’s how we change the narrative. Change the stigma around a lot of female health issues. . But I think just having that knowledge is, they haven’t read a lot of people be a bit too old for Girlhood now it’s kind aimed at more of the pre-teen market, but a book I’d really recommend it. I’m sure you cover this many times is Period Power by Maisie Hill and it is like my go to I had like a whole list, of a whole bookshelf of go to books for females like always like to reference. 

Like Becoming by Michelle Obama, Period Power by Maisie Hill and that one is really good because it’s again, it really does put you back into your shoes when you’re younger and your whole life going. That’s why I never fall. It really does help you to then get that hunger to know more about this. 

I’m not going to accept anything less than this, this and this. You know, empowering yourself, young girls to want to learn about their female health is probably the first step or the most important step, I think, in really making progress in this area and really starting to. Just build a more confident, more happier generation of women. Get a book, any book and start reading and start start learning. I would say, I guess if they’re anybody listening to this podcast, they’re already on that journey. 

Le’Nise: There’s a lot of women listening that will, or mothers. And she’ll have sisters and nieces and all of that. So everything you’re saying about education and empowerment, they’ll be able to pass that on to them, their generation. Thank you so much. Oh, OK. 

Maria: Sorry. Before just before we did, I just remembered this and actually so we had a load of teachers downloading our resources this summer and I reached out to one of them and I said, hey, you’ve got a book. You downloaded the digital version and you download this free planner. I’m not sure at this school. I’d love to have feedback. We’re trying to make some more resources for you guys. And she came out with a really useful information. I did not I wasn’t aware of. She said, actually, yeah, we were looking to put this in the curriculum next term because in PSHE it’s only PSHE has only just started to be mandatory in all schools as of this term, which I wasn’t aware of. I thought everybody had to do PSHE. And she said, and even then, the female health topics, you can choose what you teach. So which I didn’t know that either I thought there was like a curriculum, a set curriculum that you had to teach and that you had to teach PSHE. So it even more so I was just like, whoa. So a lot of parents, I think, assume this stuff is covered off in class. And it’s really important when you’re talking to teachers, when you’re looking at schools for your kids. Ask them if, you know, if you want to, ask them, is this covered off? Because if it isn’t, then that’s on you to really go out there and make sure they have it. And if it is. Have a look at what they’re teaching. Because that really that I mean, it’s very hard to undo. Have a look at the resources.

There was a mom’s group on WhatsApp that someone shared our book there and all 50 of the moms bought the book. And they will put the book because they were like, I’m not taking this into my own hands. I’m not leaving this. They do not teach us in our schools. So they got it. And they all just boom done. And it was so empowering and so cool for me to see these these mothers just just taking it into their own hands and being like, we are not leaving this up to anybody else to educate our daughters. It’s so important. So it’s, I think if you come across that really it’s something that needs to be addressed, that this absolutely should be taught, there’s no reason why this shouldn’t be taught in biology. There’s no reason why this shouldn’t be taught in PSHE, and there should be a really good framework for what’s put into schools on this. That’s just the other thing that I learnt that I think I learnt about a month ago. I thought I knew everything. And then I was like, what? And that’s just something. For all the moms out there. 

Le’Nise: Yeah, I didn’t either, but it was mandatory as well. So that was very eye-opening. And I think that I don’t think that parents should be leaving this to the schools. And that I mean, that’s a whole other topic about the taboos around this. But having a conversation early and often. So your children, even your your sons as well, because they need to know know about this. I talk to my son, about this because they need to be comfortable and they need. It’s about helps them connect with their own their own bodies and minds. 

Maria: My husband, he’s been a he’s been going through that. But I mean, he’s been surrounded by period stuff now. 

Actually, Shawna’s dad had an amazing relationship with her around when she started her first period. And he was actually the one that was showing her the products. And as well as my sister, he was there, too. And I think that also kind of made a big difference for her. But we’ve had a lot of dads buy the book as well, because they’re like, this is great I have no idea how to just start the conversation. This is just a great way to just give it to them and say, hey, I thought you might like this. And by the way, I’m here if you want to talk about this kind of thing. And so we’ve had such a great response for dads as well, because it’s just so nice and easy. And, you know, just lovely way to start that relationship off of your daughter who’s all of a sudden kind of become, you know, into their teens. And, you know, who don’t want to talk to you very much. 

Yeah. It’s kind of a good tool to start the conversation. 

Le’Nise: Brilliant. Well, I definitely will be recommending it to all my friends. Thank you so much for coming on the show. It’s been a real pleasure to hear your story and hear more about the journal. I’ll put all links in the show notes so listeners can find out more about where to get their hands on the journal. Thank you. Thanks again. 

Maria: Thank you very much for having me. It’s been great. 

Period Story Podcast, Episode 30: Trisha Barker, Stick To Your Guns And Fight For What You Want

On today’s episode of Period Story podcast, I had the pleasure of speaking with Trisha Barker, a life coach who helps people manage and overcome imposter syndrome. Listen to hear our conversation about Trisha’s endometriosis journey, how she fought for a diagnosis, how she manages the endometriosis pain, how she’s incorporated menstrual cycle awareness into her day to day work life and of course, her first period.

Trisha says that when she was shocked when she first got her period. She had a stomachache and thought to herself: “Am I dying?”. Her mum was there to reassure her and explain to her what happened. Trisha says that she felt really embarrassed and ashamed about what was happening to her and it took her until her forties to get past the shame.

Trisha went on a long journey of trying to deal with her heavy and painful periods, for years using the pill to do this. She eventually decided that she didn’t want to be on the pill because she didn’t believe it was good for her health. After she came off the pill, her period pain boomeranged back.

Listen to hear what happened when Trisha tried to get the bottom of what was behind her excruciating period pain and the moment where she refused to leave her GP’s office until he gave her a solution that didn’t involve more pills.

Trisha explains that coming off the pill helped her connect with her menstrual cycle. She says she wanted to be back in tune with her own body. Trisha shares how she was able to spot patterns through her menstrual cycles and adapt her work accordingly.

Trisha shares some advice for people struggling with imposter syndrome and the key questions they need to ask themselves to move past it. She says that we can ask ourselves better questions and start to find evidence to prove that our imposter doesn’t know everything. Trisha says that when you change what you believe about yourself, you change how you show up in the world. Thank you, Trisha!

Get in touch with Trisha:

Website

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TRISHA’S BIO

Founder of the Imposter Syndrome Solution, Trisha is a Life Coach and NLP Practitioner who is on a mission to help people stop doubting their abilities and believe in themselves, so they can thrive in their career and life.

Trisha’s work brings together her training as a Life Coach and NLP Practitioner, a 20 + year career in Human Resources working for some of the largest FTSE 100 companies in the UK and her own personal pursuit of dissolving imposter syndrome and focusing on her personal wellbeing.

She works with organisations and individuals to help them understand how Imposter Syndrome is impacting their business and careers, whilst helping them to build a toolkit to manage and overcome Imposter Syndrome.

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SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Le’Nise: On today’s episode, we have Trisha Barker, founder of the Imposter Syndrome Solution. Trisha is a life coach and NLP practitioner who is on a mission to help people stop belittling their abilities and believe in themselves so they can thrive in their career and life. She works with organisations and individuals to help them understand how imposter syndrome is impacting their business and careers, whilst helping them to build a toolkit to manage and overcome imposter syndrome. Welcome to the show.

Trisha: Hi, thanks for having me.

Le’Nise: So let’s get right into it. Can you tell me the story of your very first period? 

Trisha: Yeah. A little bit of a blur. I can’t remember the exact age. I think it was about 11 or 12. So very, I see that as a young age to start. And I’d been at a friend’s sleep over. It was a friend’s birthday. We’d all gone to have a sleepover. And I remember having really bad stomach pains. But I didn’t want to leave because it was this party. But in the end, the girl’s mum had to ring my mum to come and collect me. I went home and just thought I had a stomachache. And then I actually went to the toilet at some point and saw blood. And I remember at the time, thinking, “Am I dying?”. Well, I, I if if I was taught about periods beforehand, at that moment in time, I didn’t remember any of it. Like I just didn’t know what was happening to me. And I remember calling my mum and my mum coming in and saying, “it’s OK, you’ve just started your period, here are some sanitary pads.” And that was my literal experience.

Le’Nise: So your mind just went blank in that moment?

Trisha: Thinking back now. I’m not sure whether it went blank or I’d never had. I can’t remember whether we touched on these subjects at school. I can’t remember ever having a conversation with my mom where this was normalised for me. I can’t remember. I just remember at the time being so shocked that I thought I was dying. 

Le’Nise: And then what happened after you got over your initial shock? 

Trisha: We just didn’t know, in the house, and it’s really weird because I was brought up in a house full of older sisters, just so it wasn’t a subject we spoke about. You know, I was given the sanitary towels, told it would happen each month, and then that was it, really. And then you just carried on. And like I said, I was quite young. So starting to have periods at a really young age at high school was quite a horrible thing. Like it was. I felt so shameful. I don’t know whether other people feel like that, but you’ve got this thing that’s happening to you and you don’t really understand what’s happening. And you’ve got to go around your day to day thing. We know that actually the energy and how you feel at that time, you don’t really want to be going out there into the world, but you’ve got to go out. And back in those days, it were really big, fat, thick sanitary pads. So you’re trying to wear those in your school uniform and you had a skirt on, so you felt a little bit like vulnerable. So, yeah, it’s just I just remember that at that time in my life, I just felt like they were horrible and I felt really embarrassed and shameful about it.

Le’Nise: How long do you think it took you to get over that shame? Get past that shame?

Trisha: Oh, till I was in my forties. Oh, yeah. Because I think you go from school, then you go to college or whatever career path you take, and then you go into the workplace and in the workplace, it’s still a thing that we don’t talk about. I always say this to people. You know, you used to put your Tampax up your sleeve to go to the toilet, you just, in the workplace, it’s another taboo subject. So in school and in the workplace, it’s just as women we’re trying to hide this thing that happens each month. We’re trying to be, peppy, you know, and act like our energy is high when actually we feel really low in energy. And yeah, I just think it’s this whole thing until I was in probably my 40s and started to understand about periods, then that was it. I just I will talk about it to anybody and everybody know that. 

Le’Nise: I want to go back to what you said about you growing in a house with your mum up in a house with your mum and your older sister. But it wasn’t really spoken about. Why do you think that is? Why do you think you didn’t have that? That those conversations? 

Trisha: It’s an interesting one. I’m not really sure because we are very open about lots of subjects. 

I don’t know whether it was the time. 

Whether it’s the education now that I think it’s so important that we should be talking about these subjects. I just think it was the time that we just didn’t talk about those sorts of things. I don’t think there’s any particular reason why it was avoided. 

No, not sure. 

Le’Nise: You didn’t really have the conversations at home and you said that you didn’t really remember being taught about it in school. So how did you learn about what was happening with your body? 

Trisha: Really to really understand what was happening again back in my 40s. When I spoke to my mum, she told me that I would have a period every month and I would bleed for a few days. So once it started to happen, we had that conversation. She did tell me that. That’s all I thought it was. I thought there was this period of time that I would bleed each month and that was it. But never do we really understand as a woman what happens in our body each month and what are the different cycles we go through in that moment. You know, every woman who I speak to now, they know about the maybe PMT, before they have a period, they know about that period. And that’s it. So I think even anybody at any age, the education of what happens to us women is really limited. 

Le’Nise: So for you personally now, you know, you’re talking about going beyond what happened during period and that week before. Yeah. What was that light bulb moment for you? Or was it more of a gradual kind of learning about what was going on? 

Trisha: Yes, I think for a long time, I sort of masked what was happening in my body, so when I was I would say late teens, the pain I used to have with my period and really heavy periods when I was at that age. My mum took me to the doctor and the doctor decided to put me on the contraceptive pill because that would be a really good fix to stop that happening. So for a long period of time, I didn’t have that natural cycle. It was being driven by a contraceptive pill. So for a long period of time, you get out of sync with your body, don’t you, because you’re not really in tune with it anymore. And I wish now we would have said, no, that’s not the reason. That’s not the solution to the problem. Let’s find out what the problem is. So for many years, I used the contraceptive pill. It was only sort of, I would say, in my mid to late 30s, I decided I didn’t want to spend so much time on the contraceptive pill. It’s not, I didn’t think it was good for my health. And that’s when I really started to feel again, what happens each month? And I went to the doctors. I remember it was about, about five years ago, still having these horrendous pains are trying to, you know, I had a job where each month I was just hoping and praying that I wouldn’t be out and about somewhere because the pain was excruciating. Like, I’ve never had a baby and I’ve got a really good pain threshold. But that first day of my cycle is horrendous. The pain is so intense. Nothing stops it. And I went to the doctor and interestingly, again, tried to give me a pill. Well, we’ll give you an anti-spasm. And I was like, no, there’s something. I want to know why my body’s doing this. I don’t want the fix. I want to find what is the root cause. And I had to really push, really push. She was having none of it. And I ended up getting referred. And in the end, I went through this whole process of different tests and I had endometriosis and I probably had it when I was a young girl. So that sort of sparked me into this whole, I need to know more about my body, like, how have I missed this all this time? And hindsight’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it? But I think that sparked this whole interest. And I was chatting to someone about after, I had an operation for the endometriosis. So then I didn’t have the pain each month. But then I was chatting to someone about I felt like I was really full of ideas last month, last week. And I felt like I was really on top of things. And this week I just feel a bit sluggish. I don’t know why. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, thinking there was something wrong with me. And she said, “Have you ever learnt about your cycle, your monthly cycle? And she recommended a book to me. And that’s when things started to change for me. So that was that was only like three years ago. Like, you know, I’m at a stage of my life where I’m not going to be. I’m moving into the stage where I’m moving towards the menopause. I wish I had known this earlier, but, I look at it now that I know this magic now and I didn’t know it before, but at least I do now. 

Le’Nise: Going back to the pain that you were experiencing as a teenager. Yes. And then going on to the pill. Did the pill, you used the word masked. Did it feel like the pill masked the pain that you did you experience any pain or?

Trisha: No pain, took it away completely.

Le’Nise: OK. And then once you came off the pill, what was it like that transition of the pill to then having natural cycles and really and then experiencing the pain again? 

Trisha: I think I felt much more emotional because, you know, I think for me on the pill, you don’t get those different fluctuations in the hormones, so you feel the same, all month long. And I remember coming off, I just felt a little bit like all over the place, like, should I just go back on it? Because I feel really bizarre. But I remember just thinking, let’s just ride through it and see what happens. I want to be back in tune with my own body. I don’t want to be taking this forever. 

So, yeah. I remember at the time. Just feeling a lot of the feels like what’s going on with me? 

I’m a woman and that’s what was going on with me. 

Le’Nise: And getting that diagnosis of endometriosis so far into time that you have that you have your period getting that. How? How did you. You said that, you know, you wish you had known earlier, but how did that information impact, did it impact your day to day life or was it a feeling of, OK, now I know what’s going on? 

Trisha: I think it’s the same with a lot of things, it’s just nice to sometimes have a label to understand what is going on. I think, you know, you go to see a doctor and you’ve got a 10 minute slot to explain what is going on with you. The majority of the time it’s a male doctor who doesn’t under really understand, they might know it from a medical point of view, but from experience in it, they don’t understand it. For me, it was just nice to, now I know what’s been going on, and I felt really proud actually that I’d fought to find out what was happening, rather than accepting another prescription of another different type of pill to mask the pain. So for me, it was a relief. It was a relief and a relief that actually I could, I had surgery. That was the thing that helped me, unfortunately, it has come back so I’m experiencing it again. But at the time, it was just nice to be heard and listened. The surgeon that worked on the endometriosis, he was like, “this is what I think you’ve got. And I am the only person who can find this. Any of the tests that they send you for will not work.” It took to speak to that specialist, to have that conversation about my body that everybody I spoke to along the way kept saying there’s nothing medically wrong with you. 

Le’Nise: And you said that you had, so you had the surgery and then but now it’s come back. Did you change anything after you had the surgery? Did you did you change anything in your life or did it make the way that you approach your life any different? 

Trisha: No. It just gave me, maybe not the fear. So sometimes, like I said, I was working in a corporate job at the time and I could be up and down the country. I could be in a really important presentation day. I never knew what was going to happen. And so that fear was I always wanted to try and work from home my first day of my cycle. So I think when the when I didn’t have the endometriosis anymore, I didn’t have the pain. So then I had this freedom of well, it doesn’t matter where it happens. Like, yes, I would prefer to be able to hunker down and, you know, feel into the slowing down energy. But, yeah, the fear disappeared because it was OK to be out in public and not worry about having to handle this pain situation that I wouldn’t have. I remember once driving along in my car when it started and I couldn’t drive like I couldn’t focus on driving and managing the pain and I had to pull over and wait for it to go. So I didn’t have any of that anymore. Like it was. It was such a freedom. 

Le’Nise: And and now that you said that the pain, the pain has come back, so. Yeah. Is it as bad as it was before? And how are you managing the pain? 

