Episode 174: Taking Your Period Outdoors

Episode 174: Taking Your Period Outdoors

Interview with Mary Ann Thomas

If you menstruate (and honestly, even if you don’t), it’s likely that periods are one of many factors that come into play when you’re looking to head outside. In fact, we know that’s the case– because we recently asked the She Explores community to tell us what questions or topics they thought about when it came to navigating menstruation in the outdoors, and everyone really came through with ideas, questions, and longstanding myths they wanted to hear busted.

We were hoping to find a way to meet this community enthusiasm with thoughts from someone who knows both the medical and the practical aspects of taking your period outdoors. Mary Ann Thomas, a current ICU nurse and former travel nurse, bike tourist, and a queer brown daughter of Indian immigrant parents comes to this conversation with both knowledge and applied know-how to share. Tune in to hear their insights and options around staying clean, remaining conscious of the environment, and giving yourself permission to recognize that there is always more to learn about our bodies and their cycles.

Find the episode below, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you stream podcasts.

Featured in this episode: Mary Ann Thomas

Hosted by Laura Borichevsky

A Production of Ravel Media

Resources:

Music by the band UTAH featuring Gabby Jones, Gracie and Rachel, Mike Mains, Phillip Cuccias, and the Wild Wild licensed via MusicBed.

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Featured in this Episode

Mary Ann Thomas

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TRANSCRIPT

Note: This transcript was lightly edited and created using a transcription service. As such it may contain spelling errors.

Laura Borichevsky – Narration:

I’m Laura Borichevsky, host of the new Ravel media podcast, Sex Outside, and Galel Straub was kind enough to let me take the mic for this special episode, all about navigating menstruation when you’re outdoors,

Mary Ann Thomas:

Part of what you’re doing when you are going in the outdoors is learning how to listen to your body. And so I think there’s something really important and like looking at what your menstruation actually means to you.

Laura Borichevsky – Narration:

That’s Mary Ann Thomas, who usually goes by Mat and is someone who knows a lot about both the medical and the practical aspects of taking your period with you camping, on the trail, up a mountain, on the river, or wherever you might find yourself when you spend time in nature.

Mary Ann Thomas:

I use they and she pronouns. I’m a writer. I was a travel nurse for a very long time, and I’m like tourists have bicycles across from San Diego to Montreal and other parts of the world. And across the continent from the Himalayas to the tip of the subcontinent where my family has a home, in Kerala.

Laura Borichevsky – Narration:

If you menstruate (and honestly, even if you don’t), it’s likely that periods are one of many factors that come into play when you’re looking to head outside. In fact, we know that’s the case– because we recently asked the She Explores community to tell us what topics they thought about when it came to navigating menstruation in the outdoors, and everyone really came through with lots of great ideas, questions, and longstanding myths they wanted to hear busted.

In this episode, we’ll cover insights and options around staying clean, remaining conscious of the environment, and giving yourself permission to recognize that there is always more to learn about our bodies and their cycles. But before we jump too far into things, Mat wanted to spend some time at the start of this conversation taking a look at menstruation in relationship to sex and gender, because the reality is that the lens most of us have learned about periods through is heavily focused on heteronormative perspectives and as such is not as inclusive as it could or needs to be. I’ll let Mat take it from here.

Mary Ann Thomas:

I think it’s important to be clear that not all women menstruate and that menstruation does not make a person, a woman. Being a woman is a gendered social construct. And that to define a woman is not anything based on biology. I have had an IUD for many years now, and I have not menstruated in many years. And my current gender identity, I identify as a non-binary femme as my truest version of myself. I originally got an IUD for birth control, but now I keep it for gender affirmation because menstruating is not something that’s important to me. And it’s not something like bearing a child is not something I ever want to do. So I think it’s important when we’re talking about menstruation to keep in mind that physical biology does not necessarily correlate to gender identity. And I’ll be trying to keep that in mind as I speak to talk about people who menstruate rather than women.

Laura Borichevsky:

Yes. Great distinction, great points. And thanks for bringing that up right at the offset too.

