Category: Women’s Health

Period Story Podcast, Episode 10: Lauren Derrett, We Need To Be Better Informed About Menstrual Health Products

Period Story Podcast, Episode 10, Lauren Derrett

For the tenth episode of Period Story Podcast, I had a wonderful conversation with Lauren Derrett, the founder of Wear ‘Em Out reusable period pads.

Lauren shared the shame she felt about her first period and why she kept it a secret. She shares a funny song her friends used to sing and says that her friends used to joke about periods, but that she couldn’t remember any proper menstrual health education.

Lauren credits her 15 year old daughter for giving her the impetus to learn more about menstrual health. She says that she knew that her daughter needed to be better educated than her in this area and more equipped to deal with her period when it arrived.

We talked about periods as a feminist issue and Lauren says that we are duty bound to educate and support each other in order to make this a normal conversation and share our knowledge.

Lauren talks about how she tracks her menstrual cycle, notices the shifts in her energy and how she’s got her husband to pay attention to where she is in her cycle. Wonderful!

Lauren uses a powerful mantra, that she’s passed on to her daughter, that helps her reconnect with her body and feel more grounded. She says that she maximises her self-care right before her period and allows herself a timeout.

We discuss Lauren’s new reusable menstrual pad company, @wearemout and she shares some powerful statistics about disposable menstrual waste and the chemicals in them.

She says that each year, over 200,000 tonnes of menstrual waste is sitting in landfills, each disposable pad has the equivalent plastic of 4 carrier bags and 4.8 pieces of menstrual waste is being found in every 100 metres of beaches. Don’t flush your pads and tampons!

Lauren says it’s so important for us to educate ourselves on the menstrual health products we’re using and I completely agree!








Lauren’s Bio

Lauren Derrett is a mother of four, a public speaker, a published author, podcast host and founder of Wear ‘Em Out reusable period pads. Lauren is a lover of all things female empowerment and is sharing her message, via her podcast Periodical and social media, that any change we can make individually to help make our personal and planetary health better is a change worth considering.

Get in touch with Lauren:


Show Notes

Maisie Hill – Period Power

Women with Sparkle

Suzy Reading The Self-Care Revolution

Three Sixty – Tamu Thomas

 Flo period tracker app

Put a Cup In It


Show Transcription

Le’Nise: On today’s podcast we have Lauren Derrett, who is a mother of four, a public speaker, a published author, podcast host and founder of Wear ‘Em Out reusable period pads. Lauren is a lover of all things female empowerment and is sharing her message, via her podcast Periodical and social media , that any change we can make individually to help make our personal and planetary health better is a change worth considering. Welcome to the show. 

Lauren: Hi! Thanks for having me on Le’Nise, it’s great to be here. 

Le’Nise: Thanks for coming on. So let’s start off by getting into the story of your first period. Can you share with us what happened?

Lauren:  Oh my god, do you know what? I’m one of eight children and I have three older sisters and I still had no idea what was going to happen or when it was going to happen. I was so ill equipped for it and all I remember, this is really weird, I don’t remember the blood. I don’t remember any physical symptoms, the only thing that stays with me, bearing in mind I’m 45 now so it was quite a while ago, 30 years because I was 15. The thing that has stuck with me the most is I remember going into the bathroom and thinking, ‘Jesus what do I do with this’? But I can’t see the blood in my head but anyway, I remember there being some tampons in the cupboard under the sink and I mean your first experience with a period and you going straight in for a tampon is pretty brave, I’d say, but it was all I could find, there was no pads so I got the instructions out, I navigated this tampon in and I felt smug as hell because now, not only was I a woman, like I’d caught up with all my friends but I’d also managed to get this tampon in which meant I was really grown up.  

I felt very alone to be honest, because I didn’t think I could tell anyone or share it with anyone and I just had to navigate it myself but it was a real moment of crossing over and a real moment of ‘I’m now part of their gang’, I suppose, my older sisters, that would’ve been and my friends because they all started really early and I started relatively late, so it was that moment of ‘I’ve made it’. It was quite a positive thing but I did feel really lonely and isolated, it was a secret that I kept, which felt a bit ick.

Le’Nise: Why did you think you kept it a secret?

Lauren: Shame I think, just embarrassment. I’m a very lone creature anyway, which is weird now because I will tell anybody anything, I’m not ashamed of anything anymore. We just didn’t talk about it, there was never a conversation about it, there wasn’t a segue way to me talking about it, you just tidy it up and get on with your day. It wasn’t ever something that was discussed, apart from around my mates jokingly, but I’d already pretended I’d come on about three years before I did, just to be part of it. So there was no big reveal.

Le’Nise: You mention the word shame. Where do you think that shame came from?

Lauren: A lack of knowledge, a lack of understanding, a lack of conversation like this, Le’Nise, thank you so much for holding this podcast because my daughter is going to be listening whether she likes it or not. There was not enough conversation around it, back then there wasn’t even adverts I remember, you know, all these new funky adverts with the hot pants and DJ and all that, none of that was available back then. It was really shrouded in mystery and when it’s something like that, you know, you have to assume there’s shame to be applied to that because why is no one talking about it? It’s just a really natural thing that it must be shameful because no one talks about it. 

Le’Nise: You mentioned that you put on a tampon the first time that you got your period which is amazing.

Lauren: I mean that’s pretty hardcore now looking back, it’s like wow. 

Le’Nise: And so if you didn’t talk about it to your sisters or your friends, how did you learn about kind of the admin around menstrual health?

Lauren: From that tampon leaflet, really. Thinking back to our sex ed classes which were minimal let’s say, I remember there being a banana representing an erect penis for us to put a condom on, I remember that. I do not remember any education around periods at all, like I said my friends used to joke about it. I had one friend who made up a song about it which was just hilarious and we used to sing it all the time and I played along like I was part of that gang although I wasn’t, and I had another friend who always used to talk about her pubes being stuck to the pad she was like “Oh God, my pubes have got stuck to my pad again” so I heard that and I started saying that and I hadn’t even got my period at that point but this was kind of the education I had. A song about lily of the valley, Dr Whites’ came along, it was like all the branding back then was that so she took all the branding, and made this little ditty about it that we used to sing and then the only other association I knew about periods was “oh I’ve got a bit of cramping and my pubes are getting stuck”. Do you know what Le’Nise, when my friend was saying that, I didn’t even have pubes, I was a late developer but I would be going around going, “my pubes are stuck to my pad”, because that was the education that I had, it’s what happened when you had your period, it’s what you talk about. But beyond I literally, I’ve wracked my head ahead of this podcast and I don’t remember ever having a conversation about it or knowing anything about it other than the box of Tampax in the bathroom cabinet, that was it, that was my education, that’s shocking. 

Le’Nise: I think that’s quite common, I hear that a lot, women read what’s on the back of sanitary towels or the leaflet in the box of tampons and then that’s it, there’s no conversation. What about as you got older? Did things change or did you just go on the knowledge you gained from when you were a teenager?

Lauren: Yeah, I kind of just learnt to facilitate it once a month and that’s it, it was just like oh it’s here, deal with it, get over it and it was just really a separate part of my being. I didn’t consider it part of me, it was just an inconvenience that would just rock up every month, do its thing and then leave, but I didn’t have any understanding about what it was for, I mean obviously I knew, actually I don’t think I had any idea it was linked to having babies, actually if I’m honest. It just came and went and it was just one of those things, swimming got a bit trickier, but it’s not until I’m older now and I think one of the biggest impacts for me about learning about this stuff and getting fully involved in it was my daughter, having my daughter. 

So I’ve got a 15 year old daughter now, around the same kind of time I got my period and I knew that she had to have a better education than me around it because it’s only me and her, she’s got three brothers and she lives with her dad half the week. So I knew that she had to be really well equipped to deal with it because she wasn’t going to go into the bathroom cabinet and find tampons. I found it was really important that she had a better education and she understood the power of it and what I do now is kind of make allowances for your cycle and for what your body needs during the month not just deal with the blood and get on with it. She’s leading me really, I’m looking at her and thinking what does she need, which is sad because we never consider what do we need? It’s taken my daughter to wake up to the fact that you know, I don’t want her to feel shame around it, I don’t want her to feel like she can’t ask me anything, so yeah I’ve been doing the reading for her really, which is kind of sad.

Le’Nise: Did you start having this conversation when she got her first period or before that?

Lauren: Before that. I was always really open about it. I think as women, we have a personal duty to all the women in our lives, I really do. We all know women get the real rough end of the stick, we all know we are living under the patriarchy which is a whole other podcast and I think we are duty bound as women to educate and support each other through all the feminist issues. Periods being one of them because if you look out into the wider world, you’re going to get a male slant on it and that’s what happened to me, that’s where the shame sits, that’s where you feel kind of lesser of a person, when actually it’s a bloody powerful force and if you use it right it could really propel you as a person but if you look out into the wider world and look out into the patriarchal state as to what periods are and why we have them then you’re kind of scuppering yourself so I do feel that that as women we have a duty to our sisters, our children, our friends to make this a normal conversation and share our knowledge, which is what you’re doing perfectly and I applaud you. 

Le’Nise: So you mentioned the shame around when you had your period as a teenager, do you think your daughter feels those similar feelings with the conversation with her friends or has that totally changed?

Lauren: I think there’s still an element of secrecy around it, I do, I mean they’re much more liberal than I ever was at that age for sure, around these topics but it’s still such a personal experience, you’ve got to kind of want to go there to share it on a level that you’re actually living with because like me you can pretend your pubes get stuck to your pad but that’s not really what’s going on. 

I wouldn’t know how deeply she shares with her friends, I know they’re very open, I know she’s very open with me but it doesn’t come easy to her. I think she’s open with me because that’s what I promote and because I create a space where she feels safe enough to start opening but I think as a 15 year old girl, often it can still feel that you’re exposing too much of yourself, that vulnerability and again, and us as olders, older women, we have to create that space for our young girls to be able to explore and to converse and to share but I don’t think it’s her natural state, to be honest, I think it’s a lot of me not forcing the issue but opening the conversations and kind of backing her into a corner with it so she does share, because the more you share, the easier it becomes, this is something  that I have learnt through life so it’s kind of like eking it out of them a little and saying “look, the word didn’t stop turning, let’s keep this conversation going “. So yeah, I think she’s kind of begrudgingly open but that’s where we all start right? You’ve got to know that you’re safe and that safety takes time to build so let’s keep building on it. 

Le’Nise: So the ongoing conversations that you’re having with your daughter and the way that you feel about what you know about your period now, what do you wish you could change about your experience as a teenager with regards to your period?

Lauren: I think I just knew, this is a game changer that your period isn’t just for 7 days a month. Like I said, we compartmentalise this week and everything changes in that week but actually it’s happening every single day of the month, there are hormonal shifts, your body is changing. Now, I’ve got to the point where I can tell when I’m ovulating just by the physicalities of my body or where my hormones are, or if I’m a bit hotter, or if I’m feeling a bit sexy which only happens a couple of days a month if I’m honest. I can tell from my physical symptoms and my emotional state where I am in my cycle and when you lock that stuff down  and when you become aware of those times, you can really use every single day of the month to propel you, like I said, rather than just locking yourself down for one week of the month and struggling through the rest, not knowing why you’re feeling XYZ but just feeling grotty, it is kind of a superpower and I’ve spoken to a lot of women who are now doing the cycling and the charting now where there actually curating their month’s work around their cycle and becoming much more powerful because of it.  

I wish they talked about things like that, I wish it wasn’t just a rag week, you know when I was growing up it was rag week that was it, not really, actually you’ve got a month where you can utilise every day of your cycle and work with it and support it rather than just dread that one week a month where you’ve got to go underground and just hate everyone. I think we need to talk more about the power in it. 

Le’Nise: I think what you’re saying is so interesting and this idea of it being a superpower and you being able to know how your body changes and your mental state changes throughout your cycle and not just thinking about your menstrual cycle as just your period, it’s more than that and you mentioned that you know exactly when you’re ovulating and the power in that. Can you give us some examples of how you might structure your life around the feelings that you have around each phase of your cycle?

Lauren: I think firstly, you’ve got to start and charting and you’ve got to start being aware of it. I will get to that, but the reason that it is so important, this charting and acknowledging every part of your cycle is because the current climate would have us believe that we are weak and that our periods weaken us. We have to change that story, we have to take the power, now this sounds like a feminist rant, but it’s not about that it’s honest. We have to start looking at ourselves as powerful humans and the one thing that we’ve got above everybody else is that fact that we have these cycles. And we have to rewrite that whole internal monologue that we have going on: ‘oh God, it’s shit being a woman’, ‘oh God, the curse’. Every time we give power to those stories, where we are the underdog and ‘FML, it’s shit being women, I’m coming back as a man’. Every time we reiterate those stories, we give them power and we become the victim. Actually, we need to use that and rise above and say do you know what, actually, fuck you patriarchy because I bleed, I can create, I can do all of this stuff. 

So, your original question was how do I know the signs? Well, I know that the week leading up to my period, I have to stop, the overwhelm becomes extreme. I know that I can’t book a lot of stuff in, I’m an emotional wreck, I’m very emotional around that time so I have to be very, very careful with my energy because I’m a natural empath anyway and when you’ve got a really heightened state of emotions, as an empath, it can take you down. I’m really aware of the week leading up to my period that I have to really up my self-care game, I have to be really choosy whose energy I’m in because if it’s a negative energy, it will take me down. I have to ground; I literally have to stop because otherwise I lose myself for 3 days in just a heap. Once my period comes the relief, I get that ‘huuuuhhhh’ it’s here, my hormones are shifting again, I’m feeling a lot brighter, I’m feeling stronger, my brain feels clearer but I know that the week leading up, not to plan too much stuff because I cannot cope and it’s ok to say that because the rest of the month I am kicking it. One week a month I have to be really mindful of my energy and energies that I’m absorbing from others. 

Le’Nise: How long did it take for you to acknowledge the shift in your energy?

Lauren: Do you know what, I’ve only just started noticing this about a year ago, that’s the tragic thing, I’ve wasted so much of my adult life, I’m hitting perimenopause now, so all this newfound knowledge is going to be wasted on me but like I said, I’m passing it to my daughter, I can see her cycle, I can see her moods change, I can see her energy shift, I can help support her though it so the other day, she had massive overwhelm, she was crying and she didn’t know why she was like ,“I don’t know why I’m crying” and I’m like, “you don’t need to know why, just allow it to happen” and I said when I feel like that, I get in the shower in the morning and I, sounds a bit weird, but I touch my whole body and reconnect with my body, kind of absorb all my energies. I’m literally like: ‘I am safe, this is me, this is real’, because when you’re in that overwhelm and you’re stuck on Instagram or whatever and the whole world is in your head, you need to bring it back to you as one single human being and I tell her to do that. I asked how she’s getting on with the shower thing and she said “I’ve been looking in the mirror every day at my whole body and just saying this is you, you are safe” and that’s what we can pass on, and it’s a shame I’ve only learnt that in the last year but I think it’s only just becoming available and accessible now that you didn’t see this stuff before. Amazing women like you and Maisie Hill are talking about period cycles, who else is there? Women with Sparkle, she’s an amazing advocate for it all, it’s so accessible to all different people now that different people that are listening and are absorbing it. For the younger generation, whatever we learn, just feed it back to them so they’ve got it early door, you know?

Le’Nise: I think that’s such a powerful gift that you gave to your daughter, the knowledge that it’s ok to connect with your body because thinking about back to when I was a teenager, there was no connection to my body, I hated my body and to have something like that where it’s been just looking and the mirror and saying ‘this is you, you are safe’, I think wow, it gives me chills just thinking about it.  

Just going back to what you said about your energy and how you’ve been able to connect with it. Do you ever feel you resist this time of either slowing down or on the other side thinking about when you’re ovulating when your energy is at its highest, do you feel like you need to fit everything in to that week?

Lauren: Do you know what I’m human and sometimes life is busier around that week where I’ve got nothing to give, I just have to really up the self-care. Everybody has just one minute a day when they can just lie flat on the floor and actually Suzy Reading who wrote The Self-Care Revolution, I had her on a podcast once and she said to me, “Everybody has a minute a day when they can lay on the floor and say, ‘For now, the world can wait’, and that’s for one minute a day the world can wait”. It’s about those tiny moments of joy that Three Sixty [Tamu Thomas] talks about, that finding your tiny moments of joy and maximising your self-care when you can, I’m not talking about hot baths, I think we’re well beyond knowing that self-care is not just about a bloody bath with petals in it, I’m talking about making a nice cup of tea and sitting in silence with my favourite mug. 

The most simplistic acts of self-care can still have some kind of impact. When I’m in that slow week and I’ve got a load of stuff booked on, I have to do it, I still have a life I have to live out,  but I also have to be really mindful of just lying when you can. The ovulation thing, yes I do feel like when I’m in my spring/summer cycles [follicular and ovulatory phase], I know I’m so creative then that I do try and bulk load a load of work content and stuff because I know that it’s going to dwindle out which also does bring with it a frustration, don’t get me wrong, I’m not the biggest lover of the cycles the whole time, sometimes I’m like ‘… sake, I can’t afford to crash right now’,  I’m too busy I can’t afford to have winter [menstruation], but I got to keep going and can be like you said, a bit of resistance, not so much resistance but frustration that I can’t just keep charging ahead 24/7, 30 days a month, that I do have to allow myself a time out, but do you know what, what are we going to do? It is what it is, we have to expect it, we have to acknowledge it, we have to respect it, it’s not going anywhere babe, work with it, don’t work against it, there’s no point, it’s futile. 

Le’Nise: I think it is really powerful and I think that we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t have some sort of resistance, especially knowing that the culture that we live in really puts a lot of emphasis on this work, work, work, the entrepreneur grind and so taking a different perspective on that there’s going to be resistance probably not only from inside yourself but others saying, ‘why aren’t you working right now’, capitalism demands it.

Lauren: Not just capitalism, feminism demands it. Feminists, we are all fighting to have it all, I question that I want it all actually, I don’t think that I do want it all I think I’m quite okay just having bits of it because to be what is expected of us as women is pretty unachievable when you can factor in our cycles. We cannot be on it all day, every day, we can’t and actually I use the Flo app and on there, you can give them your partner’s email address. This is the best piece of advice I can give to anyone, you give your partner’s email address and they work with the cycles and they will email your partner where you are in your cycle and how best they can navigate that, and that has been an absolute relationship game changer. One, in that he completely understands that it’s not biased information, it’s not me going, “I’ve got my period, be nice to me!”. It’s proper education for him and it’s non-biased, so he knows it’s not me just pulling on him. 

Secondly, for me to be validated in my feelings, you know because can quite often we dumb it down and say ‘for God sake, I can’t just take a day off work because of my period’, it sounds ridiculous blah blah blah but actually validates what you’re feeling it’s like of course you’re tired, your body is doing overtime right now, trying to release these eggs and doing what it needs to be doing, your uterus is twice the size, you’re lugging that around, that’s why your belly feels like it’s exploding, but it validates everything that you’re feeling which gives you then the permission to say okay, this is why I’m feeling like this, it’s okay for me to stop or slow down but the genius, the other day I was totally woman down, I spent the whole day on the sofa, I was fortunate enough I could block everything, I spent the whole day on the sofa eating digestives, my husband comes home and he’s gingerly around me because he knows something’s going amiss and he said something and I snapped at him and he was like “jeez are you alright?” and I said “did you not get your email?!” and that’s it, the conversation could end there because he’s like “I’ll just go and check my emails now” and it gives them a really good understanding, so for a relationship, it’s genius in all areas. 

Le’Nise: I think that’s really interesting and I love the idea of the email being sent to the partner. The other thing is sometimes, it can lead to the area that creates expectations around behaviour, so we’re supposed to be moody cows before we get our period and ‘oh I just got the email so you’ve just got your period so I’m just going to watch what I say around you’ and some of the work that I do is really focussed around the fact that you don’t have to feel like that, you don’t to be a moody cow, your energy might dip but it’s not necessarily inevitable. So, I think it’s such a fascinating way for your partner to have a better understanding of what’s going on with you and your cycle, but sometimes what I see, and I’ve seen this is workshops that I’ve given is this expectation of, ‘I’m supposed to be in pain, I’m supposed to be moody and that’s just the way it is because I am a women and I have a period.’. 

Lauren: Yeah, you’re so right and I’m just sat here wondering if, and sometimes I do use it as an excuse, I may not even be feeling those things and especially with him because I’ll just be like “Bloody men, you don’t have to deal with this” and I do ham it up a bit sometimes that’s for sure and sometimes I’ll be like you need to go and get me a Big Mac because I feel really rubbish. Yeah, you’re right, that’s given me a new slant on it for next month so thank you but let’s not tell him. Can we not tell him please because I quite like the martyrdom sometimes? 

Le’Nise: So you mentioned that you use the Flo app as kind of what I call part of your menstrual health admin. Are there any other things you use as part of your menstrual health admin that you’d like to share?

Lauren: To be honest, no. I’m reading Maisie Hill’s book. I’m just getting involved I think, just read whatever you can, follow the accounts that, I mean your account’s amazing and you know that I love what you do. Your little tiles about nutrition, you know, just absorb information when and where you can, there’s so much accessible information available to us about our menstrual cycle. Podcasts. There’s loads of amazing podcasts around menstruation. Just find those people and educate yourself and be willing to listen to what’s going on with you and like you say it’s not a one fit fits all, we all fit differently. 

Definitely some kind of charting, however you choose to do that, there’s loads and loads of different apps out there, I know there’s drawings you can do, mindful colourings in and stuff like this. Number one is chart, chart your mood, chart your discharge, chart your libido, and chart your food, everything just to get an idea of who you are and how your body is functioning. But I like to keep it basic babe, I’m Instagram and Flo app

Le’Nise: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our listeners about what you’ve learned about your period or what else you want to know about your period?

Lauren: Do you know what? And it’s an obvious one I really want women to be talking about is the disposable menstrual products. It was obviously about to come up in this podcast; I am just about to launch my reusables

Since I have started the process about having my reusables designed, which are made in the UK by the way, they are manufactured in the UK, I’ve got a designer, we’ve laboured over the design for the last 9 months, and we are just about ready to order the first lot. The research that I’ve done in that time about the effect of disposables is horrifying, horrifying not only to the planet which is where I started, I was all about the landfill and oh my God in the UK alone, per year 200,000 tonnes of menstrual waste is sitting in landfill, which when you consider the weight of a tampon or a pad that’s a huge mass of substance sitting in landfill, emitting to the atmosphere. They take 500-800 years to decompose; those figures alone are enough to make you think, ‘Jesus, what are we doing’. Four carrier bags per period pad, if you are not using carrier bags with your supermarket shop because of the guilt, really consider that there are 4 carrier bags worth of plastic in your sanitary pads, the current disposables. 