Trisha: I would say now it’s worse, when it does come back so. How do I manage it? Nothing seems to work like I’m very fortunate. I don’t know. I don’t think anything in life is a coincidence, but it always seems to work on a day where I don’t have much, I don’t have any client work or it’s a weekend day when I have no plans or actually I cancel the plans if I have got plans, now, I honour my cycle and know that I just need to rest. But yeah, I need to go back to the doctor’s. But until we can go back to having doctor’s appointments. But yeah, that’s one of the things that I need to push for because they all get into a point where, yeah, it’s really effecting me. And then because the pain is so bad, I’m exhausted for a couple of days afterwards because of the trauma of going through the pain, but also the sometimes that the pain is all through the night. So I miss a night’s sleep. 

Le’Nise: So we’ve had on the show we’ve had three or four guests with endometriosis and a theme that has run through all of the conversations about their endometriosis, no matter what stage endometriosis they they have is this idea of being their pain or their experience being minimised or dismissed by health care professionals and feeling like they’ve really had to fight and advocate for themselves. What would you say in that in in that sort of theme, what would you say that your experience has been? You know, you mentioned the word fight earlier and to fight for a diagnosis. Can you talk a bit more about that? 

Trisha: So when I went to, the doctors, they were very much of the mindset of you’ve got that 10 minute slot, I will give you a pill to fix the problem. And I took that prescription the first time, tried them when my monthly cycle came round again the first day of my period. I tried these tablets. They did not work. So I went back again and I remember him trying to give me a different prescription. And that was at the time that I just thought, this isn’t the solution. You’re trying to give me another, I don’t like taking prescription drugs unless there’s a real need for it. So I think that sort of pushed my decision that I don’t want to take these tablets. And I just thought, this is not the solution. I need a different one and I just pushed. You know, I remember sitting there and just said, I’m not leaving. I need you to refer me to somebody else. I don’t want to take tablets. I want to get to the bottom of this. And I remember I was just quite forceful in the meeting. Like in this 10 minutes slot that you have to refer me. I think he was just shocked. 

And he did. 

But even when I went to see different professionals throughout the whole of that time. They couldn’t understand that I could have pain without heavy periods, like I wasn’t having a heavy bleed, so I saw about three different people before I saw the surgeon who did my surgery for my endometriosis. But each different person who I saw, they were adamant that there was nothing wrong with me, but they just kept trying to tell me there’s nothing there. But I had this just sense of knowing that this is not this is my body. I’m not masking it with any drugs or pain relief. I know I had, I just had this sense of knowing that. This isn’t normal, I know. And I know there’s something wrong and I will get to the bottom of it. So I feel very fortunate that that happened for me. And. When I saw that final surgeon and he said, “yeah, I think you’ve got endometriosis”, it was just like just this massive sense of relief that someone was listening, that I was probably right, that actually there was something, there definitely was something wrong in my body. And there was a male doctor. That was understanding what was happening in my day. It is incredible. 

Le’Nise: What do you think it took for you to be able to fight for yourself in those moments? You know, you mentioned the moment where you wouldn’t leave the surgery until they referred to what poor preparation did you do for yourself in that moment? 

Trisha: I think you just get to a tipping point where enough’s enough. Like. 

Like. 

All the different pain relief you can take. You just decide that that’s not the solution. I think that’s when I decided I don’t want to keep trying to try all these different drugs. That’s not you know, I work a lot through the coaching to find the root problems of what why different things happen. So, again, it’s back to the root cause that’s what’s going to fix something. All of the prescription drugs, all it does is. Like I said before is mask it. So I just went I just as I I’m going into this meeting and I’m not leaving until I’ve been referred. I’ve got a ten minute slot and you need me out of here as possible. So I’m just going to try it and see what happens. And thankfully it worked, so just stick to your guns and just fight for what you want. 

Le’Nise: I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about how you said that, now you honour your cycle. And you mention how through coincidence or not, on the first day of your period, you are able to shift shift gears a little bit and stay at home or stay close to home. Talk a little bit more about what else you do to across all of your your menstrual cycle to integrate that and how you’re feeling energy wise into your work and the rest of your life. 

Trisha: So I like I said, someone recommended a book to me, which was Code Red by Lisa Lister. And that explained that actually what we’re taught very early on about, you know, we have this period of time where we bleed. I learnt that actually I have all this different magic that happens throughout the whole of the month and in different phases. You know, I learnt about there was a spring, a spring season, summer, autumn, the winter and in each of those, there’s different things happen in my body and different energies that I’m going to get. You know, I’m going to be masculine energy, feminine energy. It’s like a light bulb went off. I was like, we should get this at school. We should understand where we start our periods, what actually happens the whole of the month. So I started to. You got a download to track. So you just start to track on the first day of your bleed, and then you just started to notice what’s happened in my body each day. How am I feeling? How do I feel workwise? What’s going on in my head? I just started to track it. That’s the first thing I did. So I did it for the first month. And then the second month I would sort of look at, say, just pick a day. Day eleven where I might feel a little bit flat. And I’d look back at the chart of the month before and look at day eleven and realise, oh, actually on day eleven and I feel a little bit flat. So I started to realise that there was different energies that I was feeling in those times. So then I started to put the dates of my cycle alongside the diary that I have. So now it might say it’s the, you know, the twenty third today, but it will also show that I’m on day 11 of my cycle. So now when people are asking me if I can do things like I’m moving into perimenopause now, so my ability to plan as well as I did, so for about the last 18 months, I’ve had the same regular cycle. So when somebody asks me to do something, I think, where am I in my cycle? So I know that in autumn and winter I’m a little bit more in my feminine energy. So things might feel a little bit like I don’t feel as sociable, especially when I’m in my autumn. Being able to talk and communicate is a little bit more difficult. I struggle to find the words sometimes and articulate what I’m wanting to say. So I found that spring and summer was the times that I’m more sociable. Great for doing things like this. Speaking to you and delivering workshops, all of those different things, I realised that there was different energy like in all of those different times. There’s a time for planning. There’s a time for getting shit done. There’s a time for accepting invitations to socialise and do all of those fun things. And I started to just experiment with it. Like you can’t always do it. You know somebody, if somebody is running an event, you could say, well, I can’t do it because I’m going to be winter. But. I started to say, yes, I would do certain things, and if somebody asked me for a social thing, I’d think, well, I’m in summer now, so I’m dying to say yes to this because I’m in that energy where I want to be around people and be sociable. But when they want to meet with me, I know that it’s gonna be winter and I’m not going to want to feel so sociable. So it helped me to start to say yes and no to things I thought were right for the energy. And that worked wonderfully for about 18 months. Now I’m moving into a phase where my cycle isn’t as regular so I can have a 25 day cycle, I can I have a 29 day cycle. So the the ability to plan has gone a little bit. But I still use that. I still try and guess as much as I can. And the beauty is I will then go and tweak anything afterwards if then my period comes early. I then look at my diary for the week after and think, is there anything I can move around to make sure that I am using the my energy in this week in the right way? So yeah, it’s just for me. Like I said, I found this out at such a late time in my period journey that I. I wish I had known before about it. Like I said, hindsight’s a wonderful thing. It’s been the most amazing transformation for me. Instead of guessing what’s wrong with me, why can’t I do what I could do last week? Why is my inner critic really loud at the moment? Now I just go, Oh, I get it. It’s my hormones. It’s OK. It will pass. This isn’t me. This is my hormones. And ever since that’s happened, it’s just like this huge sense of relief. 

Le’Nise: It sounds like you’ve learnt to really be tender with yourself. 

Trisha: Massively, massively. I recognise that we we work in a, in a society that has been designed for men, you know, the working day is designed for a man, the 9-5 is based on the man’s body clock, like we are trying to fit into a man’s world. And we we want to be treated equally. But we have to recognise that we we have a difference like what happens in our bodies is different. And there’s magic in that. Like, if we can work to our cycle, we can be much more productive. We can perform better if we work with that energy. But we can not be in this masculine energy all the time to hustle, the pushing, always being switched on, always being a hundred mile an hour. We can do it, but there’s a consequence to it. Now I know that there’s a flow between the masculine energy and the feminine energy. I just try and honour it more and just always when I feel it in a funk or I’m feeling like I just, don’t have ideas today or I can’t find my words, I ask myself, where am I in my cycle? I just ask myself all the time. Yeah. OK, that makes sense. Most of the time is down to my hormones. It’s just where I am in my cycle. 

Le’Nise: It’s amazing how when you start to tune into what’s happening to your body, you learn so much more about yourself and you move away from this idea of dealing with your body and dealing with what’s happening to your body to have a better understanding and maybe not embracing it, but being more understanding of yourself. I just wanted to just talk, for listeners who don’t know some of the terms that Trisha has used. So she’s talked about the summer, winter, autumn and spring. So those are the different phases of the menstrual cycle. And so winter is when you have your period. Spring is when you come out of your period with a follicular phase. Summer is ovulation and then autumn is the luteal phase. So this is the kind of terminology that some people use to to describe the different phases of the menstrual cycle. And it’s a nice analogy for what’s happening across the seasons. 

Trisha: That really helped me Le’Nise, because I could think about, well, what happens in winter. Well, animals hibernate, like nothing grows. It’s a really quiet time for reflection in the shorter days. So for anybody listening, it’s really good to start to track that and think about what happens in nature, because that’s what happens in those light, how cool are women’s bodies like we go through four seasons of nature in one month. I just think it’s the coolest thing ever. 

Le’Nise: I really wish that we had been taught this in schools or that there was much more emphasis on this in the schools because we spend so much time fighting it. You mention feminine energy and masculine energy and we spend so much time in this, especially when you have your own business, hustling and this kind of feeling like you have to work 24/7, never let up when really, you’re, this is not the way that our bodies were designed. We are designed to have rest. We are designed to be able to take our feet off the pedal a little bit and kind of tend to ourselves. And I do love the fact that all of these conversations are starting to become, yeah, maybe not mainstream, but these conversations are starting to happen more openly. 

Trisha: Definitely. And it’s interesting. I love to talk about this subject. You know, I had a career in HR for 22 years in corporate companies that would not want to talk about this subject. And I love, I find this companies now that are interested in talking about these subjects that we haven’t spoken about before. And I hope that this is a shift starting to happen that we need to have these conversations. We need to help women in the workplace. Harness this magic as their monthly cycle. Like, let’s get out of this hustle and male masculine energy all the time, because I do think that drives our health. Like if we asked if our bodies designed to rest at a certain time, but we’re not honouring that, then it’s going to show up it it’s going to manifest in some shape or the other. And I do think it will come out in your health in some way. 

Le’Nise: Absolutely. I want to talk about your work as a coach specialising in imposter syndrome and how perhaps some of the learnings you’ve gained about yourself over the last three years have tied into or fed into the work that you do with clients. 

Trisha: Yeah, so I’m obsessed with talking to women about their cycles. So if if I have a client that has been, you know, they’ve made real progress, but then all of a sudden they’ve got a day where they’re feeling like really doubtful. The first thing I asked them before anything, what day what day of your cycle are you on? I do it with my friends as well. But I’m always asking people, where are you in your cycle? So I’ve I’ve been able to to carry on whilst it’s about, you know, my specialist subject is imposter syndrome. That’s why you’re doubting your abilities. Actually, there’s times in your cycle and where your hormones affect that. So there’s there’s two times in your monthly cycle where it will be louder than it normally is. And if you can start to understand that actually this is just because of your hormones. So I’m constantly asking my clients. I encourage them to track their cycle. And I actually don’t believe everything that you think, like this moment in time, don’t be making decisions because this isn’t the perfect time to be making decisions, because you’re being more led by your hormones right now. Maybe we can park that and come back to it. So I think it’s just for me, it’s given me a way to be more in tune with my body. And I encourage my clients just to do exactly the same. To start to understand what is happening with you personally. And yeah. A lot of the times it’s where they say. I just don’t feel it this week. And it’s not it’s the week of their cycle. You know, they’re having their bleed. And I’m like, so how are you going to build some rest in. Your body doesn’t want to be going a hundred mile an hour right now? So, yeah, I definitely talk about it with all of my clients, but also the people that I just speak to on a day to day basis. 

Le’Nise: So you said that there are two points in the menstrual cycle where that inner critic, that self-doubt that it would be louder. Is it right before the period? And in the first couple of days of the bleeding?

Trisha: So it’s when you go into your spring. So if you think about spring, everything starting to come alive. And that’s when it starts to become like you’re wanting to move into getting things done and making plans and bringing things to life. That’s when it pops up. So I always say to people, if it pops up in spring, say, go away, you can come back in autumn. Now’s not the time. I haven’t got time for you right now. So come back in autumn and then we’ll have a chat in autumn. So, you know, kind of push it, to, I’ll have an appointment with you to come back in two weeks. We’ll have a chat then. Autumn is when it is at its loudest. You know, you get into your comparison. Should I be running my business? Should I go and get a job? Should I quit? Is my work as good as everybody else’s? That really good idea that I’ve been doing. Maybe it’s not so good. You’ve just got to watch. You’ve really got to be mindful and look at it. What’s going on with my thoughts this week? Because that’s all they all, we don’t have to believe everything. But that’s normally what happens. I know that if I start to doubt anything and I think, OK, well, that’s what’s happening now. But because my hormones are driving this, let’s look at this so I schedule some time for the week after when it’s out of autumn into winter and I think, or spring. Let’s have a look at this decision then. Is it still the case of most of the time it’s not.

Le’Nise: It’s interesting, what you said about that inner critic popping up in after you finish your period as you go into spring. Yeah, because you you start to your oestrogen starts to rise again, your testosterone starts to rise. And perhaps, I never really had looked at it this way before, but perhaps, you know, that that growing of kind of feeling, lots of ideas, starting to feel more creative. Back being back in your body, that can be a bit too much. Yeah. Your brain for some people, the brain wants to put the brakes on that a little bit like, whoa, whoa, whoa, let’s calm down here. 

Trisha: Yeah. Because our brain is basically, it needs to keep us safe. So if we’re thinking of pulling ourselves out in the world more or being more visible at all of the things which is wonderful in this spring energy, our brain goes, well, this is a bit risky. This doesn’t feel safe. And it wants to put you back in to that comfort zone. And even if you’re miserable in it, stay where you’re safe. So it is it’s it’s it’s very interesting and it’s good that you put it like that. But it’s linked to certain hormones increasing, which is growing. So we want to grow naturally with that. And our brain goes, no. Let’s keep you safe. Let’s get the inner critic putting you down and hopefully you’ll listen to it and keep yourself safe. But you’ve just got to, like I said, just not believe everything you think or tell your brain. Like I said to my brain, sometimes it’s OK. I am safe. If I do these things, I will still be safe. Thank you for letting me know, but I’m OK. I’ve got it. So I chat to my brain and let it know because it, it, it deals like sometimes you can get frustrated with my inner chatter. So horrible. But it is designed to keep you safe. It’s trying and it’s got the best intentions. It’s just not helping you. So you just got to try and do it sometimes like you chat to a friend. 

Le’Nise: Talk a bit about imposter syndrome and why you decided to specialise in this area. 

Trisha: So imposter syndrome, I experienced it for a huge chunk of my life. Now when I look back probably from about the age of 10, I can link experiences of how I experienced it right throughout my corporate career. I had a really successful corporate career. And now I look back and think I missed it all because I was constantly waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder and go, no you don’t belong here. You shouldn’t be here. You’re not as good as we thought you might have been. Your work isn’t up to scratch. We’re going to have to replace you. Like the whole of that time, I had that niggling in the back of my brain. So when I went to trade as a coach and I kept saying, you need a niche, you need you need to have something that you specialise in. I was looking around thinking I don’t know what it should be. And only through working with a coach, she would say, well, talk to me about what you experienced in the workplace. And I was like, yeah, well, I had all of this going on. And she said, that sounds like imposter syndrome. And I Googled it and I was like, yeah, that’s how I used to feel, wow. And thankfully I’d done lots of personal development and work on myself. So actually, I helped to move myself out of it. Like, I still experience it now, like I’m a recovering imposter. It still comes back every time. Like you said, every time I try and grow and elevate, it’s waited. Whoa, let’s keep you safe. And again, I’d I’d spent 22 years working in the corporate world where we didn’t talk about these things. There was no one I could like. I worked in HR. So there was no one I could go and speak to. But I knew people weren’t coming to me and saying, I’m really struggling with my own self-worth or my stable, my confidence. We were always training people in time management and customer service skills. We weren’t talking about the real stuff that sits underneath us as a human being that helps us thrive more in the workplace. And I was just thinking I experienced this. And I still experience it. You know, the intensity is mild now compared to what it used to be. So I will always be able to resonate with my clients. I’ll understand the journey they’re on. I’ll understand the workplace and how hard it is sometimes to battle with imposter syndrome, while you’ve got all the external factors going on, so I can resonate with that. I will always be working on it myself. And like I said, I’d just like to sort of push the boundaries of the workplace. Like, if we can start to talk about this, then maybe we can start to tackle it from inside the companies as well. A lot of people come to me one on one, but they’re paying for that themselves. But what if companies started to invest in, starting to tackle these things, it’s happening in the workplace. They can avoid it. But if you start to tackle this and let employees know that actually lots of us experience it and we can talk about it and we can look at tools and techniques that we can put in place and reviewing their systems and their processes, because a lot of companies, the way they operate. Actually, it’s a breeding ground. So if you can look at all your policies and your procedures and your ways of working in. You can also change things to help people thrive and overcome their imposter syndrome. Yes. It’s just to me, it’s this big mission of not just helping individuals, but how can we change this whole subject? How can we stop this taboo thing that we all so fearful of letting everyone know that we doubt our abilities? What if we just had these really open conversations? And it’s so wonderful if I do a workshop, you know, the relief that people feel that they’re in a room full of 40 people and then they realise that actually most people in there have those same sort of thoughts going around in their head. It’s such they realise they’re not alone anymore. So for me, it’s just this whole passion of a mission of just just changing the way that people think in their heads, but also that being able to transfer into businesses as well. 