So we received a lot of community questions through the She Explores Podcast Facebook group, as well as Instagram and folks had a lot of different questions when it comes to menstruation. So we organized it in a few different ways. And one of the big themes that came out of it that we organized some questions into was just general hygiene in regards to menstruation. So I think we can start there first. And one of the biggest questions that came out of just talking about hygiene is keeping hands clean, particularly for folks who are managing their menstruation and might be touching their vulva region or things of that nature. So folks want to know what are some best practices, if I’m outdoors or traveling and not near a bathroom that I can keep my hands clean enough to take care of my hygiene while menstruating?

Mary Ann Thomas:

This is a great question. And I will give a couple of caveats to how I’m going to answer all of the questions that my perspective as an outdoors person is pretty feral. Like when I’m going on bike tours or backpacking or hiking, I lean more towards my federal side. I try to like tune myself with the earth and to not necessarily view the things in the earth as dirty and to kind of like restructure the way my mind thinks in that way, that said, I am an ICU nurse and there’s a lot of socialization and training that I have around cleanliness and sterility. So I will be kind of giving options. So like from a medical perspective, you know, and from like what you’ll see recommended online by folks who are in outdoors communities around keeping hands clean and staying hygienic biodegradable soap is a great thing to use that as something to carry with you and to not use near like some streams.

I believe the Leave No Trace organization says 200 feet away from bodies of water is like, if you’re using any products you bring into the outdoors that you’re using it that far away from lakes and streams. So you can wash your hands with biodegradable soap, if that’s comfortable to you. My favorite technique for cleaning. And again, this is my perspective on the federal side is friction. And we know that even for things like COVID like the reason why hand-washing works so much is it’s because it’s the friction that’s rubbing the particles off of your hands. Like for most bacterias and viruses, friction is going to be what helps get it off of you. So when it comes to hand-washing, I have for a long time just defaulted to dirt and sand. So wetting hands, rubbing my hands in the dirt or on the ground, and then using that as almost like a paste or a wash to use friction to get anything off of me and then just washing it off with water.

Laura Borichevsky:

Wow. Yeah. It’s so interesting that you bring that up because one of my friends who’s a phlebotomist when she was going through her training, learned about friction as well. And so I actually used that yeah. When I’m outdoors or on the road, and don’t have immediate access to, you know, any type of hand-washing method that I would traditionally use or biodegradable soap or what have you. But I always thought it was the heat that your hands create and not just the friction itself. So it’s really interesting to hear you explain it in that way. And that makes a lot of sense too.

Mary Ann Thomas:

I mean, heat might have a component to do with it, you know, I can’t say that’s not true, but my understanding is that friction, I mean, that’s part of why it’s a length of time that you’re washing as important too, just to like get into all those places.

Laura Borichevsky:

That’s great. Yeah. Thank you for answering that. So in that same vein folks had a lot of questions about showers, not just hand-washing. So what do you think about showers or just like, I guess, full body cleaning, we could maybe say– because shower sounds kind of prescriptive– when it comes to being outside and also it through the lens as well of trying to remain conscious of environmental footprints.

Mary Ann Thomas:

Yeah. And I’ll be honest here. Like I don’t, for the most part, even carry biodegradable soap. It’s not something that’s in my like standard things I carry when I’m doing outdoors things. I keep it now sometimes for car camp, but it’s not part of my normal kit. And so when it comes to body washing, I try to keep in mind, no matter what a human needs water, right? So every time you, unless you’re hiking through a desert and just carrying a ton of water for the most part, at least in my experience, I’m usually camping near water. That’s kind of one of my like criteria for what a good campsite is. And of course there are times when that hasn’t worked out and I’ve carried water and don’t have that additional source. But part of my end of the day routine involves washing. So for example, I went on the NOLS Leaders of Color backpacking trip last year.

And when we would get to camp, you know, there’s the standard things you need to do. Like pit shelter, make food. And for me, changing clothes and washing is one of those standard things I do. So we would always be camping near a body of water, and I would go down to the river or stream or Lake or whatever it was and just bring a bandana. And I would take the bandana, put it in the water and essentially give myself a sponge bath. If it was early enough, then the sun could dry me. If not, then I would use another piece of clothing or a cloth to dry myself off and then always putting on fresh clothes. So my practice is to always have a set of quotes that I sleep in than I do exercising. So my daytime clothes will get sweaty. They might be dirtier.

