"I would find myself on the sofa, tears streaming down my cheeks. I would swear to my husband, Chris, that I rarely felt this bad. I would promise him that this time was different, worse, and I was scared that this emotional state might become my new normal or that I was entering a depression. Chris would reassure me, reminding me that we had had similar conversations before, and each time, I had claimed that it was different, worse.
Other times, I would be on top of the world, almost feeling the adrenaline in my blood. I would have a rush of energy that wanted to create, shout, plan, and organize. On such days, what felt like the real me showed up. Or, more accurately, an excited, "all-in" version of the real me. Happy and optimistic, ready to take over the world.
I would also have days in the middle. Some days would make it difficult for me to care for others without a trace of resentment. Other days would allow me to function and be present; moments when the once insurmountable became easily achievable.
At one point, I believed I might have a bipolar disorder. I was convinced that the confident public speaker advocating for feminism and the Dorito-craving, pajama-clad version of me were two distinct personalities competing for control. They had to be different versions living inside of me.
Then, the concept of period tracking, hormones, and the cyclical nature of seasons entered my awareness. Suddenly, it all made sense. It made so much damn sense. My experiences weren't a result of bipolar disorder, but simply the reality of being a woman with a female body! In a world that forgot to explain to me how my female biology works and without the knowledge of tools to harness it.
You see, we can be failed in terms of gender because of the expectations (trans women and non-binary people too!). And we can be failed in terms of sex with a lack of real understanding about our biology (trans men and non-binary people too!).
Empowered by my revelation, I delved into resources like "The Optimised Woman" and "Period Power," awakening a curiosity that demanded exploration. Armed with an app and my own Excel spreadsheet, I embarked on a journey of self-discovery, embracing the tapestry of my inner seasons.
Tracking my cycle transformed my life. Each phase now held a purpose, a unique strength, and its own set of challenges. Instead of dreading or longing for specific moments, I learned to nurture the diverse needs and potential within me. The comforting reminder that "this too shall pass" became a mantra, grounding me in the understanding that each phase was a stepping stone.
I am much better at not blaming myself for seeking some alone time under a cozy blanket while watching Grey's Anatomy to cry in peace. This act of self-care honours the part of me that thrives in quiet introspection, as does journaling or the permission to take a long bath with music. Just as in nature, autumn and winter pave the way for spring and summer, so too do moments of rest and contemplation allow me to have the headspace and energy that I need for the active weeks.
I stopped dividing my experiences into "bad weeks" and "good weeks." Instead, I see them as part of my journey. Each phase—the inward growth, the quieter moments, the vibrant social periods—is an integral part of a harmonious whole. We see it outside, and now I could feel it within, the way changing seasons interplay, the way my emotional cycle was interconnected.
I was never two different Virginias, one to love and one to hate. I was always me, a complex, real, and ever-growing me. One that needed to give herself permission to rest unapologetically sometimes. To not be efficient. To not be social. To not be celebrated from outside but held from inside.
If this process has liberated me, it has also really angered me (which apparently is my comfort feeling). I can't believe that we are not teaching this in schools; I can't believe we are not talking about these things with our partners, with our friends, with our kids.
I want a world where my daughter, Nora, understands her body's rhythms, how they influence her emotions throughout the month. I long for her to recognize when to embrace rest, trusting that efficiency will follow suit. I want to equip her with this knowledge for her to navigate her school assignments with a realistic understanding of her amazing capabilities. I want her to know about it because it will affect her relationships, her emotions, her decision-making. It will empower her.
I want my son, Eric, to live in a house where we talk about those things openly. He lives in a society where 51% of the population has a female biology, and that knowledge will allow him to be a better ally and to have a more informed understanding of the world.
I love that I can tell Chris not to ask certain things in my autumn because I am more prone to anxiety. I know that we can plan exciting family days out on my inner summer, and that he knows that I need the extra rest in winter. We can be intentional about having more "us" time in my spring. It has helped us to parent better and to be a better couple.
Could this be another chapter in feminism? A triumph not just for women, but for society at large? Celebrating self-discovery and connection with the complexity of our bodies, harnessing the innate strengths they offer. I advocate for a world that honors the natural rhythms, facilitating environments that account for our cycles. Fighting the period stigma and including a broad and holistic teaching of female periods in schools, way beyond the superficial current approach.
My journey taught me that understanding our bodies is a revolutionary act. It reminded me that a cyclic way to live is more natural because this is nature after all. It reminded me that we too are nature.