Towards the Emergence of Menstruation
Journal Entry, October 4, 1989
sibylle, sibylle in the centre, whispers, "leave it all behind.
Sink into your own love."
Is that what my menstrual blood is?
The outpouring of love?
For most of my menstruating life I managed, in between periods,
from my mind that I would bleed again. If the fact did cross my
would make sure to think, "It can't possibly be as bad next time."
Yet it almost always was.
At some point during almost every period, I would, after eating,
to feel confused. The "confusion" operated at both physical and
intellectual levels. My forehead would feel off, as though some
fallen out of place. I would suddenly find it difficult to follow
argument or to do simple calculations. An intensely uncomfortable
in the area just below my left breast always accompanied this
a hardening that would not let up, that seemed to want to repel
contact with anything. Before I learned better, I would eat
anything I thought
might be able to loosen the grip of that hardness, hoping
this time I would find the food that had the power to change my
to stave off what I knew was inevitably on the way.
Then I would feel the first twinges of pain in my ovaries. Soon
pain would flicker back and forth between my ovaries and a
on my lower spine. As the pain intensified, other symptoms began:
in my ears, tingling in my fingers, a flickering screen descending
my vision (the sight of the world would take on the visual
buzzing), a clammy coldness taking over my feet and hands, and a
centering in to constrict my chest. And some part of me, timid at
of times, would curl up, tighter and tighter, trying to escape the
that were making me feel as though I was hearing chalk that
screeching across a blackboard, sensations that grew, grew, as I
until my eardrums were overwhelmed, entry to my head was gained,
and I blacked
out. The sound of my fall would usually wake me instantly. On
consciousness I would have to vomit, again and again. The pain in
and back would go on for hours more.
On other periods the tingling and buzzing remained as background
while pain in my ovaries and back grew increasingly intense, and I
writhe, rock, move incessantly, even beat my head against the
floor in an
effort to find relief in the form of distraction. The sensation of
in my stomach would spread across my midriff, until I felt only a
barrier there. As this feeling approached its apex, uncontrollable
would send me running to the bathroom. Food I had eaten two or
before would emerge looking untouched by the digestive process. At
time violent cramps would overtake my bowels and I would have to
This would go on until I was vomiting only clear liquid and had
left to pass through my writhing bowels. The vomiting and the
the only things that gave me momentary relief from the pain in my
My pain usually eased once I managed to pass large clots of
some four to five hours after the start of these experiences.
emptied, I would often function at sub-normal levels for up to a
Yet for years I did not even think of everything I have described
as a real illness. I thought of it as my period. As a lifetime of
began to improve in my late twenties, however, I began to wake up
drastic after-effects of these "attacks" and it dawned on
me that I was experiencing a real illness, and that because this
I could do something about it!
This writing is an attempt to articulate how I have healed, and
to heal, my menstrual illness. I have written it in the hope that
have learned through my healing journey will be helpful to others.
Journal Entry, April 17, 1990
I am having menstrual cramps, accompanied by nausea.
The pain is not as severe as in times past.
I receive an image. The garbage cans outside a motor hotel, the
filled with Coke cans, empty mickeys, half-eaten wieners clinging
smeared with mustard, potato chip bags. The worst garbage I know.
where I would rather not even touch the lid of the can.
I come to understand that this image of garbage represents how I
myself no wonder I want to vomit. Suddenly I realize that I
garbage because I am sexual. And on my period, so sexual.
I speak out loud, three times:"I am sexual. I am a sexual being.
I have sexuality." What a relief, even to recall and write it
For a few blessed moments, all pain subsides, my torso resolves
a three dimensional being, all the organs in place.
A long chain, far longer than my individual life, created my
that my bleeding body was garbage. This chain would be growing
more of its
brutal links every day, expressing itself through my life, if I
it. It began to intertwine itself with me in earliest childhood,
in my family
life and at the church we attended. Later I would find more of its
twisted tentacles in my doctor's office, on the job, in the tampon
in women's magazines.
