You have all heard the classic female tale. Whether bleeding through your khaki uniform pants and your mom telling you, “You’re a woman now,” losing your virginity in the back of an old pick-up truck at summer camp, or becoming a mother after a seamless pregnancy and having your perfectly round-headed and healthy baby placed on your ready-to-breastfeed chest, you know these movie quality stories to be wildly uncommon. You instead, as resilient you are, guide yourself through the untold truth of femininity.
You throw away 100 tampons before knowing how to use one. You lose your virginity on a messy, confusing, and imperfect night and you experience birth in a deeply personal and courageous way that likely completely deviated from your best-laid birth plan. Yet, you, as a powerful and resourceful force of nature, figure it out. You talk to your friends, converse with the Google Search Bar, and overcome the unknown. Welcome to Self-Taught, where we discuss how women teach themselves about their bodies—because we’ve all been failed by school courses, perplexed by movie scenes, and embarrassed by conversations with parents and peers.
For far too long, flawed systems and unrealistic media have depicted the female body—the female experience—as too skinny, too fat, too messy or neat, disgusting or pristine, but rarely the truth that lies between every extreme. In Self-Taught, we’ll share stories of how women uncovered flaws in systems, products, and lore, and taught themselves that there is a better way—and they deserve better.
As a senior company manager for Golde, a wellness company that is powered by turmeric, Maitreya Brooks has managed to develop her own meaning of wellness during her cycle, specifically her menstrual phase. Powered by CBD, effortless clothing, and yoga, Maitreya has evolved from feeling shameful about her period, to finding it to be one of the most important and empowering aspects of her life.
Image courtesy of Maitreya Brooks
Were you ever given the “period talk?” If so, by who? How did it go? How did it make you feel? Given your circumstances, was it helpful?
I wasn’t [given the talk] prior to starting my period, but I did get my period when I was really young so I definitely relied on my mom to explain what was going on because none of my friends had gotten it yet. I got my period the summer after fifth grade─in elementary school you don’t really have classes that explain that kind of stuff going on in your body. My mom was the only teacher I had. I felt very uncomfortable with my body and confused with what was happening because I was so young. I was 10 and I did not at all understand what was happening internally or why blood was coming out of me. I knew that blood came with puberty, but the gist to me was that once a month, I would bleed and have to wear pads. I felt so ashamed.
I remember when I first got my period, I went on a trip to Hawaii; I was horrified to go into the ocean because I thought if I had my period in the water, I was going to get eaten by a shark. I also remember feeling really embarrassed any time I got my period and felt so ashamed of my body. When I was younger I didn’t use tampons and asking someone for a pad felt so scary.
How has your relationship with your period change as you’ve gotten older?
When I was 14 I started birth control. In middle school, I had really bad cramping and heavy bleeding. I am also really small, so tampons used to be really uncomfortable. I didn’t know if I would need birth control to prevent pregnancy, but the idea of it helping my acne and lightening my period was enough for me to find a doctor. I actually really regret that in high school I kept taking birth control and wouldn’t let my body get my period. I didn’t have a cycle anymore and I had no way of knowing what was going on in my body. Sometimes I would spot but I never had a full period until my freshman year of college when I stopped the pill and got an IUD. After eight to ten months, I finally got my period back, and for the past six years, I have had regular periods.
It’s also been really important for me to track what is going on in my body based on my period. I had a very stressful summer and was traveling a lot in September. I could tell, based on my stress levels, that my period was being affected. For the past six months, my cycle has not come as often and it has become really important to track how my body is doing since being under that stress.
What are some of the most important things you have found that help you manage your period?
I am really big into comfort. I can’t wear clothes that are structured or too tight─I don’t even wear jeans. I really don’t like restricting material, especially on my period. I get really bloated and I get one or two cystic pimples once a month that I haven’t found a way to treat yet. I am much more gentle with myself, though, when I am on my period. I take a lot of baths and CBD to help with my cramps. Unless I have an insane headache, I don’t really take Ibuprofen anymore─I replaced that with CBD. Weed is legal in Oregon so the CBD is much more full-spectrum and effective rather than the snake oil CBD that is taken from hemp.
Comfort and any opportunity to take a bath with bath salts or do yoga makes me feel so much better.
In the past, you have partnered with Outdoor Voices, who we just worked with to launch our Guide To a Better Period and an exercise series aimed at demystifying the cycle through exercise. Which workouts help with your menstrual pain or fatigue? At what point in your cycle do they work best?
I grew up dancing and I remember telling my teacher if I was in too much pain to exercise. My dance teachers really instilled in me that exercising is the best way to help cramps, so I always try and keep that in mind. I love to do slow and restorative yoga, or even take a gummy that is half THC and half CBD while I do Yoga With Adriene in my living room. She’s an incredible yoga instructor who feels very approachable and has yoga for all different types of programs and pain levels. After that, I love to take a hot bath.
Image courtesy of Maitreya Brooks
Your personal style is one of the many reasons you’ve captured so many followers. Do you have a go-to outfit that makes you feel more comfortable or empowered when on your period?
I love to wear white sweats─yeah I know, white on my period─and a tank top with a long peacoat. It’s very cold in Portland so I want to be warm without feeling constricted or tight, especially in my crotch area, while on my period.
What is one thing you taught yourself about your period that you think would have been really helpful to have been formally educated about?
I wish I knew about birth control and the way it would affect my body, fertility, and period. I only viewed it as something that would prevent pregnancy─I didn’t realize it had so many other benefits. I also wish I knew how to track my cycle. My mom has never been on birth control and has always tracked her period─it would have been really nice to know how to do that.
What is one thing you wish your younger self knew about your period?
That my period is a very good and healthy thing, if not one of the best things in life. My period is not something at all that should be shameful. Since I was so young when I got it, I didn’t know a lot about my body. My period didn’t feel normal or empowering at all until I got older. I also wish I had known that my period would change over time. It was so bad in my early teenage years. I viewed my period as this really painful, inconvenient, and heavy thing that I just had to deal with. Now it is two to three days long and I have found ways to take care of my body and track my period to make it less painful.