Le’Nise: I interviewed someone earlier in the year who said that imposter, her imposter syndrome. It actually motivated her and it helped her not to get comfortable with where she was in her business and her career. What would you say to that? What would you say to people who say that well actually, imposter syndrome isn’t necessarily a bad thing? 

Trisha: That’s OK as long as it’s from a healthy point of view. So what I find sometimes is people say it helps me to push myself. It helps me to overprepare for things, make sure that everything is right. But you can fall into the trap then of perfectionism and overworking and having, you know, flaky boundaries. Like you’ve got to look at what is driving me. If it’s a good, healthy driver. But what I find sometimes is that you overwork. And what is the reason you’re overworking? You’re over working to prove that you’re good enough. So as long as you get to, is it a healthy thing, that imposter syndrome is giving me that absolutely. Hold onto it. I’m not saying get rid of it. I’m saying minimise it. But if you find it’s holding you back in any way and or it’s making you feel in a negative way or your negative chatter in your head or your behaviours are unhealthy, then tackle it. But if you’ve got a healthy relationship with it, I’m not saying let go of it. But it’s still definitely back to the, is it healthy for me to be constantly over checking and overpreparing things? You’ve got to ask yourself these sort of questions. I can’t answer for an individual. For me, I don’t think that personally healthy, because if I do that, then I’m not doing other things or it’s encroaching into my time where I should be resting, having fun or spending time with loved ones. I think you’ve just got to do a bit of an analysis on. What’s good about it? 

Le’Nise: Yeah. What you’re saying is so interesting, because I definitely say that I have some imposter syndrome, like less so now because I really, really feel like the work that I’m doing. There’s a place for it and it’s important. But definitely when I was working in advertising, I was running a massive account. I was travelling all over the world. But I still had this feeling of this gnawing feeling of, well, you know why, I shouldn’t be here? Why, oh, why am I? Why am I this person? But now I know that, you know, when I go up and I do, I give workshops or do presentations, I know that I’m supposed to be there. They’ve been, I’ve been asked there for a reason. And I know this is the work for me. What would you say to someone who. You’ve given so many amazing tips to people who are feeling imposter syndrome and it’s holding them back. What would you say or your number one tool or piece of advice is for someone who feels crippled by their imposter syndrome. 

Trisha: I think one of the first things I always found, journaling worked really well for me. That’s where I started my journey. And interestingly, I just started writing about what I was grateful for each day. It wasn’t actually even about myself. But because I started to look for things that were positive in the day, started to help my brain rewire and look for positives, and then I just started to journal about, instead of asking the questions, what’s wrong with me? Which is it? You know, we don’t know, but that’s a terrible question because our brain is designed to be, to look for the negative. So if you say what’s wrong with me, your brain is like a loyal servant, it goes, oh, I’ll tell you what’s wrong with you. I’ll give you hundreds of things to tell you. You’ve just got to start asking better questions. So I started to think, you know, I’m a coach, so that that’s what my job is to ask questions. So I thought, what better questions can I ask myself? So I started to. Write down these questions and start to write down the answer, and I find when you get out of your head, like when you just allow your thoughts to go round around in your head, it’s like you give them momentum. It’s like you give them power. And they the negative ones just they sort of like linked together. It’s like a big necklace you’re wearing. But I find when you put pen to paper. It’s like you’re letting that little, I call it like your inner mentor, you’ve got this inner voice inside of you that really knows what you’re good at. Who really believes in you. When you start, I found when I started to write things down, I was quite surprised about, oh, I, I can I write. I have got these skills and yes, I have got these strengths and I started to chip away at the belief that I had for me really all all imposter syndrome is it is a belief that you don’t belong. A belief that you’re not good enough, a belief that you’re not smart enough, a belief that you’re not cool enough to be in this space. A belief that you don’t know enough. It’s all driven by what you believe and your thoughts, your feelings and how you behave is driven by that belief. So you’ve you’ve got to tackle your beliefs. You’ve got to start to question what I believe in. Is this still useful for me right now? Like you’ve said, you’ve got to sit down and go, what are all these beliefs that I’ve got about myself? And I do that with my clients. You know, we we go on a treasure hunt, finding all these beliefs that are driving their thoughts, their feelings and their behaviours. And then you’ve got to start to break those down. And if you start to change what you believe about yourself, like you said, if you start to change how you show up in the world. So even if the first thing you do is just start to ask yourself better questions and write down the answers and start to find evidence to prove that your imposter actually, doesn’t know everything, might think it does, but it doesn’t know everything. And I bet you will have every single person I have never met anybody who doesn’t have skills, knowledge and experience that actually proves that the imposter isn’t right. But I think sometimes we’ve got to also recognise that actually we’re in an environment that can, like I said, can make us feel like an imposter. I was the first person in my family to go to college and work in the corporate world. So I was the first professional in my family, so I didn’t have a role model. So this is how careers go. I was the first one in my family. I worked in a real male dominated, white, male dominated environment. So lots of spaces you you go into was the first person and you don’t always feel like you belong. So it’s our own internal thing. We have to teach ourselves that no matter what the external is telling us, that we have to tell ourselves that we do belong in these spaces. 

Le’Nise: We do belong in these spaces. I think that’s really powerful as a kind of affirmation. I belong. We belong. I love that. If listeners take one thing away from all of the wonderful things that you’ve said on the show today, what would you want that to be? 

Trisha: I would say learn about your cycles like it’s been one of the most precious things that I have discovered in my 40s. So if you’re in your 20s or your 30s, even if you’re in your 40s, it’s good to know because you are surrounded by women in your life. You can help the next generation. We can stop this from happening to women of my age. But let’s stop it. Let’s make sure that we’re teaching the next generations about the magic of being a woman, about power and the energy that we flow in that cycle. If we know that that can change the way that we are. Let’s stop trying to be masculine energy all the time. Let’s. I hate the word hustle. Let’s just not let’s not talk about trying to be a man. Let’s focus on being women, because we are special. We have got something special to offer the world. Let’s use those hormones and all of that energy to drive that. 

Le’Nise: Brilliant. Where can listeners find out more about you? If they want to tackle their imposter syndrome, where can they find you to do that? 

Trisha: Yes, sir. On my Web site, it’s www.trishabarker.com. They can look there. I spend time on Instagram where I’m doing IGTV, et cetera, where I share more stuff around imposter syndrome. Lots more tips and tricks and techniques. That is @theimpostersolution over on Instagram. 

Le’Nise: Brilliant. Thank you so much for coming on the show. I really enjoyed our conversation. 

Trisha: Thank you for doing this work for someone to be getting people like me talking about this. Your your you’re making things happen, you’re changing what it will be like for the next generations. 

Le’Nise: Oh thank you so much. 

Period Story Podcast, Episode 27: Leanne Young, Your Body Is Whispering To You All The Time, You Just Have To Listen To It

On today’s episode, I am so pleased to share my conversation with Leeanne Young, who bravely discusses her health journey from fibroids to hyperthyroidism and a thyroidectomy to an ice crunching obsession and back to fibroids. Leeanne’s story is really powerful and I really encourage you all to have a listen.

Leeanne shares her matter of fact approach to her first period and how she learned about what was happening to her body. We talked about the classic Judy Blume book, Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret and Leeanne talked about the impact it had.

We talked about Leeanne’s very early endometriosis diagnosis. After a laparoscopy and medication didn’t work for her, she was given the choice of having a hysterectomy at 25 years old. She opted against this and said this taught her how to really listen to her body and tune into the signals it was giving her.

Leeanne bravely shared how she first discovered she had a 10cm fibroid after a miscarriage. She was led to believe that it would be difficult for her to have more children. Leeanne went on to have a daughter, who is now 12.

Leeanne become unwell again and was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and eventually went on to have a thyroidectomy. Listen to hear the symptoms that made Leeanne realise that something was wrong.

Fast forward a few years, Leeanne felt that everything was going fine. She had started a new job and life was good. Her periods then started getting so heavy that she became scared to leave the house. Listen to hear how Leeanne was able to persevere and get a diagnosis of increased fibroid growth after everyone kept telling her everything was fine.

Leeanne says that we know our bodies best. Our bodies are whispering to us, giving us signs that we need to listen to and I completely agree!

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LEEANNE’S BIO

Leeanne is a people person and classic obliger that operates with integrity and a sprinkle of sass.

She graduated from the school of hard knocks – and is essentially a grafter and thankfully, it paid off. She’s built a solid career in health and safety, specifically, within the utilities industry – which she’s spent the best part of 14 years in. She was recently promoted to Occupational Health and Wellbeing Manager for Morrison Utility Services – a leading utility service provider in the UK and Ireland.

She’s extremely proud and passionate about her current role as her main responsibility is to cultivate and sustain a culture where people are happy, energised and engaged at work – both physically and emotionally.

She’s spent the last two years delving deeper into health, wellbeing and behaviours that enable people to thrive. As such, she’s helped her employer ‘raise the bar’ in regards to increasing the awareness of health and wellbeing topics, dispelling common myths and reducing the stigma around mental health. They’re now embarking on a ‘step change’ that moves them from promotion (which is now fully embedded) to introducing a holistic approach for the effective management of occupational health and wellbeing.

Outside of work, she is responsible for raising a little queen with her extremely patient husband – he deserves a medal, maybe several. Eva is 12 and is her everything. She has been using some of her learnings to help her daughter build resilience through these uncertain times.

Last year she started working with a community organisation called Bro&co – which through food technology, science and mentoring, provides education and leadership opportunities to young boys of colour. She’s very excited about this work and for the forthcoming Sis&co. 

Leeanne is also dedicated to her faith, and says without it, she’s nothing. While the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenging time, it has given her the space to pause and reflect; to practice gratitude, be more connected spiritually and think about how she wants to show up in the world in the future.

What’s on the horizon for Leeanne? She plans to study Social Sciences through the Open University later this year and then move onto Psychology. She wants to find out why we do all the weird and wonderful things we do in order to tap into how to really help get the best out of people and enable them (and her), to live their best lives.

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SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Le’Nise [00:00:00] Welcome to the show, Leeanne. 

Leeanne [00:00:01] Thank you for having me. 

Le’Nise [00:00:03] So let’s start off by getting into the question I ask everyone. Tell me the story of your first period. 

Leeanne [00:00:09] Yes. So it was not eventful. I’ve been trying to dig back into the vault going back around 30 years. And I just remember that it was one of those events that, oh, okay, this has happened. I was very matter of fact about it, switched into autopilot, went to the shops, bought some sanitary pads, got home. And then I think I told my mom, I remember her being in the kitchen and I told her. And again, very matter of matter of fact for her. And then I think a few hours later, I remember my dad almost saying to me, “oh, so your mother has told me about your, um, you’ve started your menstrual cycle”, a very formal. And I just felt I just felt like I wanted to die. And he said to me, “Right, Leeanne. So you’ve got to keep your room tidy now and shower every day.” And literally, that was it. That was the extent of my first period. 

Le’Nise [00:01:15] How old were you? 

Leeanne [00:01:16] I think I was 12 or 13 years old when I first started. So, yeah. 

Le’Nise [00:01:22] You said you were very matter of fact about it. 

Leeanne [00:01:24] Yeah. 

Le’Nise [00:01:25] Well, you went to the shops on your own. How did you know what to get? 

Leeanne [00:01:31] I think it was just through ads on TV. I knew that. I remember actually looking in the chemist at tampons and I thought, well, can’t do that. Don’t really know how any of that works. So I’ll just buy sanitary pads, that’s safe. That’s easy. And that’s what I did. 

Le’Nise [00:01:51] And then you have the conversation with your parents separately. And how did you learn more about what was happening to your body? 

Leeanne [00:02:03]  I didn’t learn anything about periods via my parents. I learnt all about it at school and in magazines. And I think Judy Blume was quite significant in my life and taught me everything that I needed to know about relationships, boys, periods, etc.. So that was it. I know, obviously, you know, the standard class that you have in high school when the teacher stands in front of 30 kids or an assembly and says this is what happens to girls. This is what happens to boys. That’s it. I actually remember being in an assembly and we were talking about periods. It was actually quite bizarre. And this boy said, “Miss, my mum said that she bleeds a bucket load. Is that true?” And it was that was the point where I learnt that actually you don’t bleed a bucket load. I remember her that saying that a woman bleeds probably half a, the entire time of that period sorry, can fill up like half a teacup of blood. And I thought, oh okay, I could deal with that. That was it, that was all I learnt at school. The rest was with my peers. 

Le’Nise [00:03:28] Go back to Judy Blume. Yeah. What was your favourite Judy Blume book?

Leeanne [00:03:33] Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret

Le’Nise [00:03:35] Oh, that is my favourite too. 

Leeanne [00:03:39] She was quite significant in my upbringing and amongst, you know, my my friends at the time. We read to all, you know, all the naughty bits and the things that you can’t talk to your parents about. And it was it was really quite nice, isn’t it? And it’s nice to talk to your friends about things like that. And you all are sharing the same experience, aren’t you? All the same time and. Yeah. It was very systematic. No issue, no trauma. That was it.

Le’Nise [00:04:06] When you think back now to the conversations you’re having with your peers. Do you think about things that you said and think, wow, that was totally wrong? Or did you feel like you generally got it right? 

Leeanne [00:04:20] I think that I generally got it right, actually. And it was when I think back now to my childhood, I, I think back very fondly because I, I sound really old saying this, but life was a lot simpler back then. I’m only 41, but actually it was. And we spent so much time with each other and outside away from our parents. And I remember I went to a friend’s house and I used to live in Bristol when I was quite young and we were going to go swimming in Henley’s Lake. And I said, “oh, I can’t go swimming because I’m on my period.” And my friend’s sister said, “oh but Leeanne, you can go swimming.: And I went, “how can I do that? My pad’s going to get soggy or something” and it’s ridiculous, isn’t it? But she said, “oh, no, if you tried these.” And I was like, “no, I’ve never tried it.” It was a tampon. And she said, “look, this is what you do.” And she she was the older sister. Right. And she showed me the tampon and she said, “this is what you do. Blah, blah, blah. And it will be fine. And we can all go swimming and it’ll be great.” So I was like, okay. And I remember feeling really nervous and thinking, oh, God, I’ve got to get this right. But then also I can go swimming. So I went to the bathroom, tried to figure it out, clearly did it wrong because I could feel it. Yeah. And I went I went swimming in the lake and I daren’t cough or anything, just in case the damn thing popped out. But, you know, it plugged me plugging it for a while and. And everything was okay. And then after that point, that’s when I started to use tampons a little bit more because I wasn’t scared of them. Somebody had introduced them to me and I thought, okay, here’s another option. So over the years, I just started to, I suppose, build my confidence in terms of what’s out there and what, you know, could suit me, how I could continue to live the life that I was living. Whilst I’m on my period. 

Le’Nise [00:06:23] So, yeah, to you, that was a real turning point for you, that that moment with your friend’s sister. And then as you as you got older, did your relationship with your period change?

Leeanne [00:06:39] Yes and no. So like I said, it was never really a huge deal for me when I was younger because the environment was very supportive, as I said with my friends. I felt that I was part of a club. Everyone was going through the same thing. It was fine. Things started to change for me when I got diagnosed with endometriosis. I was 21 years old when that happened. And prior to the diagnosis, I thought, oh, this what is this tummy cramp? And I thought, well, as it’s down there, it must all be related to obviously my my, um, my reproductive system and periods and whatever. And that’s when I started to resent, I suppose, having to go through all of this, you know, being a woman, you know, what’s all this about? And then, you know, from dealing with excruciating pain and not understanding what that was to then quickly being diagnosed with endometriosis, to then being provided with options, which obviously at first was medication, just to see, you know, what happened with the meds, which was a variation of the contraceptive pill. And then that didn’t work. It didn’t work for me because I was very aware of how my how I was. I was acting differently, though the hormonal changes changed me as a person. I didn’t like it. 

[00:08:14] I felt like I wasn’t in control of me. So I said, no, I can’t get on with that. And so then to go from that to. Okay, well, a hysterectomy and I thought, hang on a minute, I’m 21. I was quite, um, quite pleased through my upbringing actually that there were certain things that I just think, well, hang on a minute. No, that’s not quite right. I don’t agree with that. So I did feel like what was happening to me at the time was awful. I hated it and I blamed it on, you know, being a woman. Why? Why me? It was definitely why me. I don’t want to have to deal with this. So that’s when things changed for me. But then when I got the endometriosis more under control, I didn’t have a hysterectomy. What I actually did was I started to that’s when I started to really listen to my body and try to tune in to the signals that it was giving me. And so what I did was I controlled my endometriosis. And I’m not saying that, you know, everybody else can do this through a more holistic approach. Breathing techniques, yeah, to breathe through the pain. That’s what I did. And that’s what worked for me. And so the endometriosis didn’t go away. It’s still there. However, I’ve managed it. I managed it. 