And then my nighttime clothes are like a little fresher. So that’s true. Even if I don’t get to wash, even if I’m carrying my water, I will still, at the end of the night, change my clothes. That’s an important thing for preventing hypothermia too. I’m sure folks who are coming from colder areas are familiar that like, if you are sweating all day and then you stay in those clothes and just pile layers on when you’re cooling down, you will often stay cold because that cold, sweaty clothing is still on your skin. So my methods revolve around changing my clothes and washing myself whenever possible. And given that water is a human need, I coordinate my campsites around water, which means that that’s usually something I’m able to do is wash myself at the end of the day. Oh. And then I guess just bringing extra underwear is also a good thing to keep in mind, just to always have, you know, those things that are more up against your parts, having some extra clothing for that.

Laura Borichevsky:

Absolutely. Yeah. And I think dovetailing on all of that too, is thinking about what types of clothes you are bringing both the material. If you have the ability to choose, you know, like a couple of different things, things that might make you sweaty or, or not are going to make your need for a shower greater or not, as well as how tight those clothes are too. So yeah, I totally agree with everything that you said.

Mary Ann Thomas:

Yeah. And there are definitely, you know, materials like specialized underwear, like hiking underwear and different materials that are meant to be used over and over again. And I think, you know, this is also something that I really want to be a takeaway for everyone who listens to this episode: part of what you’re doing when you are going in the outdoors is learning how to listen to your body. And I can’t tell you necessarily, what’s going to work for your body. I mentioned that I lean towards the feral perspective because that’s what feels good to my body. But I also know that the things I do might just make other people anxious and there might be a way in which doing something differently using soap more regularly might feel more aligned to somebody else. And so that’s true for clothing. That’s true for materials. Like you just mentioned, that’s true for washing practices. And I just encourage everybody to get in-tune with what is good for them and what feels right to them.

Laura Borichevsky:

Yeah. Well said. 

One other aspect of hygiene that came up, that there was a lot of enthusiasm around on Facebook. We’re about backcountry bidets. And there are a lot of folks in the threads who were like, “I’ve used this and it’s totally changed my backcountry experience”. And there’s a lot of curiosity around that topic as well. So I hadn’t heard much of backcountry bidets actually. And I was curious to know if you have, and if, so, your thoughts are on that.

Mary Ann Thomas:

Yeah. I hadn’t heard about this. And then I was, you know, researching this for this episode and I could not stop laughing because this idea of a backcountry bidet is literally how over a billion, probably billions of people on this planet wash their butts. I mean, like being a kid and going to India to visit family, like most Indians wash their butts. There is no toilet paper on that continent, except in like certain cities, you know, in most villages you cannot find things like toilet paper. And when I was bicycling across India, we would wake up at four in the morning and start our day super early to avoid the heat. And one of the very special endearing things that we witnessed was essentially just men going into fields with a water bottle or coming out of fields with the water to do their morning poops.

And they would just have a water bottle with a squirt top. And that’s like a standard practice for across the Indian sub-continent in homes. What people do is have, I mean, I’ll speak from my childhood. All of my family members’ homes have a spout next to the toilet and a bucket so that you are literally washing your butt every time you go to the bathroom and you use your left hand to wipe essentially, and your right hand is the clean hand. So that’s some of the things that I saw around like techniques for back country. The days used that same designation of like designate a clean hand, designated dirty hand, and then just thoroughly wash afterwards.

Laura Borichevsky:

Yeah. I really appreciate your perspective on yeah, just how that is, how the vast majority of people globally are washing their butts when they go to the bathroom. And I think that, you know, it’s important for people to keep that in mind too, because it’s a good skill to have to know different ways. I mean, even just to put it in perspective of some of the events that have happened this year with running out of toilet paper, in some towns and cities due to the pandemic, people were learning how to do their own bad days at home, you know, and I think that it’s important to know different ways to keep yourselves clean. And that’s definitely a very solid way that a lot of people use.

Something else that obviously was a huge part of the topic around menstruation was about different types of menstrual products.

And I appreciate you sharing that you’ve been using an IUD for a while. Personally. I also have as well. I actually just started my third IUD. So I spot occasionally sometimes I have a period, but for the most part I haven’t bled in a really long time. And so I’m less familiar with some of the products that are out there right now, like the menstrual cup, but I know a lot of people do use the menstrual cup. I guess I’m curious to know, is the menstrual cup, in your opinion, from what you’re aware of as well, the best or most earth-friendly option when it comes to menstrual products? And what other options exist that are also environmentally conscious?

