My menstrual cycle often ends badly. In tears. Screams. Fits of rage. My PTSD and PMDD symptoms become exasperated, and I dissociate often. Pulling me out of the present and leaving my tired shell to deal. Making my depression and anxiety worsen. And preventing any healing from taking place. It is agonizing. Soul sucking. And so draining that I usually end up unable to speak. To think. To function. But, I’ve been healing more and have been attuned to the knowledge that maybe this time has historically been so awful for me because it is urging me to pay attention. To move inward. To listen to myself. To heal. And so, considering this was also the week of the Super Pink Full Moon, my first moon lodge was born. To give me a space to sit with myself and to heal.
Realizing I need to be alone during this time (so I don’t project my very intense energy onto others), I already knew I’d retreat. And during quarantine, that meant fully retreating, isolating myself completely — something I’d never quite done before.
Since the end of my menstrual cycle has always been during busy times of my life, I’ve never given myself permission to take the time off. Although many times, my body decides for me and I fall ill. Unable to do anything.
But during quarantine, I didn’t even have the option to stick to a busy schedule. And even though I’m still teaching online, I realized this is the first time I have the luxury of taking time to myself at the end of my menstrual cycle. So I took it.
I’ve often fantasized about being in a red tent during menstruation like the one in Anita Diamant’s, The Red Tent. A place where women take care of each other. Give each other support. Have their food brought to them. Lounge and read and relax. Daydream. And heal.
Then I realized, I can create my own space to heal. Lodge somewhere inside our house. I decided on the bedroom and spoke with my husband about sleeping on the couch for the next few nights, which he graciously accepted (probably relieved to be away from my fluctuating moods and energy levels), and then I set to work on creating my lodge.
To get ready for my stay in my lodge, I first made a bunch of healthy foods the weekend before the end of my cycle. I thought, If the food is made, I can rest and feed myself. I can bring myself food into my lodge. Taking care of myself by myself.
I made nourishing foods like baked beans and leafy greens. Rich, fatty foods like lasagna. Eating lots of beans for progesterone to balance out my increase in estrogen. Eating cheeses and oils to increase my neurological activity (sticking to more vegan forms once my cramps start as dairy often makes them worse). Foods to help heal my uterus from 24 years of endometriosis and scar tissue and to relieve my quite severe menstrual cramps. And I prepared rejuvenating foods like lemon slices for water and fresh berries. Reminding myself to drink a lot of water, to eat fresh fruits and to stay hydrated.
Right before my period comes, I have surges of energy that I need to put to productive use so I don’t self-harm. I do housework or heavy work to engage my vestibular and proprioceptive senses, releasing tension in my body and allowing me to connect to my interoceptive sense, helping me avoid dissociation. Connecting mind, body and soul.
So in the days leading up to my period, I cleaned and swept the bedroom. I moved out unnecessary items, like my laundry basket full of unfolded clean clothes. I brought in a few books and journals. Flowers and candles. My heating pad and medical marijuana. And finally, before I reclined onto the bed under my warm heating pad, I brought in some tea, berries and water on a try. To keep my food items mobile. So things didn’t pile up, cluttering my space.
If you decide to create your own moon lodge (which I strongly suggest you do, at least once, trust me, you’ll do it again), here are some tips for getting started:
- Make your lodge in the quietest place of your house. I chose our bedroom also because it’s the only room with a bed. And I only intended on leaving the bed to get food and to do yoga.
- Remove clutter. Keep the space as plain as possible. And remove all screens from the space. For large appliances, you can drape a scarf or a blanket over them when they’re not in use.
- Clean your space. Sweep, dust and make it smell good. While you clean, concentrate on removing bad energy. Stale energy. Energy that needs to move.
- Bring in nature. Bring in air through the window, earth with plants and flowers, fire with candles or incense, water with, well, water.
- Keep a constant air flow. I can’t always open the windows if there’s too much noise outside, so I turned my box fan to face me and to keep the air flowing.
- Bring in non-screen activities. Lately, I’m into coloring while listening to a podcast. There are so many things you can do. Let your imagination run and choose activities that speak to you.
- Limit watching TV. When I first got into my lodge, I was tempted to watch TV, but I made myself read first. An actual book. Not one from my Kindle. It helped me feel more present. Connected. And I got so engrossed that I didn’t turn on the TV until hours later.
- Take breaks. I can get caught up in things very quickly and not pay attention to how my body is feeling. I’ll be wound tight and cramped up without even paying attention. Taking breaks helps me be mindful of my mental and physical health needs. It is best to observe yourself during this time and to assess where you’re at often.
- Move. I brought my yoga mat into my lodge, put on some yoga music and set my timer for 20 minutes. My practice felt so free and playful that I went 40 minutes instead.
- Journal about your experiences. Writing is one of the most connected things one can do. Pen to paper, tangibly connecting to what is happening in your mind, body and soul. Especially during this time. There’s really nothing else like it. See here for tips on journaling to improve mental health.
Even though I only got one full day and two full nights in my lodge before I had to work (which I stayed in my lodge to do), I learned so much.
I learned that we all need to take time to retreat from our daily activities, as many are doing during quarantine. It’s something we should take with us after and make sure we implement it into our lives. I learned that, especially when our bodies are yelling at us the loudest, we must listen. For they have a lot of important things to say. And I learned I am the only person who can heal myself, truly heal myself, but that I have to put in the work to be able to do so.
I wish you a safe and intuitive cycle! May all your menstrual needs be met. By you and only you.