The other option is of course is the organics which biodegrade in 12-18 months and don’t have all the chemicals but we need to talk about these chemicals. There are up to 3,000 chemicals in disposable products, there are micro plastics being absorbed into our bodies by our vulvas and vaginas and we are taking them in as a chemical disruptor into our endocrine system, which I know you know about and that is affecting our personal and feminine health. 

It is a massive massive issue that we need to start looking for alternatives around, now I’m not like ‘buy my pad, buy my pad, buy my pad’, my message is, have the conversation with women, make informed choices. If you are happy to use those disposable products and you can get your head around all of that then knock yourself out my darling, I don’t judge, this is your life.  But if you’re open to the idea of looking for alternatives, menstrual cups are not as scary as they seem. There’s an Instagram account called Put a Cup In It and it’s completely unbiased advice, in fact my daughter done there little quiz and got herself a cup and she bloody loves it. 

There are obviously the period pants and the reusable pads which I’m bringing out; by the way, Wear ‘Em Out pads by the way

But please please educate yourself on what menstrual products you are using. The impact that’s it’s having on your body, sitting on those chemicals and those plastics, every single month for up to 7 days is having a detrimental effect on your feminine health, there’s no two ways about it. Also, cocking up the planet big time, so you know your personal responsibility on the planet but yeah that’s a conversation I really want being shared. We’ve got to stop looking away now; we’ve got to stop trusting the big disposable brands and actually start saying what’s best for me on a personal level. 

Le’Nise: I think what you’re doing is amazing, but you already know that and I think this is such an interesting angle to get people thinking more about what they use because before it was about ‘try these different period products’ because they are better for your menstrual health and they are, but I think the environmental angle is interesting and I think that actually has the chance of getting more women interested or people who have a period interested in shifting what they use, because when you put it like that, the amount of products that are sitting in landfill, the amount of tampons, women still flush them down the toilet. Don’t flush!

Lauren: Don’t flush. 4.8 pieces of menstrual waste are being found in up to 100 metres of beaches. For every 100 metres of beach, 4.8 pieces of menstrual waste is being washed up because people are still flushing and not only the beach issue but actually that means that it’s getting into our water systems, that it’s getting into our water ways.

Your water bill is paying for emptying the sewers of fricking menstrual waste, so let’s just stop flushing. Don’t do it. I’m so surprised how many women still don’t know that, innocently, and in a completely no judgmental way, because the information isn’t being shared. There’s a little line on the bloody Tampax box, ‘oh by the way, don’t flush’, that should be the very first thing. Toxic shock syndrome and do not flush, that’s the two pieces of information that you’re going to make an informed choice around. Don’t flush it because that’s costing us all a fortune in the old Thames waterways.

Le’Nise: Not to mention that the water needs to be cleaned, all the chemicals, the tampons and even women are flushing pads which I can’t believe and all of these have an impact, the health impact and the environmental impact. I think this is a great angle to get women thinking about what they’re using in their bodies, on their bodies and actually having this as a starting point for thinking about other products that they are using. This whole area, I find it so fascinating because I’ve seen the shift from it being very hippy, the products not being very good, people using crocheted pads, which, more power to you, to it being more professionalised, sleek, better options, more absorbent options. Make up is better, skin care is better in this whole natural green space. So I’m really excited about what you’re doing and I’m really excited about the changes that are happening in this area. Where can listeners find out more about if they want to order your pads?

Lauren: We are doing a 10% off of your first order which is a great saving because we need to honest and realistic as well they is an initial outlay to this change but it’s about prioritising, looking at your life as a whole and prioritising and making a shift where you can and like I said I think your menstrual waste is the environmental and physical shifts you can make, I therefore think it’s worth investing it but just to help you out, 10% off your first order if you go to the website which is wearemout.co.uk and I’m all over the socials at @wearemoutpads so come and find them. 

My podcast is Periodical which is on ITunes, Spotify, Podcast, Acast, and Podbean. Just come and talk to me, I’m open for any kind of conversation, no question is too stupid and I’m not going to give you a hard sales pitch, I just want women to chat about these topics and then make their decisions beyond that, it’s entirely up to them, no shame babe.

Le’Nise: No shame, no judgement, I love it. 

Lauren: Absolutely. Who am I to judge? 

Le’Nise: Who are any of us to judge? Well, thank you so much for coming on the show today, I’ve really loved chatting to you.

Lauren: Yeah, cool. Amazing. Thank you so much Le’Nise.

Period Story Podcast, Episode 9: Susan Sheehan, Find Your Own Rhythm

Period Story Podcast, Episode 9, Susan Sheehan

For the ninth episode of Period Story Podcast, I had the pleasure of speaking with Susan Sheehan, the founder and CEO of Back Yourself Mentoring, a women’s circle and network of women backing themselves and each other.

Susan shared the story of the tough first few years of her period and what she did to cope with the pain and migraines she used to have. She says that this was her normal and considered this her normal until it changed.

Susan says she had to work around her menstrual flow, under it, over it and it was something she had to tolerate. At the time, she accepted that this was part of being a woman, but definitely didn’t embrace the pain she was experiencing.

It took a pivotal moment for her to realise things needed to change. Susan talks about waking up in the middle of the night and being in such agony that she spent hours on the bathroom floor. It was there and then, Susan decided she never wanted to go through that again.

Susan embarked upon a journey of educating herself about her period and using journalling as a tool to understand what she was experiencing in each phase of her menstrual cycle.  She says she started to see patterns in the foods she was craving, the emotions she was experiencing and how certain things such as stress affected her period.

Susan says that journalling has helped her find a deeper understanding and the patterns she was able to spot through journalling helped her change her nutrition and lifestyle and she no longer has migraines, cramps or PMS.

Susan shares the journalling techniques that worked for her to change her period for the better. She says that this is such an important way for us to find our own rhythm and I completely agree!


Susan’s Bio

Susan wants every woman to connect with herself, returning home to listen to her intuition and be empowered to take action for her life ambitions. In today’s culture of fully scheduled lives, she knows what it feels like to feel overwhelmed and disconnected while knowing you have so much more to offer to the world. By connecting to herself (including embracing her menstrual cycle!) she has changed her lifestyle to enjoy heightened energy, making more conscious life decisions and focusing on what makes her soul sing. She now invites women to live with more ease, while inspiring them to make the changes they desire. 

Susan is the Founder and CEO of Back Yourself Mentoring, a women’s circle and network of women backing themselves and each other. Through mentoring, both mentor matching women 121 or through her group mentoring programmes, she knows that surrounding yourself with creative, generous and life ambitious women enables you to thrive consistently in your career and life. She hosts women circles and mentoring groups in London, Ireland and Mallorca empowering women to create tangible change to lead a purposeful life, with ease and a smile.







Show Notes

Claire Baker

Red School

Wild Power


Show Transcript

Le’Nise: Today’s episode we have Susan Sheehan. 

Susan wants every woman to connect with herself, returning home to listen to her intuition and be empowered to take action for her life ambitions. In today’s culture, of fully scheduled lives, she knows what it feels like to feel overwhelmed and disconnected while knowing you have so much more to offer to the world. By connecting to herself, including embracing her menstrual cycle. She has changed your lifestyle to enjoy heightened energy, making more conscious life decisions and focusing on what makes her soul sing. She now invites women to live with more ease while inspiring them to make the changes they desire. Susan is the founder and CEO of Back Yourself Mentoring, a women’s circle, a network of women backing themselves and each other through mentoring, both mentor matching women one to one or through her group mentoring programmes, she knows that surrounding yourself with creative, generous and life ambitious women enables you to thrive consistently in your life and career. She hosts women’s circles and mentoring groups in London, Ireland and Mallorca. Empowering women to create tangible change, to lead a purposeful life with ease and a smile. Welcome to the show.

Susan: Thank you Le’Nise. Hello.

Le’Nise: So let’s get into the story of your very first period. Can you share with us what you remember that happened?

Susan: Oh, I actually do not remember having my first period. Let me share with you a little bit of background in terms of culture and where it was coming from. As you can tell from my accent, I’m Irish, born in the late 70s in a small community, raised Catholic, went to a secondary school with the nuns. So it’s a conversation and a topic that wasn’t something that was discussed or brought up. And when I got my period, I was about 13, maybe 13 and a half, actually was probably I’m sure if there was a therapist on here, they would probably say that I’ve blocked it out. Maybe. 

My introduction in to my period for the first year or two was one of pain. Incredible cramps, being doubled over, being looked after by my mum, hot water bottles and hot drinks and migraines. And for the first couple of years, I used to take a day off school. And while that probably sounded like fun to some young women or girls. I liked school. So it was a very mixed introduction. I would love to be able to share what a wonderful opening and blossoming experience it was, an empowering experience. It really wasn’t for me, which is why I speak about it a lot now. Though that experience continued from 13 to my probably mid 30s actually, and not consistently, thankfully. And my first two years, or I would say probably first year or two  was a day off a month. And it was probably irregular. It’s still irregular. And it was one of cramps, severe cramps and migraines. Yeah, it’s not the experience. It’s experience ahead. Really. And also, which I find really fascinating now, as I embrace it more and more and look back more of my life is that my mum was the same. So we didn’t really know between us, this was normal as well. Right. Even though my sister didn’t necessarily, well I’m not too sure, but she certainly didn’t have the experience that I had. So I think that’s interesting in itself, I think.

Le’Nise: So given that you said that your mum was the same, had the same sort of period and she thought it was normal. Is that how you grew up? Thinking that period pain was normal?

Susan: I think it is more that, obviously I had friends at school and their experiences would have been different because we spoke a little bit about it. I think especially initially it was when we all got it, I can remember there being a little bit of flurry of excitement in the cloakroom and stuff, and remember, it was all girls as well. But then I think less and less we spoke about it. But I do remember there was a certain like almost I don’t know what a badge of honour, but I guess I’ve just used the phrase, around, you know, the different stories. So I knew there were different experiences. But my experience was my experience and my mum’s experience because it was similar; I guess that’s what both of us knew, right? But obviously I was aware that there were other women not having the same experience. And then to go throughout my, I guess, you know, early teens and into my twenties and thirties. I certainly knew that that was not normal, but it was my normal and your normal is just your normal until it changes, I think really.

Le’Nise: So going back to being at school, you said that you were raised Catholic, you went to school with the nuns. Dare I ask if there was any sort of education around menstruation, around periods that you would have participated in?

Susan: No. I was in school from ’89 to ’94 in secondary school. So, no, there wasn’t. I do remember there being Sex Ed, which would definitely not have been sufficient either, so, you know, there was a nod towards that. But I really don’t remember and we certainly wouldn’t have had any of the, you know, there was no products, menstruation products either. When you think about that now, you think, oh, wow. What? What were we supposed to do? And we were a school full of young adults, young women, girls and women. So, no, there wasn’t. There wasn’t any.

Le’Nise: It was the conversation that you were having with your friends and it kind of almost a whisper network of, oh, well, I’m using pads, and I’m using tampons. Was it that sort of thing?

Susan: Yeah. And like I say, initially it was probably more when we were like in the first year. Well that’s what it was called in Ireland right, first year was when you were 12-13 and it was when everyone I guess was flurrying too. And literally it was flowing right? And the conversation started then but after that initial flurry and I guess it was the circle that I was in as well, there was quite a big circle of us. But I guess once it started, then it was just like, now life is like now we get on with things, right. Like just we move on. And, you know, I guess you talk about maybe, maybe boys and maybe or maybe girls or you’re playing, for me I was playing sports and stuff. So I kind of got on with life and so I know that my attitude was very much like, this is it and yeah, that was something, I guess, for me, personally, it was more about, I worked around my menstrual flow. I worked under it, over it, around it on. It was something that I got on, you know, to use these words now pains me a little bit. But it you know, I tolerated it. My attitude was one of, so this is necessary, it is part of being a woman, I was certainly not embracing it. And I was just I guess, putting up with it, you know, like that was the attitude. I’m a very, quite pragmatic woman anyway at the best of times, though, that is to a different level, I think. My approach to it was very much like, this is happening to me and I very much just want to get on with life. I used to play team sports, like I said; it’s called camogie, which is an Irish sport. This was an inconvenience, if anything and very much just treating it as an inconvenience or pain and therefore, let’s make the most of it, I guess.

Le’Nise: So how did you go from seeing your period as an inconvenience and tolerating it to, as I said in your intro, to now embracing your menstrual cycle? That’s quite a big leap. So tell me a bit more about how you got there.

Susan: I was hugely and thank you because it’s quite nice to move on as well, I think it’s important to reflect back but as well. There was a pivotal, so like I said, throughout my teens, that was my experience. There was a pivotal moment, probably about three and a half years ago, so throughout my 20s and 30s, the pain would come and go. I didn’t always have the migraines, they more or less left after being a teen and then in my 20s and 30s, it was more about, I would get cramps and the PMS was sky-high. But about three and a half years ago, I woke up one night in the middle of the night and I got my period and I went to the bathroom and I literally could not get off the bathroom floor. I was in such agony and that was the worst I had ever been, like ever and I just remember lying there for hours and even my husband came in to me, I’m like, you can’t do anything to help me, but he stayed with me that night. And I went I’m never going through this again, I need to find a way through this right? I need to find a way that I am more at ease with this and I would use that word ease now. And so I started looking into it and I started looking for, I guess I just started putting it out there and going, I need to find another way to be around this. 

And I came across a woman called Claire Baker whose teachers are; I’m not going to remember their names now but they’re with the Red School and some people will know their book, Wild Power. I did an eight week online course with her and I started journaling and since then, I have been journaling. And I think just before I get into that, which has been a part of my healing journey and what I would now call a spiritual journey, if you wish, you don’t have to call it that. I think even turning my head towards it put a little bit more kindness and I mean, just even honestly like a little millimeter of more kindness and more acceptance and wanting to understand, I think eased the pain a little bit, like genuinely. You know when you have the outside tap on, outside and it’s really, really tight and it’s the tightest it is, so it’s not leaking during the day. It’s really tense and you’re holding it all in and literally you’re holding it all in and then you just release it, just a tiny, tiny bit. I think that’s what I did. I mean, literally, I can feel it now releasing my body, that little bit allowed some of the pain to go away, not just the physical, but the emotional and the mental as well. And so it was a start of a journey and it is a journey because I’m still learning something new every month. 

So what I started to do was, I learned to start journaling and I’m not a consistent journaler, for anyone listening, this was not my practice of journaling. I had tried and it and never got into the habit but what I would do is get out a notebook and I tried several different ways but at first it was like put down the headings of ‘physically, how do I feel?’ And I might only start with one word and then ‘emotionally’ and I actually put in emotional and mental, it’s better to get into the habit of actually even writing the words associated with it. And so every day I used to do this, so I wait for I think I waited until the start of my next period because I had no idea, by the way what day I was on or anything. I was not tracking in any way. And so I waited until the first day of my period and I started writing down day one physically how do I feel? Emotionally, mentally, how do I feel and choose to spiritually and at that time I was still on the start of my journey. This is really the start to even my spiritual journey, a very conscious start to my spiritual journey. And so I just write down a word or two, that’s where I started. Like literally that’s where I started. 

But of course, once you create a little bit of space and start writing a little bit, you might write, I found myself writing another few words and then another few words. And so, you know, if I’m in spring [follicular phase], I was like, oh, I’m feeling like I’m going back out into the world. And it seems to be a little bit more life around, oh, and I’m getting different ideas coming along, so I did that for a couple of months. And then I started to expand it out because I wanted to see the trends. I guess I started to see a few trends, literally, even after two or three months. This is what I always say to women that I speak to, like even after two months, I started to see these trends and like, oh, my gosh and so I added food because I’ve always been into food. So I wanted to know why do I want certain foods or what would be good for me to have? But it was more about like, what’s going on in the different phases and I’m sure some of your other guests talked about the phases and it was it was so fascinating, like after about four months, I used to go back and day 16, I’d really want leafy greens like I was craving avocados and leafy greens. Isn’t that incredible? So I started adding foods and then I recognised that coming into my period that I really wanted sugary, like really sweet stuff. And look, I’ve always had a bit of a sweet tooth, but I would want sweet stuff and then, you know, I had a conversation with a woman a few months ago at my yoga teacher training and she went, oh, you’re going from yang energy of being out there, performing and to do list and you’re going into this sweet, softer, yin energy and I was like oh! And the sweet stuff is taking me into that Yin energy, that’s why we crave it, I’m like, wow, and then I added… 

So this is the joy of journaling, right, you can journal whatever you want. This is your life. We’re all unique. We’re all individuals. We all have our own challenges. If you’re a mum, you can maybe, you know, look at it from how are you feeling towards your family and juggling stuff? But I also did it for Back Yourself Mentoring because I found myself like literally in Summer going out there and talking about it and Summer being obviously ovulation and going out there and talking about it and being on calls and enjoying it and loving it and loving the community and the circle and the wisdom and the nourishment I was receiving and the other women are receiving. And then literally within, you know, a week or 10 days, I was like, I didn’t want to pick up the phone. I didn’t want to talk about it and the contrast and the swings and the pendulum of going from ‘wayhey I love my business, I love these women’, to; ‘I don’t want to talk to anyone. I want to lock myself away’. I thought it was Back Yourself Mentoring, and I was getting literally so confused by this and it was causing angst as well. So I started journaling it and then within two to three months, again, I was like, OK, this is my cycle. I’m cyclical, I’ve got a rhythm, it’s not linear and my background is high, I mean, I was a CFO in finance, right? So it’s binary, like, you know, one and one and it’s linear and it’s a little bit black and white. The journals are the journey and the lessons from this are forever. I’m learning. 

I learned that I was just going through a normal cycle. I was really creative after coming out of my menstrual flow and I’d have loads of new ideas and often I would go off on tangents and then in summer [ovulation] I was out there sharing it and hearing from other women and then, you know, really enjoying life and bringing to fruition a vision that I would have set. And then in Autumn [luteal phase], to do lists where I literally just, I just ran through those and I was, of course, with the sweet beauty of autumn as well that you come back to yourself, you’re starring to come back to yourself and I think for me, what I found is there was inner truths there that I didn’t know about, like that I hadn’t appreciated before. And this is something I’m more and more in tune with. And it’s when I know that I can almost wait for my autumn now, to go back to my intuition. When it’s something that’s really important that I’m trying to make a life decision on, I wait for autumn to have that little conversation with myself. And I know when I’m in it because I have the most thoughtful, the most heartfelt conversations with my husband or my close friends as well. I’m like, going, either that I’m really struggling on something about where I’m going or I’m trying to let go of something or that I want us to maybe, you know, just to shift or something that might have been bothering me, that’s when I have those conversations. 

And of course, for me, the biggest learning, I suppose, was to let go during winter [menstrual phase] to honour my menstrual flow. I spent years not honouring that, honouring the process of letting go, of avoiding burnout, because like many of us, it was burning the candle at both ends and recognising that it was the time that I could come back to myself, come back home and to allow things to, yeah, to let it flow and to allow myself to have a little bit of time. And I know it’s not realistic for everyone to be able to stay in bed and pull the duvet up and to let that go but even there’s still days like I’m in day 37 at the moment and I’m very irregular at the moment. Actually let me clarify that, I don’t know what my normal is because I only started journaling a few years ago. So I think I’ve always been in irregular. So I can go from being 28 or 30 days for a few months and then going from 22 days to 40 days. There’s no, I guess what I like to say is, there’s no normal there’s only change and there’s awareness. So that’s a long answer. Le’Nise to your question but it was a journey and it was a few years journey and I’m still on it by the way, like I’m completely still on it, I’m still recognising like, I love listening to my favourite podcasts at different times of the month, and which podcasts I listen to at different times in a month. In Summer I love lighter books, I love learning, really, really learning in spring especially, and autumn. There are so many areas; this is what I love about the menstrual cycle. It has so many beautiful ways of teaching us about ourselves, about reconnecting with ourselves.

Le’Nise: I just want to jump in and just to clarify for listeners, because you’ve talked a lot about seasons. So if they aren’t aware of this, the correlation of the seasons to the different phases of the menstrual cycle. So this is something that is developed by the Red School and it’s an analogy looking at so winter is when you’re on your period and then you go into spring, which is the follicular phase so, you’re feeling, your blooming, you’re feeling more energetic and then ovulation is summer and then you go into the different parts of the luteal phase. The second part of the luteal phase is the fall where people most associate this with PMS. And I love how it’s so natural to you that you’ve just peppered this into the conversation and it shows me what a deep connection you now have with your menstrual cycle and how it’s influenced your life in so many different ways. So you’ve said all of this work has revealed some inner truths to you. I also did want to go back to how you were feeling at that moment three and half years ago where you were on the bathroom floor to how comparing that to how you feel now, what changes do you think that this whole process of journaling and being more aware of the connection with food and how much you work? What changes do you think that has made in your menstrual cycle and your period?

Susan: Thank you for asking that. Allow me to join the dots. In the last, let’s say two years, in the last two years, I’ve had two migraines. I don’t have cramps. I don’t have cramps anymore, any and I can’t remember the last time I’ve had period pain, genuinely. PMS was one of the biggest things, especially because, like, you know, I was a c-suite, I was in meetings, just nine to five every day. And I used to have a small level of awareness in that, when I would be coming into my menstrual cycle, that I would sometimes go into the office and go, can you please clear my diary? Like, just get me out of every meeting that I have because I knew that I would be so grumpy. And it would tip over into like taking it out on other people. I really struggled with PMS, if you had my husband on the conversation here, he would confirm that for us. I genuinely have very little these days. I completely contribute that to embracing it, getting softer with it, connecting with my cycle, understanding it. I’m not saying that everything, like I’m not saying that everything is rosy and perfect. When I have a level of stress that I can look back on, I can recognise that I go out of whack. Right. So I know that like in February this year, I had some stress from work and that I remembered that I had some pain and I had definitely PMS and I could just find that the stress levels were raising me a bit. 