Mary Ann Thomas:

So the first question I would say it is the most earth friendly option, simply because it eliminates so much waste. You’re not using a disposable product over and over again. Or at least I used menstrual cups. When I menstruated for many, many years, I started using them in high school. And the amazing thing about them is that depending on the material, they can last from like five to seven years. And you just have to keep in mind which menstrual cup you’re getting. If you have certain allergies like a latex allergy, you can’t use certain ones, but it is, I would say the most earth-friendly option in terms of other options for menstruation and outers, tampons, and pads, you can definitely use, you just have to pack them out as you would pack anything. You’re bringing into the wilderness and I haven’t done this. So some of the things that I saw suggested for packing it out, you can basically duct tape a Ziploc bag, like a gallons Ziploc bag to reinforce it and conceal it and put coffee grounds or crushed aspirin in the bag to help with the smell.

If you are then needing to pack it out, you have to also store it in your bear canister, depending on where you’re hiking. If you’re using a menstrual cup, you get rid of the blood in a similar way to how you would, your poop. You dig a cat hole, pour the blood out and just slip it back into your vagina. And that method is something I have done many times. You don’t necessarily need to wash it when you dump it, you can just dump it and put it back in. I’ve definitely had experiences also in India, but as a teenager, when I’ve been on trains or been in places where I needed to dump it, because I knew it was overflowing, but I did not have access to clean water. And so if you don’t have access to good clean water by that, I mean, washing it in a stream and then putting it back in, and it has the potential to expose your vagina to bacteria from the stream or from this wild water source.

So if you don’t have access to running water, then just dumping it into the cat hole, slipping it back in and washing your hands. I’m covering the blood up is actually the best way to do it in the most “clean” way to do it. Your menstrual waste is a part of nature. And I think this is also a big unlearning piece that we can learn. Like humans are separate from nature by giving our menstrual blood to the earth. Our bodies are meant to be a part of the earth. And when you are shedding, you’re lying, you are releasing part of yourself to the earth. So each bleed, you kind of have this opportunity to restore your relationship to the land and to gift the land a piece of yourself and framing it that way can make it seem less like I’m polluting right? In this instance, like this is not pollution. This is a very natural part of our cycles that has always been around.

Laura Borichevsky:

That makes a lot of sense. And meaning on the knowledge of what you shared in the hygiene themed questions too, it sounds like other things you could do to, if you’re worried about, you know, being unclean or anything like that, I guess if you have access to some way to sanitize your hands or using, you know, a friction method to at least like, you know, rub them together before you start handling your menstrual cups, sounds like a good option as well.

Mary Ann Thomas:

Yes. Good caveat. When you prepare to do this, washing your hands beforehand is important. Yeah, absolutely.

Laura Borichevsky:

Totally. I guess I’m also curious to know if someone was interested in knowing your thoughts on using pads versus using tampons for overnight trips. And if you had any insights on that or things folks should consider?

Mary Ann Thomas:

As I implied earlier, I’m kind of on the “your body, your choice” method. Tampons will likely take up less space, especially if you’re not using an applicator and be less weight. But I know that there could be lots of reasons that somebody doesn’t want to use tampons. There could be dysphoria involved. There could be pain. There could be a lot of reasons that inserting something in the form of a tampon or a menstrual cup doesn’t feel good. And if that’s the case, like using pads as a totally valid option, we are meant to have different bodies. And we’re meant to do things for our bodies that are specific to our bodies. So you don’t need an expert opinion to tell you whether to use tampons or pads for your own body. That seems like a pretty personal choice. That is a conversation you can have with your vagina.

Laura Borichevsky:

I love that. Yeah. It will tell you exactly. One question. I’ve gotten a lot recently because I shared online when I got my new IUD, just to see if folks had questions because I’ve loved my IUD. And I think just giving people more insights. And so, you know what it’s been like for me, the user was a good idea. And one of the biggest questions was what about menstrual cups? And you know, what about menstrual cups, interactions with IUD? I’ve heard that they can get suctioned out. And I was like, well, I haven’t really used a cup yet because I haven’t been bleeding enough. So, you know, if I do, I usually do use like reasonable period panties, like you were talking about, but do you have any other insights to offer on that? I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews and I was curious to get your take as well. Yeah.

