Saturday, 26 January 2013

Available for sale SOON!


Prints of 'The Menstrual Cycle - A Visual Guide' should be available for sale early Feb! 

It took longer than expected to get the image ready for printing (image for web is different to the quality needed for printing). It will be A4 in size, available for sale on it's own and in a special offer package with my other poster 'The Secret Feminine Energy of the Menstrual Cycle'.

As soon as I know more I will let you know. Feel free to register your interest below if you would like to purchase. Price to be confirmed but will be around £8 with free shipping ♥


Thursday, 10 January 2013

The Menstrual Cycle - A Visual Guide

It never ceases to amaze me how many women don't really know what is going in inside their bodies during the menstrual cycle, or how to chart their cycle.  I don't mean that in an unkind way, it's just an observation.  Knowledge is the best tool you can have, and if you suffer with PMDD you need to do a bit of reading and get some of that valuable knowledge under you belt.  It will help as you try and figure out what happens at what point of your cycle, and having an idea of the physical changes inside you can really help.

Over the years I have come across videos and charts which have helped me to understand the changes my body goes through.  That understanding, in turn, led me to look for ways to support the changes rather than fight against them.  Timing and planning things around the different energies is now second nature.  Knowing my limits at each point of the cycle has really helped me live with PMDD.  I have the odd breakdown, but I am much more in control on a regular basis during all points of my cyclical changes.  That to me is like winning the lottery.

I decided to create a chart just for PMDD/PMS sufferers to refer to.  It shows the fluctuations in hormones, the physical changes, and the energetic/emotional changes.  Hopefully it will give you a good idea as to what is happening in side you when all hell breaks loose!  It also has key words to give you a feel for the natural energy of each phase..

I will go into the seasonal correspondences in another post, but it's quite easy to connect with.  Our energy grows after our period, peaks at ovulation and then slowly wanes until we bleed again. You can see this cycle happen in nature every year.  We have like a mini years worth of seasons in one month!  I have blogged about these theories before, you can find some of them here and here.  I also created a poster about these energies which you can find here -

We get all stressed out about feeling low, tired or crabby, but if we are pre menstrual or hitting ovulation there is a simple explanation!  Hormonal changes!  If you are still having trouble during the times when the hormones level out and are not finding yourself feeling better, then maybe there are other issues at play.  PMDD will drag you down during pre menstruation and in some cases, at ovulation too.  You should always feel better at each point between to two, but if you are not, you may need to look at whether your unhappiness/frustration is coming from a depression, an unsuitable job, an unhappy relationship, a past trauma or issue that hasn't been resolved.  PMDD plays a huge part in our emotional wellbeing, but it's not the only factor.  Stress and unresolved issues can add to the pressure and make an uncontrollable outburst more likely.

Here is the chart.  It clearly shows the fluctuations and changes the body goes through.  I have added where the PMDD crisis points are, along with the seasons of the year and key words that can give you an idea of the energies present during each phase.  Hopefully it is simple enough to understand, and below, is a written explanation.  Again, I hope I have written it in such a way that it is easy to understand.  I have read many a medical site that uses such technical words that it gets too complicated to understand!

To chart your periods, you start counting on the first day of bleeding.  That is day 1.  You keep counting until you bleed again and the again, the first day of bleeding becomes day 1.  Mark it on a calendar or use an app to keep track of your period.  This helps you to plan around your period by not taking on too much during the times that could be challenging.  I often count forward and also mark day 7, 14, 21 and 28.   That then gives me a quick view of where I will be emotionally and physically throughout the month.  Lots of cycles are longer or shorter, and that is normal.  28 days is just the average.  Ovulation always occurs around 14 days before your period, so if you have a short cycle, say, 21 days, you will ovulate on day 7.. if it is a longer cycle, say 32 days, you will ovulate around day 18.  It IS possible to ovulate twice in a month and to not ovulate at all.

The menstrual cycle is split into 3 phases, follicular, ovulation and luteal. The first phase is the follicular phase and corresponds to when the FSH (follicle stimulating hormone, produced in the brain) sends signals to the ovary to ripen and produce and egg.. This then produces more estrogen from the ovaries to enable the egg to ripen.. At ovulation, increasing estrogen levels from the maturing follicles cause the LH, luteinizing hormone, to surge, which releases the egg. The corpus luteum (a solid body of cells) is left behind at ovulation. The corpus luteum excretes progesterone and small amounts of estrogen and causes the womb lining to thicken in preparation for the egg. This is called the luteal phase. It prepares the body for pregnancy. During the luteal phase, estrogen drops quite rapidly and will fluctuate until your period. At the same time, progesterone is rising. It spikes around day 21, and then drops off rapidly. When the egg is not fertilised, the corpus luteum dies and stops producing progesterone and estrogen, this allows the womb to shed it's lining and cleanse the uterus.

