The Book That Made Me…Find My Personal Power: Period Power by Maisie Hill

Before anyone who does not experience a menstrual cycle turns away from this post thinking “it’s not for me”…get your fucking ass back here, please. This is for you, too. Because even though you may not personally have a menstrual cycle, you experience the menstrual cycle through someone you know, live with, are friends with…

Regardless of how far we have come, we still live within a society that likes to label periods as “women’s problems.”* Going to a doctor about anything mildly related to your menstrual cycle will likely end up with a prescription for a contraceptive tablet. There is so much shame attached to something utterly natural that people will whisper across to their friend with a red face, “…have you got anything?” and panic when their period starts unexpectedly. We are taught to hide it, that our genitals are the gateway to dirt and disgust for 5 – 7 days of the month.

Yeah, I’m angry. This topic has been heavy on my heart for the previous three years and I will jump at the chance to bring it into conversation with my fellow menses mates. In fact, it has become a normal part of everyday conversation with some of my friends to casually reference the fact that we are ovulating or we’re about to call out the bullshit because we’re on the cusp of bleeding. And, you know, the more we speak – the more natural it is to talk about it, the more engaged we are in our relationship, and the more we feel able to take on the day and feel supported by each other.

If this was an Oscars speech, I have Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer to thank first. Their book Wild Power was what started me on the journey of understanding my menstrual cycle and the power that it holds. However, the reason why I am not advocating it here is simply because of the use of language which doesn’t seem to acknowledge the experiences of my LGBTQIA+ menses experiencing folks. I am disappointed I feel prohibited to share this book as it does have so much wonderful stuff in there on a more…spiritual?… level, but the use of language being largely catered toward ‘She’, the use of ‘Feminine’ (even in the context of ‘divine masculine’ and ‘divine feminine’), and the use of the menstrual cycle awareness as a practice reserved for ‘She’ is a little too loaded for me. As a cis female, it worked for me. But I am not the majority.

So, my main thanks goes to Maisie Hill. Maisie’s book Period Power provided the ‘scientific’ knowledge that filled in the gaps of Wild Power. It gave me amazing facts about contraceptives, the hormonal knowledge of what was actually happening during the pre-menstrual time, and how to ride the waves of my hormones to my advantage. Instead of feeling utterly powerless, I was able to understand and throw in a fuckload of compassion toward myself, knowing when to draw my boundaries, knowing what to more or less expect for the day/week ahead, and viewing my body as a blessing not a burden.

Louder for the people at the back: viewing my body as a blessing not a burden.

I first started struggling with my menstrual cycle when I was around 23/24. I am not willing, right now, to go into the details. It was a scary, chaotic, powerless, and angry time. Eventually, I noticed that there was a rhythm to these feelings. I don’t know how or when I first noticed but, regardless, I noticed. Then, I started tracking my cycle to know what to expect, to know when not to make those big decisions, to know when to limit the social contact, and know when I’m more likely to be overwhelmed with stress.** Still, though, the experiences I had that week before my bleed were very often incredibly overwhelming and I found myself thinking each time “This can’t just be hormones, it has to be me. It feels too real.” And, then, it would pass and I would be left thinking “No…It was the hormones.” and then shame would love to rear her head and accuse me of losing my shit once again and being weak enough to fall for the same crap.

Eventually, I got tired of the same routine. I had briefly glimpsed the idea of working with your menstrual cycle on Instagram one evening but the idea wouldn’t leave me. I decided to invest in books and podcasts and online resources to help me navigate this natural phenomenon and help me understand myself. I had worked against my cycle for too long, what would happen if I leaned into it and learnt to really understand what the fuck was happening within me?

