The universe is a mysterious giver of life and wonderful experiences. She is vast, extraordinary and unpredictable. Through my healing, she has called me to open up and share my recovery story in the hope that others find the courage to embark on a healing journey well.
The 2nd of May 2019 was an amazing day. Perhaps one of the best days of my life. Apart from waking up in the beautiful country of Spain, I woke up knowing that after months of healing my mind, body and spirit was finally well.
On the cool, transformative day in Spring, I bled for the first time in two years. The timing was absolutely perfect – the new moon was approaching and I sensed her radiant energy as I crossed multiple time zones the day before. I can not explain how excited I was to be starting my cycle in alignment with the planet that governs the divine feminine and my star sign, cancer. I always knew I had a deep connection with the moon… but I didn’t think much of it until then.
Though I’m not entirely certain as to why my period stopped when I was 16, I believe it was largely a result of high levels of physical and emotional stress. My doctor, at the time, agreed. She said that it was common for women who exercised excessively and had low body weight to have irregular or absent cycles (also known as amenorrhea). Many books I read on women’s health also suggested a link between amenorrhea and unresolved emotional baggage. It all was making sense…. for so long I had self-medicated with exercise to distract myself from childhood trauma and how it made me feel. There was no denying that my body was working in overdrive and needed rest; there was also no denying that I had some serious emotional healing to do.
From a young age, I didn’t have a positive relationship with my body. Since I first bled at age 12, I was uncomfortable with having a period. It was rarely spoken about in my family and group of friends so I thought that it should be something I, as a young woman, should be ashamed of. Growing up, I had also been told way too many times that I what I looked like was not good enough by social media posts, magazine articles, films and music videos. Additonally, I inherited the insecurities of my mum, my grandmothers, my ancestors; they would comment on my weight when I was “too fat” or “too thin”, but never if I looked healthy and happy. I would watch my mum apply makeup each day before work, and assume that it was necessary for me to do the same. I would hear her talk to herself in the mirror about how much she hated different parts of her body, and then I would look at my own body with concern. Instead of seeing my body for what it was (and is) – a vehicle in this lifetime – I saw my body as something that I needed to change so that people would love me more.
As a child, I was very fit and muscular because I was routinely involved in physical activity. I swam competitively from the age of 5, trained several times a week, danced until I was 10 and played netball for a team on the weekends. I was by no means overweight, and yet I was very self-conscious because I was taller (and subsequently bigger) then most girls my age.
As much as sport was a positive experience, my insecurities were heightened by the constant comparison between myself and others. In swimming (and many other sports), for instance, there is a big emphasis on physique. At age 11 some swimmers in my age group were doing gym sessions twice a week to build muscle for enhanced performance in the pool. I liked the sound of that and wanted to join in as well. Luckily, my parents had some common sense and believed that there were better ways for a young girl to spend her time and energy.
Soooo instead of going to the gym to tone my prepubescent body, I played with barbie dolls with long legs, big boobs and a small waist, and dressed my Bratz dolls in knee high boots, skinny jeans and crop tops. Without even realising it, I was being stimulated by toys that were highly degrading and gender typical – not only did they lower my self-esteem, but programmed my brain to think that the parameters of beauty were very very narrow.
Even after I stopped playing with dolls and participating in competitive sport a few years later, I didn’t stop hating on my body. Puberty, combined with the drastic reduction in physical activity, caused me to gain weight, which only made my insecurities grow even more. For a solid year, I thought very little about health and fitness.. I made the most of not having to squeeze into a swimsuit and be vigilant about what I was eating.
Everything changed though when I moved schools, jumped on social media and fell into a new group of friends. Suddenly I was caring more about what people thought than I ever had before. I started dieting and my parents didn’t question it. I began running as well and after a couple of months, I became hooked. I absolutely loved the adrenaline rush and what it did for my body. I wanted to run a marathon so I ran every day for months… gradually increasing the distance each run. I lost a lot of weight in a very short amount of time which, combined with restrictive eating and overexercising, led to the loss of my period in March 2017.
