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  • Meredith

Learning to Live with PMDD: Flowing With the Inner Seasons of the Cycle

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

In the past few years there has been something of a menstrual cycle revolution. And Thank God for it! Menstruality leaders and wise women have shared ancient wisdom about the rhythms, magic, medicine and power of the menstrual cycle. This knowledge has revolutionised the way I am able to live with PMDD.


I first heard of the season analogy a few years ago in a talk given by Jewels Wingfield (https://jewelswingfield.com/) where she drew a circle on a flipchart and divided it into four seasons. She explained that this Wombdala is a map used to navigate ourselves back home and that it is embedded into the Celtic indigenous earth-based spirituality of the ancestors within these lands. It spoke to me and a way of understanding what goes on in each part of the cycle, helping me realise I wasn't alone in the highs and lows and enfolded me in the collective experience of being a woman.




Not long after that I found the Red School (https://www.redschool.net/) and on reading their wonderful book Wild Power written by Alexandra and Sjanie (founders of The Red School), the metaphor of the Inner Seasons became clearer. This evocative metaphor has helped develop an understanding of the cycle in a new way and reveals that each phase has wisdom, messages and instructions that can help guide us in taking care of ourselves throughout the month. I became particularly interested in learning more about the luteal phase - or the 'Inner Autumn' - to help me live better with PMDD but what I discovered was that I needed to understand and respect the energies of every season of the cycle. I offer some of what I have been learning and understanding below.



To briefly summarise the seasons:

Menstruation as Winter

Follicular Phase as Spring

Ovulation as Summer

Luteal Phase as Autumn



Inner Winter - Menstruation - Day 27 - Day 5 cycle.

For those of us with PMDD, the arrival of blood (or within a day or two) can offer deep relief and a sense of peace. The tension we've been holding drops away and the 'clean-up' from the luteal phase can begin. We may feel a sense of coming back to ourselves, though this may be muddied with feelings of shame for outbursts from the previous phase, or a sense of needing to 'catch up with' what we may have had to put on hold. Though the temptation may be to get back out into the world now that we are feeling better, it is important to carve out time to rest and be alone while we are bleeding (especially in the first couple of days). Continuing to hold firm boundaries around our commitments, keeping stress to a minimum and reserving our energy levels can help keep PMDD symptoms in check for the luteal phase of the cycle.


Inner Spring - Follicular Phase - Day 6 - Day 11

For those of us living with PMDD, this is usually the week in which we have our 'best days'. We may experience more energy, vitality and the relief of feeling like our 'normal selves', able to function in the way we feel we would like and how we may feel others expect us. Emerging back into the world, this is the time to take advantage of increased energy and better mood, and can be the best time for scheduling social events, interviews and meetings.


Inner Summer - Ovulation - Day 12 - Day 19

Women with PMDD can experience ovulation as the turning point in their cycle, where this huge hormonal shift leads to a change in energy levels and mood. We may notice we become irritable at this time of the month and the familiar fear or dread for how we will manage another luteal phase may creep in. We may also experience a sense of anticipatory grief that soon the 'good days' of this cycle will be over. This can be a transition phase, asking for internal awareness and an honouring of the fluctuation in our energy levels.


Inner Autumn - Luteal Phase - Day 20 - Day 28

This phase can begin straight after ovulation or arrive around 10 or 7 days before menstruating. Also know as the pre-menstrum, it is a trouble spot for many and particularly for those of us with PMDD. The debilitating symptoms of PMDD can surface strongly in this phase of the cycle.

Symptoms can include: rage, intense irritability, mood swings, intrusive thoughts, depression, anxiety, extreme fatigue, a deep desire to be alone, noise and smell sensitivities, suicidal feelings and more.


We may notice the repetition of challenging thoughts, feelings or impulses that rise up in this phase. Though it is normal to want to disconnect from these, we are offered here an invitation to turn towards them and hear the wisdom and instructions in the symptoms. Needs we have neglected and feelings we may have overridden rise up and ask for our loving attention. It is as if we are being asked to be present to the little one inside us who may not have had their needs met.


We may feel in touch with historical woundings and ancestral patterns that show up cyclically. Premenstrual reactivity, rage and self-rejection could have a direct line back to them and be asking for healing. Professional therapeutic support can help us become aware of these wounds and patterns and offer us a way to break the generational cycle. It can also help us develop the ability to hold and soothe ourselves, as a good mother would. If we are willing to listen, this phase allows us to understand what needs tending emotionally, physically and spiritually.


The patriarchal and capitalist conditioning that we women (and men) have been immersed in since that day we were born has given us downright harmful messages about productivity and worth. We may feel we have to always be busy and productive to feel worthy. We may have a sense of guilt over putting your own needs ahead of others. We may find it impossible to stop or feel guilty for resting or we may not even know how to rest. It can take time to notice these internalised messages, to consciously challenge and resist them so that we can put our own needs and self-care first. I have found that the sense of extreme fatigue and need for extra rest that the luteal phase of the cycle often demands means I have to succumb to more sleep and naps in the day and let go of being productive in the same way I can be in other phases of the cycle. I am learning to be grateful for this fatigue - this demand to rest that I cannot fight - as it guides and instructs me to honour my body's need for rest that I am, at other times in the cycle, able to ignore.


Our culture and society doesn't value fierce, powerful, truth-telling women, but this is exactly the energy we are offered in this phase of the cycle and more intensely for women with PMDD. We may ask how we can wield our swords for the good of ourselves and others? Sometimes it takes slaying all that is unnecessary in the outer world (commitments, appointments, emails) and putting in place firm boundaries with others so that we are able to create the time and space to come back to ourselves and listen to what we need. To care for others, we must first care for ourselves.


Cultivating an intimacy with my inner seasons and living my life according to their unique energies has reduced the severity of my PMDD symptoms. Going with the flow of my cycle rather than fighting against it has enabled my cycle to be one of much less stress. I continue to learn how to take care of myself in each season of the cycle, as I now understand that my self-care in all seasons deeply affects how my PMDD shows up in my inner autumn.



Suggested helpful reading resources:

Wild Power - Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer

Period Power - Maisie Hill

Women's Bodies, Women's Health - Christiane Northrup

The Red Tent - Anita Diamant


The Red School offer free online courses and material around the menstrual cycle.



I am a trained counsellor offering specific support to women suffering with PMDD. Get in touch via meredithhusencounselling@gmail.com or via the contact form to book a free 20 minute consultation.





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