Things I am now angry about:

  1. The fact that young people are not taught sufficient information about their menstrual cycle from an early age and are, instead, taught socially acceptable ways of ‘managing’ it and hiding it.
  2. Young people are still majority receiving separate sex education classes, with boys being led out of the classroom when girls have to learn about the menstrual cycle. To this day, I still have no idea what the boys talked about at the tender age of 10 years old in their separate classroom. Not only does this reinforce gender binaries and leave no room for LGBTQIA+ topics, but it further consolidates periods as a source of shame.
  3. Doctors still are massively uneducated in this area which, largely, is the result of the social systems in place and expectations…reproduced in the ways above. As such, whenever somebody attends a doctors appointment about potential difficulties experienced within the topic of the menstrual cycle, we are met with blank faces, or a contraceptive tablet to stop them altogether.
  4. The food we eat during our cycle can massively benefit us. For instance, during the pre-menstrual and during menstruation, we are going to benefit more from proteins and fats than we are heavy carb-laden meals. For me, this would be a meal of avocado and fucking…I don’t know…egg. But, for so many people, access to these foods are limited due to economic standing. Individuals with lower economic status are likely to be hugely restricted in terms of their access to healthy foods anyway and, ergo, foods needed to sustain them adequately as they move through the various phases of their cycle. This brings in a whole host of race, gender, and class issues that need dedicated and sufficient discussion time.
  5. It is still framed in gender binaries. I’ve covered this. But it serves to stand as a point on its own.

There are more points that I have and more points I will undoubtedly find as I continue to research. This is something I have grown really interested and passionate about. It’s something I would definitely love to bring as a feature here at She Uncensored*** but I feel hugely unqualified and lacking in knowledge to pass on such important things to people at the moment. Hence why I will leave it to the experts for now but I will endeavour to develop my knowledge – personal and otherwise – to bring this to you. Because it’s important. So very important.

Anyway, buy the book. It’s really good.

Maisie Hill – Period Power can be bought here:
Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones | Barnes and Nobel

*by the way, this is just another example of heteronormativity and an anti-LGBTQIA+ stance. Trans* individuals experience menstrual cycles, too.

**(To this day, I still do this. There are lots of apps available now that we can download but, if you don’t have access to these online resources, you can always use a good old fashioned pen and paper! I use the app ‘Clue’, but I’ve heard that ‘Flow’ is also really good.)

***You mention LGBTQIA+ but you have a gendered website name? And you’ve used gendered language before?! I am calling myself out on my own bullshit here. The She Uncensored name has been a point of wrestling for a while and it was never intended to banish anyone of any other gender orientation from this corner of the internet. You are all welcome here. It makes me so happy to see a diverse number of readers here but, when I first started She Uncensored, it was purely from my place of standing. After years of biting my tongue and listening to what other people said, or withholding my truth for fear of being heard, I decided to finally speak. It was uncensored, and I am She. I invite all of you to be Uncensored with me. Thus, please feel free to challenge me in any of my language fails to be inclusive, or my ideas appear harmful. This was never supposed to be a one sided conversation, ever.

The Book That Made Me…Start a Podcast: Everything Is Figureoutable by Maria Forleo

If you are ready to step up in any aspect of your life, this is the book that will help you take the leap. This book will crack you open gently, dig out the goodness, help you overcome the internal barriers that are holding you back, and prepare you to launch yourself into a new phase of being. Listen – only read this book if you are really willing to make changes otherwise it’s simply not going to hit the nerve with you.

Maria draws upon her own experience and wisdom, as well as stories of other women, who’ve figured it out. At first, I thought ‘Everything is Figureoutable’ would be about finding success in any venture in life and, on the one hand, it is. Ultimately, it’s about finding your success in life and chasing the things that are deep within your heart to do. Those little soul niggles, those little whispers deep within, that we like to ignore but make us feel very uncomfortable doing so. My concern with books of this genre is that it’s going to be full of overly optimistic and fluffy language (of which, I can handle and somewhat enjoy) but, refreshingly, it’s just pure honesty from the heart with a bunch of tried and tested methods for success.

I usually don’t do the activities in most books. I skip past them because, well, I’m lazy and I just like highlighting the really good bits without doing the work. Also, most of them are crap and half-arsed attempts to bring some dimension to a chapter. However, I felt compelled to do the ‘Insight into Action’ challenges because they were really fucking good. Like I said at the start, you have to be ready to make the changes and, believe me, I was ready to make changes because I was sick of me holding myself back.

