I was listening to Aubrey Marcus' podcast this week (big love to my man for introducing me to this gem) and he said something like this... 'releasing is often spoken about as though it's like putting down a suitcase... it's NOTHING like putting down a suitcase! It's more like being ripped apart'. Hear fucking hear!
3 weeks ago I was ripped apart harder than I have been in quite some time and I broke more fully than I ever have, especially since being sober. It was as though I was accessing the depths of emotion only previously accessible through complete inhibition release but this time I was conscious and aware and it was terrifying. I ended up on the floor wailing for hours. It was gruelling, I was choking silent sobs that felt as though they were being hauled out from the depths of my belly quite against my will and for a few days afterwards I wondered if I would ever be the same again. And I see now that I won't. I see that huge layers have been peeled away and deep emotional excavations have taken place and now I have to learn how to live and love again in this new soft, raw, vulnerable skin.
This break was the culmination of a deep surrender that began in September last year. As soon as those first autumn leaves began to brown I felt the hugest no ripple out through my whole being all the way to the bones and I was left unable to continue on as I was. I knew I had no choice but to stop, cancel everything and take stock. The message was clear, I had gone too long deepening the ruts of unhelpful habitual patterns and nature was taking the reins. The deep resonance of this autumnal no was so strong that I arrived at the gates of winter bare, ready to surrender it all to the wisdom of rest. This surrender filled me a feeling of full permission to harness winter as it was intended, as a time of rest and incubation.
Autumn taught me to release the belief that to be successful is to be perpetually in growth and winter taught me to trust in the darkness as an essential part of the life death life cycle of the natural world. And despite understanding these things on a cognitive level it wasn't quite the same as the embodied experience of this seasonal surrender into trust in the cycles of nature. It was so important to really experience the fact that no one died because I cancelled work, that I didn't go bankrupt because I decided to take a 3 month break from social media and that my friends have not dumped me because I didn't (and still don't) manage to keep up with their messages! Letting go of all of these untruths that I have been taught or insidiously absorbed allowed me a deep drop into winter that helped me to finally move beyond the distractions that had kept me from really releasing trapped emotions and traumas that I had been carrying for over a decade. The strangest thing of all is that it all happened quite naturally, I mean yes I've put in the ground work but really all that was ever required was to allow real proper time to feel and open, expansive space to sit with my emotions.
Consciously choosing to live more in tune with the cycles of nature and of my own inner cycles has been the single most effective healing tool I have ever encountered and coming to experience my own inner cycle through a seasonal lens has helped me to reframe the challenges and intuit the messages that it sends me about my health and wellbeing.
It's no coincidence that my breakdown took place the day after ovulation. Winter is a tricky time to keep hormones in balance and the sharp drop off of oestrogen after ovulation has been leaving me ragged on this day for the past two cycles. Forget pre-menstrual, recently I've been much more post-ovulatory and I am so glad that I am armed with the knowledge and understanding of my cycle so that I can see where the imbalances lie and therefore be armed with the information to work to address them.
Without this knowledge women are so often offered drugs as our only solution and that is exactly what happened to me this winter. In my desperation I found myself in a doctor's office being prescribed drugs again and being given yet more labels. I TOTALLY see the value in diagnosis in certain scenarios but our society is so quick to pathologise and so ill-equipped to holistically help women through their health issues that it can leave us feeling broken and helpless. So for me when faced with diagnosis and drugs as the only suggestion for physical and mental wellbeing it just made me angry. But rather than fester I took the fire and let it forge me a new path.
First stop I had to let go of the shame... the shame that even though I work in menstrual health I still suffer sometimes. Then I got support for my mind, took stock of my nutrition and lifestyle and most importantly reminded myself of the ritual importance of darkness and the wisdom of the menstrual cycle. The remit of the inner autumn (premenstruum) is to cause disruption, to shake us out of old skins and push us to step into new ones and the remit of the inner winter (menstruation) is to clear us out for something new. For me this potent seasonal link helps me to reframe the challenges of the menstrual cycle as opportunities for growth, which helps me to also see the seasons of nature in the same way.
It also felt really important for me to be reminded that just because I experience symptoms doesn't mean I have to take the label and let it become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I choose to reframe this as an essential disturbance clearing me out for something new.
It's been a wild ride but at this seasonal juncture I have finally started to understand the teachings of this winter, to see the purpose in the ripping open and emptying out. At this pivotal turning point of the year I have felt a shift from clearing out to drawing in, an embodied experience of how winter was preparing me for something new.
How has winter been for you? How are you emerging now? I'd love to hear from you.