Today we have the honor of sharing a piece by guest writer Mariah Berendt.
Mariah is a Holistic Menstrual and Hormone Health Coach based in Philadelphia. She focuses on helping women and people who bleed use diet and lifestyle medicine to balance their menstrual cycles, connect with the natural cycles of the earth and moon, and get real with themselves. She does this by way of 1:1 programs, online courses, and in-person workshops. She also has a degree in Public Health from Temple University and a passion for the healing powers of food. She lives with her husband, Tom, and her dogs, Luna and Cookie.
We are taught not to talk about our periods. We plug up our flow and numb our pain, so no one ever knows we’re bleeding. Well, I’m done with that. In witnessing myself and my clients, I have seen that simply sharing our stories can improve our menstrual health. So, here’s mine.
I was the textbook example of a young woman who seemed to have all her ducks in a row but was suffering behind her mask. We all know this character well, and too many of us have been her. I was in my mid-twenties, recently married, a homeowner, and had just landed my dream job. I was also depressed, anxious, constantly exhausted, and PMS and cramps had me in mental and emotional pain 3 weeks out of every month. It wasn’t that I hadn’t felt my best for years… I had never felt good. But everything I was experiencing was “normal,” so I didn’t even think to do anything about it.
The thing that finally got me to the doctor was heart palpitations, constantly, for 3 months. It felt like a flutter of my heart and was most intense when I was lying in bed at night. My anxiety turned into regular panic attacks about dying in my sleep, so I made an appointment. I arrived on time, filled them in about what was going on, and cried on the exam table. They did a bunch of tests, calmed my nerves, and told me I was perfectly healthy. I was offered a daily anxiety med and a referral for a therapist. I knew the phrase, “it’s all in your head,” but this was the first time I had heard it from the mouth of a doctor. I refused both “treatment options” because my intuition told me there was something more going on.
I understood that if I wanted to feel better, I was going to have to do some searching. So, I started reading about the causes of fatigue, anxiety, depression, and PMS outside the scope of western medicine, and found a doctor who was willing to work with me through a holistic lens. What I learned changed my life.
I learned that PMS and cramps, while they are common, are not normal. We have been conditioned to accept suffering as a normal part of womanhood, and that our bodies are meant to cause us pain. This is false information.
I learned that while male bodies have a 24-hour hormone cycle that looks identical to a standard workday (not a coincidence), female bodies have a 28(ish) day hormonal cycle that looks nothing like the schedule of a present-day working woman.
I learned that all of my symptoms were not a random assortment of things caused by anxiety, but likely related to a hormone imbalance, and likely related to me being conditioned to write my pain off as normal. My body had been messaging me by way of fatigue, anxiety, PMS, cramps to let me know that something was wrong, and I didn’t even know how to receive the messages.
I learned that my period is like a report card for my overall health, and that I was failing.
I learned how to heal and support my cycle and live in alignment with my bleeding body.
I made a lot of changes, but the biggest shift was in my mindset. I stopped treating my cycle (and therefore body) like an inconvenience and burden. I learned its language - how to listen and how to respond.
Today, I am full of energy and free from anxiety, depression, and PMS. I am still in awe of the process that got me here and frustrated about how little of it is common knowledge. So in awe and frustrated that I have made it my life’s work to guide others in this process.
I want you to know that you are not destined to be in pain for the rest of your menstruating years. I want you to know that there are answers beyond the ones you have been offered. And I want you to know that there is nothing special about me, you can heal too. I am not saying it is easy, but I will tell you it is worth it.
I invite you to never stop seeking answers, to believe that you can feel good even if you don’t know what that feels like, and to share your story. There are so many people who need to hear it.
To connect more with Mariah check out her 1:1 period coaching and keep an eye out for her upcoming free mini course about self healing your PMS! iammariahrose.com is the best place to stay up to date about Mariah’s offerings. You can also follow her for on Instagram @iammariahrose.