It is always difficult to know just what another person is
why. My mother's mother told her bleeding was "sin," and my mother
often told me, after I began bleeding, how as a young woman she
one cotton pad for her entire period, regularly rinsing it in a
her home and wearing it like that, cold and wet, so that no one in
would know about her blood. I know she did not want me to go
she had endured. I remember that she cried the first day I ever
bled - it
seemed to me out of a mingling of grief and happiness at my
growth, I really
wasn't sure. After the newness of my life-change wore off, less
voices emerged in her. To my mother, blood remained a stain. I'll
forget a morning she searched for bloodstains on my sheet because
I was having my period, and despite my protest, angrily found them
I knew were only shadows. She made cloth pads for me and my sister
control of washing away my blood every month.
My mother taught me that menstruation was something that
I was reprimanded when I occasionally forgot a used pad in the
my father used, not only for my lack of responsibility, but
because my father
had had to "see it," this said in a hushed, pleading, ashamed
tone. Naturally then, I was also taught that it was socially
girls or women to ever mention to boys or men that they were
I remember my sister and I, fantasizing about marriage, trying to
out what we would do should we find ourselves menstruating on the
"What would you say! What would you do!" I recall how much courage
it took on my part the first few times I decided to break this
speak matter of factly to men other than my lover (I'd gotten than
about my period's presence. I also discovered, years after leaving
that one of my own unconscious voices imagined that my bleeding
was an insult
to men, and that through it I was taking revenge on them for the
they had done me in a sexist society: so thoroughly had I
conditioning that my female functions were repellent to men.
From both my parents I learned not to consider my menstrual
to be a real illness. They very much took the outlook, taught
sure, by their socialization, that "women's problems" were part
of the ordained order of things, painful but inevitable. They
symptoms to menstruation rather than to some difficulty that was
me from menstruating in a healthy way. Despite the extremity of my
they made no efforts to find the root cause of the symptoms or to
effectively. I try to understand this from my current distance
time in years, space and, I hope, wisdom, and posit that their
sexuality prevented them from being able to truly address the
Looking back on my own role while I was dependent on my parents, I
my bleeding self as literally throwing my period into their face
doing penance for the presence of my sexuality, my illness
felt, unspoken agendas for both myself and my parents.
My parents were not unique in their social milieu in their
with coming to terms with their children's sexuality. Probably the
most important source of harmful attitudes towards sexual reality
had to deal with during my childhood and adolescence was my
membership in a Baptist church. The church taught that some forms
and/or sexual connection were intrinsically right, others
wrong, as a means, I believe, of maintaining its power and group
Sex outside marriage was especially wrong. That people might be
make responsible sexual choices for themselves and might also be
fulfill the demands of love and mutual respect in non-marital
were ideas outside the realm of possibility in the minds of church
and teachers. While I can look back and appreciate the ideals of
these people upheld, the emphasis on the outer form of a
a key mark of virtue left precious little room for individual
intimacy, whether of a sexual nature or not, or for individual
Agonizing, eternal punishment in hell awaited those who deviated
prescribed relationship forms and did not repent of their ways.
Thus the "flesh", "desires of the flesh," and even
music "that moved you below the waist" delineated dangerous
the places where sinful connections might be all too easily made,
one felt temptation too overpoweringly to be able to resist.
I ever heard and saw in church, especially the bodies of the other
confirmed that the tension I held constantly throughout my own
proper and "godly". I dared not let it go, for fear of the
beast below. Tension would save me from sin.
Within this context I heard the preachers of my childhood
the least qualification that the phrase "filthy rags" in Isaiah
64:6 ("But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our
are as filthy rags, and we all do fade as a leaf; and our
the wind, have taken us away." KJV) euphemistically refers
a woman's menstrual rags. (This passage is related to Leviticus
I checked The New Jerome Biblical Commentary for the purposes of
this article (Prentice-Hall, 1968); it confirmed this
authors of the commentary go on to distinguish ceremonial from
explaining that menstrual rags belong to the first category.
not this is true, if it is a common scholarly interpretation of
its meaning was not communicated to me at my church. I remember
to believe that Isaiah, prophet of God, meant to equate a natural
bodily function with moral and spiritual degeneracy. And so far as
the validity of Isaiah's metaphor was not questioned by the
in my life. When I heard this interpretation of the verse
the pulpit by the man my parents taught me to respect above all
I remember feeling I had better silence any questioning voices.