It’s about acceptance. I was accepting my body and I was also accepting that I can’t be Wonder Woman or anyone out there that remembers Wonder Woman, I loved her. I can’t be Wonder Woman all month and I love it when I’m up during summer and during ovulation, but I also accept that I can’t and I’m not her all the time and acceptance of that, means that I allow myself to slow down coming it, coming into my period. I also attribute it to tweaking my diets and my food to this day, towards nutrition. So I believe that some of the migraines were due to stress because of, you know, I have tested this out over time and watching and reading back my journals and caffeine, so I’ve never been a coffee drinker, but I was a big black tea drinker, and I knew it was more about the ritual of holding in my hand, but I was drinking it as if I just held it in my hand. So I stopped drinking it in the week before my periods and that made a huge…see I was feeling the waves, it’s almost like there were waves that were going through my head, and there were waves of the hormones. I don’t know if anyone else or if you recognise it, Le’Nise, but when I would get those headaches, and sometimes it didn’t develop into, like I said, most of my migraines were really around my younger years, but I would get them now and then and I would literally feel the hormones going through my head but stopping the caffeine the week before was crucial to that. It’s this reinforcing circle, right? I started looking after myself. I started watching what I was eating. 

I would exercise, do the relevant exercise at the relevant time. So I would slow down, I love running, so I really got running in spring, late spring and summer and so on the middle part of my month and then I would do a slower yoga. I still struggle a little bit with Yin because I am more of a you know, I study Ayurveda at the moment, I’m more pitta, more outgoing, more like I like to be, ah, you know. So I have to really, really focus on when I need to drop my energy. So my relationship is incredible and I know that if I can do it and if I came from that place of, you know, I learned really early on that when I drank alcohol, that if I had one drink or two, my period would stop, right, it would stop, because obviously I now know that it could only detoxify one thing and obviously my liver was detoxifying the alcohol, so it couldn’t do both and then it would return a few days later and I actually used to remember deliberately having a glass of wine or two just to stop it because it was such an inconvenience to have it. Imagine! What a terrible thing to do to yourself and I do feel that when I see someone that I know going through their periods and I see them having a glass of wine, I’m like, oh, just wait a few days because your poor body cannot cope with it. So I don’t drink alcohol anymore, actually, at all. 

I’m vegetarian now. I’m plant-based, actually. I know that the journey that I’ve been on, that it’s set me off on, has been one of self-care, emotionally and physically, and that the ease which it has allowed me to have around my whole cycle, not just concentrating on fixing that few days, that it’s about the whole cycle. So if I look after myself in winter, take it easy, or even by like I said to women, even slow it down to 75%. Right. We’re all going to 120 miles an hour anyway, right? So even if we could slow it down to 75 and to allow it to happen, to allow it to flow, to say, OK, I’m here, I’m here, I’m at ease, the month ahead is better. And I know when I try, and I do this still at times, and I’ve learned this over and over again, that if I push through in winter that the month is a little bit tougher, it is genuinely tougher. So my awareness and my practice and I do call it a practice, has completely changed my whole month. Those 3 days that I have, my period, obviously, women have them for different lengths of times, but those 3 days that I have mine is completely different, as is my whole month, as is my life.

Le’Nise: It’s amazing what you’re saying and you know, it’s a journey and you’ve been through a lot but doing a deep dive into so many different areas and this real self-awareness of how different things affect you. So you talked about alcohol, you’ve talked about caffeine; you’ve talked about the changes that you’ve made in what you eat. I think all of these have created a real difference in your menstrual cycle. So if someone is listening and they really connect with what you’re saying and they say, well, I’m having issues with my period, I want to try this whole journaling practice. Where would you recommend that they start?

Susan: Yeah. So a start is the start, I guess, if you know and you’re somehow, you know, you’re tracking on apps and you know what day you’re on, start today, fill out a little notebook that you liked to write in and get something that you actually really like to pull out, it can just be a little one. You know, that’s nice and soft and a nice pen to write in it and put it by your bed or maybe in your most comfy chair. So if you know where you are already, I didn’t, you can start on that day, if you don’t know where you are, waiting till day one, so day one is the first, it’s not spotting but the first proper bleed. And you can do this in different ways. So what I did was at first I put the headings down so I would put down how I’m feeling physically. You know, if you want to know how you are around your nutrition, put a little header down on the page. 

I used a small little notepad, so this can be really as bullet points as you want, or as beautiful and elaborate or an essay as you want. Pick a couple of ways, a couple of headliners. Do pick about your emotions, because that’s a big one of the biggest things. And you can put down spiritual now because, you know, do you meditate or do sit in silence. What are your spiritual practices? So pick. Maybe if you’re starting off, pick 3 things because 3 is a lovely number, right? And especially when you say it in an Irish accent, pick 3 things that you want to track. And every day at the end of your day, just write down how you’re feeling. So, you know, I mentioned tonight I’ll be writing down that I feel clear because I feel quite clear today and I feel quite grounded, actually, as well. Like I say, if you don’t journal, this might be a bit of a task for you right because you’re like you might be resisting a little bit. Write a word. Start with one word. Ideally three words per each like, you know, if it’s physical or emotional or food or how you feel about your business or your kids, if there might be, you know, whatever way you’re feeling and then if you miss it, do it every day. And if you miss a day, don’t worry about it. I don’t do it every single day. Sometimes I go back to it and I write a couple of words and if I forget. But when I was especially when I was starting out and for the last, you know, the initial two years, every single day but the most important thing is that you’re tracking it. Well, I guess the nicest thing to think about is, I’m going to have this wisdom next month, so I’m going to be able to flip back pages and look at this next month. 

There is another way you can do it as well. You could take one page split it in four so you can actually split it in four and put what day you’re on that page and then you could use it for the next four months. So you could use that 4 quadrant and then use it for four months. Find whatever way suits you best, so each woman will have a preference. And for the more creative women, they might want to draw something. But I think the words are really, really important as well, because you want to really remember. You think you’re going to remember, you don’t, there’s too much going on in our life. So, yeah, and enjoy it, I think, like have a sip of hot water and create a ritual around it. Or if it’s literally I don’t have time for this, I’m really going to have scribbled down a few words, then so be it. I think the best thing to do is start and look forward to your own inner wisdom and intuition and empower yourself by starting.

Le’Nise: Great. And so just start. I think that those are really wise, wise words. So, they start journaling and then they get a set of information. What would you say to the woman who is two months from now said, ‘Okay, I listened to the podcast episode, and I’ve started journaling and now what’?

Susan: I guess, what do you want out of it? So maybe like with the starting, what is it you’re looking for? I’ll look at two schools of thought on this. One is that the women that will take it up fastest will be women like me that want to find out and to solve it. Your trigger is usually if you’ve got some pain or angst or anguish around it. Right. So there’ll be the women, that, like they will have a very clear purpose from what they want, a desired outcome from what they want from it. So you will start to see trends. And for the woman, that’s like, OK, I’m going to give this a go because I want to know more about myself. It’s the same answer, actually. 

Flick back through your journal. So when you’re at a certain point in time, you might be on day four or five, actually, let me give you this, either four or five is when we, it’s a beautiful time, it’s a brilliant time to set your vision for the month or might even be a vision for the next six months, because you’ve got incredible clarity about what is important to you. Once you got past this, all the creative flow comes in. That’s one reason to look at it, right, to go, OK, when do I want to set my vision for my life? It’s looking back at your trends really. So you’ve done two months and you’re like, OK, what now? Start to look back at it and start to reflect and start to look at the trends and the passions that are happening and go, oh, this is interesting. 

What it will do is, it would spur you on, and it’ll spur you on to keep going and to keep doing it. It might create new ideas around, oh, what else would I like to know about? I think it’s nice to read back over it. It might be that you want to change something in your diet, change something in your lifestyle, change, you know, bring in a new habit, maybe you want more sleep. Can you see any new patterns of where need it? Actually, if you’ve been writing that you’ve been tired a lot at different places, I can guarantee that most of us are more tired than we think we are. And sleep will always, always make your periods a little bit and life easier. So I think it’s like picking up little nuggets of wisdom that you’ve shared with yourself and say thanks very much for doing it and hopefully encourage you to keep doing it and to take what you want out of it. I think that’s most important… You will glean whatever intuition that you need. It’ll be individual to each of you.

Le’Nise: Can you tell us a little bit more about Back Yourself Mentoring and the work that you do with women to get them connected with their ambition?

Susan: It’s actually this time two years ago; I set up Back Yourself Mentoring. So it is, specifically, it’s all around empowerment. And, you know, the irony of all of this is that the menstrual cycle is now very much part of it as well. 

So where it started out from was to offer women the opportunity of having a mentor, because sometimes it is really difficult to find another woman and it’s all women. So it’s mentors, matching women who are career women that are looking to make changes in their career and it can be stepping up, stepping out or stepping back in, it can be running your own business, freelance or whatever it is, it is actually empowering her to give new opportunities and new ideas. And that’s what other women gifted me throughout my life and career and so I create relationships between mentors and mentees. And obviously, as I have journeyed over the last two years, so has the circle of women and community and what we’re doing. And I now speak to women in the women’s groups around menstruation because it’s part of the empowerment journey. Unless we accept ourselves and look after ourselves on self-care, you’ll burn out, right? You will be disconnected, which is where I was. So the idea is that we come back to ourselves, we come home and we feel more empowered. 

And so I go into businesses and talk about menstrual cycles and empowering women, about reconnecting with ourselves through different practices, which ultimately will allow women to choose work and life ambitions that are right for them, rather than maybe what they’re being given or maybe having to just take or receive. So the platforms are different, I have group coaching and mentoring programmes for women and women’s circles to do online or face-to-face. But the key for me is that the empowerment journey started with my menstrual cycle, I think, and then came in to Back Yourself Mentoring with the whole premise about we back ourselves and each other and empower each other to choose the life that we want.

Le’Nise: What a beautiful mission. Listeners, if they take one thing from all of the wise words that you’ve shared, what would you want that to be?

Susan: Follow your own rhythm. Each one of us needs to follow our own rhythm, and that rhythm is your inner rhythm and the inner cycle and your inner flow and the outer cycle that have happened. My outer rhythms that are happening all the time. Part of my journey has been to reconnect with the planet as well. So if we care for ourselves and follow our own rhythms, you’ll always choose what’s right for you. You’ll choose what’s in alignment with your body and with your soul. Follow your own rhythm.

Le’Nise: I love that. Follow your own rhythm. If listeners want to find out more about Back Yourself Mentoring and want to get involved with what you do, how would they connect with you?

Susan: You can email me at hello@backyourselfmentoring.com. Our website is the same www.backyourselfmentoring.com. And you can find me on Instagram, it’s @_susansheehan_. Yeah, just drop me an email; I’d love to hear from you.

Le’Nise: Thank you so much for coming on the show, Susan.

Susan: Thank you Le’Nise, I’ve had such good fun. Thank you. What you’re doing is fantastic. Thank you.

Le’Nise: Thank you.

Period Story Podcast, Episode 8: Kat Horrocks, Coming Off Hormonal Contraception Improved My Mental Health

Period Story Podcast Episode 8 Kat Horrocks

For the eighth episode of the Period Story podcast, I had the pleasure of speaking to Kat Horrocks, a women’s life coach and fellow podcast host.

Kat shared the impact of getting her first period at 10 years old and how by default, she became the one that all her classmates went to for advice and with their questions. Kat says that even now she’s the person in her friend group that gets asked all the period questions.

Kat talked about her journey with hormonal contraception and why she decided to come off of it after 7 years. She says that a conversation with her partner about the impact the pill was having on her emotions and their relationship was the wake up call she needed to make changes.

Kat says she wanted to have a period and now that it has returned, she knows her body is healthy and operating in a natural way. Kat uses her period as a marker of where she’s at, physically and mentally and says it keeps her in check to make sure she’s looking after herself.

Kat discusses the research she did when she decided to come off hormonal contraception and how she geeked out on all the new information.

Kat says that we shouldn’t underestimate our bodies; they’re amazing and they work. She says that listening to our bodies and learning what our bodies are saying is really powerful and I completely agree!


Kat’s Bio

Kat Horrocks is a women’s life coach and host of the Put Yourself First Podcast. She believes it’s time for you to start putting yourself first and achieving your goals! Her work offers 1:1 coaching and online resources to provide you with practical and emotional support to do just that. You can also hear inspiring stories from badass women on her podcast every Monday morning. From business and careers to personal development and self-care, you’ll get the resources and guidance you need.

Find Kat at kathorrocks.com and on Instagram @kat_horrocks.









Show Notes

Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler


Show Transcript

Le’Nise: On today’s episode, we have Kat Horrocks, a woman’s life coach and host of the Put Yourself First podcast. She believes it’s time for you to start putting yourself first and achieving your goals. Her work offers one to one coaching and online resources to help provide you with practical and emotional support to do just that. Welcome to the show. 

Kat: Hi. Thank you for having me. 

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

Kat: Yeah, and I really have to think back to this, because I’m sure like many women being asked this question, you’re like, oh, that was a long time ago. But I do remember being at home, and I think I just went for a wee. I went to the toilet and my mum was, you know, around the house, luckily. And I just wiped myself and there was blood, and I was like, oh. I knew what it was. I knew that it was a thing. So I just remember opening the bathroom door and saying, Mum, I think I’ve started my period. So, yeah, I was quite lucky that I was at home. I was comfortable and my mum was there to help me. 

Le’Nise: How old were you? 

Kat: I was quite young. I was I think I was 10. 

Le’Nise: 10 years old. OK. And were you the first of your friends to get your period? 

Kat: Yeah. Yeah. 

Le’Nise: And so how do you think that affected how your education around your period and menstrual health and the conversations that you had with your friends about it? 

Kat: Yeah. So I’d say it was a very different experience being at home vs. being at school. At school, I felt a bit like an alien or not an alien in the sense that I was treated negatively. But obviously, for all the other girls, it was like a mystery. And they were, oh, my God, like this has happened to you, you know, it was just such like a new world for them to even imagine. So, yeah, I had a lot of, you know, girls, and we can get onto like school period stories, I’m sure. But I did have a lot of girls like circling me at playtime asking, you know? Oh, what’s it like? Like what? So have you got something in your knickers, what is that? How does it work? Yeah, as a kid, I was quite shy, so it was definitely awkward, but luckily at home, it was completely a conversation. It had always been a conversation. And my mum is amazing. So she always made me feel, you know, she said, this is normal. This is healthy. You know, every woman experiences this, so never feel embarrassed about it or never feel like it’s a shameful thing. 

Le’Nise: So you’re educating your friends and then you are getting this education from your mum. So when your friends got their periods, did they come to you for advice?

Kat: I think so, yeah. Yeah. Just because I was obviously the first in my friendship group. So over the next sort of few years, five years or so. Some people yea, they came and asked me about, and to be honest, I still speak to friends about it now just because, even as adult women we don’t often talk about it. And I think you always have that friend who you can go to and ask the most TMI questions. So a lot of my friends still now to this day are like ‘what’s a moon cup? How does that even work? How do you put it in?’. Oh, yeah. I’ve always been very like, I’m just happy to chat to friends about it. Yeah. 

Le’Nise: So you’re kind of like the period expert amongst your group of friends? 

Kat: I wouldn’t say expert, but more just, I genuinely, I’ve never been embarrassed about it. So I’m always happy to have a conversation about it yeah. 

Le’Nise: Getting a period that young. Do you feel like that affected your knowledge of your period? And did it change the way you thought about your body? 

Kat: I don’t think so, to be honest. And I do think, again, my mum is getting a lot of air time in this chat just because she is genuinely, I mean, has been so amazing about it. So I always knew that it was normal. And I always knew that it was going to happen and had that education at home before it happened. I think it was interesting in terms of obviously being one of the earlier developers at school. That was an interesting shift in my relationship with my body. Because it was also around that time that of course I got my period, but then my boobs grew a lot, so I had like the biggest boobs in my year group. And then obviously that meant that, you know, unfortunately, like I got unwanted attention from boys and that definitely shifted. It was like that was probably the year where I went from being feeling just like a regular kid to feeling like, oh, my body is this is this, you know, different, different thing now. Like, I’m not only growing into a woman, but what the sort of implications of that meant in terms of how people viewed me and acted around me. 

Le’Nise: You said you got unwanted attention. How did you deal with that? 

Kat: Not very well because I was so young. And I didn’t know what that meant, what it was, whether it was anything serious. Well, it was never anything serious. I do feel like I should say that but, I didn’t even have the vocabulary to say, oh, I don’t want to do that or I don’t think you should do that. Because when you’re a young kid, it’s almost like kids don’t have any boundaries, do they? They just play and there’s no reason behind it. So, yeah, it was interesting. So I don’t think I really dealt with it, but I would say, it took maybe more into high school. That was when my confidence developed a bit more. And I was able to, you know, stand up for myself. And obviously at that point, other girls were experiencing it, too. So I probably dealt with it by speaking to other girls about it. And, you know, all of those sort of say, yeah, that’s really dumb or that boys really horrible or don’t go near him or don’t speak to him. 

Le’Nise: Having got your period so young and having made that transition from, I guess we can call it transitioning from a girl to not necessarily a woman but a young woman, that seems so weird to say it. You know, to talk about a 10 year old in that way. How do you feel about your period now? 

Kat: I love it so much, so much so that I was on hormonal contraception a few years ago and honestly, one of the big reasons that made me want to come off it was that I didn’t have my period. So I had the hormonal contraceptive implant. So a lot of people, a lot of girls experience just not having periods at all when they have that in and I think it’s because it’s a progesterone only one. And you don’t have a break like you would if you were taking a pill. So you don’t even have a withdrawal bleed. And I genuinely was questioning like oh, so I’ve not bled at all in years. Will my period come back when I stop, when I could take this out? And I actually missed that cycle, I just yeah, I felt like I don’t want to say I felt like less of a woman, but I did miss my period. In a way, I know that sounds really odd to some women who really struggle with their period. But I just feel like my body is so much healthier now I’m having my period. So yeah, I do really love it because of what it means. 

Le’Nise: So what does it mean to you? 

Kat: So for me right now, it obviously means that my body is healthy and operating in a natural way. And that’s obviously because I’m not taking hormonal contraception but even just the like what your hormones do for your body. I think a lot of people underestimate how powerful hormones are and how much they affect. So being able to work with that and work with my cycle to know that I’m looking after my physical health, I’m looking at my mental health and all these other areas. My period is kind of a real marker of where I’m at physically and mentally, which I really like. I feel like because I know it so well now, I can work with it and it tells me things,  if makes sense? 

Le’Nise: What sort of things does it tell you? 

Kat: So what I’m learning is if I’ve had a stressful month, my period is going to be horrible, and having that horrible period is enough to be like, OK, something needs to change here. I need to make sure I’m, you know, I meditate a lot more now, making sure my diet is on point. Think, you know, basic things like water, enough vegetables, fibre, all that kind of stuff, so that definitely affects it. I also think sleep is huge for me. So again, I notice that my mood, my mental health is worse, particularly on around my PMS when I’ve not slept. So it’s all those little things that keeps me on track and keeps me in check to make sure I’m looking after myself. Yeah. 

Le’Nise: And so you seem to be really aware of what’s going on with your body, what’s going on at different parts of your menstrual cycle. How did you learn about all of this? 

Kat: Honestly, through the Internet, I think and I, of course, had a basic understanding of my period and my cycle through school. But I’m sure many of us can agree that it is very basic and we don’t really learn about what hormones do, different types of hormones, how that affects, how they fluctuate throughout our cycle? So when I had this revelation that I wanted a period again, I wanted to feel “normal”, I went on this journey to research and learn and I stumbled across the fertility awareness community, which I don’t actually use myself but that was so valuable to me because these are women who track their cycle and know the ins and outs of their hormones almost every single day down to really specific things in terms of the changes in the body and all that kind of stuff. So I just dove in, I’m a bit of a geek anyway when it comes to a new topic that I’m passionate about. So I just Googled, I listened to, I know that sounds bad when it comes to health but I just listened to so many podcasts, I read so many books, I bought that book Taking Charge Of Your Fertility, even though I actually don’t want kids. But I just wanted to learn about my fertility and what it means and how it worked. So, yeah, I would say that was a huge revelation, an education for me. 

Le’Nise: That’s so interesting what you said about wanting to learn more about your fertility, but not wanting kids. Because what I see, and also from my own personal experience, is that I only started learning about my menstrual cycle and ovulation and all of that in more detail once my husband and I decided that we were going to have a baby or we’re going to try to have a baby. And then this whole world opened up for me. So hearing you talk about wanting to learn more about your fertility, but not in the context of trying for a   baby, is so interesting and I think there is a lot of power, as you talked about, in knowing about your menstrual cycle and almost divorcing it from this concept of having a baby, because it’s much more than that. 

Kat: Absolutely. I mean, like I’ve said, my hormones speak to me and they, like my cycle, tells me so much about where I am at in terms of my health and wellbeing, how much I’m taking care of myself. And yeah it is a lot deeper than just like I know it’s the modern day but it’s still seen as you know, it’s still seen as this one thing with this one specific outcome, which is you’re a woman, you have a period so that you can have a baby. But I think when you look below the surface of that, it’s so much more powerful and amazing whether you want kids or not or whatever stage of life you are. 

Le’Nise: You’ve said that your cycle speaks to you. And what kind of things does it tell you? So if you’re speaking to a listener who is on the beginning of the journey that you’ve been on, so wanting to learn more about their period, what kind of clues does your cycle give you and what should they be looking out for? 

Kat: So I’m no expert on this I just want to say and everyone is so different that if you feel that you’re experiencing abnormal side effects through your period then obviously that’s something to look out with a health professional. For me, I think or for everyone, I think it’s all about understanding what your normal is and what is normal for you. Same with, you know, we talk about, let’s say thrush or, you know, some sort of infection. Some women might think that there are certain things going on down there that they think, oh, is that an infection? But, if we start to notice and understand what is normal for us, what, you know, feels normal for us, what smells normal for us, what looks normal, all those kinds of things then that’s where you hopefully should be in that if anything changes, then you’ll notice. 