Despite my body’s obvious signs of deterioration, I continued to intensively train for a few more months until I was so energy deprived that I could not run anymore. My body had had enough. For too long, I had exercised in pursuit of athletic and aesthetic goals, all at the expense of my own health. Thankfully, the time had come for me to review my lifestyle and make some serious changes.
I must admit that for at least one year I was in denial. The more I researched amenorrhea, the more I hoped that something else was causing the dis-ease because I was so afraid to look self-neglect dead in the eye. I tried everything to balance my hormones – food, herbal teas, reducing exercise, hypnotic therapy and meditation; but until I offered myself acceptance and forgiveness, I did not experience any healing whatsoever.
Below I have compiled a short summary of things I did and changed that I believe helped to heal my body, mind and soul from the chronic stress of overtraining, and welcome the divine feminine back into my life. Please note that these changes/adjustments worked in collaboration with wholehearted self-acceptance and self-forgiveness. For additional resources that contributed to my recovery, see the bottom of the blog post.
HOW I GOT MY PERIOD BACK
- I stopped running and doing any vigorous or strenuous exercise that put stress on my body. This was absolutely crucial to my recovery. If my research had told me anything it was that the female body is very precious. When the body and mind is under constant stress without time to recover, bodily systems do not operate properly. As a survival mechanism, the reproductive system is the first system to shut down when cortisol (the stress hormone) levels are consistently high. I realised that if I wanted my body to heal, I had to let go of stress, and that included physical stress.
- I did not want to eliminate exercise completely so I replaced running with low impact, relaxing exercises such as yoga, gentle swimming and walks in nature. I noticed how good and natural these activities felt, and how my body no longer felt tense or strained. After I practiced yoga, went for a walk in the morning, or swam in a fresh water creek, I felt I was able to release tension in my body and find inner peace that I had previously buried by fear.
- I also cutback the frequency of exercise to one or two times a week. I did not do yoga or go for a walk if my body said no. I learnt to listen to what I was really desiring at my core. Meditation helped a tonne with this.
- After I sorted out my exercise regime, I visited my doctor and requested that I have blood work done to ensure my vitamin and mineral levels were in the normal range. The results came back fine and my doctor informed me that there was nothing to be worried about… my period would naturally return when my mind had created a safe place for it. I was very grateful (and still am to this day) that my doctor genuinely listened to my health concerns, gave me honest advice and, most importantly, encouraged me to remain hopeful.
- Upon reviewing my diet, I decided to incorporate more fats and starchy carbohydrates into my meals and eat a wider variety of plant based foods. I let go of my obsession with “good” and “bad” foods. I started seeing food as a source of energy and being grateful for all the hands that prepared each meal. (FYI: This is still a work in progress but I have come a long way in 2 years)
- I increased my calorie intake which subsequently increased my body mass and fat index. For so long I was afraid of gaining weight because I thought no one would love me (hello, childhood fears). I enjoyed having an aesthetically pleasing body and being known as a “runner” or “athlete”. Luckily, I realised that I wasn’t going to heal if I worked for & worshiped my ego instead of my health, so I decided to let go of my restrictive eating habits. As the weight slowly piled on over 7 months, I did A LOT of emotional work which involved readdressing my own self worth and body image expectations. Not going to lie this was (and is still) super super confronting and difficult. I know I’ve still got a long way to go, but I’m pleased that the work I’ve done has paid off.
- I accepted that my body would heal at its own pace. I stopped stressing about not being able to have children and accepted that the universe would eventually make happen whatever I put forth. This experience taught me to be patient. I feel that this quote by Alana Fairchild perfectly illustrates what I learnt:
The universe has natural flow, cycles and timing that assure us it supports every dream we dare to dream – and that each can come to fruition in due course. It may not look exactly as you expect, but if you have set it in motion with desire and intention, it is karmic law that it finds expression.
- In addition, I made time to express my creative energy, feelings, thoughts and ideas, whether it be in the form of writing, art, song, connecting with others, dancing, music, cooking… I gave my inner child permission to reach out and touch the world with her big, loving heart. !!!Having expansive, soul-enriching hobbies is so underrated, but so so so crucial to spiritual growth and healing. Art is healing. Song is healing. Creative expression is healing.