Le’Nise [00:09:45] I want to go back to your original diagnosis. So you were 21 and you said that you were diagnosed quite quickly. Yeah. You quite lucky, I have to say, because it it takes an average of between 7 – 10 years to get endometriosis diagnosis. Yeah. 

Leeanne [00:10:04] Wow. 

Le’Nise [00:10:05] But what I find quite interesting and actually very shocking is that at 21, the doctors are saying that you needed to have a hysterectomy. 

Leeanne [00:10:13] Yeah. Yes, that’s right. Yeah. And I had. Oh, no, it wasn’t at 21. Sorry. But that’s when I got diagnosed. And then, when did I get married? I got married when I was 25. So actually from diagnosis through to having a laparoscopy through to the, you know, the hormone treatments or whatever. So that will happened over a period of five years. And then because nothing was getting any better really. They said, well look here, here, here are your options. And I said, well, I’m just gonna keep going as I am then, because I’m not going to have. I’m not going to have a hysterectomy at such a young age. And it was between the age of 21 – 25. 

Le’Nise [00:11:05]  That is I find that really shocking that that they would suggest that, because what I see a lot is that doctors typically want to preserve fertility and then it’s more when women are in their mid forties and beyond that they start suggesting hysterectomies for conditions like endometriosis, adenomyosis,  fibroids. And then it becomes a conversation about, well, you’ve already had your children or you’re past childbearing age. So you don’t need your these organs anymore, which we know is completely wrong. So it’s yeah, it’s very it’s very interesting that you have that conversation quite early. 

[00:11:54] I want to talk a little bit about the techniques that you use to manage your endometriosis, because it is something that I certainly talk about it with my clients a lot. 

[00:12:05] The idea that you’re you can you can reduce the pain, control the pain through breathing, but through different nutrition and lifestyles techniques. How did was it a case of trial and error for you to find the breathing techniques that worked for you? 

Leeanne [00:12:24] Yes, it was. I laugh because when when I got the pain and it is excruciating pain which stops you dead in your tracks and you just can’t do anything. 

[00:12:39] Your body tenses up everything, tenses and you and you’re just, you know, like a solid brick. And I just thought, well, I’ve seen on on TV, I you know, I’ve seen women give birth and they are doing they are breathing and they are breathing, doing the, you know, that kind of breathing. So I just thought, well, if if a woman is able to give birth and use this breathing technique and she’s obviously suffering, suffering with a lot of pain, then how about I try that? And that’s what I start I, I started doing. So I would I I’m just trying to think now whether I get any kind of initial signs, I think I kind of know when something’s going to happen. And as the pain sort of hits me, I then just start that and, and then get slower and slower and slower until it eases and it goes. And I try as much as possible to not tense, to keep my body tense. I tried to just let it go and just almost work through it. Yeah. 

Le’Nise [00:13:50] There’s so much so many interesting things in what you’ve just said there. So firstly about breathing, we know that if we think about a practise like yoga, where breathing so the pranayama is a core part of the practise. And what we know is that when you regulate your breathing, so your the the inhale and exhale that can shift your nervous system and calm down so many different areas. So mentally but also physically. The other the other thing you mentioned, which I see a lot with my clients with endometriosis, is the tensing. Yeah. And you see that they often physiotherapy is really powerful for women with with endo because of that, that tensing and the that the effect that that has on the pelvis, but also on a biological level, because when you’re tensing, your body is using a lot of calcium. But then when you relax, you start to use more magnesium. All right. So that tensin, that process of magnesium and calcium doesn’t happen in the body. So what you’re saying is just it’s your, it aligns with so many other conversations I’ve had. 

Leeanne [00:15:12] Oh, thank God. 

Leeanne [00:15:14] Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s very common with with women endometriosis. They they tense alot, but you then might introduce something like magnesium and other and some physiotherapy techniques that help unwind the body a little. You can make a massive difference. 

Leeanne [00:15:36] Yeah. Yeah I’m sure. I’m sure it. I’m sure it can. Yeah. Pretty sure it can. 

Le’Nise [00:15:41] So you got you got your diagnosis and then you use these various techniques to manage the pain and then. And then what happened next. 

Leeanne [00:15:51] Right. So I got married and me and my husband lived in a lovely little marriage bubble for four years, which was great. And then we decided that we wanted to have a baby. So we fell pregnant. I fell pregnant very, very quickly after we started trying. And again, that was fantastic news. 

[00:16:16] We were in a really lovely, happy bubble. But then I suffered a miscarriage. I woke up one morning and I just knew something wasn’t wasn’t right because I had a blood in my, um. In my underwear. Yeah. We went to the to the hospital and that’s when they told us that we’d lost the baby. And so that was obviously a really awful time. I remember that when they did the internal scan, they said that I had a 10 centimetre fibroid in my way and I was shocked, didn’t know anything about fibroids. 

[00:16:55] And they said that that was what had caused the miscarriage. So I we said, okay, well, what do we do? What do we do now? And the I remember, this is quite a number of years ago, I remember the doctors saying, well, we have to, I don’t know, do some kind of investigation or or something. And we said, well, does this mean that we can’t have. Is it going to be difficult to have children, more children? And obviously, the stock answer, well, we don’t know. But it may inhibit or reduce the chances of a viable pregnancy. But anyway, I think I don’t know what happened. Me and my husband just decided to just crack on and fell pregnant again. 

[00:17:43] And we had a viable pregnancy because I now how we have Eva. But I do remember again, having, well not again, but I had a very significant bleed quite early into the pregnancy and I thought again that I’d lost the baby I’d lost Eva. But luckily I hadn’t. And and we now have a beautiful twelve year old daughter. So yeah. So what happened with that, with that fibroid. I don’t know, but I’m sure we’ll get back, come on to that in a minute. 

Le’Nise [00:18:20] So what’s interesting about what you said is that a lot of women get told who have fibroids is that they won’t be able to have children. And you, unfortunately, had a miscarriage due to the fibroid. But then you had a viable pregnancy. So it’s really interesting because they you can have different outcomes with fibroids. Talk a little bit more about what happened with your fibroids after you you gave birth. 

Leeanne [00:18:53] So at that at that time, I, I gave birth to Eva and then I forgot about it. I didn’t do I didn’t consider it because I had my baby. I won’t go into it. But quite frankly, I don’t think it was the fibroid that was the issue. I think it was something else. 

Le’Nise [00:19:12] OK. 

Leeanne [00:19:13] And anyway, no, I won’t go into that because it would make me very angry. But I don’t I don’t think it was the it was the fibroid. So I left it. I left it for years and years and years continues just to live my life. But then I, I got unwell again. And this time it was my thyroid. So I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. 

[00:19:39] And my options at the time was to have oh, I can’t remember it now, but a radioactive ingredient that goes in that you ingest or to have the thyroid gland removed. So I was really suffering with the hyperthyroidism. For a number of years, I didn’t know at the time that why I was, you know, the symptoms I had and didn’t realise they were related. So it was, you know, extreme sweating, mood changes again, really quite extreme, you know, loss of memory, just erratic sort of behaviours. I was eating like a rugby player, but I was losing significant amounts of weight. I was never putting any weight on. It was it was quite ridiculous, actually, when I think back on it. But the worst thing was how it affected me emotionally. My mental health, I was really struggling at that time. And so, again, presented with an option to have the thyroid gland removed. 

[00:20:48] And because the years before that were so hard with me and my husband, we thought that this was the best option for me. I had the surgery, but again, prior to that, they try a load of medication and whatever I did all of that, nothing worked for me. So I had a total thyroidectomy. Surgery went a bit Pete Tong. I had to I went in to had to be put into. Well, actually, the surgery didn’t go wrong. It was the after bit. Luckily, I was put straight into intensive care. That’s what my surgeon does routinely for all her patients after a thyroidectomy, I essentially started suffocating when they took out all the breathing apparatus. And so they had to intubate me and I was in an induced coma for four, five days. And and then obviously I came round and then dealt with after that sort of coming coming to terms with all of that and what happened, potential loss of life. I mean, my husband and my daughter went through maybe two, three years of trying to get our heads around all of that. And that’s when I realised, because then afterwards I was told that my parathyroid glands were damaged. So not only did I have to start taking thyroxine, I have I had to start taking a calcium replacement as well. 

[00:22:19] And this is something that I have to do now for the rest of my life. And in terms of the the thyroids as well, it is very, very difficult. It is a long journey to get the balance right. To get the balance of thyroxine right. And I, you know, just completely exhausted by it. And again, that whole. Why me sick of this? You know, this is horrendous. So I forgot about everything else that was going on in my life because I had to focus on that because that was the biggest thing that was happening. I didn’t know what was happening with my periods. Really, I tuned out of that because actually up to that point, I was every 28 days, you know, regular as clockwork. No issue, really. And then I started to notice that my periods were getting really quite heavy, really heavy. But then I thought, well, this must just come with age. This is what happens. And then I started to pin everything on my thyroid issue, my hormones. And I thought, okay, this is maybe just something else. It’s related to that I’ll have to deal with. I’ll just crack on. So if we fast forward a couple of years. So let’s go to 2016. 

[00:23:35] Yeah. I started a new job. This is about four years after my total thyroidectomy. Everything was going fine. After a year into that job. My periods were so heavy that I couldn’t. I was scared to leave the house for fear of driving. I’d live. I live in in West London, but I work in Hertfordshire. It’s a 50 minute drive from my house to the office. And in that time period, I would have filled up a maxi pad and also a super plus tampon in that 50 minute period. And it got to the point where I was so scared that I would get to work, get to the car park and I would have come through, that I would just have to turn around and go home. So really, there was no point in me going into the office when I was on my period. 

[00:24:37] And that’s when things started to change for me, because I thought, well, hang on. This is starting to affect my my life. This is starting to affect my work. I can’t. I can. How can I phone up my director and say I can’t come into the office because I’m on my period? It sounds utterly ridiculous, but it’s the truth. So I had to suck it up. I had to deal with it. I had to do. I dealt well, I didn’t have to, but I dealt with the accidents, you know, the embarrassment, the. This is this just what what’s happening to me right now. 

[00:25:11] And then I started to notice other things. I started to notice a change in my eyesight. I’d be driving and the right side of my eye was which I would almost lose a bit of my peripheral vision, which starts to frighten me. I started to notice that I was extremely tired. I’d go to sleep. I’d wake up and it wouldn’t would I feel like I hadn’t actually slept. And I thought, what the hell? What’s going on? Didn’t connect the dots at the time. Just thought, oh, Leeanne, you know, you’re a mess, but just keep going. Right. So I kept going until I just thought, no, this is probably dangerous. Now, me, me driving, don’t know what’s going on. I started yoga and was loving it. Bikram yoga. Absolutely fantastic for the mind and the body. And then I started to feel really faint in my yoga, in the yoga classes every so I just saw what’s going on. Is it because it’s too hot? But hang on. I’ve been doing this for a while now, but literally feeling like I was just gonna pass out. So I stopped. I stopped going to yoga. I went to the GP. They sent me to I went to the GP, went to the opticians. And obviously everything. Nothing came back sort of conclusive. You know, you’re fine. Everything is okay. But then so I thought, okay, fine. Kept going. Kept going. Things were getting worse. It was worse. I started to speak to my sister when I whenever I speak to my sister in a sign she said, “Leeanne, are you running or something?” 

[00:26:51] I said, no. She said, “Why are you so short of breath?” And I said, “Really? I said, No, I’m not doing anything. I’m just walking around the house.” So shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, loss of memory, not able to concentrate. You know, I could list all these things. Classic signs of anaemia. 

[00:27:13] So I went to the doctor again and had another blood test. I was used to these because of my thyroid condition. And the doctor said to me, “wow, Leeanne, your iron and your haemoglobin and ferritin levels are so low. I actually need to admit you to hospital, like, right now.” So I said, “what, what? What the hell? What what’s all this about? What’s going on? Why?” And she said, “well, tell me about your periods.” I said, “well, you know, they’re really heavy and blah, blah, blah.” And she’s like, “right, okay. Well, I think we need to do some investigation work to find out what’s going on, because it sounds like your periods are too heavy.” So  I thought at that point I’m gonna go via private healthcare. Yeah. Because I’m so privileged that I have this facility. So I thought, okay, look, let’s let’s go down that route and and see what happens, what comes of that. So I saw a gynaecologist and had a scan and the gynaecologist said to me, “oh, you’re presenting four months pregnant. You have about six or seven fibroids in there all the size of a small tangerine. This is what’s causing your heavy periods.” When she said to me, “what are your periods like” and I said, “well, I use a super plus tampon and a pad and I have to change that every hour.” 

[00:28:45] And she went, “Whoa.” And I said, “Is that not normal?” She said, “No.” it sounds ridiculous. Well, I didn’t know. I thought that was normal. I thought that’s what we had to go through. 

Le’Nise [00:29:01] But it’s interesting because at the beginning of the conversation, you said that you remember this lesson from school where they talked about 1/2 a teacup. So what you thought was normal changed for you. 

Leeanne [00:29:17] Yeah. 

Le’Nise [00:29:18] Based on everything you had been going through. 

Leeanne [00:29:20] Yes. Yes. So I pinned it on the experiences over the last five, six years. Right. So I thought, well, it must be that I’m getting older. I’ve had, you know, thyroid surgery. I’m taking a load of hormone tablets. So I think tablets are affecting my hormones. It must be these things that’s causing, you know, the heavy the heavy periods. You’re absolutely right. I don’t know why I didn’t even think about that. So. So, yeah. So that happened. This was just last year. All of this happened. So the first thing was to have an iron infusion. Yeah, to to actually help me feel better sort of immediately. And then my gynaecologist suggested I should have a Mirena coil fitted. So I had the Mirena, the Mirena coil fitted in November last year. Yeah. 

Le’Nise [00:30:19] And what did, the iron infusion I mean, just to give a kind of clinical perspective, to have an iron infusion. You have to have a ferritin level of, I think it’s of below something like eight. 

Leeanne [00:30:35] Yeah, yeah. 

Le’Nise [00:30:37]  I can just imagine how you were feeling at the time. The heavy bleeding, the the extreme fatigue. And I see that a lot with with clients with fibroids. That iron infusion, how did you how did you feel afterwards? 

Leeanne [00:30:57] So the haemotologist said to me, he was a great, great guy. I’ve actually met a load of really great doctors and nurses throughout this this crazy process. I’ve been through a crazy journey, should I say. He explained to me that I would feel I would start to feel different after, you know, two, three weeks, because essentially I was I’d be making new blood. So that would then be oxygenised. I don’t even know if that’s a word, in my body I would just start to feel the benefits then. One of the things that I noticed so I have suffered from anaemia throughout my my life, I suppose, since I started my periods. 

[00:31:49] And it’s always been up and down. Yeah. And I have been going to GPs and saying, “oh, I’m feeling tired.” Not as bad as as, you know, what I’ve experienced recently. Really tired. Oh yeah. Yeah. You you have anaemia. You need to take some iron tablets. And I keep on, I kept on saying to them, these iron tablets really aren’t agreeing with me. 

[00:32:12] I am getting really bad cramping pains in my stomach. I feel nauseous. It’s just awful. Is that no alternative? No. Here’s another alternative to an iron tablet. Okay, fine. I’ll take them off you, but I won’t take them. Yeah. 

[00:32:34] So I tried to introduce iron rich foods into my diet. However, you know, those will only take you so far. Yeah. For me again, in that whole time I used to crunch ice. I used to eat ice. Yeah. All the time. And it annoyed my entire family. Right. And I thought what I do when I want it just felt like the most normal thing for me to do. I’d, you know, go into the freezer, get a load of blocks of ice, sit down and just go on eating all this ice. Right. And the most significant change that happened to me after that iron infusion was I stopped eating ice. I can’t even begin to explain to you how huge this is in my life. Right. Whenever you see Leeanne in ber comfort, you know, in her comfortable space, you see Leeanne with a glass of ice. Right. The ice went. I didn’t know that was a symptom. It’s one of the symptoms of of anaemia. Right. One of the weird and wonderful symptoms. That was the biggest thing that I noticed and stopped eating ice. 

Leeanne [00:33:47] And then slowly but surely, I started to get some energy back, which is quite remarkable. I was able to go for walk to the park with my daughter. Without me, you know, feeling like I was going to pass out. So, yeah, it was quite significant, significant change. 

Le’Nise [00:34:04] So this symptom that you mentioned, it’s something called pica, where you want to eat things that are non food related because your body is just has this intense need for this for whatever the mineral is. In this case, it’s iron. So it’s interesting. I don’t see that a lot. But that’s very interesting that you had that. So you had the infusion and this is all last year. Yes. And then what did they say to about the six or seven tangerine sized fibroids? And I just actually, for listeners who don’t know what fibroids are, they are non-cancerous growths that can be in the uterus, within the muscular lining of the uterus or outside of the uterus. And they can be as small as a cherry and they can be as big as a watermelon. So for you, what what was the next step with addressing the fibroids? 