The world beyond family and church, the two predominant
my childhood, offered little to help me come to terms with my
Like many girls, I began menstruating when I was eleven, in grade
periods in public school were very heavy. Yet no references to the
changes accompanying puberty were made in the regular curriculum
reached grade nine, the high school. Nor were pads or tampons
in the school washroom until then. I was too shy, and too
my body, to approach any of the other girls in my grade six class
or camaraderie. It came as a surprise to me, through overhearing a
in gym class, that I was not the only one menstruating. My
In high school, menstruation was, at least, acknowledged. One
be excused from swimming class during one's periods. This I
despite the acute embarrassment I felt over having to face my gym
with the excuse.
My first clear memories of my menstrual illness date back to
(my thirteenth year). Doctors could do little to help me. One,
the depth of my panic and pain, advised me to breathe deeply, and
right. But within my familial and social context at the time, the
was useless. Breathing isn't conducive to denial of the flesh.
Consulting a doctor about my heavy bleeding also resulted in
surgery when I was seventeen, performed under general anaesthetic.
made no impact on my condition whatsoever; neither could my doctor
me any satisfying explanation as to why it should have. In fact,
attempted after the operation to find out what had been done to me
he told me that the tests supposed to accompany the operation and
on the reasons for my difficulties, had, for some obscure reason,
done. By this point in the conversation he was mumbling, and
he attempted to recover some authority in his voice and instructed
begin keeping a record on my calendar (with a red marker, no less)
days I bled heavily and which lightly. I walked out of his office
I had been used to augment his income.
Not until my late twenties did I encounter information from the
community, from practitioners of Chinese medicine and from St.
of Bingen's medical treatise that proved vital to a better medical
of my menstrual problems. But the non-allopathic care-givers, I
came to understand, were also missing an important point. Like
doctors, most seem to feel that menstrual health is indicated by a
ability to function as usual while menstruating. This task I set
in agreement with the doctors (and everyone else). Failing at it
embarrassed me. Now I see my efforts to function as usual as
of our societal striving to control and subdue natural processes
compulsion by which we lose our vital connection to their power.
In my twenties, economically independent for the first time, I
learned that the doctors' expectation, that a woman be able to
as usual, partners an economic demand. Doctors, women and
assumed to have a common interest in ending cramps, backache,
and fatigue, as these are a significant cause of absenteeism and
worker productivity. The demands of the job, and of paying the
provided me with further incentive to try and relegate my
as far to the background as possible. This is considered a mature
attitude towards work in the society at large. Despite my pain
I always refused to use drugs to block my symptoms. I envied women
work without worry throughout their period. In a competitive,
economy, they had an economic edge over me.
My socially based oppression around menstruation continued in
women's magazines. Here, images of elegant women, so competent
were able to wear white shorts without fear while menstruating,
I seemed forever unable to keep my period from erupting in every
no matter what brand of "feminine hygiene" product I used!
Eventually I would decide that menstruation-related marketing
the doctors and economists when it pitches products as being
they allow women to continue uninterruptedly with everyday
technologies are hyped as liberating women from a biologically
Consider, for example, the menstrual pad brand names "Stayfree"
and "New Freedom." The message I hear is that our female bodies
are something from which we must liberate ourselves in order to
and fulfillment in life.
Perhaps I wouldn't feel as confident making the foregoing
if women themselves had not so frequently given me that very
vividly remember a high school girlfriend who calculated how many
her life she would have to menstruate. Together, we expressed our
and sadness over the wasted time! We were young and uninformed,
theme has not changed as I've grown older. A survey of American
in the Utne Reader, Number 46, July/August 1991, indicates that
choice, 69% of women would rather not menstruate. The majority of
I have spoken with about their periods express only feelings of
discomfort and pain in conjunction with their monthly bleeding.
In my life, our massive society-wide repression and repudiation
bore painful results. During the years of my menstrual illness, at
point in almost every period I literally could not bleed until my
denied self, there are many ways to look at it) had, with the
forcefulness, cleared a path through the layers of repression
myself and my menstrual flow.