So a big thing for me is flow and the heaviness of my flow. So I know what a good period looks like in terms of, yes, it’s always going to be heavy at the start but if I’ve had a particularly bad one, it’s really heavy. Same with cramps, yes, I am going to experience cramps because my uterus is literally squeezing out the excess but, should I be like keeled over and unable to work without taking, without, you know dosing up on tons and tons of painkillers throughout the day. No. So they’re two big ones to me and I also think mood. So one of the big reasons I came of hormonal contraception was I really struggled with my mental health taking it and I felt like I was out of control of my emotions. I felt like I was depressed or definitely going in that direction and now my cycle has evened out a lot more and I feel a lot better day to day. Likewise, I know what is good for me and again, when you’re having PMS, you’re going to be more tired, you’re going to be more short tempered, you’re going to probably need a bit more space but if you’re feeling really, really, really down or really, you know, snapping at everyone, or you notice that around that time, you just experience a lot of mental health side effects. Then again, that is a marker that something potentially needs looking at. 

 So, yeah, I would say they’re the big, they’re the main ones for me and I think for a lot of women listening, they are having really, really heavy periods or really abnormal. I hate that word. I shouldn’t say word, really, really harsh and debilitating side effects from their period and that’s not good. But you don’t know that until you know what is healthy and then you can be like, oh,  it’s not really healthy that I can’t work when I’m on my period. 

Le’Nise: And that’s a really interesting way of putting it, because I do talk about, in my practice, what’s normal and what isn’t normal and debilitating pain, as you mentioned, isn’t normal. But just coming back to what you said about understanding your normal. I think one of the issues that we have in our culture is that so many of us think that period pain is normal and having mood swings is normal. So when you tell people that it’s not normal, they’re really surprised because that’s what we’ve grown up with this expectation, you see, when women talk about their periods on TV or movies, it’s always in connection to, ‘oh, I feel terrible’  or they’re with a hot water bottle or they’re being really bitchy so kind of unpicking that idea of understanding your normal also with a bit of education, I think is really important. 

Kat: Yeah, definitely. 

Le’Nise: You have listed three areas that, so your flow, your mood and any pain you’re experiencing as markers for you of what you look out for in terms of if you’re going to have a good period or if your period isn’t going to be as good. Do you think that your period has changed over time? So if you think back to when you started to where you are now? 

Kat: Definitely. So when you say started, do you mean physically started having periods? 

Le’Nise: Yeah. 

Kat: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And I’m sure many women will relate. I just think when you’re younger, it’s just worse. I don’t know why. I don’t know the science behind it. But it is worse when you’re younger; in general, it was like that for me. It’s been like that for a lot of my friends. So I don’t know whether that’s your body getting used to it or your hormones are just like erupting you’re a teenager anyway. So that’s having a lot to do with it. So, yeah, definitely had a few horrendous periods when I was growing up. But I’m 25 now and yeah, it’s, it’s evened out a lot more, it’s very predictable, which I think is another key thing to look at. So I know like the day that it’s coming which hasn’t always been the case and I’m sure many women can relate to that not being the case. So I think as I’ve got older, I don’t get any surprises, which is good. And I generally know even things like how long it’s going to last, what I’ll need.  So if I’m headed out the house and I know I’m starting my period, I know roughly what I’ll need to take with me to make sure I’m covered, things like that definitely happened more over the years. No leaks or embarrassing clothing ruining stories. Like, I’m sure many of us have from when we were younger.

Le’Nise: The white jeans moments. 

Kat: Never. Never. I mean, I would never risk that anyway, even now. 

Le’Nise: So you have a really healthy relationship with your period. From what you’re saying, it seems like you use it to really inform everything else that’s going on and really gain a deeper understanding of what’s going on with your health. I just want to go back to what you were saying about coming off of hormonal contraception. Can you talk a little bit about why you went on it? 

Kat: Yeah. So, I mean, for most people I went on it because I had a boyfriend and I wanted to have sex. I think when you’re growing up, it is just drilled into you that if you don’t want to get pregnant, you have to take contraception. And to be honest, like, thank God I did because I didn’t have a clue how I got pregnant or how that would even happen. So, yeah, I definitely would have been that girl at the clinic taking a pregnancy test if I didn’t go on contraception. So that was like over about 10 years ago. So I was on it for a while and in terms of coming off it, do you want me to talk about that? 

Le’Nise: Yeah, would be great. 

Kat: Yeah. So I think when I was younger, my hormones were mad anyway, as a 15 year old. So I didn’t really notice any particular side effects or anything that was a side effect of the pill I wasn’t experiencing any way, mood swings, you know, maybe a little bit of anxiety or being difficult to be around sometimes, that kind of thing. But definitely as I got older and I got into my second relationship, which is my partner now, things started to come up that were signs that it wasn’t normal and something needed to change. So I was taking the combined pill and I remember we were just arguing all the time, I was so moody. I had such low confidence. I was like a rollercoaster. And I was difficult to be around because one moment I’d be so happy and laughing and then the next moment I would be hysterical, crying, screaming like starting an argument. And I remember my boyfriend at the time and again, I don’t know why I said boyfriend at the time, cause we own a house together so it all worked out but at the time I remember him saying something like I think you need to come off this pill because it’s like it’s changing you and it’s making things really difficult for us and we’re arguing a lot and essentially was like, if something doesn’t change in you because it’s not fair to be in a relationship with you, if something doesn’t change, we’re going to have to split up, essentially. 

And that was obviously a wakeup call for me. So that started this whole journey of trying to find the right hormonal contraception. I went to the doctor, talked about mood swings, tried a ton of different types of combined pills and then settled on the progesterone only type. So I had the injection for a while and then I had the implant and that was that and I think because of the change in the structure of it, it did help some of the side effects. I almost describe it as it was like the best of a bad bunch for me and my body. So I wasn’t completely hysterical, crying, screaming all the time, just maybe like a few days out of the month. So it was less, but it was still there and there was still like the depressive episodes and just really, just really not good side effects. So the thing with the implant, as you’ll know if anyone’s ever taken it or had it in is it last for three years. So I actually had that one in my body for five years. So I had one for the full three years and then I got a second one put in and I don’t know whether it was because it was the second one it changed things for me. But again, I just started to notice something isn’t quite right. I’m not feeling myself. 

And then obviously I was learning, stumbled across all this fertility stuff on the Internet. I was like, oh, maybe it’s because my body’s hormone levels aren’t operating normally and healthily. So I remember thinking, what have I got to lose? I’m just going to get it taken out and try and just see what happens. I thought I can always go back on it, you know, I think it can feel like a really scary decision but condoms exist, they work, and you can always go back on it if you think, OK, my cycles come back, I want to go back on it. So that really helped. And then obviously, I came off it and I’ve never looked back because it felt like a weight. It felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. It was crazy. 

Le’Nise: How long were you on the pill? And then the implant and injection in total? 

Kat: Probably about seven years. Six to seven years. 

Le’Nise: And so how long have you been off of it? 

Kat: About three. Three, four. Yeah, that’s about right. Maths lesson of like calculating back the years of like, how old am I now? When did I come off it? 

Le’Nise: How long did it take for your period to come back? 

Kat: I am really lucky. Mine came back after maybe like two months. So after about three, four weeks or so, I got a withdrawal bleed. Because again, when you come off hormones and the first bleed you have isn’t always going to be a period because you might not have started ovulating yet. So I had that withdrawal bleed and then from then my cycle kicked back in and I remember like feeling ovulation for the first time. I was like, oh, I can’t even remember this feeling. Yeah. So I was quite lucky. Some people obviously it takes can take a year or so, which is obviously frustrating for them. 

Le’Nise: So go back to what you said about feeling ovulation for the first time. Can you describe that for listeners who might not be showing what you’re what you’re talking about?  

Kat: So again, if you’ve taken contraception, you’re not ovulating, so you don’t know what it feels like. And obviously, you have two ovaries and the weird thing about ovulation is you always ovulate from one or the other, each month. So you can physically feel on one side of your body, it’s almost like a little pinch and it’s in a really like small, localised area. And if you could, like, take your skin off and see, all your organs underneath, you could see that it was coming from your ovary. And it’s like, the funniest thing. I remember thinking, oh, what is this? And then obviously, thankfully, I had all these resources on fertility awareness so I knew what it was. But yeah, I think some women think like something’s wrong or they’ve started their period. But yeah, it’s just your ovary popping an egg out.

Le’Nise: If you could say one thing to listeners who are thinking about coming off of hormonal contraception, what would that be? 

Kat: I couldn’t say one thing. I would probably say, you know, all you can do is try it and see, it’s not a final decision if you don’t. If you decide to go back on, you can. But you’ve not really got anything to lose. If B you, please go and buy some condoms if you don’t want to get pregnant. Because I think that’s another thing that, your body is amazing and it can surprise you and it could literally bounce back like that. Please don’t go thinking that, you know, you can just have unprotected sex if you don’t want kids, but equally, I would say, again, if you want kids and you’re thinking about coming off to start trying. I would buy them. I’ve heard from a lot of friends that they have had surprises in terms of I didn’t realise how quickly it would happen. And they almost have said it like I wish it happened in the next year or in the next three months or in six months’ time. 

And I just think, don’t underestimate your body. It’s amazing and it works. And if you’re having sex without a condom, then your body might surprise you, even if you’ve not ovulated for years. So, yeah, I would say I’m such an advocate for condoms and I think once your cycle kicks back in and you can learn about it, you can obviously make the best decision for yourselves whether you want kids or not. But yeah, I think having that adjustment period where you just wait and see what happens and getting to know that cycle as it kicks back in. Just like take your time and let it happen, but use condoms if you don’t want kids. 

Le’Nise: So that a really powerful message. Taking your time, listening to your body, letting it happen and it’s almost countercultural in a way because we hear these messages like go, go, go, it has to happen now and this idea of waiting and listening is something that, you know, a lot of people could really benefit from internalising that. 

Kat: Definitely. And I would also add to that, being really present with the changes that happen. So not only in your physical body, but any other side effects that you’ve been experiencing on contraception just be really present with how you feel because things might stick around, but they also might drastically change, which was luckily my experience. So to note, to recognise that as well and to link the two together. I feel better because this isn’t in my body anymore. That’s great too. 

Le’Nise: So is there any last bits of information or advice that you’d like to leave our listeners with? 

Kat: Good question. I think I’m just going to reiterate what I’ve just said if that’s ok. I know I sound like a broken record, but I just think listening to your body and learning to listen is so powerful because not enough of us are doing it. You know, we are taking this pill or we’re doing this, you know, we’re having this period. And just because it’s normal to you doesn’t mean that it’s OK or doesn’t mean that, you know, you should be able to choose, you should have to put up with it forever. And I just think so many women are not taught to listen to their body and they’re completely out of touch with what’s going on internally. And if we could just pause in a moment in our day, in our busy lives to just check in with how we’re feeling and how things are changing, then we would be in a much more empowered position to make the best choice for ourselves. So just pausing and listening. 

Le’Nise: Thank you so much for coming onto the show, Kat. Where can listeners find out more about you? 

Kat: Thank you so much for having me. I’ve loved this chat. You can head to my website, which is kathorrocks.com and I’m always hanging out on Instagram, which is @kat_horrocks so I would love to chat on there as well and continue the conversation. 

Le’Nise: Thank you so much. 

Kat: Thank you. 

Period Story Podcast, Episode 7: Karen Arthur, I Won’t Shut Up About Menopause

Period Story Podcast, Episode 7: Karen Arthur

For the seventh episode of Period Story Podcast, I spoke with Karen Arthur, the fashion designer, sewing tutor, stylist, speaker and model.

We talked about a first period that felt really frightening at the time, but in retrospect, was quite funny.  Karen talked about learning about periods and sex through conversations with friends, feeling squeamish and embarrassed and learning that having a period didn’t mean she was pregnant. 

Karen says that having a preacher for a father meant that conversations about most things to do with women, and anything to do with bodily fluids were taboo. She had been brought to believe that bleeding was bad and the Problem page in Jackie magazine was how she mostly learned about sex, relationships and periods. 

We talked about what Karen felt she should have known about her body and how becoming a teacher and head of year made her determined to learn as much as she could, in order to teach her students and her daughters. Karen shares how her daughters have educated her the most on periods and sex through their openness and willingness to have frank conversations. 

She says it’s taken her time to unlearn her feelings of shame and recognise that the more people talk about these things, the better it is. This has helped her talk about menopause as well. Karen talks about the events she’s run to help open up conversations around menopause and how they’ve help women feel less alone. 

Karen says that menopause is a transition to another life and we need to think about how we can thrive, rather than how we can just get through it. 

Karen says that no one should suffer this alone and I completely agree!


Karen’s Bio

Karen is a 57 year old woman flourishing through menopause. She is a fashion designer, sewing tutor, stylist and speaker with a bit of modeling thrown in for variety.

Karen was a full time teacher for 28 years and a pastoral leader for 15 of those but, after a breakthrough in 2015, left to pursue a more authentic life. She has been sewing for over 40 years creating beautiful clothing for women who appreciate hand crafted care and slow fashion. Karen teaches people of all ages to fall in love with their sewing machines. She runs workshops to teach all ages about sewing, textiles and fashion.

Karen enables women to harness the power of fashion to support good mental well-being using #wearyourhappy on social media and penned an e-book 8 Ways to Wear Your Happy as a helpful guide. She has held two successful Wear Your Happy live events to date and launched Wear Your Happy Style, a personal styling offer for women who want to rediscover the ‘Happy’ in their wardrobes.

Karen speaks publicly on fashion and mental wellbeing, ageing and loneliness. Her most recent video feature for @StyleLikeU ‘Getting Dressed: A self-acceptance project’ has reached over 88k views on YouTube.

Finally, Karen is also a co-founder of Craft Moves, a social initiative committed to ending loneliness amongst London’s commuters through handheld craft. 

Find Karen on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and on her website.









Show Transcription

Le’Nise: On today’s episode, we have Karen Arthur, a 57 year old woman flourishing through menopause. She is a fashion designer, sewing tutor, stylist and speaker with a bit of modelling thrown in for variety. Karen enables women to harness the power of fashion to support good mental well-being through the hashtag where you’re happy on social media. She’s penned an e-book called Eight Ways To Wear Your Happy as a helpful guide. 

Karen speaks publicly on fashion and mental wellbeing, ageing and loneliness. Finally, Karen is also co-founder of Craft Moves, a social initiative committed to ending loneliness amongst London’s commuters through a handheld craft. Welcome to the show.

Karen: Thank you. Thank you. I’m glad to be here. I’m so happy to have you on the show. 

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

Karen: Yeah. Yes. So I was 14. And I went to the loo as normal and I sat down and looked in my panties and realised and in the toilet itself and realised there was blood there and I panicked and I screamed for my mother. We’d never had these conversations. We never talked about periods. I just knew it had something to do with being pregnant. So I had younger siblings. Two boys, two brothers and a sister. And of course, they came running as well. But I wouldn’t obviously wouldn’t let them in. I just want my mum to come in and she scrabbled around and got a massive pad for me, which she told me to put in my knickers, which I hated wearing because it made me look like I walked like I’d just gotten off a horse. 

I think my sister had asked one of my brothers what was going on and he’d said something like, Oh, it’s something to do with being pregnant. So that would have been fine, except that the next day when I went into school, everybody thought that I was pregnant because my sister had told everyone that I was pregnant because I’d had my period. And she didn’t understand. I didn’t understand. So, yeah, my first experience was actually quite scary, if anything, because it just felt so, I felt like I was a grown up. But at the same time, I didn’t feel that way. I knew it was something to do with growing up, but not a lot else. So, yeah, that’s my first experience.

Le’Nise: And how old did you say you were?

Karen: So I was 14 years old. Yeah, just coming up to my 14th birthday and I realised that my mother was 14 when she started a period. I think my sister was as well. And both my daughters were.

Le’Nise: Oh, that’s so interesting. And you said that your sister went into school and told everyone that you were pregnant. How did you feel about that?

Karen: Well, I was shocked at first, but then I realised it was quite funny. She was tiny. She was like, what is it? What’s the difference between us? So she would’ve been about eight. She didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know what was going on. And I don’t think anybody took her seriously. So, yeah, it was fine.

Le’Nise: You had that first experience, which you said was a little scary. And how did you learn about what was actually going on? How did you learn that you weren’t actually pregnant?

Karen: I talked to my friends, I read books. We certainly didn’t learn it at school. Definitely did not learn it. Our sex education was the teacher showing us a video of a woman giving birth and basically saying, just putting me off ever having sex at all. So, yeah, I learnt through chatting to my friends. I had two worldly friends, Joy and Katherine, and they knew everything there was to know about sex way before I even ventured there. And they’d been having their periods since they were about 11 or 12, which in those days, we’re talking early 70s, was unusual. I understand it’s more common [now] for young women to have their periods in primary school, but in those days, that was not a thing. And I know that certainly my two worldly friends had started their periods quite early.

Le’Nise: So learning through your friends, if you think back to what you learned and then think back thinking about what you know now, were there any big myths that they were sharing or do you think everything that they were talking about was basically correct?

Karen: No, I don’t. We didn’t talk a lot about it because I was squeamish. We didn’t talk about these things. You didn’t mention, it was blood and it was embarrassing and it was, yeah. We didn’t have a long conversation about it. It was just that they reassured me that I couldn’t possibly be pregnant because I wasn’t the Virgin Mary and I hadn’t had sex. That was that, really. In terms of it being truthful, the biggest myth I got from them wasn’t about periods, it is about getting pregnant. And they disabused me of the notion that  if you sit on a toilet seat after a boy’s been in there, that you wouldn’t get pregnant, because I thought that was a thing until I was in second year.

Le’Nise: Why do you think you were so squeamish and so embarrassed?

Karen: Because like most things to do with women, we didn’t talk about it. It was taboo. You didn’t. So my father was a preacher, so that wasn’t happening. We weren’t having conversations about bodily fluids and anything, really. He left around the same time anyway and you just didn’t talk about it, no one spoke about. It was like menopause, same thing. You just didn’t talk amongst yourselves, it was like a little secret, like a taboo secret. 

Certainly my mother and I never discussed it. I remember buying those little Lillet tampons. Cute little things they are, thinking, oh, you know I’ll try one of those and I read in Jackie that you couldn’t lose your virginity by putting a tampon up your bits, so I tried. It was so painful. My goodness me. My goodness. I thought they were the devil. So I used pads for ages. Yeah. It was pads all the way for me.

Le’Nise: Well, you didn’t really learn about menstrual health in school. You said the school didn’t really teach it. You read, you spoke to your friends and you kind of got a cursory knowledge of what was happening. But you also said that you had read some books. What were the books that you had read at the time?

Karen: Now I think about it. They wouldn’t have been books they will have been magazines. I was heavily into Jackie, the Problem page. I learned a lot of my things to do with relationships, sex and period through the problem page, but it was usually around shame. So it was girls who wore white and had a leak and what to do, that kind of thing. So when I think about it, if I did read a book, no it will have been in magazines now I think about it, yeah.

Le’Nise: You mentioned the word shame and you also said that people didn’t talk about it, it was embarrassing, it was shameful. What does that mean for you? Like, I’ve talked about shame a bit with other women on this podcast? What does that word mean for you and how would you kind of unpack those feelings now?

Karen: I would say that growing up, anything to do with women or my body was something that I wouldn’t discuss. And it meant that when it came to, it was just a giggle. Like if we talked about things like this, it was funny, you made a joke out of it to kind of lighten the mood. It meant I took it into my relationships, actually. It meant that I never asked my partner to go and get me tampons or pads. I wasn’t in the greatest of relationships I would say; it meant I never wanted to let anybody know that I was having my period. It meant that I didn’t really understand myself as much as I do now. 

I will say that going into teaching and going into the pastoral side and having to learn and be a step ahead of the kids that I was teaching about sex and periods and that kind of thing, I was a Head of Year with the girls at a girls school and if you’re at a boys school and having two daughters as it meant that I learnt as much as I could and sometimes I was teaching myself things that I should have known, I think when I was growing up, it made me more determined to ensure that my girls didn’t grow up not knowing this stuff.

Le’Nise: What sort of things did you have to teach yourself? What sort of things do you think that you should have known?

Karen: I think I should have known mostly that my body isn’t anything to be ashamed of. I think, you know, I think I should have learned about not just the anatomy stuff, you know, giving out a worksheet with the, you know, diagram on it and filling it in. I think it’s more about how we feel as women and how powerful and important it is when you start your menstruation and what it means. 

You know, it’s not just about being a woman and therefore staying away from boys so that you don’t get pregnant. I didn’t understand the power that, you know, a period holds. And actually, I had friends who were bedridden, had friends who had really heavy periods. I had friends who had a terrible time. Actually, my periods were on the whole, came by clockwork and lasted five days, which is quite fairly, you know, I’d have my day of eating all the carbs, forgetting that I’d have a week before where I cried if somebody looked at me, then I’d have the day before where I’d be eating all the carbs, completely forget that there was a reason for this and then the next day my period would start and I’d be like, Oh, that’s why, and I’d have a day of feeling URGH around my abdomen and my lower back and then I’d be fine, you know. So I’ve forgot the question.

Le’Nise: So you didn’t really have painful periods. You had a little bit of emotional upset, like maybe a little twinge and then it was it was absolutely fine.

Karen: Yeah. Yeah, I would I would say it was just an inconvenience, if anything. But not pain like I’ve spoken with my other friends and that kind of thing.

Le’Nise: You said that you learned about the power of having a period. What does that mean for you?

Karen: The power of being a woman. When I was growing up, being a girl wasn’t something, didn’t feel like something to be celebrated. Not a girl. Sorry, being a woman, I liked being a girl. But growing into womanhood wasn’t really something, you didn’t see anywhere where that was celebrated unless it was the way you looked, if that makes sense. 

So if you an hourglass figure or you had a flat stomach or had boobs or long flicky hair or that kind of thing, you would celebrate it that way. That’s what I saw. But in terms of the power of being able to you know, menstruation is a gateway to being able to give life. That’s a big deal, that’s a massive deal. You didn’t get that at all. It was shame you whispered it. You know, if you’re a party or a friend’s house and you came on and you didn’t have tampons or pads, it was a whisper. It’s like a scramble around to find another woman who might possibly have something that they can lend to you. I remember an awful time, I still remember going to a barbecue in the height of the summer wearing white and the woman tapped me on the shoulder and kind of came up close behind me and she said, I’m really sorry to have to tell you this, but I think you might have leaked and how mortified I was that she’d noticed, which meant that somebody else probably noticed. And then worrying about how, I wanted to go home and that was awful. Awful.  Awful. 

Or you’re staying somewhere and leaking at night, leaking onto the sheets and not knowing how to explain that, even though it’s a completely natural thing to do. You know, it’s awful.

Le’Nise: Why do you think it was so mortifying? Why do you think at the time you found it so awful?