- Finally, I met some amazing, inspiring women who became friends and mentors. I believe their feminine goddess energy rubbed off on me. Being around healthful, positive, menstruating woman was incredibly uplifting and transformational. I was empowered by their strength, endurance, nurturing love, support and appreciation for life. I fell in love with the true value of friendship and how powerful it is to be surrounded by women who embody both darkness and light, feminine and masculine, beauties and flaws. One beautiful friend in particular introduced me to the ancient wisdom and healing power of rocks and crystals. Leading up to my bleed, I was particularly drawn towards the moon stone. I wore it around my neck during my travels to Spain and believe it may have channeled the lunar energy that encouraged my flow the day after I arrived. For this, I am grateful.
All in all, losing my period was a great lesson; one that I am very appreciative of. In two years, I learnt a great deal about the cyclic nature of the female body, worked through emotional trauma tied up in my root chakra, and came to be a living embodiment of the feminine energy that had been residing deep with in my core.
In so many ways, the experience of losing my period has deepened my commitment to health. Nowadays, I am working on holistically embracing health and fitness. I love being active, going for walks, doing yoga and eating vegan food. I have no limits on how much I consume or a target on how many calories I have to burn, because my focus is on the bigger picture – on maintaining physical, mental, emotionally and spiritual health.
Currently, the only difficulty I am having is articulating how much my profoundly beautiful, wise, menstruating body means to me. Being “woman” is the greatest gift… and something that I now celebrate with so much passion and fire. Womanhood is the reason for my birth into this magical world so I am embracing my monthly cycles, learning how to take good care of my body, supporting young girls as they transition, and holding space for women as they heal from their ailments.
Bleeding is a sign of our fertility, of womanhood, of being a creative. It connects us to each other, to our friends, our ancestors, the Earth, the moon, the stars, and the planets. Bleeding is wellness. It is a sign that our bodies are in working order… and for that we should be incredibly grateful for. Thank You MAMA EARTH.
I send all my love and best wishes. There is hope for recovery. Don’t give up.
Blog & Youtube Channel “acaseofthejills” – https://www.acaseofthejills.com/new-blog https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLJCTCfdzeZ8Sdc-RvT7aZg
Jill is the beautiful human behind the camera; not only is she honest, compassionate and full of knowledge and personal experience, her advice is largely based off her first hand experience with amenorrhea, exercise addiction, and recovery. She talks a lot about maintaining a healthy relationship with exercise by listening to our bodies. Many of her videos have been very influential in healing emotional trauma and helping me to stay hopeful throughout the process. I am so grateful for her online presence and the down to earth way that she has and continues to share her story.
Rewilding for Women Podcast by Sabrina Lynn – https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/rewilding-for-women/id1151621599
A super transformational podcast led by Sabrina Lynn. Her energy emanates boldness, intuition, wisdom, and femininity. She has a no-bullshit, honest demeanour which is hard to come by on the internet in this day and age. Although her messages can be confronting, they are well-meaning and come straight from the heart. Lynn discusses how we, as women, can become more in touch with the divine feminine through shamanic healing, archetypal work and self development. This women has an incredible depth and has left me in tears on numerous occasions. The community that she has created is something that all women should be a part of.
Women’s Minds Women’s Bodies by Christiane Northrup
An excellent book packed with loads of information about the female body and alternative ways of healing dis-ease in our bodies. There is a chapter dedicated to menstruation, healing irregular periods and working through emotional trauma. Northrup’s book taught me a lot about how many illnesses and imbalances in the body are rooted in childhood fear.
Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
A very extensive compilation of archetypal wild women myths and legends. This book opened my eyes to the spiritual realm of healing and the power that we hold within ourselves. By reading this text, I also became aware of all the past trauma that has been passed onto me by my predecessors. Very powerful work of art… strongly recommend for women wanting to deepen their connection with their inner wisdom. Also recommend for men interested in learning about the divine feminine energy and how to embrace it within themselves and others.