The Canary in the Goldmine

Over the past five years of working in the women’s wellbeing space, I’ve noticed the awareness of menstrual health conditions rise. Labelling these conditions with terms such as endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, or hypothalamic amenorrhea has both advantages and disadvantages. 

Having a specific diagnosis can help us access treatment that was previously unavailable. And it can help us and everyone around us understand that, no, it’s not just in our heads. It can give us a sense of knowing, what the heck is going on with us. But with it can also come a feeling that something is ‘wrong’ with us. When really, we’re just the canaries in the goldmine. 

And unfortunately, the path of gynaecology, of modern medicine, is plastered with the bodies of these birds. Instead, of blaming the birds, we need to finally start looking at the environment that causes their suffering. These symptoms appear when there’s a fundamental disconnect from our cyclical nature. And they appear first in those who experience the cycles of nature and their creative potential as a deeply embodied process: the menstrual cycle. 

Rarely this disconnect is primarily a personal one; more often it’s the culture, the environment we find ourselves in, the environment that our mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers have grown up in, that are causing or exasperating these symptoms. 

The disconnect is showing up in both subtle and less subtle ways. Some are visible and clearly measurable, like the destruction of our planet’s wild places or the increased toxic load in our daily lives from xenoestrogens, BPA and microplastic. Some show up in a direct connection to our menstrual health: single-use period products like plastic pads polluting our waterways or remnants of hormonal birth control creating imbalance not just in our internal, but also our external ecosystems. 

Others are invisible to anybody who relies on numbers and data for proof. They show up as a yearning for the wild, for space, for quietness, for darkness. The deep craving for rest and respite from the pace of the world around us. Just like nature around us begins to become unpredictable and seasons erratic when we destroy the balance within ecosystems and take too many resources; when we disregard the cyclical rhythms of our bodies, our inner seasons – the menstrual cycle – become disrupted. Our wild cyclical nature starts to roar.

But true, wild nature is becoming less and less accessible. The wild has retreated to the edges of our world – both within and around us. The solution, I believe, is a two-way one: anything that will help bring the wild back into our environment will begin to restore the wild within us. 

Our suffering is a symptom of the cultural disconnect from the rhythms of nature, a suppression of the creative power that lies both within us and within nature around us. To begin to heal that disconnect, we need to begin working with and restoring our inner rhythms by aligning with the natural rhythms in our environment. We need to address the cultural disconnect and remember that we are part of nature; that we have evolved alongside nature’s rhythms for millions of years.

While labelling these diseases and treating hormonal imbalances with supplements and changes in diet can help tremendously, they don’t get to the root of the issue. For that, we need to address our relationship to the cyclical and understand the role that our cultural environment has on our ability to live in alignment with nature’s rhythms. 

And most importantly, it’s time to let go of any guilt or shame we might feel for being the canary in the goldmine. It’s not our fault. We need to create a space where these concerns are taken very seriously, both for causing enormous suffering to those who experience them as well as signposts to what needs to change in our culture and our relationship to our natural environment. And it is with that awareness, that we can begin to make changes in our direct environment that will ripple out into the world around us.