This sort of book isn’t just to absorb for some good advice and it definitely won’t do the work for you. It’s what makes these pages so impactful in that it forces you to assess the reality of what is stopping you applying for that job, starting that hobby, changing your career, ending that relationship, starting that new thing…Whatever it is that you are wanting to do and need the little extra push to do it.

I had wanted to start a podcast for around two years, along with a few other things that I really wanted to get stuck into. I was also full of excuses as well as desire. My main fear? Being seen. Ugh – even now I shudder. I hate being seen. I hate being centre stage. I hate people having the ability to openly criticise me. Essentially, I hate the feeling of being vulnerable and I would rather remain in the dark with the shame of being who I am that step out into the open and just try…

…And yet everything I want to try in life, deep down, is about me being seen. Being out there, entirely vulnerable, and doing the creative work.

When reading Maria’s words, I realised my excuses were bullshit and my fears were self-protective measures bringing more harm than good. Whilst lockdown has prohibited me from pursuing other things on my list of “Shit I’d Really Love To Do”, I’m four episodes into my podcast and I am loving every minute. No, I don’t command huge audiences. But I’m having fun and I’ve taken a huge personal risk, pushed myself out of my comfort zone, and tried for something. I’ve put my ass on the line and I know, above all things, it contributes to my personal growth which is something that cannot be replaced.

I mean, honestly? You just really need to buy this book.

What have you denied yourself the pleasure of exploring or expressing because you don’t want to be judged or criticised? What are you still doing, even though you can’t stand it, because you’re terrified to attempt your secret dreams? […] Please, for the love of all things holy, do what you dream of now so you’ll never regret not having tried.

Maria Forleo, Everything is Figureoutable, p. 248

Everything is Figureoutable can be purchased on Amazon

The Book That Made Me…Follow My Heart: Light is the New Black by Rebecca Campbell

Light is the New Black came at exactly the right time. Any sooner, the words would’ve broken me in all the wrong ways. Any later, and I wouldn’t have had the opportunities that arose when I started reading this.

Right. On. Time.

From the moment I opened the first page, Rebecca met me soul-to-soul, heart-to-heart, and for the first time I felt someone say the words I had no idea how to express. A sensation I had felt my entire life. Let me provide a little backstory as to how I came across this book and why it was so poignant…

Since I was around 15 years old, all I wanted to do for a career was “help people.” That’s all I had. That, in a nutshell, was my career goal. I had no idea what that looked like in practice, or what it even meant. It was simply the feeling I had in my soul. Whenever I shared this with someone, they would always reply “Oh. Like, a social worker?”

Umm…yeah, sure. A social worker.

And so my journey toward social work began, even though it never felt like it fully fit comfortably. Heading toward that goal always felt like wearing a pair of shoes that were a little too loose – slipping off my heels and clomping around. Despite that, the small steps I took toward my goal never felt like the wrong things. Always, in my heart, I knew I had to take these steps. It was just the end goal I wasn’t quite sure about but, when you had a career choice of wanting to “help people”, I really had nothing else to go on.

Cut a long story short, I ended up becoming a family support worker. The ultimate experience that I would need in order to go on and complete my Masters in Social Work. It was such rich experience, I learnt so much, and it was absolutely invaluable in shaping my interests and desires moving forward. I received so much insight into the human experience and understanding people. However, working side by side with social workers allowed me to understand the role and, actually, it soon stopped appealing to me. It didn’t discourage me too much as, by that point, I was actually in a job helping people so it was exactly what I wanted to do. A dream come true, so to speak.

Eventually, however, I fell foul of what I now understand as compassion fatigue. This, probably mixed in with some other personal shit I was going through at the time, made for a horrible recipe. My husband and one of my closest friends encouraged me to take an administrative job – something stripped back, a little less responsibility, and less stress. Something I could leave in work when I left the office at 5pm. I resisted for so long as I had worked so hard to get to where I was in the support work role but, on the other hand, I literally hated who I was becoming and I didn’t recognise myself anymore.