Leeanne [00:35:04] So the next step with well, the next step was addressing the bleeding. So that’s why we opted to go to have the Mirena coil fitted. So the gynaecologist were recommended having that procedure first and actually seeing if it would stop the bleeding because or reduce it significantly, because obviously then that’s what was causing the anaemia, which then was why I was getting tired of blah, blah, blah. The fibroids have never caused me any pain. So my main issue was the heavy bleeding. So that’s what we thought we’d treat. So we have that. I had that done in November. In so I have the Mirena coil fitted, she said. The gynaecologist also said that if she could, whilst she was fitting the coil, she would also try to remove any fibroids that were in the cavity of the womb. Yeah. And I thought, brilliant. Yeah. Double whammy. Excellent. Let’s go with that. Came round after the surgery and she said we couldn’t. None of them were in the cavity. It was just too difficult. They’re all in the lining, as you said. Subserosal, submucosal. Yeah. It couldn’t be got got to in that way anyway. So she said, let’s just see how you go. And we’ll just keep an eye on it. So I did just that immediately after the surgery. They give you medication, transexamic acid. I was taking to stop you from bleeding too much so that you don’t so that the body doesn’t distort the shape, you know, the the embedding of the of the coil. I stopped taking that in at the start of this year and I thought that everything was OK. I thought, okay, I can deal with this level of bleeding. It was every day. But I knew that there was a certain period that I had to go through whilst the coil embedded in my body. So I went to see the gynaecologist in February this year and I said, “look, everything seems okay. So far, so good.” She said, “Great, fine. Off you go. We’ll just continue to monitor.” And then what I noticed was at the end of April. I. So I was bleeding every single day. Yeah, every single day. Not really heavy, but every single day. But I thought that’s okay. But this is what’s supposed to happen for about six months. Or it could could happen for about six months. 

[00:37:54] This is what I was told. 

Le’Nise [00:37:56] You were told that you would have daily bleeding for 6 months. 

Leeanne [00:37:59] Yes. So I thought, okay, that’s that’s fine. I’ll I’ll keep going with that. But then towards the end of April, the bleeding got really, really heavy. And I don’t want to put anybody off their meals if they’re having meals at this time. But I started to pass blood clots the size of my palm. 

[00:38:20] And I started to get really scared because I thought, I don’t know if this is if this is if this is meant to happen. And the bleeding wouldn’t stop. And it was like I was a leaking tap, but a very quick leak. So this was nothing like I’d ever experienced before. And all that I kept on thinking was, you know what, thank God we’re in lockdown and I’m forced to stay at home, because that would be absolutely no way in the world that I could go to work or do anything right now. 

[00:38:54] I called the hospital. Obviously, we’re in lockdown. I did not want to go into hospital, but I had to call them. And I said, this bleeding is really bad. It’s not stopping, I’m passing these clots. I don’t know what to do. They said call, they said call, you might be better off contacting,the you know, your gynaecologist, the person that fitted the coil, whatever. I obviously explained all the history, contacted the gynaecologist. And I said, look, I just want to know if this is to be expected or if if something has gone wrong here. So she arranged for me to have some and some scans, internal scans. I went and had the scans and the fibroids had changed. They had grown more. And I looked at the lady that did the scan and though she had a mask on her face, I could tell that she thought, well, I really don’t think anything’s worked here. Don’t think you’re going to stop bleeding. And I thought, oh, for goodness sake, you know. I was really upset. 

Le’Nise [00:40:00] Yeah. 

Leeanne [00:40:01] So I then had a follow up with my gynaecologist. And then was presented with some options. She confirmed that my fibroids had changed. They’ve grown even more. I now developed polyps in my womb. And so she said, we can do a hysterectomy, again. A myomectomy. And she also mentioned to me, taking an injection that would reduce the fibroids. So these injections every once once a month for I think a period of three months, something like that. However, they would bring about menopausal symptoms. So I thought, I don’t want to do that because, you know, my history now, I can’t be dealing with any of that. So the decision was between the myomectomy and the hysterectomy. And because everything was just horrendous, I at the time we discussed I discussed it with my husband and said, “I’m done with this. I want this over. I don’t want to deal with any more issues to do with periods, fibroids, further surgery.” If I opted for the might for the myomectomy, they would remove the fibroids, but then they might grow back. So there might be more surgery that follows. And I thought, I can’t be doing with that. I’ve done enough. So I said, I want it over. I’ll go for the hysterectomy. As soon as she wrote that down, I knew that actually maybe no. But she wrote it down. I left the hospital. Me and my husband spoke aloud at everything to settle. And I think I just needed a bit more time. I started to think about my options. Is this really what I want to do? And luckily, you came into my life and you suggested something that I’d never heard of, which was the UFE, uterine fibroids embolisation. I emailed my consultant and I said, is this an option for me? We discussed it. She said that it could be, however, because I have multiple fibroids. I might not be the ideal candidate for that. So where are we today? 

[00:42:36] I pressed pause on everything. I said to the consultant. I need more time. I actually just want my body to settle because it’s been through a lot. I had another iron infusion. I had that two and a half weeks ago because obviously I know the symptoms now in terms of anaemia. So I knew I mean, you imagine if I’d been bleeding since the start of the year. And then, you know, sort of mid to end April. It was a very, very heavy month. 

[00:43:06] I spoke to my mum. I spoke to my mum. And I said, “Mum, this is what’s happening.” And she said, “oh, yes, I remember, you know, so and so”. One of her friends suffered with fibroids and she would be bleeding like a slain mule. Right. Slain mule. Oh, my God. 

Le’Nise [00:43:25] A graphic image. 

Leeanne [00:43:26] Right. And I’m thinking, oh, my God. But. But. Oh, my God. Yes. That is exactly how I was bleeding. Yeah. No one should have to deal with that. Yeah. Okay. So but then what’s really interesting. So. 

[00:43:42] So at the moment what I will say, is I’ve pressed pause on everything I feel I’m starting to feel much better because I’ve had the iron infusion. And it seems like my body is starting to settle down. Yes. Significantly. Now, I don’t know what’s going to happen in in a month’s time or even in a week’s time, but at the moment, I think I’m okay with where I’m at right now. Having a hysterectomy is a major decision. Even at 41, having any kind of surgery. And and that’s the reason why I don’t. Although I said I want it over. I don’t actually take these things lightly. I’ve had surgery. And now I know when you have significant surgery, you remove a part of your body. It doesn’t just affect that part of the body that it’s being taken from that’s being impacted. It impacts your entire body. Yeah, it impacts your mind as well. And for me, having gone through what I went through with my total thyroidectomy and knowing that these tiny little glands are massive and I wish to God that I knew more about it at that time because I don’t think. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I don’t think that I would have opted to have that surgery if I knew more about it and the impact it would have on the ongoing impacts they would have on my life. And, well, what I will say as well is when I did go back to my to my GP at one point and I said to her, I asked her, I said, “Look, in terms of anaemia, so do I. Do I have any other options here? What are my options here? You tell me more. Don’t tell me about medication. Is there. Is there anything else? Can I do my own. Can I take my own stuff? I’ve done a load of research and I know that. And I know that everyone keeps on talking about it now. But, you know, sea moss and bladderwrack and dandelion and Burdock and all these things, I said, you know, can I can I take all these things and will they give me what I need?” And she said, “Leeanne, I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know enough about that.” Yeah. She said, “I don’t know enough about it to advise you, on it?” She said, “By all means, yes, do that.” But she said because of the stage that you’re at right now, I can’t recommend that for you. Yeah. You need to have you need to have something now. And I thought, okay, I hear you. 

[00:46:19] But the learning from that is if you allow yourself time, if you tune into what your body’s actually doing, there are alternatives. Yeah, I do. I wholeheartedly believe that there are alternatives. And I think those alternatives need to be explored. 

Le’Nise [00:46:38] What you’ve gone through is is quite a journey. And what’s really interesting is throughout, as you’re describing it there is this what you just described as you just had to get on with it. You kept going. You kept going. What do you think you would say to someone who is going going through something similar? 

Leeanne [00:47:01] I would say talk to talk to as many people as possible. But experts, I think. If talking about it helps because there are things that other people may be going through that you could probably learn from. I wouldn’t have known about the UFE had my best friend not had a conversation with me about a period podcast. And then, you know, your introduction and then you were so brave to come forward and say, but have you considered this. Right. Um, I think that it’s about time, isn’t it, that we had open conversations. I’ve just said to you that I learnt everything that I knew about period through the conversations that I had with my friends in the playground when I was young. Yeah. And reading Judy Blume books. Why is it that that conversation stops as we grow up? 

[00:48:03] Yeah. Why does why do we stop talking about it? Why do we feel shame or embarrassment? We shouldn’t. As soon as I started talking about the coil. Right. Everyone. Well, most people. Oh I have that. Oh, I have that. Oh, is it, really. What was your experience. Yeah. Oh, it changed my life. Oh, there’s this is really awful period that you’d have to go through where everything is embedding. But actually, when you get past that, it changed my life. These are the conversations that people were having with me almost after the event. If I had those conversations prior, I think they probably would have helped. Yeah. I probably would have done a little bit more digging. Would have been more informed. Yeah. Probably would’ve felt a bit more comfortable about what was happening at the time as well. So I think it’s important to have those conversations with people. Yeah. Yeah. 

Le’Nise [00:48:59] What’s one thing that you want to leave listeners with? You so bravely shared your story today. And I know that my listeners will take a lot out of what you’ve shared. What if you kind of had to distil everything that you’ve said into one thing? What would what would you want that to be? 

Leeanne [00:49:19] I think it’s that we know our bodies best. Yeah. And I remember somebody it might have been a yoga teacher saying something about your body is whispering to you all the time. Yeah. And you just have to listen to it. And as wishy washy as that might sound to some people, it’s actually very profound because your body is telling you it’s giving you signals and it’s giving you signs. And what I’ve learnt is and this is the way that I’m trying to have this conversation with my daughter. I’m trying to get her to understand her body, understand it, you know it best. So don’t have people tell you, oh, you, you need to do this or you need to do that. No, you pose some questions. If I do that, what’s the impact? Yeah. What do other people do? What are the alternatives? Is this the only way? Is this the only method? If you know your body and you do your research, you’ll be able to have very informed discussions with experts. And I say that in inverted commas about stuff. Yeah. So I think that’s the one thing that I would I would say to people. 

Le’Nise [00:50:39] You know your body best. I, I think that’s really powerful and that really helps helps women understand that they when they’re going into these situations with healthcare professionals and they feel like they’re being dismissed or diminished that it gives them the impetus to push on. 

[00:51:02] Because if your body is whispering to you. And my yoga teacher said that to me as well. One of my tutors when I was training, your body gives you whispers and you need to listen to the whispers. And that’s where how we’ve gotten to the situation where there’s pain and this bleeding that so many women experience has become normalised. And we need to change that and go back to the idea of listening to your body. But really listening. And really taking those learnings. 

Leeanne [00:51:35] Yeah. Can I tell you one really quick thing? 

Le’Nise [00:51:39] Yeah. 

Leeanne [00:51:39] I remember the first time I had a conversation about periods with a group of older, older women. Yeah, I was with my group book club friends. Yeah. And I don’t know how we got on the topic. We were reading the most horrendous book at the time. I won’t tell you what it was called, because it’s so embarrassing. 

[00:52:02] And I actually brought it to the table. But anyway, it got us talking about periods and what not. And one of my friends said that she lost a tampon cord and she couldn’t bloody, you know, get the tampon out and she had to get a partner to come and find it. And then somebody else spoke about a cup that they used rather than using tampons and stuff. And you know what? We were laughing. We were laughing. We were joking. And we were having very honest conversations about what is the most normal everyday thing. How about we do more of that.

Le’Nise [00:52:40] Thank you so much for coming on the show. I again, thank you for your bravery. Thank you for your honesty. And I really hope that you find the healing that your body needs. So thank you again. 

Leeanne [00:52:53] You are most welcome. Thank you for having me. 

Period Story Podcast, Episode 26: Allysa Rochelle, Hold Space For Yourself

On today’s episode of Period Story podcast, I’m pleased to share the wonderful and very expansive conversation I had with Allysa Rochelle, the Vulnerability Queen and founder of TING. We talked about trauma and its effect on menstrual health, the vulnerability spectrum, why Black women need to embrace softness and of course, Rochelle shared the story of her first period.

Rochelle says that after she got her first period, she kept it secret for 4 months. Eventually, pain become a big part of her period life and she learnt to just get on with it, which she says was part of the negative programming she had around her period quite early on.

Listen to hear about the pivotal moment where Rochelle changed her perspective on the pain she was experiencing and the role trauma played in this.

Rochelle talks about a light bulb moment when she realised that she had been ignoring her needs because she had always been in service to other people. She says that she had to get really still and ask herself: ‘what do you need? what are your needs?’

We had a fascinating discussion about the stereotype of the strong Black woman and how important it is for Black women to embrace softness too and let themselves be vulnerable. 

Finally, we talked about Rochelle’s self-styled title, ‘The Vulnerability Queen’ and how important it is to lean into vulnerability in a very intentional way.

Rochelle says that we need to hold space for ourselves and never ignore what we’re feeling. I completely agree!

Get in touch with Rochelle:

Website: https://tingonline.uk and https://www.allysarochelle.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/allysarochelle

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/AllysaRochelle/

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ROCHELLE’S BIO

Allysa Rochelle is the vulnerability queen, she is a podcaster, and the founder of TING, a social enterprise for young creatives. She combines her experience of significant trauma in her childhood and her love for creativity to curate content that inspires people to begin their own healing process. 

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SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Le’Nise: On today’s episode, we have Allysa Rochelle. Rochelle is the vulnerability queen. She is a podcast and the founder of TING, a social enterprise for young creatives. She combines her experience of significant trauma in her childhood and her love for creativity to curate content that inspires people to begin their own healing process. Welcome to the show.

Rochelle: Hey, how you doing? Yeah. Good.

Le’Nise: Good. Let’s start off by getting into the story of your very first period. Can you share with us what happened? 

Rochelle: Yes, I can. Oh, I just want to kind of like preface before I even start talking and just be like I. My story of my first period. So I am so happy that you asked me to be on this podcast has actually got me thinking about my period. And and I just want to put some trigger warnings in. Now, there’s a lot of stuff that might bring stuff up for other people. Yes. So I just kind of say that before I start. So, my first period, I think I was about year seven, so like 11, 12, that time of age. And I remember being in my lesson and, and being in, like, uncomfortable, but sometimes something’s happening and it’s like a belly ache because obviously as a kid, I’m like, oh, this is a belly ache. And then I remember at some point in the day, going into the toilet and noticing that something was in my pants and it wasn’t red. It was like blood red. It was like, brown, that kind of colour. So I remember being really embarrassed and being like, Oh, my God, have I shit myself type thing, like that’s just the truth? I literally thought that I had, but I’d also be like I definitely haven’t like, I would have know if I did and just not knowing what it was, it was that there was no I had no information as to kind of what was happening into my body.

So, for the next few days, it kept on happening and I just kept on being confused, like watching my knickers at home and hiding them and then just going through that whole process. And that happened. And I said nothing for about I’d say about four months. And then it got to a point when I was like, something keeps happening to me and I’m not I don’t know what it is. And so, like, just kind of I kind of come back to tell me about your first period. When I think about that, I think about how did I, how was I not prepared for that situation? So, yeah. That’s who it was like. It was traumatic. And I suppose it was my first entry. No, it wasn’t my first entry, I was very used to shame by then. But it was like a massive, shameful thing for me because I was unaware of what was happening to my body. I was in a lot of pain and I wasn’t speaking about it at all to anybody. 

Le’Nise: So your friends hadn’t had their periods yet, or it was just that you just weren’t having that conversation with your friends. 

Rochelle: I think if we had spoken about periods at that point, it was like the same way, like kids talk about sex, it’s like nobody knows what they’re talking about. You’re just saying the words trying to sound like an adult. So if somebody had said something about a period, I probably just pretended I knew what was happening. But I think it was. I don’t know. I probably need to dig into this a little bit more or maybe not, but I don’t know why I never correlated the two, like something. Maybe I didn’t realise it was happening monthly. It was just happening randomly. I mean, I you know, I didn’t have enough information to kind of put the pieces together to figure out that it was it was my period. 

Le’Nise: So when did you figure out what was happening? 

Rochelle: I think eventually I am. I told my mom, the mom, myself, my mom didn’t have a good relationship because she is extremely religious and extremely conservative. And eventually I spoke to her. She was just like, that’s your period, why didn’t you tell me? And I was like. I suppose it’s like how how, how, why did I not know that? Well, also, like, how did you not prepare me to know that type things? There’s a whole lot of stuff going on. So eventually when I told her, she kind of basically just gave me some sanitary towels and told me to get on with it. 

And then I didn’t know is. Once I realised what it was, it. I didn’t. I don’t know if the pain got worse, because I remember I was in pain before I knew what it was, but after I knew what it was, the pain became like. I don’t know, a big part of my period life. Like anybody that knows me, knows that Rochelle has very bad periods. I I’m at times unable to walk. Not much now. And, yeah, lying down. Not going to work. How lucky. It stops my life like that. I got to a point in my life where I was like planning for days off, a month of doing nothing because I physically couldn’t move. And I remember like because of her cultural stance and religion, as I am, say like you get on with it. You do what you need to do. You don’t get to be in pain in you’re a woman now type thing. And so there was a lot of negative programming around my period very early on. 