Karen: Because I’d been brought up to believe that bleeding was bad. Not brought up as in no one said that, but the messages I got were that doing something natural was a bad thing and showing people that you were a human being and not perfect was a bad thing. So yeah, and I was busy trying to cultivate this, you know, I look great, I know what I’m doing like most people do when they’re in I don’t know, well, a lot of women do, all the time. But do you know what I mean?

Le’Nise: Yeah. And what about now? How do you feel about all the changes that are happening now and how educated and empowered people with periods, women with periods feel and all the conversations that are happening about it.

Karen: Okay so I have two things to say about this one. When I first noticed that the world was talking more about periods and I’d see like graphics of different like people talking, especially on Instagram. So people talking about periods. People talk about their flow, that kind of thing. I won’t lie, I was quite taken aback. This is, you know, 50 years remember, of upbringing. And I was like, oh, you know, there’s a part of me that was like, oh, I don’t wanna see that, I can’t, you know? 

And I would kind of scroll past but I have to say, it’s my daughters who have educated me the most because especially my youngest, well both of them, they’re very open and vocal. And so they pull me up on or educate me I would say, not necessarily pull me up, they don’t have to pull me up, but certainly, you know, we have much more open conversations about whether it’s flow, whether it’s anything to do with sex or stuff like that. But it’s taken me some time to, is adjust the right word? Unlearn, maybe unlearn my feelings of shame and recognise that the more people talk, the better it is, what everybody does naturally, it is better. And it’s how I feel about, I suppose that’s helped me to talk about menopause as well in the sense that ageing is that, it’s lifted the veil off, you know. And that can only be a good thing.

Le’Nise: Do you think what’s happening with periods now and the openness that’s happening around the conversations around menstrual cycles and menstruation is also happening with menopause? Or can you not compare the two?

Karen: I think you can compare the two because it all boils down to how women are shamed. Full stop. That’s what it boils down to. It boils down to society’s expectations of women. So it is the same thing. And I think, yes, it is a difficult one, isn’t it, because I was talking to somebody else about this recently, about how because our peers and the people we hang out with talk about the things that we want to talk about. It’s easy to assume that everybody’s talking about it, it’s the Brexit effect. You know, it’s like, well, you know, all Londoners on the whole where like yeah, we’re never going to leave and were lulled into a false sense of security and then woke up on that Friday and where like are you kidding me? Do you see? 

So there’s part of me that’s like, yes more and more people are talking about it, and I agree and you can compare it to menopause, but there’s another part that still having these conversations, you know, and being slightly trying not to be surprised when people don’t know what I’m talking about or are like, oh, my God, people don’t talk about this and I’m thinking well, I’ve been talking about it for ages. Do you see? So I think, yes more and more people are talking about it. But I’m thinking we’ve got a long way to go, there’s a whole world to educate, let’s face it.

Le’Nise: You said some people will say, oh, people don’t talk about this. Do you mean that in the sense that they’re trying to get you to stop talking about it like it feels taboo to them or what does that mean?

Karen: No, it’s a positive thing. It’s, I thought I was on my own, that there’s nothing better than a connection when someone opens their mouth, whether it’s about periods, whether it’s about menopause, whether it’s about mental well-being, whether by anything, that that shame eats us up. And that feeling that you’re alone, it’s awful. 

So when you hear, when you see someone talking about something and it resonates with you, and then you can think, oh, my God, I’m not going mad or oh somebody else has two week periods as well or oh that happened to me. That is the most connecting and empowering thing, thing, could’ve thought of a more intelligent word but whatever, that people could do, particularly women, because we’ve been taught to keep it to ourselves. Does that makes sense?

Le’Nise: That makes total sense. And I remember in the past, you said, earlier on in this conversation, you said that you mentioned the word whispers and in the past you’ve talked about how you would have your friends over and you’d have conversations about menopause and everyone would start to open up. And do you think those conversations sparked anything within you to take those conversations about menopause a bit wider and have them be a bit more open?

Karen: Yeah, absolutely. I feel when I started, when did I? So I had my first kind of, we called it self-care for midlife goddesses because I’m so up myself. And I just invited five friends around because it occurred to me that I was going through menopause and I’m a few years older than some of my friends. And we were having individual conversations about how we felt, but not a group one. So I invited them round one Sunday afternoon and being the teacher I am, I did a worksheet and I had everybody share around the table the best things about getting older, worse things about getting older. It was it was an amazing day because the number of times, I’ve lost count the number times. One woman said something and another woman, Oh my God, that’s me too, and so I had it the following year. 

And the following year, my girls this year, my girls said, can we come? Because no one talks about these things. So, you know, I’m in the middle of, it is a couple of things, I have plans, one of those plans, one of those many plans is to take that conversation wider and open a group up, a membership site, but a group where women can not just talk about menopause, but talk about, just support each other in ageing and growing older. So it’s not just for menopausal women, but also to break that taboo that I have to say that I’ve lost count of the number of conversations, I’ve had women who have sent me an email or slipped into my DMs saying, I think I’m going through menopause, I’m 37, you know, because there’s this assumption that menopause, you don’t have to worry about it until you get to 50, that’s just not true. 

It’s just so happens that my menopause started at 52, as did my mother, you know, and I was going through perimenopause, not even knowing what it was and not even knowing that it was a thing actually, I’d never heard of the bloody thing, you know. So the same thing with periods, if young girls are hearing, if we normalise this conversation about our bodies, if we’re normal and take away that, I suppose it’s because society has as a habit of sexualising everything, which is why it feels like you can’t talk about it. If we take away that, if we take sex out of the equation then and we just talk about natural things that happen to us, then that’s got to be a good thing. No one should suffer alone. That sounds like a quote, doesn’t it? Probably is, but yeah. It’s not to be suffered with and menstruation isn’t a bad thing and not everybody has the same symptoms, just like menopause, not everybody has the same symptoms. You know, so, yeah, we absolutely need to talk about it and yes, I do want to take it wider. I won’t shut up about menopause.

Le’Nise: You said that in that circle, the conversations that you’re having with the worksheet, which I love, I love that.  You asked what the best and the worst thing was about getting older. What sort of things came up?

Karen: So the best thing was about not caring what other people thought, menopause is great for that, it’s that, you know, not giving a shittery moment. It’s like, I don’t care what you think of me, it’s liberating. And I think to a degree, to a woman, that’s what people were saying. 

The worst things, there’s a list as long as your arm, you know, it’s changing bodies, it’s not realising what’s going on in your head, it’s all the physical stuff, and hot flashes are only one of those things. You know, it’s nights sweats, it’s tingly legs, I could go on and on and on. And also tinged with that is shame because. There’s that whole, well, if you started menopause, that means that your a certain age and women are not rewarded for getting older, men are, women aren’t on the whole. And although fashion and parts of society is kind of catching up, the cynic in me thinks that catching up because they’ve worked out that there’s money to be made as opposed to caring about us, basically. 

So I feel that the biggest thing was how liberating it was not caring. But you know, you get to 50, you’ve been in the world, you’ve been on the earth for 50 years, you’re knackered and you give and you give and you give. It’s no coincidence that one of the biggest growing demographics of small businesses are women over 50. It’s like we have this epiphany. It’s like effort, you know, I’m not doing this anymore. I left teaching, my teaching career when I was 52, I’m not the only person who’s kind of like, you know what, I don’t want to do anything, it’s people who leave abusive relationships, it’s all sorts of things. But the other side to that is there are millions of women suffering, part of the reason their suffering is because they think they’re alone and I’m here to tell them that they are not.

Le’Nise: What would be your message? Do you want to tell these women they’re not alone? And what would be how would you expand upon that message to reassure them and to help them connect with others who are in the same sort of situation?

Karen: I would say, and this is easier said than done, the first thing to do is let go of the need to be young. Being young is great, but being old or getting older is also great. Menopause isn’t something that lasts for a year and you get over it. It’s a whole transition to another life. So rather than thinking, how am I going to get through this? It’s how am I going to thrive during this, do you see? Because otherwise you’re waiting until, well, you could be waiting until you’re 65, that’s long, 65, 67, because menopause is long. So rather than putting 10 years of your life on hold, why not work out ways, and by work out ways I mean, it’s not just the physical stuff, it’s the whole package, so it’s working at doing new things. 

But the biggest thing I will say is talking, took me opening my mouth, has allowed me to, like different things happen every day, so at the moment, I have a thing going on with mouth ulcers, apparently it’s a thing that the lack of oestrogen in your mouth means we don’t produce enough saliva, you know all this stuff, I don’t know, anyway, but instead of me thinking, my life is over and oh, God, you know, it’s just another thing, it’s actually quite fascinating because I didn’t know this stuff. 

But I think my message to find someone to talk to, to not be ashamed, to embrace your changing body to be grateful to, I’m grateful to my body for carrying my two children. You know, I do that whole, what is it? The mindful shower where I’m thanking my feet for allowing me to stand in the queue at the post office so that, you know, little things like that, that help you to enjoy everything that menopause is going to throw at you. I will also say that whilst there are many women who reach for HRT, I think the doctors seem to be pushing that, that’s not my thing personally. I think women also need to know that HRT doesn’t stop menopause it just pauses it and then it comes when you stop and whilst it does have health risks, if we can do this naturally, I’m not knocking anybody who does it because that’s your thing and that’s your journey, but if you can try and do that naturally, that’s about lifestyle, it’s about diet, it’s all sorts of things. Then for me, that’s the way forward but the biggest thing is open your mouth. That’s what I think.

Le’Nise: You said so many beautiful things there. I think what you said about menopause as a transition to another life and I love looking at menopause as a phase of life. We talk about puberty and then if a women who chooses to become a mother, you know, that’s a phase in life and then menopause being another phase of life and I think that’s a really powerful way of looking at it, because so many women, they do look at it as the end, you know, the end of their fertility, end of their womanhood and, you know, they call themselves being dried up and it’s so negative and it’s just, it’s so detrimental for mental well-being when you think about yourself like that.

Karen: I will say that you know, when you’re 20 you think 50 is dead, I’m 57 and I’ve done more in the last five years than I’ve done in, I would say a lifetime. I mean really if I think about it, you know, I feel that menopause and growing older and embracing this stage of my life has meant that it’s like, well, I’ve got nothing to lose, you know, if I’ve lived those 52 years I can do the next, do you see what I mean? And it’s not just about, yes, there is a sense of urgency as well and closer to death but at the same time, it’s also about appreciating my experience, you know, appreciating the skills you have, appreciating the wisdom you have just as we get to a stage where we’ve got so much to offer, it almost feels like we’re encouraged to kind of be a little bit quieter. But actually, this is where I found my voice and so it’s a time to experiment, it’s a time, I mean, what if you got to lose? Do you understand? 

And I know everybody thinks like that but I really do want to reassure women that it’s not the end it’s the beginning of something else and it’s more fun because you don’t care. Yeah. So I recognise that I’m having an easier time the most physically, I understand that. 

I recognise the privilege in that, please don’t get me wrong but I tell everybody, my clients. I had a client come to me a couple of weeks ago, potential client who is now a client and we were having a conversation. I always asked my clients, what do you love about your body and what is it that you’re not so hot on and they were always very vocal on what they don’t love. And this particular woman was talking about how she wanted to lose weight for her wedding and people were saying to her, she should lose the weight for her wedding and of course that sent me into orbit, didn’t it? Because I’m like, why? What? Why? Your partner fell in love with you based on the way you look now. So, you know, embracing the way you look and accentuating your gorgeous body, she didn’t see it that way.

You know, I think that women just need to understand how bloody remarkable we are, you know? And I think that starts, I think it’s important that the younger generation have that now so by the time I hit menopause, it’s just, they’ve got that mind-set already. What’s difficult is that we’re unlearning, my generation is unlearning a lot of things, whereas I think the people coming up, if we are talking about it, that it makes it easier for the generation below and easier for the generations that they birth.

Le’Nise: If you could say one thing to listeners, to the generation and below and like Millennials, Gen Z, what would you say to them?

Karen: Oh my god, I don’t know. Let go of everybody’s expectations of you. That’s what I would say. I think we, I know this isn’t one thing but I’m going to expand, our downfall, men and women, but we’re talking about women, is that we do what we think we’re supposed to do instead of doing what is in our heart and that makes us ill and that permeates everything, you know, you thought I was going to say, Wear Your Happy, didn’t you? But that’s part of it, wearing, you know, clothes that you love and not worrying about whether you’re in fashion or whether it suits you, whatever that means or whether someone will fancy you, is part of the letting go of other people’s expectations of you. So it does fit, sort of.

Le’Nise: I think that’s really beautiful. You’ve said so many beautiful things and I just, I just love you. I think you’re amazing and you’re such a wonderful role model. Where can listeners find out more about what you’re up to, what you’re planning?

Karen: I think the best thing to do is to join my mailing list and you can do so if you’re an Instagram fanatic that I am. You go to my link in my bio, you can do that, or go on to my website reddskin.co.uk. I’m very active on social media, so I guess that’s the best place to find me but certainly my mailing list is the way forward.

Le’Nise: And all the links will be in the show notes. Thank you so much, Karen, for coming on the show today.

Karen: Thank you. Thank you so much for inviting me.

Period Story Podcast, Episode 6: Esther Zimmer, Understanding My Menstrual Cycle Helps Me Manage My Energy In The Best Way

Period Story Podcast, Episode 6: Esther Zimmer

For the sixth episode of Period Story Podcast, I had a wonderful conversation with Esther Zimmer, a writer and strategist. 

We talked about how the impact of a culture of shame and secrecy around menstruation and sex and she’s learned to move beyond this. Esther talked about the exploration she’s been doing over the few years around her body and understanding its natural rhythms. 

Esther shared how being child-free by choice has changed the way she thinks about her period and menstrual cycle. She says that understanding her menstrual cycle has helped her understand how to manage her energy in the best way. She plans her project work, writing and running around her menstrual cycle and says it’s an amazing way to work 

We talked about the cross-continental cycling expedition Esther did with her husband and how they tried to plan their trip around her menstrual cycle. Esthers says that this trip really helped her tune into her energy each day and understand why she might be feeling a particular way. 

Esther says it’s never too late to do your own exploration of your body’s rhythms and have this conversation with others. I completely agree! 


Esther’s Bio

Esther Zimmer is an Australian communications strategist, online course creator and writer living in London. She writes a regular essay series called ‘Truth & Clues’ where she shares the truth about her life as a woman in her 40s who’s still figuring out her place in the world. She’s currently writing her first book, a travel memoir, having recently completed a 12-month cross-continental cycling expedition with her husband. 

Esther has an unhealthy obsession with words: Writing them, reading them and exchanging them via deep conversations. She created her own self-directed recovery from disordered eating, but still considers herself to be very much a work-in-progress. A part-time adventurer and full-time dreamer, Esther loves all animals, most humans and the infinite possibilities that a blank page holds. 

Find Esther at estherzimmer.com and @esther_zimmer on Instagram.











Le’Nise: On today’s episode, we have Esther Zimmer. Esther is an Australian communications strategist, online course creator and writer living in London. 

She writes a regular essay series called Truth and Clues, where she shares the truth about her life as a woman in her 40s who’s still figuring out her place in the world. She’s currently writing her first book, a travel memoir, having recently completed a 12 month cross continental cycling expedition with her husband. Welcome to the show.

Esther: Hi, Le’Nise. Thank you for having me.

Le’Nise: So let’s start off by getting into the story of your first period. Can you tell us what happened?

Esther: Well, that’s an interesting question. So I was very young, I was around 9 and my period was something I had absolutely no idea about until it actually arrived. So when it did, I had no idea what was happening to my body or why. I knew I wasn’t hurt, so it was all very much a mystery to me. What I do really remember and it was interesting you ask this and I had quite an almost emotional reaction because I really remember seeing blood on my knickers. And I don’t know why, but I felt ashamed, a little bit scared. 

I seem to recall what I did was I used toilet paper in my underwear but of course, blood got on my knickers anyway. And what I have another really, really clear vision of is this pair of white knickers with a little flowers on them. You know, the kind of underwear, I guess a child would wear and they were spotted with blood. I guess that’s how my mum figured out I’d started my period. And one day she came into my bedroom with his big packet of pads, well they seemed big to me, and explained to me how to use them. That was the story of my first period.

Le’Nise: You were 9 years old. And you were, what was that, year 5? Year 4?

Esther: I must have been year 4.

Le’Nise: So when this happened to you, who did you talk to apart from your mum, did you talk to any of your friends?

Esther: So I was home schooled, so I didn’t really have a lot of contact with other young girls. So there wasn’t really a great deal of people to ask. I had a couple of older friends from our church, but I just remember feeling embarrassed, I didn’t want to ask. And I think because they were a bit older, I just didn’t feel comfortable doing so.

 Le’Nise: Why do you think you had this feeling of discomfort and embarrassment?

Esther: So I feel like that goes back to my upbringing. So it’s an interesting question. I was brought up by a white middle class family in Australia. My wonderful parents are Christians and they were possibly quite strict back then, which meant they were less open. And I don’t want this to be a criticism because they are wonderful parents, they were then, they are now, but I really felt like anything to do with your body or nakedness, menstruation, sex, and it’s all intertwined, which is something that we didn’t talk about. And I don’t feel it was so much that having my period was a shameful thing. 

It was more that a period kind of, is related to bearing of children, which is related to sex. As I say, it was all very much intertwined and that I suppose culture of secrecy impacted me more than I probably realised and recently, it’s something that I’ve started to explore. So it’s interesting that we’re having this conversation today.

Le’Nise: Can you tell us a little bit more about the exploration that you’re doing at the moment?

Esther: So I only really in the last year started to understand about how we have different phases in our menstrual cycle and that was quite a revelation to me, but I’m 45 years old, I’m 46 in January and I guess I feel a little bit like this is actually something we should be taught in school. It should be part of the sex education curriculum or even separate to that for women, for young women to understand about how they work with their body, listen to their body and understand the natural rhythms and energy cycles. So I guess because that started me thinking about menstruation, the fact that I’m probably coming into menopause in the next few years, that started me thinking about, well, what are my thoughts and feelings and emotions around my own menstrual cycle and the fact that I don’t have children. 

I’m actually child free by choice, my period is something, I guess that it’s always been, I’m very grateful to get it but at the same time, it’s something that, you know, I go through every month but for me, I don’t really know how to explain that. It’s also the other thing of like, well, I’m going through this inconvenience every month, but I’ve never, ever wanted to have children. So it’s been just one of those situations when you have all these underlying feelings and you don’t even realise they’re there. And then, as I said, something will happen that you’ll think, well, why don’t I know this? It seems like an extrinsic part of being a woman and you start to explore that. So as I said, for me, it’s starting to explore the menstrual cycles and then what that does is it makes you start to explore all these other areas as well. 

And so what’s interesting is my mum and I have a really, really close relationship, but I’ve never talked to her about menstruation or menopause. It’s a conversation that I’m starting to open up to have with her and it’s interesting that all these years later, we’re only having conversations about this now.

Le’Nise: And how has your mum’s reaction been to opening up this conversation?

Esther: I feel like she’s been curious as to why I’m asking now. But also, you know, she was a young mum. And I think, too, if she was answering your question, she would probably say I would go back and do things differently. And I think she’s very open to it but it does still feel a little bit of an unusual place to go but probably more so because I think if she could do things differently, she would go back and do them differently and perhaps be a bit more open about these things. But I mean, I’m a big believer that we’re all doing the best we can. And in particular, parent, you know, and she did the best she could at the time.

Le’Nise: You mentioned that you’re learning more about your menstrual cycle, the different phases and you said that you’re child free by choice. Does knowing more about your menstrual cycle, does that change the way that you view the role of your period and the menstrual cycle?

Esther: Absolutely. Absolutely. And maybe that’s why I really felt this feeling of slight loss when I started to learn about this and felt like, well, if I’d understood this sooner as a woman who did make the choice not to have children, I felt like it would have meant more to me. I would have understood that even if I’m not having children, my menstrual cycle still has a very important role to play. And I feel like, again, maybe that’s the thing about this upbringing. 

You know, so much of what I learned and perhaps picked up from other people from listening in on conversations was that menstruation was very much linked to childbirth. But now I understand that actually it’s got its own very important role separate to that. It would have helped me understand myself a lot more, too and how I am at different times of the month.

Le’Nise: So you’ve said that it has a very important role to play. Can you elaborate a little bit more about what that means for you, what different roles it has to play for you?

Esther: For me, it’s very much about understanding how to manage my energy in the best way. So, you know, I always feel sometimes on the day of my period, I can have quite a bit of energy. But after that, I do really feel that distinct drop. And I didn’t understand why in the past, when you learn afterwards, it makes perfect sense but also, you know, as you’re going into the after your cycle, is you going into those first few days where you have that influx of energy and you feel good, I would have, and well, this is what I’m doing now. 

I tend to plan on my project work and writing around and running as well. You know what I do in my kind of fitness life, I tend to look at my period, map it out and think, right, I’m going to work on these particular things when I know I’m going to be feeling at my best and then when I know perhaps when I’m in a bit of a lull, I’ll continue to work on things but perhaps some of the things that don’t require as much energy or creativity and I found that’s just really an amazing way to work. 

You’re actually, what I think of, is working with your body and I realised that it’s not always possible, you know, I come from a corporate background and some of the work I do now a few days a week is in corporate. But I do feel like even if you couldn’t necessarily perhaps put that big presentation off, at least if you went in, understand your own body’s rhythms and why you felt low, it would give you that extra insight on what you need to do, perhaps, you know, pep yourself up, that would help. 

So just looking after yourself in those times and just be gentler on yourself.

Le’Nise: Why do you think it takes us such a long time to get this understanding? I mean, from my own personal experience, I only really started to understand the importance of the ebbs and flows of my energy and the connection with my cycle, maybe about six or seven years ago and I’m 39. So why do you think that it takes so long? Do you think it’s the lack of education in school? Is it the taboos around these topics?

Esther: I feel that it’s probably a little bit of both. I mean, even if you think about sex education in schools, I mean, I don’t know what it’s like now, but if you think of a whole curriculum that you go through, sex education is one tiny, tiny part of it. And then if you think that you would pull out menstrual education and personally, I think that boys should be present in these classes as well. 