The other hormones involved are those that are produced in the brain that send signals to the ovaries.  Gonadotropic hormones come from the pituitary glad in the brain.  They are controlled by GnRH frequencies that send out pulses to regulate the production of gonadotropic hormones.  In men, this pulse is contstant and steady.  In women, the frequencies change throughout the cycle which is what gives us a cycle that changes and fluctuates.  The change in frequency is what sends out the right amount of gonadotropic hormones to our ovaries to trigger the stages of the menstrual cycle.

The basal body temperature can help clearly indicate ovulation and is important for those trying to conceive or who use the fertility awareness method of contraception.  By orally taking your temperature every morning as soon as you wake (before even getting out of bed) and keeping a record, you will see a drop in temperature at ovulation and then it will rise from around 36.4°F to 36.7°F.  Other signs of ovulation is the consistency of cervical mucus.  At ovulation, this mucus will be fluid and watery.  Some women can tell they are ovulating just by how wet or moist they get.  This fluid helps sperm to swim more easily into the womb.  After ovulation, the cervical mucus will get thicker and more sticky.  This is much harder for the sperm to swim through, which helps with contraception.  For more info on the fertility awareness method and charting temperature, take a look at TCOYF.  Some women do also experience pain at ovulation.  Stabbing sharp pains on either the left or right side can signify which ovary you are ovulating from!  They are known as mittelschmerz.

By having even a basic understanding of the physiology of the menstrual cycle, you can get to grips with why we experience these changes in mind and body.  This is the physical process, but we all know that these changes DO have a significant effect on our mental health, moods and wellbeing. 
When you really learn and come to terms with the fact that our bodily processes are pretty much out of our hands.. meaning, we cannot stop them, (unless we control them with birth control/hormone therapy or hysterectomy) but we can start to look at ways of how to live and work WITH them.  Of course, we can influence our bodily functions.  By eating and sleeping right, exercising and staying away from stress we can encourage a healthier system... 
Never underestimate stress.  Stress can knock out these physical rhythms, causing the cycle to become off balance.  This can lead to irregular periods, changes in cycle length, missing or late periods and all manner of emotional symptoms.

I have produced an alternate version of this chart to share on Facebook, and may look at getting some printed for those who would like a hard copy to stick up at home...  If you are interested in buying a copy, please message me via my Facebook page or use my Kontactr box. 

Chart is for illustrative purposes only and includes the main factors responsible for the menstrual cycle.  There are obviously other smaller players on the menstrual stage, but for the purposes of PMDD education, I have focused on the star performers!
If you choose to download and share, please link back to me and do not remove my copyright from the image.  Please contact me if you wish to re blog, so I can give you a shout out in return!  Thank you. xx

© Cat Hawkins 2012 - Art and design by

Monday, 7 January 2013

Positive or Negative?

There has been some chat in the support group recently about positivity and negativity.  Support groups (and I mean any, not just mine) can be negative places and I mean negative in that most of what is discussed originates from a post that may be very negatively worded.

I started the groups on Facebook mainly because that was where I met other sufferers, for the first time, only a lot of the time I found myself not feeling comfortable sharing on an open wall for all to see.  Hence my closed groups were born.  This meant for me and many others that we had somewhere to write about our problems and worries, somewhere to rant and vent.  This often avoided the same rants or venting on personal pages, allowing people to seek help from an audience that completely understood why that person was having issues.  The problem with ranting to friends or in front of family is that quite often they do not really understand PMDD and therefore can assume all manner of things about the PMDD sufferer.

Lots of valuable information is shared in the groups, and over the past 2 years I have seen women find treatments and paths that have helped them manage their PMDD and lives to the point of leaving the groups never to return.   Some leave and come back after realising they are not quite ready to go it alone.  Having access to a group of women who completely understand really helps to transform the way you see PMDD, the way you see yourself and the world around you.

I have tried to make the groups a positive place, and many women post lots of positive messages, or update us on the good days as well as the bad, however, many feel they should not share the good days for fear of upsetting those on bad days.  Some may wonder if we are all just dwelling on it too much and keeping ourselves in a space of pain and hurt.  The way I see it is we all need support to find our path.  Some ladies may find that just a few kind words can transform their day, but the only way they are going to get a response is to share the negative situation they find themselves in.  Some ladies may only need the support of a group for a couple of months, some may need a couple of years.  This difference is because we are all unique and are at various points on our healing paths.