Considering this, I have come to see my menstrual pain, and the
pain of other women, as, paradoxically, a sign of our
though it may be, to experience menstruation. As long as our
us to block or hide the natural expression of menstrual processes,
rebel, our ovaries and wombs will rise up once a month and demand
hearing. The costs, personal and social, of such a relationship to
are grievously high. The rest of this article will describe my
a different relationship to my bleeding than that encouraged by my
As my knowledge of feminism and holistically oriented psychology
as I reached my mid to late twenties, I slowly began to recognize
cultural constructions surrounding menstruation described thus far
just that - cultural constructions. They could be challenged,
transformed. I came to consciously reject ideas such as that it
to bleed, shameful and embarrassing to accidentally stain one's
in public and improper to mention one's bleeding to men. But my
continued, for I had not yet addressed the way I internally
constructs, the way the energy patterns the words can only
infected and altered the functioning of my organs, tissues and
I feel grateful to my illness for not letting me be, for insisting
or else. In the summer of 1989, my 28th year, I could never have
I would ever be able to say such a thing. My attacks continued to
with their usual ferocity despite all the energy and effort I was
into trying to attain greater well-being. But that summer, my
and perhaps, growing strength, drove me to finally grasp for what
had thought impossible: I would find a way to get well, no matter
For the first time, I told myself I simply did not deserve to
much pain. I did not have to take this anymore.
By that point in my life I had already survived a major
sickness, getting well had consumed my mid-twenties. One of the
my healing process had been the changing and manipulating of my
it seemed sensible to turn to the question of food that summer. No
because of the decision I had made on my own behalf, that I would
no matter what, I found the clarity, in the middle of a bout of
to crawl into bed, put my hands over my hara centre (a major
just below the navel), begin breathing into the area my hands were
ask myself what to eat, and wait silently, assuring myself I would
a reply sooner or later. And I did, within a few minutes. It
that specific foods I had been eating because certain dietary
I should were helping cause my cramps. My rigid, over-enthusiastic
to these teachers' authority had overruled my inner wisdom; I had
contributing to my illness by not listening to myself. This theme
come to be central to my healing process.
Over several months after this first small breakthrough, I
the insight that to a great extent I had been using dietary and
therapies to try to force my body to "behave," to "be good."
I was channeling potentially helpful healing modalities into
authoritarian structures my culture had taught me, into an
idea of wellness. Used like this, the world's best therapies could
given me only limited help at the time.
Changing my diet according to my inner knowledge was a help to
but I still suffered greatly. Next, inspired by the body-centred
work I had been pursuing for several years, (and perhaps by that
I had been brought to many years ago!) I began attempting to
through each monthly attack, to feel fully everything happening to
began to notice improvements in my eyesight and a general feeling
after vomiting. As I learned to observe my "illness process" more
closely, watching what happened and when, I found myself expending
deal of mental energy on an attempt to discover a fixed set of
between specific physical symptoms and specific thoughts and
considered "unhealthy" because they were products of an oppressive
culture. As it turned out, this was not a fruitful direction to
period, I would soon find out, was trying to teach me about flow,
a neat and tidy set of correlations.
Christmas, 1989, brought the major turning point in my struggle.
visiting with my family; the illness came on as I was out shopping
my sister. She managed to get me to my parents' home in time that
not vomit in her car. Inside, I staggered back and forth from a
the toilet; on my lower back a crab seemed to hang on for dear
And that day, what needed to die finally did. I finally lay
and utterly exhausted, emptied of vomit, emptied of shit, but -
light, with an overwhelming, ecstatic love. For hours I lay there,
and loving. Family members came in to visit, left again, I was too
to move, and had no will to move, had no will to do anything but
the ecstatic love pouring through me. Finally I knew that a great
been hidden from me, had been waiting all those years inside my
finally I knew that my sex organs, my organs of love, had been
fill me with an ecstatic light, the light of bleeding. Their pain,
had been the pain of love denied.
I had only ever heard that bleeding was a necessary evil, a
an inconvenience, a cause for shame, that it should be hidden,
and blocked from entry into both personal and social space. But
finally, my bleeding and I had met, and I knew nothing I had been
about it was the truth.
After that period, I also knew I would never be able to bleed in
same way again. Intuiting my need, and inspired by my knowledge
First Nations women had done the same thing, I began, with my next
going into seclusion, staying in my bedroom without socializing or
I knew that my task was to open myself to the energy flowing from
as I menstruated. I decided that at this time of the month
did and when I did it, whether eating, sleeping, sounding, dancing
quiet, would be dictated by the voice of my belly. I would
wholly to my bleeding. It was very difficult going for the first
Journal Entry, February 9, 1990
The referentiality of language is, after all, vital.