But if you think about pulling that out separately, that you had a menstrual education class that would still get a very, very small amount of time. So I feel like it’s just not considered a priority. So education is part of that in terms of time and costs but I still feel there is quite a taboo about it. And what I feel happens is, you know, as you reach 30, 35, 40, 45, what I’ve noticed with every five years, things that used to embarrass me, I mean, even something it might have embarrassed me 5 or 6 years ago just wouldn’t now. So I feel that’s also a part of it and maybe, too, there is more talk I feel about menopause than menstruation. 

So as you start to get closer to that, you also question the stage that you’re in and you know what it’s like when you start to get curious? You almost stumble upon information.

Le’Nise: So how did you educate yourself? What sort of resources have you been using?

Esther: Well, it’s interesting. So when I first learned about periods and menstrual health, well my first learning experience was when it arrived. Then my mother gave me this Christian pamphlet and I could still see the cover and it was called Your Body Is a Temple and now that would have been 1983. Then I started going to school when I was 14, so up until then, I was home-schooled. So I guess there were a few questions with girlfriends and it was, you know, brought up in sex ed but there was no Internet. 

So of course, now, I mean, I can’t think of one specific resource that I use, I know that there are books on the subject and something that I would be interested to dive into. But more for me, it’s been less about menstrual health, I guess, but my exploration has been more about understanding cycles and some of that I’ve learnt from open conversations with friends and just what I’ve seen other women share in groups. 

So they might be talking about this themselves and they might have written a blog about it but I can’t think of one specific resource and it’s an interesting question because now you’re getting me thinking, hmm I really would like to read those books and actually I’d like to spend more time looking online at specific resources of people who have, like yourself, expertise in this area.

Le’Nise: I want to go back to the book that your mum gave you, Your Body Is A Temple, so the religious element, I find really interesting because, you know, you mentioned that you didn’t really talk about sex and menstruation is associated with sex and that wasn’t really a topic in your household and having come from a similar background myself where religion was really important, I really relate to what you’re saying. Do you think that that’s had an impact on the way you view your body and menstruation now? Is that something that you’ve really had to unpick?

Esther: Yes, but I also don’t believe I realise the impact it’s had until recently. So you mentioned at the beginning of this podcast that I write an essay series called Truth and Clues and one of the things I did a couple of months ago was write down some of the topics that I would like to cover and one of them was around menstruation and menopause, because I wanted to share my story, but I didn’t really even realise what my story was until I started thinking about it. 

It’s only been in starting to write some of that down, have I realised that some of the feelings that I’ve had with regards to my body and menstruation and sex my whole life, I guess, since I was probably nine years old, are still very much imbedded in me, and I’m only starting to explore and unpick that now. And it has brought up quite a bit of emotion because you don’t realise again, I think I said this before, you don’t realise what you’re not thinking about until you’re actually prompted. 

I don’t know what prompted me really to put that on my list of things that I would like to explore and write about but until you get to that point, sometimes these things can sit below the surface for a very long time and probably with some people forever.

Le’Nise: I think that’s really interesting and it goes back to what you were saying about shame and that contributing to perhaps being a bit scared and shame is something I’ve talked about with other guests on this podcast. And it’s so fascinating, it’s terrible, but it’s so fascinating that we can be so ashamed of something that is so normal and natural and this almost unlearning that we have to do about what is normal and why we actually feel the shame.

Esther: Absolutely. It’s interesting, too, because what I feel is really important is that even if we’re not conscious of some of the, you know, feelings that we have and I guess particularly perhaps what you would class as a negative feeling, although I don’t like classing feelings that way but let’s just say for the sake of this conversation, I think people understand what I mean when I say a negative feeling that you hold that in your body. 

So even though you might not be thinking about or talking about it, it sits there and it does it sits in your body and I feel like sometimes when we do get to the point when we are ready to perhaps explore these things, have a conversation, write about them, it can be hugely emotional. I mean, I know that I’ve only just started the work that I want to do for myself in this area but sometimes I feel like I could almost cry. When we talked at the beginning of this conversation about my first period and I mentioned, you know, the child’s knickers with the little flowers on them, I mean, I could feel my eyes well up and I feel like that is probably part of it, that we don’t realise how much of this we actually hold in our bodies and then when you are at the point you’re willing to like explore it, it can be very difficult. 

And perhaps too the older you get, the more you start to feel. And I think this is something I probably haven’t verbalised before, you do start to feel, why haven’t I not like thought about this before? Why am I doing this now at 30 or 35 or even 50? For some people, I mean, I don’t think it matters whether you’re menstruating or perimenopausal or you’ve gone into menopause, it’s still always a good subject to explore, even if it’s only to kind of face some of those feelings and work through them. It’s got to be healthy because then you’re getting it out of your body.

Le’Nise: You getting out of your body and rephrasing and rethinking you recently, just gonna connect to that, you did a 12 month cross-continental cycling expedition with your husband. Can you talk a little bit about that and how that potentially connected to the work that you’ve been doing now around unlearning and rephrasing?

Esther: Yes. So what I think is probably most relevant is that, so we set off in May last year, so May 2018. And I mean, we are both fairly fit and active people, but we certainly weren’t cyclists. We had road bikes, we took them out once every two years and finally we decided, right, we’ve wanted to do this great big trip, but let’s do it by bikes that was a bit of a last minute add on but we just decided we wanted to do it under our own steam and we had no real clue what we were doing. 

I mean, we’d done research but what I mean by that is for me personally, I didn’t know how my body would respond and what I found really interesting is that when you’re on the move nearly every day and you know, I did look at my menstrual cycle and we did try and plan around it, but sometimes you just can’t, and we weren’t going exceptionally fast. I mean, we were probably covering 60, 70 kilometres a day, which by most people’s expedition standards is quite slow but we really wanted to just enjoy it. But being on the move, being outside, moving your body, having less distractions, you really do start to tune into your body and for me, I really did start to tune into why am I feeling tired today? Is it my cycle? Have I perhaps not slept properly? Am I not hydrating myself properly? Am I not eating the most nutritious food? And I really felt how everything comes together in that sense and I became far more aware of how all of these things really impact us, probably more than we realise. 

And I think so much these days is talked about in terms of, you’ve got to do all of these things to be more productive, you know, sleep better, eat better, you know, if you drink more water, you’ll be more alert, but for me, it became more about how do I look after my body in the best possible way. So I feel my best so I can actually enjoy my life the most. And I felt like that was a real switch for me from, how do I get the most out of my body, energy wise? To, how do I actually work with my body so I enjoy my life more? And I think that’s probably the most relevant thing in terms of this conversation that came from that trip.

Le’Nise: That’s really interesting. The kind of everyday almost checking in with your body, well, checking in with your body, but connecting back with, okay, I feel like this so I need to do this. And that’s something that I actually wish more of us would do more often, because I see this in my clinic and I help my clients connect the dots. And then, you know, it’s education and that’s a really important part about it, because you don’t know, oh, I might be feeling tired because I’m about to get my period or I have a lot of energy today and that’s probably because I’m on day 14, day 15 of my menstrual cycle, so that’s one of the reasons why. 

Coming back to the idea of, you know, more education, more discussion about this is really powerful. So every day for twelve months you would do this and try to adapt your day appropriately?

Esther: Yes. So, we would have long stretches where we’d cycle for perhaps two or three, four weeks and we would have a day off here and there and we did both listen to our bodies, but then we might have two or three weeks off the bikes, perhaps because we’d done a particularly tough segment of the route and just felt like we needed downtime or we did some volunteer work. So there were different times where we were off the bikes for longer periods. But yes, we both really started to realise, oh, I might really fancy that pizza, but actually it’s not the thing that’s going to make me feel great tomorrow when I’m on the bike and I think for me that wanting to nourish myself in a way that made me enjoy the cycling more was a big difference in the way I thought previously. 

And, you know, I am somewhat, I would say, who was very disconnected from their body for a very long time. I had a long period of challenge with disordered eating and body dysmorphia. So it’s really only in the last five or six years that I’ve started to actually listen to my own body’s cues and realise how important they were and I do really feel that going on that trip was just another chapter in that to understand that, as I said before, yes, you can look after your body in a way that improves your performance, whether that’s at work or creatively or in the sports arena, any of those things but you can also do it in a way that actually just makes you feel more connected to your body, you feel more rested, you understand your energy rhythms, and it just makes life more enjoyable. 

I mean, to me, that’s just in a very kind of anxious, depressed, stressed out world, that’s a very important message, I think, because so much of what we hear now is about life hacks and maximising our time and productivity and I feel like a lot of that is important, but it does very much take us away from our own bodies cues.

Le’Nise: So on the other side of your trip how have you taken what you’ve learned about your body into your day to day life back in London?

Esther: So, two ways. Great question, because I’m all about what can I learn from life on the road that I can replicate in day to day life. So, two things. 

One is that I used to avoid exercise when I was coming up to my period and because I had a few times when we just couldn’t have breaks when I knew that was coming, so we would have shorter cycling days and what I found was my period was so much lighter if I was exercising up and through it. So I continue to do that now, I do it knowing that, you know, I might not go out for a 10K run, but I will still get up and walk, might go to a yoga class, like, I would do things to keep moving and that has had a really positive impact. 

And the other thing for me is this thinking of looking after myself so I feel good, and, you know, more prepared to go out into the world and do my work. So as you mentioned in the introduction, I’m writing a book and I think about it the same way I think, okay, Fridays are my all day fully committed to writing days. So looking after myself in the week leading up to that is important so that I wake up on Friday morning and I feel fresh and good and then I can actually do that thing that I really love and the words flow. 

It’s a bit like I was saying before, if I didn’t look after myself when we were cycling, I really missed the magic of so many moments because I was having to push harder and I feel like it’s the same with writing. If I look after myself better, it’s just a more enjoyable experience., yes, it’s still hard, but I just feel I come to the page with more energy, more enjoyment and I think those two things have definitely changed the way I live my life.

Le’Nise: If you think back to your 9 year old self, what would you say to her knowing what you know now?

Esther: I would say to her, what a wonderful thing. I feel like it would be something that I would like her to celebrate. I also feel like I would say to her, you know, this is as I said, this is a really positive thing and I would sit down and explain why. I would find other women for her to talk to so she could understand that this is something that happens to all women. I think it would be also just about saying to her, you know, as you go through this process, ask questions, and don’t be afraid to ask. So I guess the main thing would be treat it like a celebration.

Le’Nise: Wow, treat it like a celebration. I really love that. If listeners could take one thing away from listening to you on this podcast, what would you want to be?

Esther: That it doesn’t matter what stage of life you are, I do really feel exploring that moment when you first started this journey, when you first got your period until now, wherever you are is something worth exploring, because the more we do this at every single age, the more willing we are to look at ourselves and perhaps remove anything that might be holding us back or down or just pressing heavily on us. So that’s the first thing, is that doing this exploration, you will release some of those things. 

And the second thing is I feel like the more we do this work, the more we can talk to other women and that’s really important. So even though I’m 46 and as I said, don’t have a family of my own, this has been a great beginning with exploration where I can start to talk to my sisters. One in particular has three young girls, 8, 6 and 4 and I can now have conversations with her and hopefully work with her on how do we have different conversations with her daughters or how did she have these different conversations. 

And, you know, and it just means that we’re not just putting the onus on education in terms of schools, but also there are a whole load of mothers out there right now whose daughters are probably just coming up to this. It’s not too late to start having those conversations and changing the taboos, opening up the conversation so that this becomes part of the things that we talk about. So I feel like, you know, that would be just a great thing for people to think about how this could really release them personally, but also start to change culture in some ways.

Le’Nise: I think that’s amazing how it’s starting to change what learn the lessons from the past and having different conversation with the girls that are coming up now so they can do things differently and I definitely see that even over the last 10 years, the change in the conversation and actually how open younger women are about talking about these things and I feel really positive about that. 

The next step is just to continue this openness, but also make sure that, as you mentioned earlier, boys learn about these things too, because, you know, they’re affected by it as well. 

So where can listeners out more about you? Where can they sign up to your wonderful newsletter?

Esther: Oh, thank you. Well, it’s estherzimmer.com and there’s some blog posts on there but I think the main thing is, as I say, I write this regular essay series and for me, that’s just about going a little bit deeper and getting a bit more personal than I perhaps would in a blog post. And it’s about all those kind of things that we talked about, exploring these personal things that we go through as women and sharing my story in the hope that somebody else somewhere else either feels, okay, I can see myself in that story or perhaps it encourages them to explore their own, and it’s not just about menstruation, it’s about finding your place in the world as a woman, because I believe I’m starting a new chapter in life, having returned to London after this cycling trip, writing a book, so it’s about all of those things. I think we all think about perhaps don’t go deeper into it and don’t always talk about, that’s the best place to kind of, I guess, get to know me.

Le’Nise: Great. Well, thank you so much for coming onto the show today and sharing your story.

Esther: Well, thank you so much for inviting me. And I’d just like to say, I really think this is a wonderful project, really, really important and again, what you’re doing is going to open up the conversation even wider. So thank you.

Le’Nise: Thank you.

Period Story Podcast, Episode 5: Tamu Thomas, Tracking Your Menstrual Cycle Is A Gamechanger

Period Story Podcast, Episode 5: Tamu Thomas

On the fifth episode of the Period Story podcast, I had a wonderful conversation with Tamu Thomas, the founder of Three Sixty. We talked about Tamu’s first period and how this rite of passage was celebrated by her family and how she tracks her energy levels along with her menstrual cycle and uses this to plan how much work she’ll take on.

Tamu and I also talked about how she’s talking to her daughter about periods and menstrual health and how she’s moved past the secrecy around menstruation she grew up with to now having a very open and free attitude.

We discussed how Tamu uses her menstrual cycle as a North Star to track her moods and energy levels and how this has been a gamechanger for her. She says this helps her connect her mind and body so that she’s actually working with herself rather than against.

Tamu says that tuning into what your body is telling you creates such freedom and that’s definitely something I agree with!


Tamu’s Bio

Tamu Thomas is founder of Three Sixty; a brand she created for women in their late 30s and 40s that want to simplify life and create space for everyday joy. Tamu created the brand as a response to her own emotional and physical situation. At the age of 40, and after years of compromising her health, joy and pleasure to meet the demands of her career as a social worker and her role as a mother, she realised that feeling emotionally and physically depleted was not a necessity, or a given.

As Tamu slowed down and stripped back the layers to try and understand why she had allowed herself to become so burnt out, she realised something important. She held onto internalised beliefs which related self-worth to being overloaded, and somehow she had confused being busy with being productive – a belief system that Tamu claims many Generation X women uphold.

During this point in her life, Tamu chose to move into the centre of herself, taking full ownership of every part of her, thus Three Sixty was born – a brand that encourages women to accept and love themselves fully, in all their shades from light to dark, their entire 360 degrees.

Tamu has combined over fifteen years Social Work experience with Mindfulness & Life Coaching and Group Facilitation training to create a body of work that helps women to accept themselves fully and lead with joy. Tamu’s intention is to guide you to create a pathway to deeper connection that she believes leads to accepting yourself fully, self-love and everyday joy.

Find Tamu on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and on her website, Live Three Sixty.









Show Transcript

Le’Nise: On today’s episode we have Tamu Thomas, who is the founder of Three Sixty, a brand she created for women in their late 30s and 40s that want to simplify life and create space for everyday joy.

Tamu created the brand as a response to her own emotional and physical situation. At age 40 and after years of comprising her health, joy and pleasure to meet the demands of her career as a social worker and her role as a mother, she realised that feeling emotionally and physically depleted was not a necessity or a given. Welcome to the show, Tamu.

Tamu: Good morning! Or good afternoon depending on whatever time everyone is listening. Thank you so much for having me.

Le’Nise: Thanks so much for coming on the show. So let’s start off by getting into the story of your very first period. Can you share with us what happened?

Tamu: My first period was about a month before I turned 13 and I was really really excited, I couldn’t wait. I was one of the “later bloomers” in comparison to my friends. So I was really excited to have joined the club and when I was thinking about coming on this podcast, my period was probably a month prior but I wasn’t too sure. Well this is a period podcast, so I’m just going to talk about it, my discharge was different and I wasn’t really sure what it was so I just carried on as normal and did what I was doing. 

I’d had tender breasts, well, the semblance of breasts that I had at that time. I’d had mood swings, I’d had some form of cramping, but I wasn’t entirely sure what it was. I suspected it was my period coming because my mum has always been very open about the practicality of periods. So yeah, mine came just before I turned 13 and I was really excited about it and I told my mum but I was really aggrieved, that she told, what felt to me at the time, everybody about it so like my dad, was never emotionally communicative. He was not that dad that worked in from work or I walked in from school and was asking me how my day was. All of a sudden he kept asking me if I was ‘okay? how am I? Do I need anything’? To have my very stern West African dad trying to be soft, but being so brisk with it, ‘do you need anything?’ ‘Are you okay?’.

That was really like urgh and then it just so happened that one of my aunts from overseas came over and she was like “oh Tamu, you’ve joined the club!” and my aunt that lived down the road came round. There was all this hoopla about me joining the club that I really did not want and my mum bought me this kit, it was bright fuchsia pink and it had tampons, sanitary towels and it was a fuchsia pink tampon holder and I remember not being given much information about how to use these things but being told that this was what I needed and using a tampon for the first time, hymen fully intact, never even masturbated at that point, not digitally inserting a finger or anything and using this tampon and having it halfway out and walking like John Wayne and my mum saying “what on earth is going on” and me saying “well I used a tampon” and her saying “well, don’t use that, use a sanitary towel, your body is not ready for that” and overhearing the conversation in the kitchen between my mum and dad and my dad was very much against me using tampons, he was really into this old West African Virgin Mary kind of train of thought. 

So yeah, it was something I was excited about and I was excited about it for me and I kind of felt that got taken away by being shared at that time. As an adult now I think, well now I understand it’s a big coming of age thing, it’s a really big marker in human development, in female development and my mum was celebrating that. I thought a period was just for me and no one else to know about and I carried that with me for a very long time.

Le’Nise: What you said about the excitement and the hoopla around you getting your first period and your family getting involved is so interesting because it’s very different to a lot of the stories that I’ve heard where it’s something that these women were ashamed about it. They kind of had a cursory chat with their mum. Whereas yours was totally different, yours was celebrated, your mum gave you a kit with tampons and pads and she had a conversation about what was the best menstrual product for you to use at the time for where your body was, which I think is so so wonderful. The openness about your period and menstruation, did you carry that through the rest of your teenage years?

Tamu: No, not really, and it was because, so my mum has always been very open. So, for example, my grandmother became pregnant because she didn’t know what a period was, when she had her first period, she was told by her elders, that means if a man touches your breast, you will become pregnant. So she became pregnant because of a lack of knowledge. My grandad was very green, my grandma was green, so yeah that was her experience so my grandmother was very open with my mum and her siblings so my mum carried that through. 

But my dad was very much, women’s things are women’s things or women’s business and you lot carry on with it, you do your womanly thing. So even things, like you couldn’t put underwear in a washing load with his washing, there was no way those two things should mix at all. So although he didn’t say hide your period or your period products or anything, I knew that wasn’t something that could be open and then at school it was very secretive, I so I kind of just didn’t question, I just thought it was very secretive. So although for me, when I first started, I was excited about it, as soon as it became in the public domain kind of thing, I very quickly learnt that it should be secret so it was going to the toilet with your sanitary towel somewhere very covert. Making sure the main door to the toilets was closed because the sanitary towel incinerator thing that we had in school was right by the door and you didn’t want other girls, never mind, other boys, to see you putting your sanitary towel in incinerator. 

It very quickly became something that was a secret and you kind of operated in a way whereby your goal was to make sure your period happened without anyone knowing about it. So that’s what happened with that, but I understood the mechanics of it. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t having some sort of conversation with my mum about how your body works on a practical sense. 

What I didn’t get from her was the emotional side and the understanding about hormones. So she would say things like you will get moody but there was no breakdown and no explanation and as I reflect on that period in time DA DUM DUM TCHHH there weren’t wide conversations taking place about hormones and periods, I think that’s quite a new thing so I didn’t really believe in the impact of hormonal changes so I was very hard on myself when I wasn’t able to do things at certain times of the month and that’s something I carried with me for a very long time and also certainly definitely through my school years my period was very heavy and was very long. So there was a lot of work that went into making sure my period was private, that sometimes meant leaking because I got so into this private mode I wasn’t always letting my mum know when I needed new products and she was new to this too, I’m the oldest, she hadn’t experienced raising a child that was having periods. There wasn’t a cupboard with stash of sanitary ware in, so it took a while for us to get into a rhythm with that side of things, even though I had my lovely pink kit.

Le’Nise: I just want to go back with what you said about secrecy and things being private and actually go into what you were saying about the secrecy at school. So, you didn’t discuss it at all with any of your friends? 

Tamu: I discussed at times with one friend who coincidentally I spent the evening with yesterday, still really close. So I discussed it on and off with her but the only time period conversations came up was for example girls not wanting to do PE or swimming because they were on the period. Yeah, that was pretty much it; any conversation was around what you couldn’t do because of your period, it wasn’t anything more than that. 

I really tried to recall and there was no sisterhood at all in that regard, as we were all keeping it a secret. Even things like, if I think about at home there was a sense that men shouldn’t know about this, this was for women and its only for women so period products regardless whether it was morning, noon, or night had to be disposed of in the bin outside, it wasn’t to be in a bin in the home and things like that.

Le’Nise: You mentioned the West African cultural element of underwear being separated and what your father said about “it’s women things”. How much of that cultural element do you think you carried into the way that you think about your period and your hormones and your menstrual cycle?

Tamu: Well I haven’t really, as a child or adolescent having periods, you just did what your parent said and did and that was it. As I started to make my own way in the world, to be honest with you, it’s only in the last few years that I haven’t been secretive about periods and period products so if my bag is wide open and there’s a tampon there, whoever sees it see it because I’m really not bothered, whereas before, the tampon would be in a non-discreet bag tucked into somewhere within my bag and all that kind of stuff. 

I haven’t carried it with me because my adult experience is very different to my child experience, I talk a lot within my brand about my childhood being analogue and my adulthood being digital because I do have the sisterhood within digital spaces that have become sisterhood within real life spaces and because of people like you and Sally Beaton, me tracking my periods, learning about hormonal phases and in tracking my periods, seeing how my hormones impact my life, that doesn’t exist for me anymore and I know definitely due to friendships that I had actually from my late teens, one of my friends, she’s always been very open about conversations about periods, she was bought up in a house full of women so there was lots of conversations about periods, nakedness and whatever else so she spoke about periods quite openly which led me to talk about periods quite openly but without the wisdom we have now about hormones and what periods means and about it being a vital sign of health.

