Written by my Spring 2017 apprentice, Alicia Bello, this post discusses how to trust your body, yourself and become an expert on YOU!
First step: Know your body and trust yourself.
For many years, too many indeed, women who suffered from menstrual or sexual related conditions, were diagnosed as having Hysteria. Fortunately those times have passed, but still today there is not enough trust in what women feel about their bodies and their cycles. And unfortunately many women may not trust their own perceptions either.
These feelings of distrust are all too familiar to me because of my own experiences. As a result…
I know how it feels to be insecure about my body, my symptoms, my pain and my suffering.
I know how it is to feel really bad and weak, having cycles of twenty days, bleeding a lot for more than seven days, but not being taken seriously by my doctor.
I know how it feels to have so much pain and discomfort with my period that I couldn’t do anything but stay in bed, taking strong analgesic pills and praying to get better soon.
I know how it feels to be mad at people for no reason, to cry for no reason, to feel depressed or anxious for no apparent reason, to be really sad for no reason.
I hated having my period, I was afraid of it, sick of my own body, tired of trying to feel normal, tired of pretending to be normal but feeling that nothing that I was going through was normal.
Why doctor’s visits were so hard for me
And, unfortunately, I know how it is to go to an ob-gyn (actually I visited many of them), explain to him/her my symptoms, and get tlhe standard response that everything was perfectly normal, “that’s the period!” they said, “What did you expect?” And since they were the “people who are supposed to know” I couldn’t expect anything different.
The next step was always prescribing the pill, but after a few years I didn’t wanted to take it, and then they started to prescribe me any anti-inflammatory and painkiller drugs, always disapprovingly.
At the beginning, I used to ask, “is there anything that I could do besides taking these pills to improve my symptoms?” and since the answer was always the same, “no”, I stopped asking and started to accept that all that was happening to me was just what I had to deal with as a woman. I wasn’t strong enough, there was something wrong with me because these were so-called “normal periods” and I could not stand them.
When the doctors, (people who we often believe because their job is to take care of our health), tell you that everything is normal, when it is not, or that there’s nothing else to do about your condition, when there is, then they are taking away your ability to try alternative procedures, approaches, and solutions. Because there are options, actually, a lot of them.
I eventually felt so tired of this situation that I begin investigating by myself alternative approaches, and I started to try different treatments and procedures on my own. And soon I started to feel much better, not only physically but also mentally. I regained not only my health but also my self-esteem.
So my advice is: first of all, know your body, know yourself and, most importantly, trust your body and trust yourself. Become an expert on you. If you feel that something is wrong, then something IS wrong. You are the person that knows you better in the world, don’t let anybody make you doubt about that. If you are feeling pain it’s not normal, if there is discomfort it’s not normal, if you are suffering, then it’s definitely not normal. All of these are signals from your body telling you that something is wrong, so you’d better pay attention and listen.
Acknowledging there is a problem is the first step to start looking for a solution.
Here are some tips to help you be more aware of your body and your cycle:
#1 – Learn to observe.
Touch your body, touch your breasts and get to know them, learn how to do a self-exam, observe your hair (if it falls out a lot or if it’s extremely dry), your skin, the changes in your body with the cycle, how to control your cervix, be aware of your cervical mucus and more.
#2 – Journal about your period and the symptoms around it.
Observe your body and write down what you notice and how you feel. The changes, the things that are repeated. What makes you feel good and what makes your symptoms worse? It’s all important.
#3 – Start charting your basal body temperature.
This way you’ll get to know your cycle better, you’ll be more conscious about every change in your body from your periods to ovulation, and your fertility.
#4 – Track your cycle in an app on your phone.
There are many tracking apps out there, and they are a great help in knowing where you are at in your cycle.
#5 – Talk about your period and your concerns with your women relatives and your girlfriends.
This way you’ll get different perspectives and experiences, you’ll share firsthand information and tips and realize that you are not alone.
So, if you know your body, if you are aware of the changes and reactions, then you’ll have a lot of information about you, and you’ll be more confident about what is and isn’t normal in your body. This will give you self-esteem, empower you and help you be the one making the decisions.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists “an estimated 75% of women have some pain during their period: 15% of them report severe menstrual cramps and other symptoms”. The same source says that up to 85% of women suffer PMS. I think that these are enough of a reason to improve the treatments of these issues and to pay more attention to what women have to say when it comes to their bodies, their cycles and their symptoms.
 “Women’s health: Stats and facts” (2011). American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. https://www.acog.org/-/media/NewsRoom/MediaKit.pdf
Alicia Bello is a functional nutritionist and nutritional coach focused on hormonal women’s health. Please visit her website for more information.