Enough was enough – I had to pack it in and take the advice I was given. (I did try moving to another place of work, wondering if a fresh start somewhere would help. It didn’t. By the second week of the new job, I rang my husband in tears telling him I couldn’t do this anymore.)

It broke my heart. For 12 years, I had been aiming this arrow at my little dream. It guided me through university, powered me through my first job, made me search for training…everything was pinned on “helping people.” Now, at 27 years old, I had no idea what the fuck to do. I had to find a new dream…

…Or did I?

When I quit, I had no job to go to. I was looking for that administrative role but, until I got one, I was unemployed. My husband was paying for everything and I had a small amount of savings to help me stay afloat. I’d had Rebecca’s book in my Amazon Wishlist for ages and, one day, it caught my eye again as I was scrolling. What the hell – I needed something to pick me up.

I went to my local coffee shop, settled in with a Latte, and opened Light is the New Black. I didn’t know what to expect but the first page cut through the bullshit and spoke directly to my soul:

For as long as I can remember, I had this inner knowing that I was here for a reason. I knew I had a purpose, a calling, but the whole thing stressed me out. It was like walking around with this huge weight of responsibility on my shoulders. It felt like I had this urgent thing to do and time was running out.

I could’ve cried. I mean, I didn’t – I was in a public coffee shop having my heart, mind, and soul blown open in the most incredible way and I had to sit there and sip my coffee like everything was OK but inside I was fucking DANCING in a downpour that drenched my parched soul. Someone else!! There was someone else who felt like I did! There it was, summed up on paper, the words I could never find to describe a way I had felt for so, so long…

And so began a pilgrimage into my soul, guided my Rebecca’s words, figuring out what I wanted and what my soul needed.

I didn’t have to give up on my dream. My dream is here – written on these pages of this blog. This is how I do it now. To everyone else, it’s just another blog but, for me, it’s so much more. With the podcast, too, it’s just another step in alignment with what I need to do.

That book shaped the contents of my blog as I got more in tune with my heart again, listening more to my soul, and hearing my deepest desires. I had always wanted to be an actor since I was very young but it was more “in an alternative universe” kinda thing – reading Light is the New Black made me realise that following what lights me up and getting lost in doing it was a sure sign that maybe it’s what I was supposed to be doing all along. I auditioned for a role, and got the part…which only served to highlight where I still needed to grow!

The book is beautifully structured into small, digestible, thought provoking, chapters. You can read it chapter by chapter until you’re so full you need to take a break to process everything that’s been said (I fall into this camp), or you can read a chapter a day, or you can Russian roulette it and flick to a random page for a burst of inspiration. Each chapter ends with a small question which act as great journal prompts, or a mantra, or a simple sentence you can chew on throughout the day. It truly is such a wonderful book that will wake up your soul.

Overall, this book made me realise that if you follow what truly lights you up, what makes you feel the sun from the inside, then you’d do well to follow it. Feel the nagging feeling, listen to what it’s telling you to do, and do it. Watch the doors open for you and leave your comfort zone – the world is waiting.

You can purchase Light is the New Black on Amazon

The Books That Made Me…

When I find a good book, there’s something about it that’s always unforgettable in some way. Whether it’s the way it made me feel as I read it, or the little wisdoms I picked out in the chapters…There’s always something about a decent book that stays with you long after the final chapter. (If you want to check out my favourite books, you can click here.)

As this period of lockdown seems to be ever extending, I’ve been able to read a lot more than usual. In need of inspiration for my bookshelf, I’ve been seeking Amazon recommendations, browsing Good Reads, and trying to find more words to nourish my soul on Instagram.

If anyone else is in a similar position, I’ve decided a launch a new feature on my blog called ‘The Books That Made Me…’ Each Sunday, I’ll be featuring a book that impacted my life, my thoughts, or my feelings in hopes to inspire you to replenish your own book shelf, or to pick up that classic you’ve been meaning to read again.

If you have any recommendations, please let me know!

See you Sunday!