Le’Nise: This idea of just getting on with it. Your mom gave you the sanitary towels, told you just to get on with it, and you took that message even though you were in significant amounts of pain. So four days of pain a month where you plan to do nothing. That’s 48 days a year. I mean, that’s that’s a month and a half of your year being in pain. And, you know, when I talk about pain a lot with my clients and the rest of my work. And being able to put your pain in context like that and say, you know, for 48 days a year, you expect to be in a lot of pain. And the fact that you you have this and you’ve been and you’ve internalised this message of, oh, I just need to get on with it. It says a lot about our culture and how we’ve tried to normalise women’s pain. 

And I want to understand a little bit more about. So you said that things are different now. What have you done to change the pain or change? Your expectations around the pain. 

Rochelle: Good question. I think it’s also I think I have to say this point, you know, it’s a kind of make my next point. So actually, after I started to have my period. I was probably say after like a year or six months, I started to then be sexually abused. And so I think that. And that lasted a very long time. And I think that my. Because I am I have more of a spiritual kind of like lens on life now. I think that the pain I was experiencing probably got a lot worse because of the trauma was experiencing at the same time. Yeah, I probably would. I’d say I’d probably put money on the fact that it did and my body was reacting. And so now I my, my period pains have only been, I would say, bearable, like I’ve been able to. I remember the last time I had to go home, because of my period. It was last year. So that’s that’s quite a long time for me. Just to have that amount of time not be completely like, on bedrest is a really good time. I would say in the last year or so, I’ve been able to do stuff like that I’ve actually planned to do. And I think it’s because I realised how much trauma I had still stored in my body. And I started it’s kind of like pay attention to it and do like exercises and be mindful of the fact that, like adapting to lose your mentality around pain isn’t normal and maybe the pain is a residue off like, somebody said to me once. And I really hope that I can experience in the way that people understand. She said to me, I was on a retreat and this was in 2018 and the retreat was 8:00 in the morning until 6:00 at night. So we had had lunch and we were supposed to come back and do some activities. I came on my period. And I’m a person. I’m not extroverted. I’m not a look at me type person, I was in so much pain. I couldn’t take part in the afternoon activities and they couldn’t move on without me being in the room. And so one of the founders came upstairs and she said, when you experienced. She came up with magnesium, to give me some magnesium, which is like when you experience trauma, especially in that womb space. She says everything in the universe expands and contracts is how we like things move expansion and contraction. 

And the same for your womb. And she said it’s possible that it’s contracted so tightly that it needs to expand for your period, it struggles to do so. 

And it just gave me a different perspective because I had never you, don’t I? I just had never seen my body in that way, or I never. I was still working out how everything was interlinked and everything is connected like everything. And I’m still I’m still understanding that now. It still blows my mind how much one thing can really affect another. And I just had this kind of image of like my womb just being so tightly held together, tightly constricted because of years of trauma in that space. 

And then. All the pain made so much sense then I was like, well, of course, if you if I if I have to be on my period and my body needs to go through this process, and this used to be because I’m actually quite tight, naturally, as a result, I had to hold it up. And so, yeah, I think since 2008, since I had that kind of realisation and I’ve been more mindful about how the body holds trauma. I think my periods have got better. I think I started to eat better, I’ve started to move my body. I think just having an awareness has shifted for me. So. So, yeah, my period are painful 100 percent. But I realise now it would be for four days. I’m I’m day three and I’m still screaming, you know. I mean now I reckon it’s probably like one day of extreme pain, maybe a bit of pain the next day. Half the day. And then I’m OK. Yeah, it’s it’s not it’s not completely I’m not pain free and there was still time, so I think I take co-codamol like for the pain that I have. But it’s nowhere near as bad as it was like 10 years ago. 

Le’Nise: That’s interesting what you say about magnesium, because I see this along with some of the women I work with who have really severe period pain or who have things condition such as endometriosis or adenomyosis, where it’s a contraction in their body and the pain. It also it almost causes them to kind of hold in like tighten everything and kind of they get so used to doubling over in pain or contracting themselves into a ball because, you know, when there are a lot of pain, you kind of all you want to do is lay down. And I know this from my own experience. You want to lay down and you kind of just contract into that kind of. You’re into that foetal position that can be so comforting. But that contraction is a kind of scientific level. You’re using a lot of calcium in the body and then magnesium. It helps. It’s a relaxing mineral. So it helps to release everything. So magnesium, I mean, I recommend it all the time. It’s one of my favourite supplements. But it’s interesting that you’ve seen being able to identify that kind of contraction and having a tool like magnesium and other things you’ve been doing to release that has been so powerful for you. I want to ask about the pain that you’ve been experiencing. Did you ever speak to anyone about it? Did you speak to a doctor? 

Rochelle: Yeah. So I have been I’ve been to the doctors. But that’s such a good question as well. I think there’s this thing about doctors not really paying attention very much to black women in pain. And so that was my experience. But I’m also very, very desensitised to support and the system. So I kind of just go in there knowing that, you know, this is awful. But I’m just going to call it out. I expect the bare minimum because I’ve been I’m used to receiving it, if that makes sense, especially when it comes to systems like education and health care. And so I had kind of done my own research beforehand. They never went through like I’ve never been tested for endo. They’ve never liked to do this. It’s just never been anything more than contraception. Here you go. And so I was very I didn’t want to do be on the pill or anything. I tried the pill once and I was so sad. I remember the day. I felt like I was heaving like wanting to vomit. And my stomach because I have IBS as well. I have a dodgy stomach situation, believe it came out really and it was really hard. And I was like day one. I was like, I know you probably could try this for like seven days and it might get better, but I’m not going to do that. And so the contraception that I decided I would take was the patch because it just wasn’t internal and and it allowed my periods to stop and less pain.

So when I so I did that and it worked. But then I just. I just wanted to be more natural. And so I kind of just the idea that, like hormones I have like a weight issue, I gain weight quickly. And I just I’m not on top of my health enough to kind of then add hormones. And it’s like I kind of know that, like, this is a slippery slope. I’d rather deal with the issue. So I stopped using the patch probably around the same kind of time, 2018. After the years just doing it. And yes, that was that’s basically all the doctors have ever kind of like offered me. It’s never been more of a conversation around other things. I do have friends who have endo and they’ve had to tell me they’ve had to fight to be taken seriously about the pain that they’re experiencing. And I do. And I have wondered sometimes if it could be something more serious, maybe have PCOS or maybe, you know, maybe you have. And I’m also very aware that like that I have to call it out, I’m on a journey. This is why I call myself the vulnerability queen. For me, it’s a process like I. I know that I have to get to a process where I prioritise myself enough to kind of like kick down the doors at the doctor. Well, just to kind of like connect that again to my upbringing, I wasn’t really taught that your kind of needs matter, if that makes sense, just to kind of go right to the example of my mum being like here’s some pads, just get on with it. And so I think there’s definitely a remnant of that kind of thought process and programming when it comes to my own needs. Even today, I’m continuously working on so, you know, and maybe in the future I will go to the doctor if I can’t fix it myself. I’ll go to the doctors and I’ll probably get tested for something. And I don’t know what it could be, but I know that there’s something not right there. 

Le’Nise: I would really encourage you to explore that because, you know, the pain that you you are experiencing isn’t normal. And I really wouldn’t I don’t want you to continue to live like this. Everything you’re saying is like ticking off certain boxes in my mind. I don’t want to do the whole thing. 

It’s like you’re not one of my clients and I don’t want to go down that road on the podcast. But I would really encourage you to speak to a health care professional and explore what options are available for you for testing, because there’s so much there and it’s. It is part of that journey of you knowing that your needs matter. And I want to ask you about that, that that whole idea of growing up and seeing, hearing this programming of all your needs, your needs, they don’t matter. Talk about how you started to understand that your needs do matter and what you’ve been doing to explore that and reinforce that message to yourself. 

Rochelle: So that retreat that I went on in 2018 is called The Bridge. The Bridge Retreat. Yeah. If anyone wants to search it up on Instagram, The Bridge Retreat they’re amazing. And it’s all about grieving like things that happened to you. So it could be anything. It could be the fact that you has your house burn down when you were a child and you lost absolutely everything each could literally. We don’t grieve, and that’s the problem, that we’re not naturally like, oh, society doesn’t allow us to grieve in the way that we should be. So in that I understood that just kind of telling my story and having a space for me to be heard. How much I hadn’t been heard up until that point. And. That was just I mean, this is two years ago. I think it is a bit of a light bulb for me. Oh, wow. Like, I have been ignoring my needs and I’ve been in service for other people because my job is always in service. I help people. I support people. That’s what I do. And so kind of like looking at my co-dependency and all the things that have come out of the me not knowing what my needs are. So the first thing was to kind of get really still and ask myself, what do you need? What are your needs? Which is a wild question. If you have if you don’t like, you realise you don’t know the answer to that question. It’s like. I don’t know it can be like bomb drops. How could I not answer that question for myself?

And I’m still learning how to answer that question. I ask my question because I asked myself that question consistently now that what do you need at this moment? And you can start off with something like you’re dehydrated, you need to drink water. You know, I mean, I drink because because you need the water. And and you and your programming would actually tell you to complete a million different tasks for other people before you drink that water. You know you need that or you need sleep now or you need rest because you’re tired and you’ve done enough for today or or you need to be seen in your relationship by your partner in a way that they haven’t seen you because you’ve not said that you need to be seen in this way. Do you know what I mean? I think it is just like it was many different ways of identifying what I needed for me to kind of start feeling like my needs were worthy.

And then because I think another thing as well is that this. I just think the way in which society is formed is so detrimental to people like because this whole thing about ego. I mean, there’s there were massive conversations about ego. But I think when it comes to kind of like people being really firm in who they are and what they need, it can come off as quite abrasive to other people. And so I think as women as well, you’re consistently like ‘oh no, I’m okay, oh no, I’m okay’ because you just don’t want to be this abrasive kind of abrasive, egotistical kind of person. And also being a Black woman. You don’t want to be aggressive or whatever, or all of the things they put on you.

Le’Nise: Quote, quote, unquote, “aggressive”.

Rochelle: Yeah. So I think, like figuring out your needs and then voicing them. It’s a task in itself and then especially for people that are from similar backgrounds as me, but then doing that and knowing the way in which society kind of sees Black women. And the way we’re seen as, once again, aggressive, attitude problems. I don’t know. A lot like that. You have to grapple both of those things at the same time. And, yeah, it it becomes political. Like when you just want to be healing, like you just want to be working out like who you are and how to be. good. And you’re now navigate these identity politics at the same time. It’s just it’s just a thing. And so, yeah, I think just kind of identifying my needs and working out what they were was just a series of me asking myself questions on a daily basis. What do you need right now? What do you need right now? On a very simple level, was like water but on a deeper level when it comes to the part I play in relationship with people. Getting really real with myself about how I do too much for other people. Why? Why I do too much. And what does that take me away from doing for myself? It’s journey, isn’t it? It’s an ongoing journey. And yeah, I think it’s just a long journey. 

Le’Nise: What do you think about the the idea of the strong Black woman? And how do you think this plays into this? This idea that we as women, we tend to put our needs second anyway? I think that’s the kind of thing that a lot of women do. But as this idea of a strong Black woman, you you feel like you you can’t show vulnerability. You have to be so-called strong all the time because loads of people are standing on your back trying to get ahead. What do you think about that? 

Rochelle: I think the strong Black women like stereotype is mad interesting is what you said is the strong woman, the Black woman is quote unquote strong because she puts everyone else’s needs. Is that strength? Is that strength? And it’s like, why is that stereotype being perpetuated so strongly, you know, because it’s it’s like the Black woman I know are strong. If I thought generationally, when I think about the elder women that I’m aware I’m aware of in my family, they’re very much so women that do carry their families on their backs, for example. Is that is that strength cos I would have preferred to see strength of a woman that put herself first. But then, like I say, it gets it gets political when we start thinking about the reasons why Black women had to pay those role. You know, the fact that Black men are way out of it, especially in America. I need to know more about the way in which the family structure was affected by systemic racism in the UK. I know within America like the men were like taken out of the houses. And obviously you’ve got mass incarceration and other things. So many things paint into kind of why women have to become these strong, but I think it’s strong by default. 

I especially like, within a little aside, like a commercial break. I was on a date once with this white guy from a dating app. I would just let me just try. Let me just try something different. Right. And I realised at that moment this is not I can’t do this because I sat with him and talking and he said that he loves Black women because we’re strong. And I felt fire in my chest when he said that: I love Black women because they’re strong. And I was like, do you know why we have to be strong like that? I was like, you can’t like, this is not, it’s not. What is that? What is that? This is ages ago before I kind of, I suppose, had the vocab to really understand it myself. But the idea that, like Black women are seen as martyrs that carry everybody and everything and forsake themselves is not strength to me. And I hate that it’s romanticised in a way and kind of like it doesn’t allow for softness. Yeah. And. I can see what you want about me. I’m very, very formidable. I’m like, I’ve got this, like, energy. People think that I’m strong and whatever else, I want to be soft, too. Mm hmm. And I don’t want to be around people that don’t allow me to be soft because I’m a strong Black. I’ve had exes that have said that, oh, you’re you’re so intelligent. You’re so strong and I’m just like you, this is where the relationship ends because I just don’t like it. I also quite zero tolerance. What I’m doing was I just like you need to be able to see beneath that. So I think I think it’s damaging. 

But I think that I think that the strengths and stereotype comes from a need to support a family because society has failed the Black family for a very long time. That’s basically that. And if the society wasn’t failing Black families then the strong Black woman wouldn’t need to exist.

Le’Nise: Your story about the date reminds me of this scene. Have you read Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

It’s a must read it, it’s so good. So there’s a scene in it that’s similar to the way that your date went, when she goes on the dating app, she meets this guy and then he talks about how he loves Black woman and he loves strong Black women. 

And it just kind of the date just kind of descends into chaos from there. Yeah. But yeah, I agree with you that it’s damaging and it leads to this idea that we can’t be soft and it’s also damaging internally because you feel like you can’t be vulnerable because people are expecting so much more from you. And it’s certainly an issue that I’ve had in my life. You know, this idea that you have to be strong, you have to be strong. So many people are depending on you, but this leads into what I want to ask you about, you call yourself the vulnerability queen. Tell me why you tell. You talked a little bit about that in the beginning of the podcast. But just tell me where where this comes from. The Vulnerability Queen. 

Rochelle: So I started a podcast, The Vulnerable Podcast in 2017. And it came about because, like I said, my job, I’ve always been in service. I work with people and young people especially. And the role I had at the time was head of pastoral in the school. So I was like looking after the needs of the whole school. And that job was like a combination of all of the jobs I had done that was similar up until that point. So my job has always been everybody else’s needs. And what was happening is I was kind of hearing a lot of stories about people’s, you know, traumas and stuff. And I was realising that I was hearing the same things over and over again and that we were all going through the same things. And shame stopped us from like experiencing those things. Shame stops us from sharing those things with other people, because you didn’t want to, I suppose, feel embarrassed about them. So that was like that was like one point. I was like the reason why I started the podcast. But then I reflected on my own experience with vulnerability and the way how I was raised to, like, not have any vulnerability at all. You do not speak on things that can make me to be seen like I don’t at an extreme level. Like I feel like when I think about my mom and even the way she conducts himself now, I’m just like.  It’s really sad that nobody, she doesn’t let anyone in to hurt her person. And it’s a shame and it’s that guilt that stops having been very vulnerable.

And so to me, I was like, no, no, ma’am. I’m not going to do that. I’m going to lean into my vulnerability and encourage other people to do so, too. Specifically, people that look like me, that are from places that are similar to where I’m from because shame eats us up so much, so much more. And, you know, I think it’s easy. I think it’s fair to say they it eats Black people up way more because outside of kind of like, the internal shame in your community, you’re dealing with the racism externally and how that shame can manifest in other places. In your work life, in your education, in life. Do you know I mean, is you’re managing so many, you’re spinning so many plates? And it’s killing us because we know that stress turns into sickness. Do you know what I mean? And so for me, vulnerability, I think where it’s like. You get to kind of release things that you shouldn’t be carrying for yourself or holding something that isn’t yours. And by no means am I like some kind of guru. I’m figuring this out, but I kind of. 

I want to call it a thing like I want to say that I am. I am consciously and intentionally working in vulnerability on a daily basis to support other people, to kind of decide that by actually modelling, that to me is really important. And not just to find, just to be like, really, honest if I’ve had to find some balance with that. Because when you’re coming from trauma initially, when you think about vulnerability, it’s like I’m going to tell the world everything about me and everything that’s happened to me. And it’s going to be some type of oil spill of trauma everywhere. Right. Because initially, that’s what vulnerability is like when you first step into it. And on the healing journey. Oh, no, I, I don’t have to say all the things, but I can still get to model vulnerability in a different way. So I’ve had to kind of on the vulnerability spectrum, let’s figure out where is the safe space for me to do the work that I know that I’m here to do, but in a safe way for me. And that’s just something I’ve been able to pick up on and develop my therapy and stuff. Yeah, that’s my thing. I think it is modelling vulnerability. And it makes me think I hope one is my ex-students DM me a couple of days ago, I was just talking about the things that she’s been experiencing and the books that she’s been reading and how she likes my Instagram and stuff like that. And I’m like imagining an 18 year old Black girl from South London is so typically not what you would put together. But she’s able to kind of like see the types of things I am posting and kind of apply these things to her own life and her own personal healing journey. And that’s that’s the kind of I that’s the kind of that’s how I kind of want to that’s what I want to do. 