Le’Nise: So talking more about something you said about your childhood being analogue and your adulthood being digital, with that kind of framework in mind, what do you know now that you wish you knew back then?

Tamu: That it didn’t need to be a secret, that it could have continued to be a celebration of my womanhood, of my humanity and that it was a sign that my body was working as nature intends. I also wish I knew that it meant that I could look to my cycle for clues, not excuses, but clues as to how to manage my health in a more holistic and supportive way because I didn’t have that knowledge it really fed into the narrative of the time which was about working against yourself, pushing through, keep on going regardless of what your body is telling you, I wouldn’t have worked in that way. 

Perhaps I would have had more of an opportunity to do what I’m doing now, which is to be guided by my own North Star rather than following the winds and the systems of other people.

Le’Nise: Do you feel differently about your period now, having incorporated the idea of it being a vital sign, the North Star, listening to your cycle and your hormones for clues?

Tamu: Understanding my cycle and its natural ebb and flows has been absolutely game changing, it’s been one of the most fundamental parts in me being able to commit to myself with real depth and meaning and its really helped me to understand myself as a natural being. 

I think that we walk around quite often feeling like our mind is in one place and our body is in another place. Whereas in my personal development journey, in my training to become a life coach thinking about women, learning about how my cycle impacts me has helped me to be kind to myself and remind myself to meet myself where I am. 

We’re all human beings we are all quite similar yet very different but that whole thing about being very cognitive and living in my head, tracking my cycle helps me to connect to my mind and my body so rather than focusing on what my head tells me I should be doing, tracking my cycle and using apps to remind me of where I am in my cycle helps me to connect mind and body so that I’m actually working with myself. 

So, thinking about nature, there’s a variety of flora and fauna and they bloom and blossom in different ways but using similar principles and that’s how I think about myself. Okay, today I’m a daisy, so I need more tenderness or gentleness, I need to go at a slower pace if I can and if that’s not possible, I know what I need to put in place to support me being a daisy amongst oak trees and I have other times when I am an oak tree and I know how to support myself during that time. 

Also, it’s helped to curb parental irritability, because the reality is sometimes your children are really irritating but not because they are irritating, they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing but because of where you are in your cycle or whatever you have got going on, an average thing or nice conversation on some days can be a major source of irritation, so it just helps me to check in with myself and give myself some context, not like I’m censoring myself all the time but I’ve got that information so rather than being in a situation where I’m snapping at my daughter for something that she should be doing, as the snap starts to come, I remember where I am in my cycle and everything else that I have going on and do whatever it is I need to do so that I can show up for her in a way that isn’t full of grit and irritation. 

We have all of these dreams, “I should be doing this” or “I want to be doing that”, “next year I want to be doing whatever”, okay you want to do all of these things and these things require consistency. I know day 24-28 [of my cycle], consistency goes out the window, so I give myself the grace of doing whatever I can during those days, but also knowing that day 8-12, I’m dynamite, maybe it’s even 8-14, because the dynamite kind of evens off when I start to get my ovulation pain but I can do a months’ worth of work during that time because I’m just on fire so it’s just learnt to know my natural ebb and flow and not use my time when I’m at my peak as my base line. I know that’s a peak, it’s not my general, whereas before I’d be like “why aren’t I churning out the work?” “Why aren’t I being as productive as last week, that should be my standard?”.

No, that’s not my standard, that was my standard for that phase, my standard is this for this week. It’s been a major source of not just me being compassionate but empathetic with myself.

Le’Nise: It’s amazing how in tune you’ve become with your cycle, how it affects your moods, your energy levels and also your mental capacity and how you’ve tailored your work to where you can to those phases of your cycle.  This idea of compassion is really powerful because so many times, I hear women, they beat themselves up because they say “well, why am I not focused?” “why can’t I get the work done?” and “why was I able to do so much work last week but this week I’m so tired?” and they just push through and to their own detriment. 

But also you don’t blame them because we have been given these messages by society that we need to live in masculine energy which is go, go, go all the time. But what you’ve been saying is around honouring this idea of feminine energy and knowing that the ebbs and flows of the menstrual cycle is we have a big connection with our energy and when we honour that, it is actually so much better for us.

Tamu: Absolutely. It just enables you to acknowledge that you’re human that you’re not a machine because we tend to treat ourselves like we are an iPhone that can be upgraded and rebooted and whatever else when actually I’m at my most powerful when I’m honouring myself but don’t get me wrong I do think that there’s masculine and feminine for a reason so masculine structure like using my diary which the structure is quite a masculine way of thinking but using that structure, to support my femininity is really helpful so when I’m paying attention and I’m being mindful, where possible, I structure my workload accordingly and I know that it’s easy, I know that people can sit down and think, it’s easy for you when you work for yourself if you look at your workload as long as you’re doing your work in timescales you can, where possible make allowances for yourself. 

So, if there’s a presentation that you need to do, is it possible you could schedule that presentation for week 2 of your cycle, for example and if it’s not possible for you to do that what can you drop from your schedule that will allow you to have the space that you need to recharge and restore if you’re needing to do that presentation during the run to your cycle. What can you do to make sure you’re feeling vital? You’re feeling alive? Rather than dragging yourself around. There are a lot of mothers that I speak to that are constantly scheduling things upon things upon things for their children. Actually ask yourself who is that serving? Is that serving yourself? Or is it serving your need to say I’m doing all of these wonderful things for my child, I’m really enriching your child’s life? Because actually we are depriving our children when we want to make sure their schedules are full all the time, than being bored and just playing around and being soft and crashing around of sofas is really beautiful and really essential development for them. 

So do you need to be running yourself ragged, jumping from pillar to post doing all these things. Are there times in the month where you can slow down and do things at a slower pace with your children, could you occupy them with more slow and mindful activities which supports them as well because motherhood and martyrdom are not adjacent to each other, contrary to popular belief. 

I just think really tuning in to what your body is telling you just creates such freedom and something else I’ve noticed is that I have been less bothered about what other people think, feel and say in relation to what I’m doing since I understand how my cycle works. So, for example, if friends and family want to see you blah blah and they’ll say things like “you’ve just got to make an effort”, I don’t. If I’m at a point in my cycle where I’m feeling depleted, I’m not going to take myself closer to burnout to meet your need and neglect myself. That is actual neglect, that is actual emotional abuse and I know they are really strong words and I’m using them with intention. As a social worker, my area of interest was neglect and emotional abuse and when you distil it, it’s the same thing but applied in different ways. I’m not neglecting or emotionally abusing myself so you could feel good that I was eating curry and rice and peas at your party, I can see you another time.

Le’Nise: You’ve said so many interesting things there, I wanted to circle back to what you said about the way that you speak with your daughter and how you’re more aware of things that might be irritating at certain times of your cycle and things that would just be normal. In all of the things that you have learned and applied, how has that changed the way that you speak to your daughter about periods and about menstrual cycles, if you have had that conversation yet?

Tamu: We have been having that conversation, so since the moment I became pregnant, so as I said my mum is an open book, you can talk about everything but the emotional element, so the feelings part of those conversations are something that she was bought up with and not something she is used to, she quite a stoic person. 

I really enjoy conversations about the depth of our emotions, I’m not skating around on the surface, I’m going to get beneath the surface and see what underpins those feelings, see where those feelings come from. So, from the moment I became pregnant, I was having deep and meaningful conversations with my unborn child from that point on. Whatever conversation she comes with, we are having that conversation and sometimes we are having a conversation about something that can seem quite light and fluffy, but I really try and get her to look beneath that so that she understands how she’s operating rather than being on autopilot. I’ve had conversations about periods with my daughter since she was, oh there was one day when she was three, we were on the bus and we don’t often go on the bus and you know three year olds, their voices are loud so she was saying something, something, something, about those nappy things! She was talking about sanitary towels, I didn’t have the conversation with her on the bus, it was almost as if the bus went dead silent as soon as she was about to say “those nappy things”. 

So we had a conversation about what the nappy things are and it was just in a very childlike way, I didn’t talk about blood or anything like that, I just said when you’re a grown up sometimes you need to wear these nappy things and that was it she just left it at that but I’m very open, she sees me naked all the time, I’m all about the house, I’m not hiding the sanitary products. I can’t really remember the first time we had a proper conversation about periods but when she was in Year 5 or 6 and they had a conversation about puberty she “oh Mum, it was so lame and basic, I knew more than the teacher”. Obviously, she didn’t know more than the teacher but she knew more than what the teacher was presenting. It’s always been a very open book, as soon as I understood the power or hormones and hormone phases and how it impacts you, it was inserted into conversations so you know, I’ve got a child that isn’t fearing periods, she’s forever talking to about what her body is doing, about what her body isn’t doing. 

We talk about the sort of food that supports your cycle, that supports you as a human being full stop. Sometimes I’m like “I do not want to have this conversation”, sometimes I’m like “I don’t want to know” but I do want to know and I just take a moment to say I am appreciative of myself, that I have a relationship with my daughter where she’s able to talk about anything. Sex, drugs, rock and roll, meditation, who she’s fallen out with at school, what science grade she wants to get and all of it is as normal as each other. So she has noted that there are times of the month where she’s more moody and more tired, she’s noticed how her body is doing different things at different times of the month so I’ve said to her to keep a diary and she knows that it means that very soon, she’s going to start menstruating and the way she talks about it, she’s looking forward to it because she knows that it’s a rite of passage, it’s something that should be happening. It’s a joyful experience even though it is challenging because I know in my mind, no not even in my mind, in my heart, she’s still 4 years old but in reality she’s about to be 13.

Le’Nise: Do you think you will celebrate in the way that your first period was celebrated?

Tamu: We are going to have a full on celebration, not in the way that I’ll be telling everybody (I will be telling everybody) but in the way that, I want to take her for a meal, I want her to have a kit like the one my mum gave me, I want the kit to include things that support her emotions so a journal, a period tracking app, because she knows about the apps I use but she can’t use them yet because she hasn’t got a period that she can actually track but she’s had a look at them for some of the information so I want the celebration to be a gateway to a really empowering, grounding experience so that she understands the mechanics but also, the kind of like, spiritual element, I want her to feel like a ritual rather than a curse. 

We aren’t going to be talking about Aunt Flo, the painters and decorators are in, all that kind of stuff. We are celebrating the most natural signifier that as somebody that was born female and is aligned with the gender or the genitalia they were born with, you can celebrate it every month. It doesn’t have to be “my god, I’ve got my period”. 

Le’Nise: I think that is really beautiful so if there is one thing you can leave our listeners with about their periods, menstrual cycle or hormones, what would you share?

Tamu: That our periods are a really useful way of remembering that we are human beings. We are mammals at the end of the day. Just because we can drive cars, build houses and use social media, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t a part of the natural world and this is a reminder. Nature has all the guidance we need and our period is a way of reminding us, even the absence of a period, whether that is because you have got an issue or you’ve reached menopause, still our periods, our hormone cycles, our hormone fluxes are a real reminder for us to connect the knowledge of our minds with the wisdom and heart of our body and plug into nature. 

Le’Nise: Wonderful, well, thank you so much for coming onto the show, Tamu. Where can listeners find out more about you?

Tamu: You can find out more about me in a really solid way on my website which is www.livethreesixty.com as you can tell I like talking so numbers wouldn’t do and my social media is @livethreesixty again that is all alpha, so yeah that’s where you can find me. 

Le’Nise: Thank you so much for coming on the show. 

Tamu: Thank you, thank you for doing this work, we really really to be having these conversations especially as you mentioned in the beginning, some of the women you talk to, their journey into menstruation wasn’t a celebration and I think we need to refrain. 

Le’Nise: Absolutely, hopefully this is a starting point of changing the way we talk about periods and menstruation.

Tamu: Absolutely. Oh and one last thing, sorry, I have to say that you were definitely one of the absolute keys in helping me to understand that periods are a gift really, so thank you very much. 

Le’Nise: Thank you for saying that. Thank you for your time today.

Foods To Help Reduce Period Pain

Foods To Help Reduce Period Pain

In the many conversations I have about periods, I’m starting to see period pain becoming more and more common. As I say a lot, period pain may be common, but that doesn’t mean it’s normal.


Why is that? It’s hard to say for sure, but stress levels are higher, we’re trying to get by on less sleep, we’re eating on the run, eating fewer vegetables and more of us are constipated, i.e. not having a daily bowel movement.


If you’ve been reading along for a while, you’ll know that food is a powerful way to deal with period issues, including painful periods. If you’re dealing with endometriosis, fibroids or adenomyosis, search my blog for specific posts on these conditions.


Magnesium, nature’s relaxing mineral, can be really helpful in reducing / managing period pain. Leafy greens and nuts & seeds are a great source of this mineral. I also like taking Pure Encapsulations magnesium bisglycinate for an extra boost.


Inflammation (when the immune system is overactive) can increase pain levels, so adding in anti-inflammatory foods such as ginger, turmeric and oily fish on a regular basis can be really beneficial.


Zinc is another powerful anti-inflammatory. Free-range, organic red meat such as beef and lamb, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, oysters and seafood, eggs (eat the yolks!) and ginger are fantastic sources of zinc.


It’s important to also note that it’s not just about the food that gets added into the diet, it’s also about what gets taken out. For some, sugar, alcohol, cow’s milk dairy and gluten can be very inflammatory, so if period pain is a major issue, it can be beneficial to trial reducing or removing these foods from the diet, especially if it can be done in a way that doesn’t lead to a restrictive mindset around food.


Have you ever used changes in diet to reduce period pain? Let me know in the comments!


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! 

Period Story Podcast, Episode 4: Deborah Campbell, We Have To Talk About Menopause

On the fourth episode of the Period Story podcast, I had a wonderful wide-ranging conversation with Deborah Campbell, the founder of Future Fe+Male and the Deborah Campbell Atelier.


We talked about Deborah’s feelings about her first period and not being quite emotionally ready to cope with it, being forced to grow up quite quickly, fibroids, educating boys about periods and navigating her way through early menopause.


Deborah Campbell is the founder of Future Fe+Male, an organisation which promotes everyday equality for empowering humans to reframe thinking around habitual sexism in order to promote social change. This is done through awareness and action through education, a podcast and an interactive platform. Deborah also works in sustainable fashion through her brand Deborah Campbell Atelier and lectures Fashion Marketing with management at Winchester School of Art, specializing in sustainable and ethical best practice, and blockchain. 


Find Deborah on Instagram, the Future Fe+Male website or on Facebook








Show Notes

The Menopause Doctor

Born Equal Podcast


Show Transcript

Le’Nise: On today’s episode, we have Deborah Campbell, Deborah is the founder of Future Female, which promotes everyday quality to empower humans to reframe thinking around habitual sexism to promote social change. This is done through awareness and action with education, a podcast and an interactive platform. Deborah also works in sustainable fashion through her brand, Deborah Campbell Atelier and lectures in fashion marketing with management at the Winchester School of Art, specialising in sustainable and ethical best practice and block chain. Welcome to the show.

Deborah: Hello.

Le’Nise: So let’s start off by getting into the story of your first period. Can you share with us what you remember?

Deborah: Yes. So my first period, I was aged 11 and I do remember it being quite painful. I definitely had some education about it at school, but I think it came as a bit of a ‘oh, what’s this all about’, especially age 11, because I don’t think I’d really appreciated that I could be that young. It was all quite relaxed, my mum was great. I don’t remember any sort of strange sort of not really understanding what was going on. 

But what was really embarrassing was she obviously mentioned it to my dad so that my dad marched in and announced, “oh, I hear you’ve become a young woman”. I was mortified. I was like 11 years ago going what? What’s he talking about? What does that mean? And so, yeah, I think being 11, I wasn’t able to cope with it, had I been seen fully emotionally because I was. Yeah, still really young. I mean, I look at my son now and see he’s not going to have a period, but I think emotionally he’s pretty strong. But it’s quite a big thing, I think when you are 11 or any younger; I mean some girls start younger than that even. So, yeah, that was my first and that stayed with me. That’s quite vivid you know, if somebody asked me the question, as you’ve done, that’s a vivid sort of memory of my dad announcing I’d become a young woman.

Le’Nise: Your family was quite relaxed and quite helpful about it.

Deborah: Yeah, I think my mum was. She tried to sort of navigate me through all of the, you know, the tampons and sanitary towels. But I didn’t jump straight into tampons because obviously being 11, it was all a bit like, oh, that doesn’t look so user friendly. So, yeah, she was good with all that, but I’d always had quite a lot of pain with my period. I definitely remember quite early on suffering with really bad cramping and just feeling really rubbish actually. So yeah, I wished I’d been older so I didn’t have to put up with it that young.

Le’Nise: And how was it at school? Were you the first of your friends to have your period?

Deborah: Yeah, that’s interesting. You know, I’m not sure if I was. The thing was I’d moved schools. We had moved from Manchester to Devon. So I had some friends but I don’t remember talking to, as in obviously I’d made friends, but I’m not sure we talked about periods, I honestly can’t remember. There were a few of us, but I don’t have a specific memory of, oh yeah I was really close to a certain person and we discussed. I think I was probably one of the first. Yeah.

Le’Nise: And how did you learn about periods and what was happening in your body? You mentioned education at school. Was it very in depth?

Deborah: I don’t think it was but I definitely knew what was happening. I just don’t think I was emotionally able to cope with it that well. I definitely engaged with what they told us at school. But I don’t remember it being that in depth. I mean, for example, you know, some of the body parts, you know, I still think, oh, my goodness, I don’t remember learning that I had that part in my vagina area or vulva or all the different types of names that you get. I’ve been learning them as an adult. 

I think it’s quite surprising how the women’s, you know, sexual kind of area was just not, it was a bit less discussed I think, or just not very detailed. So, yeah, I definitely had some education at school, I just don’t think it felt very clear, I mean, clear for the time maybe but just when you start looking and delving further into what does each part do? There was certainly no discussion about pleasure. And I think I’ve come to that later in life in terms of what boys are told, because I have a son, obviously, as I mentioned, and what was discussed about their genitalia so to speak, and what’s discussed about the girls genitalia, it still remains more about older boys, talk about wet dreams but the girls talk about the physicality of periods and all of that and you think hmm that needs change.

Le’Nise: So there was no discussion about the like girls can have, not a wet dream per se, but something quite similar and the nature of female pleasure and masturbation.

Deborah: Exactly. I’m not saying that they talk about masturbation at school to the boys specifically using that term but obviously wet dreams has a connotation to that and this whole pleasure side and I don’t think that has been really focused on yet, it certainly wasn’t going to be focused on when I was growing up. 

I grew up in the seventies but I suppose it isn’t surprising, really, that it isn’t discussed for females, you know, the female pleasure, because I think why shouldn’t it be? But I suppose the challenge they’ve got in schools is age, I think they touch on it in year five and then year six, they are quite young.

Le’Nise: Going back to what you said about being emotionally ready. Can you take us through a little bit why you felt like you weren’t emotionally ready?

Deborah: Yeah, I think it’s something that is physically happening to your body that you don’t fully understand or I didn’t really feel I was ready to address why I had to have a period, i.e. obviously for reproduction purposes. And it takes away your childhood really and in many areas it forces you to become quite grown up quite quickly. And I was always that sort of kid like that anyway; I was the oldest child in the family, so I had to get on with certain things as a young person that a second child wouldn’t have to maybe, you know, get on with anyway. So I was fairly grown up but I think that probably defined my sense of, you know, adulthood quicker and age 11 is no sort of place to kind of consider being an adult, I suppose and that’s how it felt. 

I felt like this transition into womanhood, so to speak, was too quick and too early and I don’t think I was ready. And actually, that’s just looking back. Maybe at the time I didn’t realise that as much because I just got swept up in that emotion.

Le’Nise: And you said that your periods had always been very painful. What did you do about it? And was it something that went all the way through into adulthood?

Deborah: Yeah, I did have to do something about it. My mum and I went to the doctors and we ended up getting the pill to try and ease the cramping and the distress, I suppose. And I’m trying to think back as to what age I was. I think I was well, definitely between maybe 14 and 17. I just can’t remember exactly when it was. So that did help a bit. So in terms of going into adulthood, they were less aggressive, the crampings and such like, but I still suffered to some degree. And then in my late 20s, early 30s, I came off the pill because I suddenly started looking at it or going, hang on; I’m putting drugs into my body. I started to become more aware of, you know, actually this doesn’t quite feel right and I’ve been on it for quite a long time and hence, I just had a rethink about it. 

So when I came off the pill, did they come back? Yes, they came back quite severely but not as they’d been in my teenage years, and some months worse than others. So I think I’d had some pain throughout even when I was on the pill, but just less intense and a bit more intense when I got into my 30s.

Le’Nise: What was your thinking around the pain? Did you think it was something that you had to just put up with or you had to deal with? Or did you have a sense that it wasn’t supposed to be like that?

Deborah: Yeah, I mean, that’s the challenge, I think. I absolutely thought I had to put up with it. I think as I got wiser into my early 30s, I thought, hang on, why am I putting up with this? If you ask me that question now, I think it’s complete nonsense women have to put up with this type of pain. 

I mean, I’ve been on a very long journey in my 40s because I’ve had early menopause but I’ve certainly done a lot of reading and a lot of research and a lot of kind of soul searching as to what was going on with me. I won’t go into that just yet but I think, really, what I’ve come to believe is there shouldn’t be this attitude of putting up. I think medicine and sort of more holistic approaches has got, you know, broader and more widely available and accepted. So also having this idea of understanding your cycle, you know, really really well, it just wasn’t around, I mean, it was in my 30s, I mean, I’m now 48, in case anybody’s thinking why does she keep going on about her 30s. 

So, you know, it’s become more important to consider our own bodies and understand our own bodies and it’s become more, well, there’s more education out there, there’s more understanding of how to understand our own bodies. When I was growing up, men, you know, into adulthood, there was there was an acceptance of, we just put up with it, so I think there are sort of two answers to that question, but certainly a lot of people, I believe, still feel it’s just accepted. And no, it shouldn’t be like that, I don’t think.

Le’Nise: And going back to what you said about coming off the pill, you said you came off in your early 30s. What made you decide to come off the pill?

Deborah: I thought that if any sort of chemical reaction was happening that I’d put in my body, it would take a number of years to get rid of it. And if we wanted to have children and at the time, we didn’t, like myself and my husband have been together for years, well, nearly 30 years coming up, and, you know, we hadn’t decided to have kids, but for some reason there was a sixth sense saying to me, but what if we did decide, actually to not be on the pill would probably be better rather than just coming off and going, oh, let’s have a child, because things don’t work like that. 