I think it's OK to have a space that absorbs all the negative.  Writing things down is known to be a good way to transform thoughts into something more tangible, real.  That way we can then release them.  I used to worry and dislike the way the Facebook wall works.  I was used to forums where you could go back on old posts and comments, and I could see (and still do) some really useful ways a forum could work, aside from the fact people wouldn't have to repeat themselves or have the same discussion over and over, and women could also look back and see how far they've come, or find past posts easier.  Unfortunately, the FB wall doesn't lend itself to this very well... it's a dumping ground.  The good thing about this however, is we are NOT reminded of the bad days all the time, the past is the past and is rarely brought back up for re-discussion.  This is good with regard to PMDD as we have these crazy, dark moments, but they are not us.. they may be typed up, posted, talked about and then are lost to the wall and we move on.

Each and every individual needs to take responsibility for themselves and their own healing, whether that includes meds or not.  I have always said the groups should not be a stress to anyone, and that if the negativity in the group is something that is causing you problems then you may need to take a break from the group (just like in life, really).  Many women only visit the group when they need to rant, or some may visit if they see a cry for help and they are strong enough to post a reply.  The support groups as they are work because they are really for one thing only, and that is to talk with other sufferers and find some understanding and sympathy.

What I would like to highlight though, is the power of negative words.  I think this is something all people should consider, but maybe women with PMDD more so.   

Last year, in our house, we tried The Big Apple Experiment.  You cut an apple in half and place it in identical glass, airtight jars, and then over the coming week/s you love one half and hate the other.

It was VERY easy to hate the hate half of the apple.  There was no trouble with finding hateful, hurtful things to say to that half of the apple.  My husband and I could rant at it for a while before running out of things to say, yet, when it came to saying lovely things to the other half, we all found it harder.  It even felt OK to hate, but when we tried to say loving things, it was not easy to find the words and we'd feel uncomfortable about expressing it.  What does that say about us?  Why do we not feel comfortable with speaking words of love and happiness?

Over the coming weeks we continued to talk to each half of the apple every day and the results were amazing.

You may be hugely skeptical, and if you are, I urge you to try it!  It's a great thing to do with the children to teach them about how their words can affect others, but it's also an eye opener as to what we may be doing to ourselves when we talk negatively about ourselves.  There is a lot of self hatred that goes on within PMDD groups, and of course, others will always give a hug and some reassuring words, but just LOOK at what you are potentially doing to yourself with negative words and thoughts.  These ideas, as mentioned in the video above, come from Masuru Emoto's work, which some of you may like to take a look at, and I also found another video!

It is good to rid yourself of negative emotions, we know that, however, when we see what that negativity can do to us and the people around us I think we all need to be more selective with our words, especially with the things we say to ourselves.  It's not about being all fluffy bunny and irritatingly positive all the time, but maybe finding more positive ways to look at things, and watching what you SAY and think.  Words have a massive impact on us, much more that we really realise.

As always, in the name of balance, I am also sharing a link with you which explores why positive thinking is NOT necessarily always good for you!  It's all great food for thought, and hopefully, somewhere in all this mornings ramblings, you may find something that helps you!

The most important change I have made in my life with PMDD is that things are not BAD or GOOD.. POSITIVE or NEGATIVE... there are gifts to be found in the darkest of moments, there is positivity to be found even in the most awful situations.  I do not have good and bad weeks anymore, I have better weeks and more challenging weeks, or high energy weeks and low energy weeks.  I no longer allow myself to get sucked into self hatred and speaking terrible things at myself in the mirror.  I also curb what I say about others, knowing that that negative energy could find them and cause more rifts and friction.  In many spiritual traditions there is a Law of Three, or Threefold law.  That which you give out comes back to you 3 times over.  Some call it Karma.  If you give out positivity, you get back more positivity, and the same works for negativity.

So, in summary, there is a place for the support groups.  Somewhere to rant, rage, hate, let off steam, expel anger and meet others who can understand and share their experiences without judgement, however each and every one of us is responsible for their own lives, happiness, healing and well being.  No one can cure you, no one can save you, no one can make it all better with the swish of a wand, but we all have the ability to make life easier for ourselves, to break bad habits and try and see ourselves and situations from a different perspective.   

When I was at Uni, there was a lad who only drew in red.  Everything he did was created in red.  He was a bit worried about it, as he didn't want to lose marks.  The tutor was brilliant and said something that stuck with me ever since.. He said that the lad should go with it.. just work in red until the desire to work in red has gone.  At some point in the future he will get fed up with red and change to a different colour, but there was no point in trying to force it.  That's how I see the groups.  Women need it for a certain amount of time, they need a space to moan and offload, but that wont necessarily last forever, and in time, they will change the colour, or add colours, until they are off painting with all the colours the world has to offer.

Draw in red for a while, if that's what you need...  one day, you will change the colour, you will move on, you will change...  You may feel at the bottom of a deep dark pit, that everything you say is negative and then that in turn fuels MORE negativity, you may feel there is no way out, that you will always be like this, but you wont...  Nothing ever stays the same!


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