Le’Nise: It’s hard to be vulnerable. And it’s hard to. I love how you said that there’s a spectrum to vulnerability, because I think that a lot of people think that to be vulnerable, you have to completely open yourself up. And if you’re used to holding things for yourself and having everything internalised for so long and the idea of even opening up a little bit is really it’s really frightening. Well, I want to ask, is that spectrum of vulnerability that you mentioned? How can someone who is listening to this and thinking, I connect with that, I connect with that need to be more open, to be more vulnerable. And vulnerability isn’t a bad thing. How can they start on this journey? 

Rochelle: I think journalling. Well. I was thinking, like of some big items and I was like, no, there’s no big answer. I think journalling means is helps me to to tap into those kind of feelings that I don’t want to say out loud to everybody. And. Sometimes I’ll just be, there’s journalling that you’re encouraged to do at night. And when you wake up in the morning, there’s that. And that should definitely be done. I think it’s important to do that before you go to sleep. And when you wake up in the morning, put this to me. I’ve caught some of my best like vulnerable, I think best vulnerable moments not like that there’s some type of like race. Like in the middle of the day when something just bubbles up and it just comes out and I’m like, whoa. And it almost brings me to tears. And then I write it down because that needs to it needs to leave. I find that I think giving the vulnerability a space is important. So when you’re having a moment where you’re feeling vulnerable and it’s come out of nowhere, for example, society’s programming will have you bury it and put it back down. And I’m like, create a table for it. Like, let’s put it on a long time. What is going on? Like the like like you would serve dinner on, like a table that’s set. Like, let’s bring that to the table. Do you know I mean. And what is that about. Write it down. You don’t need to know what it’s about right now. But but I think it’s important to pay attention. And I like the ritual of paying attention to me is writing it down. I think people can start there.

I would also encourage, I find friendship really interesting because I have had the most phenomenal friends in my life. People that I can I can speak to about anything. And I am more mindful now that a lot of people do not have that. A lot of people have really superficial friendships. And that, to me, makes me feel claustrophobic. How do you not get to share a part of who you are? So I would say if you’re in a friendship circle and you feel like you don’t get to tap into that part of you that you’ve seen and heard, then make a new friend like put yourself out there. I’m very much just say, like, I need somebody who I can be friends with and be myself with. Write that down, call in and then go out to these places and meet someone that you that can be your friend in that way, because it’s important that outside of yourself that other people are able to hold space for you too you know, in a way, it’s kind of like validation of who you are because we’re not islands are we as people like we feel the things that we feel. But it’s incredible to be supported by someone else. You know, if you don’t have that family, I don’t, it has become my friends. And if it’s not your friends, then your partner. You know, I think it’s important to have someone. I think it’s important to take inventory of who is in your life and who is actually able to show up for you. And if there isn’t anyone you can identify, call someone else in. You have to. For me that’s a non-negotiable. You have to have people around you that are that allow you to be your complete self. 

Le’Nise: It’s interesting, you talk about details about journalling and then you talk about how you relate and how you’re vulnerable to others. And this idea, it’s two types of vulnerability. It’s being vulnerable to yourself and acknowledging how you feel and really going there and going deep into certain thoughts and feelings. And then also allowing yourself to be open and vulnerable with others and finding that that support network. I think those two areas are really interesting and really powerful and give people a good starting point. So journaling is something that anyone can do. You can do it on your phone. You can get a book. You know, a bit of paper, doesn’t matter. But this even writing a couple of words down and then thinking about those words is really powerful. So I love. I love those two options that you gave there. I want to talk more about your work. So tell us about your your business, the social enterprise Ting

Rochelle: Yes. Like I’ve said, I’ve been working with people for a really long time. And in 2018, 2018 was a really pivotal year for me. I keep saying it, don’t I? I look at my chart, my solar chart or something and see what was happening there. And so I left education that year because it became too much. Once again, like we don’t get to separate identities. And as a Black woman working in majority white spaces, it was way too much for me. And supporting Black students at the same time, so it was kind of being asked to support these kids and then fighting for my own kind of like humanity. And if I could, I could no longer do both things.

So I left and I went to work within the creative industries supporting people to get mentors in the creative industries. I realised that and realised that the issue that I faced in education existed outside too. So spaces weren’t safe for Black and Brown people. There was a lot of opportunities created for marginalised groups in terms of like an internship programme and here’s a mentor or here’s some funding. And it was kind of like plasters on wounds. Let’s just give them something. So we feel good. We feel benevolent. And I was just like this doesn’t feel right, because I’ve spent I’d say the best the best part of the last 4-5 is hooking people up with the most phenomenal opportunities, but also having conversations with them about their ability to access those opportunities. So, for example, their family is being made evicted and they’ve just got this mentor and they really want to make use of that opportunity, but they’re unable to do so because of life and the similar things that are coming up over and over again. Mental health is a big thing that comes up, not having jobs for young people. Massive. And how that’s affecting their mental health. And so I was having those conversations way more. And I’m realising that my job title wasn’t paying me to kind of make do with that kind of pastoral stuff. I was just doing it and realising that if we could kind of put some support in place for that, a kind of an equity piece that allows these young Black and Brown people to access these opportunities and then thrive. 

Then that’s like a that’s a big piece of work that could literally change a lot. In which the way the industry is because they like you know, everyone talks about retention and recruitment and we need to be more diverse. And it’s kind of like. I just want to get into the nitty gritty of the reasons why. And I just didn’t feel like anybody else saw. And to be fair, my jobs and my life experience have allowed me to see things in ways that people can’t. So it’s not like me throwing shame on the industry, it’s more maybe like let me take my lens and what I know, to be sure and do something. So Ting is essentially a personal and professional development service for companies and young people. And so with companies that might look like, what, I’m going to come in. I’ve had conversations with companies that have internship programmes that I just like, ah yeah, a director gets an email and then we just kind of find it two weeks a month. I know this is nepotism first of all, you know. I mean, like, that’s not going to support diversity. Like, there’s so much going on there. And it’s like, OK, I can come in and help you to develop that internship programme and create like an internship scheme that allows you to kind of get into more diverse communities because I have access there.

And then I can work with the young people to prepare them to go into your space because they need to know they need to have resilience to be in that space. We also need to be a safe space and receive them and know what you’re both kind of working with. So that’s why I’m saying my life has kind of allowed me to see things on both sides and Ting is that we provide the personal and professional for companies and personal and professional for young people. And it’s at the beginning stages. And so I’m kind of at the stage and I was kind of starting sounding like a new entrepreneur, figuring out like the best ways in which to kind of get this done, it’s super new, but I feel like it’s I think it’s going to be really good. 

Le’Nise: Yeah. I think it’s incredible. What an amazing idea, because you’re right. These companies have these diversity programmes, these internships. 

But it’s kind of like it’s this idea that you, the the young people going in, they need to be prepared to code switch and they need to know what that code is that they’re switching to. It’s like I think I used to work in advertising for a long time, and the example that always sticks in my mind as young people from various backgrounds coming in and it’s the sushi with clients example, you need to tell them that they need to learn how to use chopsticks and that they might have sushi with clients. And some people say, oh, they’ve never had that in their life. They have no idea that how to use chopsticks and kind of need to have that conversation with them. And there’s a million other examples. Yeah. I really love that. 

Rochelle: It’s the cultural capital. It’s like they’re not coming to the table, like you say, with the same utensils that everybody else has. Because if you think about the advertising is extremely middle-class, extremely white. And if you think about these young people that work in advertising, it’s very likely that they’ve had dinner parties with other people that work in advertising when they were like 12. I mean, I have been in conversations about things and pitches and brands and stuff, and I didn’t know anything about that until two years ago. I’m that person who had to learn how to eat with chopsticks pretty quickly because I had to be able to understand it and explain it to younger people that were coming in. And I think I’ve just got to a place I suppose, once again, going back to the beginning of this conversation about needs and worthiness.

I’ve I’ve I’m starting to kind of understand that I am the best person to do this job. And like, I don’t get to opt out of that because of my own lack of self things that I’ve had growing up. It’s like, oh, no, this is time to step into who you are now. And in spite of everything, it’s I know this is this is what is that you need to be doing, at least for now. And it requires you to show up in full health. So you’re right. I do need to check out my my period situation. I need to do a lot of things because I. Yeah. When you get to a place where you’ve been doing the work, wherever the left looks like for you and you and you have places like this tells me is actualisation. You have to know that you have to step into that wave, firing on all cylinders, operating on your best health, hydrated, well fed, it’s the only way. Because the truth is this: I can be. I can be as ambitious and romanticise this new thing that I’m about to do all I want. If I’m not healthy, it’s not going to work. And the young people I want to support, they’re not going to get the support. So there’s there’s no there’s no, there should be no trophies for martyrdom. And I think I think that this is why this is the the programming and I’m doing the vulnerability for me. I am so just like I have been taught. I have seen a million times so many women from my community have been martyrs, so many because they didn’t know any better. And I do. And to me, it’s like I definitely have been a martyr for so long. And now I’m like, I don’t want to do that anymore. 

Luckily, I’m still alive and I still have my my faculties in place. And I still have I’m so young enough to kind of switch it around. And so I think that there’s definitely a strong call to be like that. We need to kind of, you know, get our house together and really start into the next the next phase of my life. 

Le’Nise: And so to round up our conversation, if someone’s listening and you want them to take one thing away from all the amazing things that you’ve said, what would you want that to be? 

Rochelle: Hold space for yourself. I haven’t said that explicitly, but I think the whole conversation, there’s been examples of me holding space myself and not all the time did I action anything because I didn’t have the tools to action. I suppose even when I was 11, like having my period, like four months before I even said anything, I was I was present and something was happening and eventually actioned it. And I just think that if you can hold space with yourself and be honest about how you’re feeling good and bad. I call the thing a thing like this is not it’s not something that should be ignored. Do not ignore what you are feeling. Hold space for yourself. Do not ignore what you’re feeling. Write it down and speak about it to someone that you trust. And that and that is on everything. Anything like it. There’s nothing too small. Too big. Like literally anything. It’s so important.

Le’Nise: Thank you so much. I think that’s so powerful. Where can listeners find out more about you?

Rochelle: You follow me on Instagram at @allysarochelle. And I’m quite active on Instagram. So follow me there and then you’ll find links to everything I do.

Le’Nise: Great and all of your links will be in the show notes. Thank you so much for coming on the show. 

Rochelle: Thank you. I really enjoyed this conversation. It’s allowed me to tap into a different part of my experience. And so thank you so much. Amazing. Thank you.

Foods To Reduce Pre-Menstrual Bloating

Tender boobs, swollen fingers and face, a bloated tummy: these are all symptoms of pre-menstrual bloating.

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Can you relate to any of these?

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Pre-menstrual bloating can be caused by a number of things:

  • Already low progesterone dropping even further in the run up to the next period
  • Eating too many salty foods
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Not eating enough fibrous foods
  • Chronic constipation (we should be ideally pooping everyday!)

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Adding in different fruits, vegetables and nuts & seeds can help reduce all the types of pre-menstrual bloating to a more manageable level.

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Increase Water Intake

🚰 Drinking more water can help (add a squeeze of lemon or lime to boost its effectiveness), as can eating fruits & veg with a high water content, like cucumbers, celery and cantaloupe.

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Increase Daily Fibre Intake

🥬 Increasing your daily fibre intake can do wonders.

The current UK recommendation is about 30g of fibre a day for adults. Fibrous vegetables and fruit such as leafy greens, beetroot, pears and artichokes are a lovely way to get more fibre in.

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Increase Potassium Intake

🌰 Potassium is a mineral that when depleted, is associated with sodium retention and bloating.

An easy way to add more potassium is to eat more bananas!

These powerhouses have around 422mg of potassium in a medium sized banana, which is about 12% of the UK daily recommended intake!

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How do you deal with bloating before your period? Tell me in the comments below 👇🏽

Le’Nise Brothers is a registered nutritionist, mBANT, women’s health, hormone and menstrual cycle coach, founder of Eat Love Move and host of the Period Story Podcast.
 

Le’Nise works primarily with women who feel like they’re being ruled by their sugar cravings, mood swings and hormonal acne & bloating. 

They want to get to grips with heavy, missing, irregular & painful periods, fibroids, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, post-natal depletion and perimenopause.  

Her mission is for women to understand and embrace their hormones & menstrual cycle! 

Foods To Support Pre-Menstrual Mood Swings

How many of these things have happened recently? Started crying at something really sentimental on TV? Gotten really irrationally irritated about something then felt fine a few minutes later? Felt fine one minute, then really angry / sad / annoyed / upset the next? 🤪

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Pre-menstrual mood swings can be a sign for many of us that our periods are on their way. Or perhaps the moodiness of the previous few days makes more sense when your period arrives. Can anyone relate to that? 😳

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Food can help stabilise mood and adding the foods I’ve listed below consistently can help shift pre-menstrual mood swings.

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Support Serotonin Production

🍳 Adding foods that are high in the amino acid tryptophan can help the body make more serotonin, our happy hormone. Eggs, oily fish such as wild salmon, nuts & seeds are all high in tryptophan. Eating these foods often and alongside carbohydrates such as rice, fruits & veg and oats can help make the conversion from tryptophan to serotonin more effective.

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Support Gut Health

🥕Research shows that 90% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gut, so supporting a healthy gut is another great way to support moods. Increasing fermented foods such as kombucha, kimchi, miso and kefir can help, as can adding soluble fibres such as bananas, garlic, onions, Jerusalem artichoke and chicory root.

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Support Blood Sugar Balance

🍽 Managing your blood sugar levels by eating meals with lots of vegetables, high quality protein, good quality fats and lots of fibre can help keep mood stable.

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How do you deal with mood swings before your period? Tell me in the comments below!

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Le’Nise Brothers is a registered nutritionist, mBANT, women’s health, hormone and menstrual cycle coach, founder of Eat Love Move and host of the Period Story Podcast.
 

Le’Nise works primarily with women who feel like they’re being ruled by their sugar cravings, mood swings and hormonal acne & bloating. 

They want to get to grips with heavy, missing, irregular & painful periods, fibroids, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, post-natal depletion and perimenopause.  

Her mission is for women to understand and embrace their hormones & menstrual cycle! 

The Third Phase of The Menstrual Cycle: Ovulation

Photo by Rodrigo Borges de Jesus

For the last two posts, we’ve been talking about the first two phases of the menstrual cycle, the menstrual and the follicular phases.

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Are you finding that having this information is helping you understand better about what’s happening in your body? 

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I really feel empowered when I know what’s going on and I don’t have to guess. Do you? 

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Let’s move on to talking about the ovulatory phase, otherwise known as ovulation!

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So what’s actually happening when you ovulate?  

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Simply put, one of your ovaries releases a mature egg!  This is the big moment of your menstrual cycle and what the follicular phase has been building up to! 

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Your luteinising and follicle stimulating hormones are at their highest points, as is your oestrogen, which has risen to help thicken the endometrium, the lining of the uterus (the place where a fertilised egg will implant!). 

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For most women, their energy will be at its highest point and they’ll be raring to go! 

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Communication skills are at their peak during ovulation, so this is the time to schedule in that big presentation or important meeting with a boss or client. 

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Here’s a question I get asked a lot: how do I know when I’m ovulating? 

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There are two major signs to look for: 

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  1. Discharge: this tends to become more of an egg white consistency and can be whitish in colour 
  2. Temperature:if you track your cycle using the fertility awareness method (FAM), then you will see your temperature rising during this phase of your cycle

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Food wise, do you notice that you tend to crave fresh fruits and vegetables during this phase of your menstrual cycle? There’s a reason for this! 

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Eating a rainbow of fruit and veg helps support your immune system and keeps you as healthy as possible – your body wants to have the healthiest possible environment to fertilise the mature egg it’s just released!  

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Do you notice a boost in your energy levels and communication skills when you’re ovulating?  

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What do you think? Is there anything else you want to learn more about this phase of your menstrual cycle? 

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Next up: the final phase – luteal! 

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Are your hormones up and down? Do you want to talk more about ways to improve your hormone health? Get in touch for a free 30 minute hormone & menstrual health review.

Le’Nise Brothers is a nutritional therapist, women’s health coach and founder of Eat Love Move.

Le’Nise works primarily with women who feel like they’re being ruled by their sugar cravings, mood swings and hormonal acne & bloating.

They want to get to grips with heavy, missing, irregular & painful periods, fibroids, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, post-natal depletion and perimenopause. 

Her mission is for women to understand and embrace their hormones & menstrual cycle!

The Second Phase of The Menstrual Cycle: The Follicular Phase

Photo by Diana Simumpande

In my last post, I took you through an overview of what happens during the first phase of the menstrual cycle, aptly called, the menstrual phase.  

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Did it help you understand a bit more about what’s happening during that time of your cycle? 

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Let’s talk about what happens next! 

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As you all know by now, I used to be be blissfully unaware of what happened in my cycle after my period ended.  All I cared about was that the terrible week of my period was over and I could get on with my life (and put the horrible period underwear away!).

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What I didn’t know is that what happens in the next phase sets up the groundwork for the rest of the menstrual cycle. 