So there was that background thinking and there was also this other just sixth sense saying, you know, intuition. This is still a chemical we don’t really know enough about, so I’d perhaps get rid of it, too. That was sort of what my body was telling me to do. So that that’s kind of why really.

Le’Nise: And your journey with the pill. So you went on it anywhere between 14 to 17, what would you describe your journey? Was it smooth? Was it trial and error?

Deborah: It was a bit trial and error. I think I probably went through two or three different types of pill, mostly tablet form, not an injection form from my memory. I don’t think I ever did an injection. But then why have I mentioned that? You know, I might have had an injection at some stage later in my adulthood thinking about it. So yeah, there were a few different options, but I’m afraid I’m a bit woolly on my memory.

Le’Nise: Coming off the pill, you knew there were chemical reactions. You weren’t sure how it was affecting your body. How was the transition coming off of the pill and going back to natural menstrual cycles?

Deborah: It felt like it was fairly easy. I don’t remember having a particular thought of, oh my God, I’ve got to go back on because there’s some difference. And it felt more accepting, I sort of felt like I can accept it this cycle. It is what it is. It didn’t feel difficult. There was a bit of pain around, you know, and some months worse than others. Mood swings and all of that. I mean, I was still getting some of those on the pill anyway. So, yeah, I didn’t feel like it was a drastic sort of oh, I’m off it now. It just felt quite good, I suppose, to be off it. Just trying to think of anything other, no I think yeah, I think it was okay. I’m just trying to think whether I started taking any supplements at that time, I might have done, around, you know, I can’t think of the supplement. Is it evening primrose oil? I think I tried that for a bit. Yeah. So I think I then started looking towards other sorts of means to try and ease some of the discomfort that comes around at certain stages of your cycle.

Le’Nise: And so that was about maybe five or six years off of the pill. How did you learn about what was happening with your body and learn about the different stages of the menstrual cycle?

Deborah: So my cycle was always really regular and to be honest now it’s a bit different, but I won’t go into that. So I started paying attention to the four week cycle and what, 28 days was usually mine give or take a day and I would be very mindful about, the week before would be the most intense, and then the week of the period was quite short actually, I think after the pill, now this is something that is coming back to me, my cycle was very quick. 

So I would have a sort of a heavy section, well, it would be about four or five days maximum, but my heavy part would be just literally one maybe nearly two days. So I felt almost actually what had happened after the pill was they, well it was always the case with the pill, but after the pill, I didn’t get into a cycle of very heavy periods or anything and I hadn’t really even in my teenage years, had very heavy periods, I just had very painful periods. So my heavy periods came after, but that’s another discussion because I then ended up with fibroids, but actually paying attention to the whole cycle, I became more aware of how I felt. I was watching my feelings. I think the week where you are sort of in euphoria is that week of when you just come off your period and you suddenly feel brilliant for about seven days and then slowly declining. I suppose, one week out of the month I felt great and then the other three weeks were challenging for a variety of reasons, whether it’s mood swings or just general sluggishness, I suppose.

Le’Nise: Can you talk a bit more about your fibroids? So fibroids are a condition, they’re very common, but not a lot of women have a proper understanding of them. So can you talk a bit about how you learned about fibroids and that you had them and what you did about them?

Deborah: Yeah, I ended up going to the doctors for something not quite related to, well, nothing to do with fibroids because we didn’t know I had them then. I think it might well have just been some discomfort in the stomach area, sort of pelvic area and I went and had a scan for something relating to that, I believe. Or I may well have had an infection, a bladder infection. They might have been checking it further or not bladder infection, but maybe, no it would have been, yeah, urine infection. Yeah, that was what it was, it was a urine infection and they decided to have a bit more of a closer look. So fibroids were discovered after I had my child. I think I was probably in my early forties. Yeah, I reckon around 42, 43 time. 

So that was something of a surprise because I’d never, well I had heard of them, I’m lying there because my sister has them and she’d had very painful, I think she’s got 3 and really painful for her and has since ended up having some procedure to sort those out because they’re much worse than my situation. But even with my sister, I did not quite grasp exactly what they were and how they can manifest and to be honest, I don’t I still don’t probably have enough knowledge in that area. 

So mine were growing because I was still having a period and apparently they grow through production of oestrogen and that fuels them. So I was, you know, fine, not fine, but thought, right, okay, what does that mean? And, you know, and I wasn’t really given much more information about it. I did feel like I had to just sort of go off and check and see, well, what’s the implication? So there is some discomfort still with the fibroids. I have had a bit of discomfort, but I wouldn’t say it was debilitating in any way, really, because there’s been plenty of other discomforts I’ve had to endure with early menopause. I don’t think there’s enough information about fibroids at all out there, even now, and, you know, things have moved on apace, but no, I would say there could be more detail for women.

Le’Nise: And just for any listeners who don’t know what fibroids are, they’re benign growths that can be in the uterus within the lining, the muscular lining of the uterus and outside the uterus and they grow through the production of oestrogen and they can be anywhere from the size of a walnut to the size of a watermelon. So, for some women they can cause a lot of pain, very heavy periods, anaemia, they can press on the bladder and the bowel. There are many women who have them and have no symptoms at all. But equally, a lot of other women have them and they are experiencing some of the symptoms that I mentioned.

Deborah: Yeah. And actually now you’ve said that. So yeah, I that’s what would happen to me, I would get pressing and still do get pressing on certain areas of the bladder, which is discomfort and then the heavy periods were and have been a nightmare. So that’s linked I think to the fibroids, because I’ve never had heavy periods until around, I think from age 43, really, it might be a bit earlier, because the heavy periods obviously started after I’d had my child age 37, they probably started to kick in around 39 and onwards or maybe even earlier and I put it down, oh I’ve had a baby, everything’s changed. But actually what was happening was there were some fibroids there growing and I didn’t know. So yeah absolutely correct. I think that’s the area that people need to understand a lot more around because they are common. My fibroid is, well I think I’ve got two, but one is particularly bigger than the other, its 4 centimetres, if that gives anybody an inkling of, you know, the size. They can be removed, but there’s all sorts of reasons why not to remove them, which, you know, I’m not necessarily going to go into but yeah.

Le’Nise: We’ve talked about fibroids and how you discovered that you had them. Can you talk about your journey through early menopause?

Deborah: That’s quite complicated; I will try and keep it brief. So I got to aged 43 when my regular period stopped and it didn’t arrive and I was like, this is a bit odd, I’m sure I’m not pregnant. So I got hold of the doctor and said, this is really strange, I’m very regular. She said, Oh, right, sounds to me like perimenopause, when did your mum start her menopause? And I was quite floored actually, I thought, sorry, what are you talking about? What’s perimenopause? I had never heard that term ever. 

It took me a while, well, I phoned my mum straight away, I was like, “when did you start your menopause again? I can’t remember, I don’t think you told me.” “Oh, yeah, I was about 40”, “Oh, right”. So it got to the point where I started getting quite cross with myself because I thought, well, actually, we did fancy a second child and up to that point we hadn’t really properly tried because I’d felt so dreadful between the ages of 40 to 43 and the dreadfulness was around perimenopause, of course, it doesn’t manifest into a period suddenly stopping, it manifests in all sorts of ways, which I haven’t got hours and hours to go into but all of the symptoms I had very briefly from age 40 to about 43 were low confidence, sort of mood swings, quite aggressive mood swings, feeling like you can’t control the mood swing and somebody else is there doing something and then suddenly you come back to yourself and think, who was that? That was just shouting. And then it deteriorated into sort of really low mood and all those sort of early symptoms, age 40 to 43, I just thought I’d, I don’t know why I thought I’d got. 

So I was on a mission to find what I’d got, which in the end was perimenopause. So my doctor was very good, actually, she sent me for a blood test and immediately suggested going on HRT. Now, then at that point, I was into real holistic and had been for a while, holistic approaches to medicine and I was on the defensive then thinking, well, and I was probably in denial, no, no, no, I’m not doing HRT, I’m not doing HRT. I went on a mission to have acupuncture and all sorts of different things, taking supplements. It wasn’t till about age 44 to 45 when the symptoms got so debilitating with a low mood particularly, but also the hot flashes occurred, pain occurred in my legs and all sorts of things, honestly the list is endless. So I went on HRT, which wasn’t very successful. I had two different types before I decided to not take it because I just couldn’t get on with it and I just thought I’ll battle on. 

So this is where I think it’s really bad, I think, women, so this goes right back to my period when I first started my period and my younger years of ‘I just got on with it’. And I think that’s what women shouldn’t say and shouldn’t do. No, we shouldn’t just get on with it. Stop and go no, this doesn’t have to be this way and that’s what I started to think in my mid-40s. Well, this isn’t right. Why am I feeling this bad? So I battled on, which I shouldn’t have done, but I did. I had 18 months of no period because of HRT brings your period back. So at that point, I thought, yeah, I’m pretty much almost into menopause, but I then just couldn’t cope. So I went back on HRT on a mission to find the right type and I’ve only just got the right type aged 48 and it happened in August where I started taking an oestrogen gel and I had a Mirena coil fitted in June. So that’s kind of my, I’m trying to be brief, my brief journey of early menopause. But yeah, I probably could tell you a lot more, but I’m trying to be mindful of not going on too much.

Le’Nise: Okay. Well, it’s really interesting hearing about your journey through HRT because what you’ve described is something that I hear a lot where HRT is sold as something that’s inevitable and what you’ve said is that you’ve been on a journey to find the right type for you. Can you talk a bit about the research that you did for yourself to figure out which type was the best for you?

Deborah: Yeah. I mean, my doctor was quite useful and I say the word quite, because she’s a good doctor but it was very much initially, oh, I’ll put you on patches, because I think that’s the best way. I think for most people that might work but they kept falling off so I wasn’t getting the dosage. So the other research in the background I was doing was trying to find information out there and at the time, aged about 44, there were no people, well obviously there were people talking about it, but there wasn’t a lot out there, so it is really difficult to find other information from relevant sources, particularly medical sources. So I think that’s when I got lost if I’m honest, I got really lost in the mix of what’s right and what’s wrong and I’m very into holistic approaches and homeopathy and all that and I also did acupuncture, I’m still doing acupuncture now actually, just gone back to it because I do believe in all of that. However, it wasn’t helping enough, you know. 

So I’d say it’s only really been in the last two years that I’ve connected in with the Menopause Doctor who’s actually on Instagram. She’s got some brilliant information via her own website and on her Instagram and she’s obviously a medical doctor and I’ve probably learnt the most, if I’m honest from her. I do have a book, but it’s a very thick book and I didn’t manage to read lots of it and I’ve now forgotten the name of that book, but it will come back to me. But yeah, online through the Menopause Doctor [whom] I highly recommend, most of the details she’s got and that’s what’s led me to the gel because she talked about that as an option and my own doctor hadn’t mentioned gel, my doctor hadn’t even mentioned the Mirena coil and I do believe a few people started talking to me about that.

And I then started doing a bit of research and my own doctor was a bit like, hmm not sure if that should be or could be an option and again, I didn’t quite understand why. I mean, the reason I needed to go on the Mirena coil was I needed just to get without these really heavy, debilitating periods, because when you are in the menopause, you know, you can’t, well obviously your period should stop but mine wasn’t stopping because obviously I then went on HRT, which then brings them back. 

And actually, I don’t want to heavy periods because obviously I have fibroids, so it’s a bit of a complicated situation, which is why then I thought, no, I have to get without these periods because they are debilitating. So in some ways I’ve gone against my sort of natural approach but I’ve felt the best I’ve ever felt in the last two months. So I have to accept that this is the root. The Mirena coil hasn’t been as brilliant, let’s say the first six months with the coil, you have to accept you might get a period. So unfortunately for me, I ended up with a period for 14 weeks, not heavy, but 14 weeks of a period with this Mirena coil that stopped in end of August, middle of September it stopped. So I haven’t had a period up until actually last week. I’ve just got another short one going on now. So it’s not been, you know, straightforward but I do feel like my hormones are in the right place now. I feel like I’ve got the right dose of oestrogen. I think oestrogen for me is the biggest challenge but that’s again where medicine is not geared up for individuals. And that is what the challenge is, I think, and I’m not a medic, but that’s my own feeling.

Le’Nise: What would you say to a woman who feels like she’s on a similar journey to you?

Deborah: Based on how I feel now? I would 100 percent recommend HRT and the Mirena coil. Yes, I’ve gone through a lot of challenges during the summer in particular, to get here. But I do feel that it’s, you know, based on the last two months, now, that’s you know, that’s not a long time, based on the last two months, how I’ve been feeling is better than I’ve ever felt. So, you know, that’s what I recommend. It won’t work for everyone. And there’s also some fear about Mirena coil, it’s actually very painful to be inserted, but I must be honest, if you’ve had a baby, its fine. That’s my feeling. 

I had a C-section, so, you know, I had dreadful labour, but I had a C-section and actually, I think you can cope with having a Mirena coil fitted, that’s my personal opinion but not everybody’s threshold is, you know, that’s not for everyone, I’m going to say that, for sure. And I do think, you know, I’m not through my six months yet, so, you know; watch that space in some ways. I do think it’s right for me now, but I could get beyond six months and if still periods are happening, then obviously there’s something wrong and I’ll have to go back and rethink that one but let’s hope they do stop and that’s the end of that.

Le’Nise: So the journey that you’ve been on and the kind of cultural expectation for women and their 40s and 50s and you have an organisation, Future Female, which, as we heard in the intro, is about promoting everyday equality. How do you think that applies to women who are going through this transition in life?

Deborah: I think the stereotype is being eroded as in the stereotype of women and menopause, which is excellent, meaning, I think there’s a lot more conversation out there now about menopause and I talk about it quite often in circles that I would never have considered talking about it before, because it was like, oh, something to shush about a bit like periods to be honest, I think they all go together. 

The more open we are about what is happening with our bodies that are our natural processes, that are part of how we all can reproduce and bring humans into the world, the better and there’s more talk to be done, there’s more books to be written, there’s more openness to occur, there’s certainly more education because, you know, women in their 20s and 30s, I want them to know that if you end up in early menopause, if you don’t know that it’s going to come, literally, you think you’re going mad and there’s a whole heap of women I’ve heard that from, including myself. 

You know, you go into this very strange zone of just otherness, you kind of go, well, where’s me gone? Am I still here? And unfortunately for me, that lasted quite a few years because I wasn’t given the education. So I think from an equality perspective, it has to be talked about; it has to be right on the agenda for a normal conversation.

For instance, slightly aside, but I talked to my son about periods, quite recently because I said, you’ve had the chat at school, how do you feel about it? Were you shown any tampon or sanitary towel and he said no, in real life, we weren’t, but we did see something on a tablet and I thought, well, if he’s accepted, I’ll show him, so we had a brief conversation. We got all the paraphernalia out, we were looking at what is best and what isn’t and he was like, what do you use? And I just think that’s exactly what we have to do, it’s a human thing, it’s not something tucked under the, you know, the carpet or whatever and that’s the same for menopause and more discussion and the less stereotypical, oh, my God, she’s on a period or oh, my God, she’s in the menopause or she’s a nutter and all these derogatory terms that are used for women to describe women. They have to be ousted. And certainly with Future Female, I’m doing what I can there to talk about, you know, menopause. And I talk less about periods because I’m not in that zone anymore but for me, it’s a combination of things. It’s women’s health, basically.

Le’Nise: So talk a little bit more about Future Female and the work that you’ve been doing through this organisation.

Deborah: Yes. So that is really looking at every day equality through this language, through every day habitual sexism that occurs through everyday language. So this kind of idea of derogatory terms used for female, mainly females that come from males. We rebranded recently to have the plus sign to be more inclusive to males because when I started Future Female, I did have the vision that this is a human story, it isn’t, oh, women, you know, telling men they must be a certain way because that is something I think is a barrier. I think if we join up as a team and are equally responsible to look at equality, then it becomes a very different discussion and it becomes a very different, hopefully, action based discussion so that men and women own it. 

And, you know, you don’t see the word feminism in my sort of discussion and my detail and in any language we use, it doesn’t mean I’m not a feminist, it just means that that term is, I feel quite barrier focused and people get stuck in that cul de sac, I call it because, you know, feminism is brilliant and it’s empowering but in order for us all to move forward, I think it’s you know, it’s a wider discussion around equality that everyone needs to take responsibility for and as humans, it’s in our power to sort of shift. 

So what we also look at is education and I’m involved with a number of schools where we just recently did a podcast last week actually at a school. So that Born Equal podcast is inclusive of all voices but looking into the secondary school sector to bring, you know, young voices into the mix, because that’s where it all starts, as in that’s where these derogatory terms occur and that’s where stereotypes occur and that’s what is most interesting to me in education is, so how can we reframe how we speak to each other and how can we, you know, get the action and get the change? And that has to come from both, as I say, male and female. So last week’s podcast was just with females but I’m looking to go in and talk to a group of males as well or female and males together and then I’m also looking because I teach a higher education level so B.A. level, I’m looking at podcasts through that level of student, you know, teenage up into the 20s to see what their take is on equality and every day habitual sexism. 

And then obviously, we’ve just launched a podcast earlier this year called Born Equal and other work where we’re doing is potentially linking up with a number of education organisations to create a toolkit or maybe isn’t a tool kit because the challenges, well, are we giving people something to use to mask the problem or are we going to actually see the whole kind of change in action? You know, it’s a difficult one because we want to help shift the change, but you know, I don’t want a mask it, I do want to give people tools to cope with it. It’s almost like, well, hang on, why are we coping? It’s back to that same conversation again. Why are we coping? Let’s try and think about it a different way. So, yeah, hopefully that gives you an insight as to what work we’re doing.

Le’Nise: Yeah, I think it’s a really important organisation and really important work that you’re doing. If listeners take one thing away from our conversation, what would you want that one thing to be?

Deborah: Don’t put up and don’t cope and don’t think, okay, this is how it has to be, that’s it, because it doesn’t have to be this way.

Le’Nise: Thank you so much for coming onto the show, Deborah. So, all of the work that you’ve mentioned through Future Female, where we can listeners find out more about it? Where can they hear the podcast?

Deborah: The Born Equal podcast is on iTunes, it is on Spotify and Podbean as the host. If you go to our Instagram, which is @WeAreFutureFemale, you can find all the links in there. You can also go on our website, which is www.futurefemale.com and yes, the links should be also on there as well.

Le’Nise: And all these links will be in the show notes as well. Thank you so much.

Deborah: It’s been brilliant. Thank you Le’Nise for inviting me on, it’s been a privilege.

Le’Nise: Thank you.

Foods To Support (And Bring Back!) A Missing Period

In clinic recently, I’ve been seeing more and more women of menstruating age with missing periods, who desperately want their period to return. The reasons for their missing periods vary from:

  • Seeing carbohydrates as the enemy
  • Improper vegan / vegetarian diets
  • Transitioning off hormonal birth control (p.s. you don’t have a proper period on the pill – that’s a ‘pharmaceutical bleed’)
  • Excessive exercise and excessive stress.


Food can play an important role in bringing back a regular menstrual bleed and menstrual cycle, as can reframing the role of certain food groups. 👀


Eating Complex Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are not the enemy and provide a tremendous amount of nutrients that can replenish a body that has had key nutrients depleted by certain diets, hormonal birth control and excessive stress. Focusing on complex carbohydrates, i.e. foods with more complex chains of sugar that take longer to digest, can help rebuild lost nutrients. Try adding in sweet potatoes, oats, quinoa, lentils and beans to at least one meal a day.


Managing Stress

Stress, whether physical stress from excessive exercise or emotional stress, can wreak havoc with hormones, putting the body into ‘fight or flight’ mode. This means that the brain will signal to the ovaries that they don’t need to make as much estrogen. This can lead to the loss of a period. It’s important to address the causes of stress, i.e. do a bit less high impact exercise & incorporate gentle movement such as restorative yoga, walking and swimming. Being honest about sources of emotional stress and finding ways to deal with them can also help.


From a food perspective, adding magnesium, whether through food or a high quality supplement can help, as well as supporting gut health with fermented foods and leafy greens.


Transitioning Off Hormonal Birth Control

When transitioning off hormonal birth control, it is essential to replenish the nutrients that have been depleted. Zinc, magnesium, vitamin C and vitamin B6 are some of the nutrients that can be depleted by hormonal birth control. Adding in high quality red meat, poultry, a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, eggs and wild fish can help rebuild nutrients over time.


Does any of this feel familiar? Email me on lenise@eatlovemove.com or click here to sign up for a free 30 minute hormonal health chat.


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


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


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


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


So what’s actually happening when you ovulate?  


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! 


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!). 


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


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. 


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


There are two major signs to look for: 


  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


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! 


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!  


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


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


Next up: the final phase – luteal! 


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.  


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


Let’s talk about what happens next! 


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!).


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


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). 


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


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!


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


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


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.


Have you noticed this come up for you? 


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!).


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! 


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


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


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


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?


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. 


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. 


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


Are you with me? 


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


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. 


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


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. 


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. 


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.  


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


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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.


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. 


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


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


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

Is wellness for everyone?

I worry that many people feel health and wellbeing isn’t for them because they don’t have a lot of money for expensive ingredients, classes, crystals or workout gear. Or they don’t see anyone that looks like them speaking about health and wellbeing topics that are relevant to them.


This is why I believe it’s so important to have voices in the health and wellbeing industry that have a different cultural point of view and come from different backgrounds, be it race, age, body shape or ability.


By opening up the conversation to other people from different backgrounds, we widen the scope of what wellness means and the tools to achieve this. 


This means acknowledging that not everyone can afford expensive ingredients or has the luxury of time to make long and complicated recipes. 


It means acknowledging the history and cultural context of the wellness trends such as yoga, meditation, matcha and Ayurveda. 


It means acknowledging that certain health topics such as menstruation, fertility and childbirth have different cultural and religious contexts that must be addressed in order to move the conversation forward. 


It means acknowledging that some might be intimidated by going into a fitness class, feeling as though they don’t have the right body / skin colour / brand of leggings / etc. 


It means acknowledging the racial disparities in health outcomes, especially in the UK and the US. 


What do you think about diversity in wellness? What else needs to be discussed? 


Do you want to talk more about your health and wellbeing? 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 Nick Grant 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!

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