Could I ever trust those who said otherwise?
I lay in bed this morning considering the similarities between
bondage and spiritual experience.
My spiritual experience a priori is my period, when I give up
listen to my ovaries. They dictate my eating and sleeping, singing
They journey me through the realms. I am in their hands.
It looks so close to being bound until I see that this is
so if "I" am not my ovaries also. If "I" am not my ovaries,
"I" am not able to be as "I" wish during my period (if"I"
do, the pain becomes unbearable) and "I" think "I" am
Who is "I" ?, I ask.
The answer returns clearly, as a radiance of sensation. "I"
begins in that place on my spine just where the neck fans out into
and includes my head.
Thus my period is not bondage, but balance.
What is the appeal of bondage?
The reference it makes to this state of spiritual abandonment.
it holds of silencing the "I." . . .
It was very difficult going for the first eight months I had to
to do what my illness had previously done, of necessity by force:
energy from the lower body to move freely through the upper body.
failed, which was often, I would experience, as before, extreme
had ingested my cultural conditioning well. I experienced my solar
as a berserk watchdog standing guard between my upper self and my
I found it necessary to lie in bed two or three days at a time,
little. Eating was pretty well out of the question, because food
my defence mechanisms against my menstrual energy. Later I also
that eating helped catalyze my anger, made me feel invaded,
I still associated food with the invasive aspects of my mother's
towards me as a child. My anger in those days was more unconscious
than today. It tended to take over my whole being, cutting off my
to everything and everyone, including myself. Then I would find
again. I did not really understand this as I began my work with my
periods. I just knew I had to "let go, let go, let go."
So I lay, I breathed, I did not eat. Sometimes I drummed and
often I could do no more than lay back again, needing to surrender
slow opening of heretofore unused channels, to feel my arms and
facial muscles twitching, unpredictably, sometimes with surprising
I was learning how to stop interfering with my ovaries, my uterus,
my blood and my bleeding. I was learning how to let my upper body
my lower body (rather than try to hide and deny it), so it could
expressing freely the truth of my whole being. And as I dedicated
to this work, I came to ecstasy again and again, every period I
an ecstasy, to a liquid fire burning in my heart.
Experiencing my seclusion from the outside, some of my roommates
the time thought I was sicker than ever and my period must be
a incredibly hard time. At least one seemed unable to comprehend
After I explained to her what I was doing and why, she told me she
I would be feeling better soon. I think she simply didn't have a
in her mind for what I was trying to do.
Journal Entry, May 18, 1990
It is our ability to choose a heart that gives us our freedom.
Within a few months of beginning to go into seclusion, it became
to me that the central event in my experience of menstrual ecstasy
opening of my heart (the chakra in the centre of the chest,
breasts). Seeing the importance of this, it struck me that it was
heart that I should focus my efforts to open myself to
turned out to be my magic key. By opening my heart (simply by
attention there and intending the opening) I effectively overcame
that had created my vomiting, fainting and pain, energy struggling
recognized. I went so far as to make notes on my calendar to
to open my heart to myself at menstruation time, as I sometimes
when I panicked over signs of possible oncoming pain. As I
this practice, I began to be more mobile during my periods and
to eat. Today, I am able to engage in a wide variety of activities
my period, for which I am thankful, as sometimes there's just no
working or socializing. But I stay committed to taking a block of
period to stay in solitude so I can listen carefully to my body
respect and honour to the treasures my bleeding brings me.
As I learned to open my heart to my bleeding I became aware of
function of menstruation I had not previously suspected: the
information. My sexual organs had (and have!) tremendous amounts
and insightful information to share with me! This was a real
me at first, but made sense as soon as I thought about it. Our sex
after all, are a major locus of connection between us and the
a major source through which we are able to find love for
The directness with which menstruation can bestow information
stunning. During my period of June, 1991, I was suffering fairly
cramps, by then an unusual occurrence. As has now become almost my
response to such a situation, I slowed down; I went and sat in the
let myself be. Soon, a series of thoughts about a particular
my life, thoughts that represented realizations I had been
into my awareness, just as my blood was flowing into awareness.