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When we enter into the follicular phase (phase two of the menstrual cycle), our estrogen, testosterone and follicular stimulating hormone  (FSH) begin to increase again in preparation for ovulation (i.e. your body is getting ready to release an egg). 

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Do you feel an increase in your energy levels around this point?

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That increase in energy is connected to  rising hormones, preparing us to get out of the house, get social and look & feel our best! You might find that you get quite horny around this time too! Yeah!

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For many women, this is the time of their cycle when they feel their most vibrant, energetic and like their best selves. 

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Your confidence is at all time high so if there’s anything you’ve been hesitant about, try it now

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You also may feel more creative and the rising testosterone also means that you’ll be up for more risk taking and trying new things.

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Have you noticed this come up for you? 

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There’s a lot going on in your body during this phase of your cycle, so nourishing your hormones with lots of dark leafy greens and brassicas really helps (and the fibre keeps you regular!).

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Grass-fed beef & lamb are also superstar foods during this phase – they help replace the iron that has been lost during menstruation and can keep your energy levels high too! 

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What do you think? Is there anything else you want to learn more about this phase of your menstrual cycle? 

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Share your questions about the follicular phase of your cycle in the comments below!

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Next up: ovulation, or when one of our ovaries releases an egg! 

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Are your hormones up and down? Do you want to talk more about ways to improve your hormone health? Get in touch for a free 30 minute hormone & menstrual health review.

Le’Nise Brothers is a nutritional therapist, women’s health coach and founder of Eat Love Move.

Le’Nise works primarily with women who feel like they’re being ruled by their sugar cravings, mood swings and hormonal acne & bloating.

They want to get to grips with heavy, missing, irregular & painful periods, fibroids, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, post-natal depletion and perimenopause. 

Her mission is for women to understand and embrace their hormones & menstrual cycle!

The First Phase of the Menstrual Cycle: The Menstrual Phase

The Menstrual Phase of The Menstrual Cycle
Photo by Erol Ahmed

I didn’t learn much about my menstrual cycle when I was in school. Anyone else in a similar position?

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What I did learn about my cycle, I cobbled together from books, magazines (shout out to Sassy magazine!), chats with my girlfriends and eventually, some pretty serious googling when I was trying to get pregnant. 

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I often think about how great it would have been to learn about all of this much earlier. To learn that there are four phases to the menstrual cycle. Or that the menstrual cycle isn’t just about getting a period.  Or that ovulation is a hugely important part of it. Or that what you do in the 60 -90 days before your current menstrual cycle will have an effect on it. 

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Over the next few posts, I want to breakdown each of the four phases for you. 

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Are you with me? 

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Let’s start with the menstrual phase, which starts on day one of your period.

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During this phase, if you haven’t fertilised an egg in the previous cycle, your body takes this time to shed the lining of the uterus.  This is the menstrual bleed and typically can last between 4 – 7 days. 

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What’s happening with your hormones during this phase, because let’s face it: there’s always something happening in this area! 

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Estrogen (the hormone that controls the menstrual cycle) and progesterone (the hormone that is released after ovulation) are at their lowest points, so you might feel a bit low with not a lot of energy. 

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You might feel discomfort, pain, a lack of energy, a bit moody or that your emotional responses are a bit more heightened., i.e. you might get teary at a random TV advert. 

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Socially, you might find that you withdraw a little bit from activities or you want to stay at home, especially on day 1 & 2 of your period.  

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All of this is completely normal and part of the ebb and flow of our menstrual cycle.  

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What’s not normal is having lows that are too low, excessive bleeding or pain that is too much.If you feel like this, I would encourage you to explore what’s going on and work with a professional (like me!)to get to the bottom of it. 

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Interestingly, research shows that evaluation and analytical skills are at their strongest during this part of the menstrual cycle, so it’s a great time to take a step back, take stock and reflect on where you are in your life / career / etc. This would be a great time to schedule a call with a mentor or coach if you feel emotionally up to it. 

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It’s so fascinating to see that once you understand what’s going on during your period, you can start to listen to your body and connect more, rather than fighting it. 

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So many of us have negative feelings about our periods and I would love to encourage you to let go of that and find ways to be positive. If positivity is a step too far, then at least try a little bit less negativity. 

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Food, breathwork and movement  (I had to talk about this –  I’m a nutritionist & yoga teacher!) are incredible ways to support your body during this phase of your menstrual cycle.

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Listening to your body, remembering to breathe acknowledging the type of movement & food you crave and nourishing it with nutrient packed fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, complex carbohydrates and good fats will have only positive effects. 

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What do you think? Is there anything you want to learn more about this phase of your menstrual cycle?

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Look out for my post about the next phase of the menstrual cycle!

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Are your hormones up and down? Do you want to talk more about ways to improve your hormone health? Get in touch for a free 30 minute hormone & menstrual health review.

Le’Nise Brothers is a nutritional therapist, women’s health coach and founder of Eat Love Move.

Le’Nise works primarily with women who feel like they’re being ruled by their sugar cravings, mood swings and hormonal acne & bloating.

They want to get to grips with heavy, missing, irregular & painful periods, fibroids, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, post-natal depletion and perimenopause. 

Her mission is for women to understand and embrace their hormones & menstrual cycle!

The 2018 Eat Love Move Happy Hormone Holiday Gift Guide, Part 2: To Help Balance Your Hormones

We’re a week away from Christmas. Are you ready?  I’m still getting those last minute gifts and hoping for a little gift inspiration for a few of my loved ones that are a little bit more difficult to buy for. 

The 2018 Eat Love Move happy hormone health holiday gift guide

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Part one of my happy hormone holiday gift guide was dedicated to a few different products that will help you or your loved ones go plastic-free (or just use a little less).  Have a look if you need a little inspiration! 

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This gift guide is dedicated to gifts that help support hormone balance and help reduce that amount of harmful chemicals going into the body through makeup, cleaning products, skin care or cooking utensils. 

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Happy shopping! 

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Lodge Cast Iron Pan 

I adore my Lodge cast iron pan and cook most things in it, from ragu sauce to pancakes to chilli. The trick is make sure to oil the pan and clean it properly. Do this and it will last for ages (and food won’t stick!). My cousin uses a cast-iron pan she inherited from our grandfather – he bought it at least 50 years ago! 

The other benefit of a cast iron pan? You avoid the hormone disrupting chemicals that make non-stick pans not stick. 

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Intey HEPA Air Purifier

This air filter is a lovely gift for the winter months when most of us don’t open the windows in our home as often as the summer, so the air gets stale and potential allergens like animal hair and mould hang around longer than they should, putting extra strain on the body’s various detoxification functions. 

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RMS ‘Un’ Cover Up


This is the perfect way to introduce a loved one to non-toxic, natural makeup. The RMS range, designed by Rose-Marie Swift, a make-up artist is made from non-allergenic, environmentally friendly ingredients and avoids the ones that are likely to disrupt hormones. I use this cover-up everyday and it goes on beautifully and the coconut oil in it makes it very moisturising. 

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Living Nature Natural Lipstick

Did you know that many lipsticks contain high levels of lead and other heavy metals? And because it’s applied on the lips, a lot of it is often swallowed. Happily, there are many natural, non-toxic alternatives on the market, including this fabulous lipstick by Living Nature, a New Zealand based natural beauty brand. 

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Nutiva Organic Coconut Oil 


I had to include my favourite coconut oil brand on this list. This coconut oil is a beautiful moisturiser for the skin and hair and absorbs very well, which is one of my biggest issues with coconut oil. Some brands leave the skin looking very shiny! This one doesn’t and smells great too. 

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Afro Skin and Beauty Natural Hair and Skincare

This is a wonderful brand, selling high quality natural hair and skin care.  It’s always nice to support small businesses, especially at this time of year, so definitely check out this company! 

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Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds Natural Cleaning Soap


Have you considered making the shift to natural cleaning products? Dr. Bronner’s are a great brand that make very versatile natural cleaning and body care products. And their labels are chockfull of instructions on exactly how to make your own cleaning spray. 

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Amber Glass Cleaning Bottles


These amber glass spray bottles are a lovely way to store a homemade cleaning spray. You could make up a few bottles and give them a Christmas gifts! 

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Are your hormones up and down? Do you want to talk more about ways to improve your hormone health? Get in touch for a free 30 minute hormone & menstrual health review.

Le’Nise Brothers is a nutritional therapist, women’s health coach and founder of Eat Love Move.

Le’Nise works primarily with women who feel like they’re being ruled by their sugar cravings, mood swings and hormonal acne & bloating.

They want to get to grips with heavy, missing, irregular & painful periods, fibroids, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, post-natal depletion and perimenopause. 

Her mission is for women to understand and embrace their hormones & menstrual cycle!

Acne? But I’m not a teenager!

Adult acne. An oxymoron? No, unfortunately not.

 

It’s something that afflicts more and more adult women as we move from our teens and 20s into our 30s and 40s. In the UK, nearly 90% of teenagers have acne and half of them continue to as adults. Are you one of them?

 

If so, don’t despair. From personal experience, I know that adult acne can have an effect on self-esteem and confidence, feeling like people are looking at your spots, rather than at you. Let me assure you that most people get a few spots from time to time. They seem to be a by-product of our hectic lifestyles and the food and drink we use to keep us going.

 

Why do we get acne and how can we can rid of those pesky spots?

 

Acne can be caused by a number of factors, from too much coffee, alcohol, sugar and stress, to poor gut health to an imbalance of sex hormones. It’s hard to generalise because the causes vary so widely.

 

Here’s another way to look at acne: it’s a symptom of something else going on in your body. Yes, you may get spots, but that’s your body’s way of telling you that there’s something else happening that you need to address.

 

Here are four things that can help improve the health of your skin.

 

1. Think about what you’re putting on your skin.

Everything we put on our skin gets absorbed by our blood stream. This is why some medications are more powerful when they’re applied as creams, sprays or gels, rather than taken as a pill. Make-up, skincare and household cleaning products are all absorbed by your skin and can disrupt the way your body makes oestrogen, which can lead to hormone imbalance, which can then lead to acne.

 

2. Introduce more fermented food and drink into your diet.

Fermented food and drink such as kombucha, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut have many good bacteria, which support the health of your gut. Positive changes to the health of your gut have positive effects on the health of your skin, by affecting the skin microbiome (the balance between good and bad bacteria on your skin).

 

3. Eat more good fats.

Foods with good fats such as oily fish, avocado, nuts and seeds, olive and coconut oils help support the health of the skin by reducing the inflammation that can create acne.

 

4. Work on reducing your stress levels.

Stress can contribute to blood sugar imbalance, inflammation and sex hormone imbalance. Find something you can do everyday that helps you manage day to day stress. Anything from taking a deep breath from your belly to being outside in nature to finding ways to saying no can all help manage stress, which can then have a positive effect on skin health.

 

Do you have acne? Do you want to talk more about ways to improve your skin health? Get in touch for a free 30 minute hormone & menstrual health review.

 

Le’Nise Brothers is a nutritional therapist, women’s health coach and founder of Eat Love Move.

 

Le’Nise works primarily with women who feel like they’re being ruled by their sugar cravings, mood swings and hormonal acne & bloating.

 

They want to get to grips with heavy, missing, irregular & painful periods, fibroids, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, post-natal depletion and perimenopause. 

 

Her mission is for women to understand and embrace their hormones & menstrual cycle!

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Happy gut, happy hormones!

How much do you know about what’s going in your gut?

 

We have millions of microbes there, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. All of them have a good and bad element and they have an impact on our physical and mental health.

 

Our gut health, far from being something to be forgotten about, has a major impact on our hormone health.

 

That means that the gut microbiome, the collection of microbes, including bacteria, in our large intestine, has an effect on how you feel throughout your menstrual cycle.

 

Interesting, isn’t it?

 

The gut microbiome is connected to the estrobolome, the collection of bacteria that helps us metabolise estrogen. Or in a nutshell: good gut health can support good hormone health.

 

So how do you improve the health of your gut?

 

Eat more vegetables!

 

Fibrous vegetables and fruit support gut health, as do fermented food and drink, such as sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir,  kimchi and picked vegetables.

 

What do you do to support your gut health?

 

Do you want to talk more about your hormones and gut health? Get in touch for a free 30 minute hormone & menstrual health review.

 

Le’Nise Brothers is a nutritional therapist, women’s health coach and founder of Eat Love Move.

 

Le’Nise works primarily with women who feel like they’re being ruled by their sugar cravings, mood swings and hormonal acne & bloating.

 

They want to get to grips with heavy, missing, irregular & painful periods, fibroids, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, post-natal depletion and perimenopause. 

 

Her mission is for women to understand and embrace their hormones & menstrual cycle!

Do you have a normal period?

Who knows a normal period feels like?

 

In my work with women of different walks of life, I see a general perception that periods are supposed to be painful, emotional and annoying.
It’s frustrating because periods don’t have to be this way!

 

A healthy period should be relatively pain-free, apart from a few aches, non-disruptive and generally an event that you notice every month, but one that doesn’t cause a huge amount of upheaval.

 

So what is a normal period?

 

Here are 5 questions to ask yourself to figure out what’s going with your period.

 

1. Am I in a lot of pain?

A painful period is a sign that something else is going on, especially debilitating pain.

 

2. Am I bleeding heavily for my whole period?

Generally speaking, the first and second days of a period are the heaviest.

 

3. Am I bleeding for more than 7 days or less than 3 days?

Menstrual bleeds are generally between 3 – 7 days long. Anything shorter or longer can be a sign of hormonal imbalance, nutrient deficiency or a symptom of another issue.

 

4. Do I have heavy clotting?

Heavy clotting is generally associated with heavy bleeding and can be linked with another issues such as endometriosis, fibroids, polyps, PCOS, ovarian cysts or hormone imbalance.

 

5. Do I get very, very tired and lethargic for my entire period?

It’s normal for energy levels to dip in the first few days of a period. They’ll start to rise again towards the end of a period as the body moves into the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle. If energy levels stay low, with a feeling of lethargy and sluggishness, that can be a sign of nutrient deficiency or hormonal imbalance.

 

Do you want to talk more about what’s going on with your period? Get in touch for a free 30 minute hormone & menstrual health review to talk about what’s going on with your menstrual cycle.

 

Le’Nise Brothers is a nutritional therapist, women’s health coach and founder of Eat Love Move.

 

Le’Nise works primarily with women who feel like they’re being ruled by their sugar cravings, mood swings and hormonal acne & bloating.

 

They want to get to grips with heavy, missing, irregular & painful periods, fibroids, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, post-natal depletion and perimenopause. 

 

Her mission is for women to understand and embrace their hormones & menstrual cycle!

 

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

How does yoga help balance hormones?

How do you feel after you go to a yoga class?

 

Calmer? A bit more chilled out? 

 

Many studies have shown that yoga has calming effects on our nervous systems, hormones and psychological wellbeing, creating a blissed out feeling that lasts well past the end of a 45 minute class. 

 

That calming effect reduces the levels of cortisol in our bodies and takes us out of the flight or flight, stressed state. You know, that frenzied feeling where your never ending to-do list keeps cycling around in your head and you’re doing too many things at the same time. 

 

For women especially, studies show that yoga can improve the pre-menstrual luteal phase, reducing feelings of anxiety, depression and increasing feelings of relaxation and calm.

 

Because yoga is so beneficial in reducing cortisol levels, it can have a positive effect on reducing how we cope with stress on an ongoing basis. 

 

When we can get stressed, our cortisol levels increase, we go into a fight or flight state (think clammy hands, dry mouth, rapid heartbeat and sweating) and this gives our brains a signal that it should make less progesterone and estrogen. 

 

When you’re in the fight or flight state, your brain is thinking – she’s stressed, she’s making loads of cortisol, she’s not going to be procreating any time soon, so I don’t need to make as much estrogen and progesterone. And this leads to hormone imbalance because your body isn’t making the right levels of estrogen and progesterone to keep the reproductive system, moods, energy, bones and skin in balance. 

 

Our bodies desperately want to be in equilibrium and want to get us back to a calm, restful state as much as possible. Modern life makes this hard, so this is where yoga comes in. The combination of dynamic movement and breathing regulates the breath, calms the mind and take the nervous system back to a state where you feel on an even keel. 

 

Breathing helps and there are quite a few specific poses that have a positive effect on the endocrine system – these are the organs that make hormones; the thyroid, the adrenals, the reproductive hormones and of course, the brain. 

 

Watch out for upcoming posts where I break down specific poses that support hormone balance. 

 

What’s your favourite calming yoga pose?

 

Do you want support to balance your hormones, reduce stress and stop mood swings?  Get in touch for a free 30 minute nutrition, hormone & menstrual health review to help clear the confusion.

 

Le’Nise Brothers is a nutritional therapist, women’s health coach, trainee yoga teacher and founder of Eat Love Move.

 

Le’Nise works primarily with women who feel like they’re being ruled by their sugar cravings, mood swings and hormonal acne & bloating. 
 

They want to get to grips with heavy, missing, irregular & painful periods, fibroids, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, post-natal depletion and perimenopause.  
 

Her mission is for women to understand and embrace their hormones & menstrual cycle! 

 

Research sources:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24298457
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25965108 
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24138994 

 

Photo by Yayan Sopian on Unsplash

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