Written by my Spring 2019 apprenticeship participant, Shelby Hoefling, this post illustrates one woman’s journey of losing and regaining her period.
It All Started with Post-Pill Amenorrhea
My story began when I moved from Virginia to Los Angeles four years ago. During my move, I lost my birth control pill pack. Instead of getting a new prescription, I decided to just see what would happen. Boy, was I in for a ride. My period did not return, and thus began my long and winding journey to get it back.
Originally, I planned to write about my ongoing experience with amenorrhea after ditching the pill. I wanted to share my struggle to inspire others to never give up on their own health journey. I wanted to write this from the perspective of someone who was still in the trenches.
It’s hard to believe I’m saying this, but in the time since sending that proposal, and after four long years, I GOT MY PERIOD. These four words are the most sacred words a woman can say but that, sadly, many of us take for granted. Despite finally getting my period back, my health journey continues, and the lessons I wish to impart remain the same: Never give up on your body; never take for granted the amazing things it does for you.
Lacking A Period: The Real Curse
After not having a period for four years all I could dream about was getting it back.
Far from the inconvenience it’s held out to be, your period is your body’s way of speaking to you. It carries vital information far beyond what’s happening in your reproductive tract. Every day for four years, I was in the dark. Most doctors told me to go back on birth control, but that didn’t sit right with me, knowing that it was a band-aid rather than a solution. So, there I was: lost but determined.
For three years, my stressful job took center stage, but still plagued by my missing cycle, I tried everything that felt within reach: I played around with my diet, limited my sugar intake, increased my calories, tried acupuncture (though not consistently at the time), took prescription progesterone, saw various gynecologists, did yoga (this one was a keeper!), tried different ways of working out, and took a break from cardio.
But nothing was working, and no one seemed to have the answer. One doctor insisted I had PCOS, another told me the opposite—that even though there were cysts on my ovaries, I didn’t meet the “criteria” lacking high testosterone levels. Other than low estrogen and progesterone, most of my tests appeared normal. It felt like I was spinning in place and lonely in my battle.
It’s still taboo to talk about your period, so I couldn’t easily share my struggle with those around me. And when I did, I was met with the question, “Why don’t you just go back on the pill?” It’s not very often these days that you see someone choosing to stay off birth control to regulate their menstrual cycle without the intention of becoming pregnant. Nor is it common to encounter someone second-guessing their birth control pill and what it is doing to their present and future body. Thankfully, we’re finally seeing this start to change.
The Return of My Period: A Coincidence?
Eventually, it became too much; I was consumed by my missing period. I felt extremely disconnected from my body, as if it was on strike. In addition to feeling disconnected from my body, I also felt disconnected from my job and my life. I didn’t feel aligned with the direction of the company I worked for, and I missed my family back on the East Coast. I knew I had to go home.
I don’t think I’ll ever know exactly what helped me get my period back after all of this time. But I do know that I finally took the time and space to tune in to my mind and body.
What did this look like, exactly? I quit my corporate job and refocused on my passion for health as a yoga teacher and wellness coach. I allowed myself to turn inward and heal after my sister’s passing, finally feeling more connected to her than I have in years.
During times when my hormones and my mood were at their lowest, I leaned on my family and friends for support. I reconnected with my spiritual side and found a way to build trust and faith in something bigger than myself.
I joined amazing groups of women—one of which was through Nicole Jardim’s Apprenticeship—where I interacted with those going through similar experiences, making me feel less alone.
In addition, I worked with a health coach and acupuncturist during this time, helping me to love and accept my body, as well as overcome my depression and anxiety. The time and money I invested in these practices symbolized a true commitment to myself and my health. Our bodies are always listening, and I know this commitment did not go unnoticed by mine.
Letting Go of the Need For Control
Life gets busy, and it can feel like we’re always striving for that next best thing: the next promotion, a bigger paycheck, more success, extra validation. It’s easy to get lost in it all.
But if you take nothing else away from this post, remember this: Your health is everything, and it is worth fighting for. Breakthroughs happen when they least make sense. Days before I got my period, I had mentally thrown in the towel. I was willing to consider the pill or bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.
But once I had completely removed the pressure on my body and on myself, my period arrived. I believe everything I chose to do this year played a part, but the ultimate success came from letting go of the need for control.
We will never get all the answers when it comes to our health. Health is a journey, not a destination and my journey is still ongoing. No matter how difficult it might be, know that life is only throwing challenges your way to teach you something. If my period hadn’t gone missing, I may never have learned to listen. I wouldn’t have moved home, where I’ve had much-needed time with family and space to heal deep wounds and let go of what no longer served me. I wouldn’t have quit my job where I was no longer satisfied. I wouldn’t have devoted my efforts to find and pursue things that light me up, like yoga, writing children’s books, and wellness coaching. I wouldn’t have figured out my gut was in need of some serious help once I finally got it tested. Most importantly, I wouldn’t have connected with myself through the lens of unconditional love.
Love Your Period
Somewhere along the way, it became normal to hate your period. It became normal to want to dismiss it, control it, and essentially get rid of it.
But I truly hope and believe that as times are changing, so too will our view of periods. Your period is awesome. It warrants a celebration every month! So please, celebrate your period, for yourself and for me. Think about all that your body does each month while you live your day-to-day. It’s magic.
I have no doubt that on September 12, 2019, I was the happiest woman with a period in the entire world. To finally feel connected with my body was the most amazing gift. I hope you’ll take a moment to connect with and appreciate your body’s brilliant barometer, and if you’re struggling to get yours back, know that your body is capable of that. Your beautiful body is always here to tell you what it needs. Connect and listen.
Shelby Hoefling is a Yoga & Meditation Teacher and Wellness Coach currently based in the Washington DC area. She recently finished Nicole Jardim’s Fix Your Period Apprenticeship Program focusing on all things to do with women’s health and is now studying to become a recognized certified Health and Wellness Coach through A Wellness Revolution. Having left the corporate world a year ago, she made a vow to herself to live a life ignited with passion, love, and wellness and is committed to helping others find their happiest and healthiest lives. You can check out her website here and find her on Instagram @shelbyhoefling.