I accepted those thoughts, my cramps were gone. It was both as
profound as that. Sometimes it has been precisely this opening to
myself know things that I am resisting that has also been the
that has brought me to a new experience of menstrual ecstasy. I
to anticipate my monthly periods as a potent problem-solving
I receive guidance that improves my life and provides me with
As I began to realize the ecstatic/informative/transformative
of menstruation, I found myself searching for a way of explaining
course of events to myself. I have found a way that satisfies me.
learned that my body speaks, all the tissues and cells and
Holistic thinking translates this speech into verbal metaphors
the gap between two modes of communication. (Whether or not I
respond to myself is another matter.)
Within this conceptual framework, the process of menstruation
a powerful speaking to me. The content carried by the process
my life circumstances at the time.
Blood is the vital tissue that flows through my entire being.
and blood are at the centre of what makes my consciousness
possible at the
same time as they, themselves, are conscious, interwoven into the
of my consciousness. The blood slowly pulsating out of my self is
of a previous month's consciousness, a record of a previous
It is a revelation, the liquid writing of my soul. To reveal
inner world must also empty itself. This makes way for another
structure to focus itself in the belly. Emptying (or death),
and new growth this is the archetypal transformative cycle
reverberate monthly, if I allow it, through my whole being. And
because the heart and blood are at the centre of life, it is
me, whose life has often hung on a thread, to pay as great
their transformative messages as possible.
Within the archetypal transformative cycle of menstruation I
a special case (the "menstrual case!") of the opportunity to find
the point of liquid fire in my heart. I let myself sink down to my
let myself rise to my eyes, let myself meet myself in my heart and
It is when I am ecstatic that I know why I am alive.
Journal Entry, April 19, 1990
I see in my mind's eye
a series of poems
Begin with one flower.
From its centre emerges another flower
the way a butterfly
emerges from its pupa
and unfolds its wings
And from its centre emerges
they are all red
red as blood
and from its centre
this eternal flowering
this heart's blood
I spill upon the earth
my seeds of love
The transformative and ecstatic potentialities of menstruation
been systematically excluded within English-speaking, white,
Judeo-Christian society, the only society of which I have
At the present time, this society places overwhelming value on the
of material wealth and this is coupled, in paradoxical logic, with
overwhelming refusal to admit that the physical world, including
is truly valuable. (The environmental crisis, for instance, would
happening if we truly valued our physical existence.) Except
we can manipulate physicality to aggrandize or enrich ourselves,
it is a
source of shame to us the butt of our jokes, the well from
draw our curse words, the scapegoat for our pain. We see the body
an essential tool in our spiritual evolution, but as a barrier to
This cultural pattern has created a situation in which
menstruation is allowed
barely any social place. In my case, this led to a refusal to give
a place when bleeding, a place to bleed in. It took me enormous
will and courage to live out my decision to stop mirroring my
my bleeding process.
Thankfully, there are exceptions to this situation, in
fields of endeavour to which I owe debts of gratitude for
in my search for menstrual health: body-inclusive psychotherapy,
me that I needed to make peace with the fact of my physical
for encouraging me to value my unique personhood and experience of
feminism, for making it possible for me to gain economic
thus also needed distance and perspective on my family's attitudes
and for giving me valuable analyses of the structures of social
the growing voices of Wiccan, Goddess and aboriginal religions,
the connection between everyday experience and spirituality and in
cases corroborated my own experience of finding menstruation to be
instigator of growth; and to naturopathic, Chinese and
and dietary counselors whose understanding of how the human system
gave me important insights and "technical" support in my chosen
movement from blockage to flow. I hope these movements continue to
and foster change in our society.
In light of what I have learned since changing my way of being
my period, I can only consider the socially sanctioned suppression
to be an enormous, untold waste of our own resources as a species.
is life, but we behave as though blind to that fact, pretending
that a myriad
of dangerous and poisonous technologies can sustain us instead.
if we come to our senses, as I am hoping will happen due to the
influences of environmentalism, holistic health care modalities,
and spiritual movements which honour and value physical reality, I
we will find ourselves needing to pass through grief, mourning and
over our attitudes to menstruation. We will never know what
solutions to personal and collective problems have been lost over
of patriarchy because the wisdom gained by women from their
not been allowed a voice in society. This wisdom has been so
nowadays most women see their periods as a burden, even a shameful
rather than as an awesome gift for all.
My challenge to this suppression has been my practice of
menstruation, when I leave everyday life to a greater or lesser
focusing instead on allowing the energies that fuel my bleeding
their free play. This "challenge" has been an inadvertent one.
I have no desire to act against anybody, only for my own
authenticity. Paradoxically, it is my seclusion that has gone far
my period into social space, as I explain my absence to friends,
and roommates. To date I have received a generally supportive
The most common misconception has been that I do what I do because
ill. (In certain employment situations I have found it necessary
this misconception.) It is, however, a culture that attempts to
or distort my healthy relationship to menstruation that I must
My practice of seclusion has undergone changes over the past
to my increasing health. Nevertheless, I continue to make
economic sacrifices, in order to pursue this vital
self-development. I pray
that one day our society will be organized so as to remove such
between doing what is necessary for oneself and doing what is
necessary. At bottom, these are artificial conflicts, as sound
systems cannot possibly be maintained by masses of unsound people
people forced by oppressive and exploitive economic structures and
ideologies to forego the fulfillment of their biologically based
processes. Sound economic systems would value and respect the
that we depend on.
Through much suffering, reflection and labour I have discovered
menstruation can renew me, strengthen me and give me insight and
Through listening to my bleeding I have become healthier. I assume
I wish to encourage all women who have not already done so to
valuing menstruation as we value our eyes, our hands, our
lives. The decision to value can guide each one of us to our own
of establishing a fruitful relationship to menstruation. As we
time and means necessary to create our own space for menstruation,
create a world in which both our daughters and sons need no longer
for the fact that they are whole creatures, body and consciousness
end inviolately inseparable. Let the "normalization" of ourselves,
the hiding of ourselves, even the "liberation" of ourselves
from ourselves! end. Let our lifeblood begin to flow.
Sibylle Preuschat, 1991
Addendum, February 1994
The night after the performance, I have a dream about filling
in my washroom with pads filled with blood I am menstruating
red, rich blood, ruby red-black, shimmering. The next morning I
the dream, and the meaning of the image hits me unusually swiftly
like a rock on the head! I see that the wastebasket has been
by the blood into a gift basket . "I have to give my blood away.
not mine to keep. It is a gift to all." Contemplating the image
I realize also that not to treat my blood as a gift is to waste
profoundly, as I remember the dream, I also realize for the first
there is a part of me that has been resisting giving my blood
away. It is
my blood after all, my lifeblood. And some part of me has been
hard time just giving that up, just saying, "here world, it's
have it, use its life energy wherever it is needed." But as I feel
myself crying and surrendering, it is that great bliss again. The
belongs to all of us. It is not mine to keep.
Towards the Emergence of Menstruation appeared in slightly
form in the Townsend Letter.
Sibylle Preuschat is a writer,
reiki practitioner and student of music.
32 Marchmount Rd.
Canada, M6G 2A9
As I began to heal my menstrual illness and started finding
theorizing about my process, I found anger gave me much to ponder
would like to chart some connections for interested readers. When
to encounter holistic interpretations of medical research from
and the ideas of Chinese doctors and St. Hildegard of Bingen, all
that liver dysfunction was a primary cause of menstrual disorders.
already been working for some time with the idea, gained from
sources based on ancient Chinese medicine, and corroborated by my
that repressed and/or excessive anger blocks smooth liver
surprisingly, the liver is in the upper body, where I had to put
efforts at opening myself. I feel that my illness (the blockage of
energy) could be understood as being partially caused by the
focusing of anger on myself, rather than on oppressive external
I also had to learn to let go of a great deal of just plain
anger. It took me time to learn that it is inappropriate to feel
energies/beings that refuse to come under my control: I felt anger
man who wouldn't love me, and at my own belly, sexuality,
a woman, I had learned to nurse macho, or patriarchal, rage. My
became to navigate the stream of anger, discerning when it was a
guide to identifying the sources of oppression and when it was a
and control mechanism. No matter whether appropriate or not, anger
me down to menstrual energy if I didn't find a way to express what
Thinking about anger, I also realized that the foods I struck
diet in the early stages of my menstrual healing work were ones
to the tenets of Chinese medicine, had the potential to block or
my liver, thus increasing my propensity to anger.
Towards Emergence of Menstruation, Copyright 1991 by Sibylle Preuschat