Mary Ann Thomas:

When I first got an IUD and I was still having periods for the first like six months, I definitely was using a menstrual cup and I definitely had people in my life be like, “Wait, what? Won’t it get sucked out?” kind of thing. And I remember at that time really researching it. And I mean, I couldn’t at the time find any accounts of that actually happening. I’m sure that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. I’m, you know, I can come out for a number of reasons. Complications with IDD are generally pretty rare, but it can, there are as with any form of contraception, there are risks. And because it’s like a physical device, it can come out of your uterus. It can move to places it’s not supposed to move, but that’s, I don’t think that there’s any evidence that menstrual cups cause an IUD to move the period in which an IUD is most likely to dislodge or to become misplaced is in the first six months. So if that is a concern of yours, you could avoid using a menstrual cup in those first six months and then resume after. But like I said, it’s mostly on your comfort level. If, if it’s something that is going to give you a lot of anxiety to use a menstrual cup with your ID, then you can make a different choice. But I don’t know that there’s any evidence saying that a menstrual cup will actually section out your IUD.

Laura Borichevsky:

Yeah. Thanks for your perspective on that. It’s important for folks to think about. And I also like what you mentioned about in the same vein of listening to your body, like if this method is giving you anxiety, then maybe think about something else. Even if it might technically work for your body, if it’s creating additional undue stress, then yeah. Maybe it’s not the right method for you.

Mary Ann Thomas:

Yeah.

Laura Borichevsky:

So on the same topic of contraceptives since an IUD is a contraceptive, another form of contraceptive that came up in this conversation around menstruation is hormonal birth control pills. And there’s a handful of folks in the she explorers Facebook group community who were discussing using a contraceptive pill to manage her skip periods. And there are a lot of different perspectives on this. And I was curious to hear, you know, from your knowledge, what are the different perspectives on this? And are there any potential risks that folks should know about if they’re to use a contraceptive pill in that way?

Mary Ann Thomas:

Yeah. So in the history of contraceptive pills, the reason why bleeding is built into the cycle is essentially because in the studies that they were originally doing people who were in those studies were saying that it felt unnatural to not have a period. There’s no scientific reason that skipping a period harms your body. It’s just something that, you know, folks are used to having periods, especially at that time when having periods continuously until menopause was so normal that skipping periods seemed unnatural. This is like in the sixties, seventies. And so they built that in to essentially increase compliance, compliance, being so that people would continue taking their pills on and not randomly stop it, not feel bad about taking it from my perspective. There’s no medical reason that you need to have a period. But that said that original reason that seated them building vote period week into most contraceptive packs, I think is still really valid.

There are lots of perspectives on periods and I’m bleeding like bleeding is a biological process. You’re shedding a uterine wall. It has to do with ovulation, like preparing your body in all these different ways, but there’s also like different spiritual aspects to it. I mean, this is at least from my understanding, right? And different people might have their own understanding of why their periods or bleeding cycles are important to them. But I, you know, I was talking to my niece recently, who’s like eight years old and she found out about periods from the babysitters club on Netflix. And she was like, so upset, you know, in my Indian immigrant family, like nobody knew how to talk to her about it in a way that didn’t make her more scared. And I’ll say here, what I said to her that like, I really think that bleeding and that like these cycles are a way to align ourselves with the moon and align ourselves with the earth and these natural processes.

And as somebody who doesn’t bleed that does not mean that I am not also affected by those natural cycles. I just can access those cycles in different ways that don’t necessarily have to do with bleeding. And so I think there’s something really important and like looking at what your menstruation actually means to you, is it a way for you to release? Is it a way for you to rest? Is it your body calling you to do something in particular? And if so, it might be important to you and it’s like super valid for your menstruation and for your moon cycle to be important to you. So I don’t want to minimize that either. Like I said, there’s no medical reason that you have to bleed, but your mental health, your spiritual health, like those are all part of your journey, especially when you’re doing something outdoors and your menstruation might be asking you to do something.

And I think it can be important to take some time to look at that. And the other thing I wanted to say is that with contraceptive pills too, at this point, now that we’re like 50 years out from contraception being popularized, there’s a way that it’s so normal that the side effects are minimized. So not from my experience, but from the people around me and from studies. I mean, contraceptive pills specifically can cause depression like increased suicidal ideation can cause different mental health issues can cause different energy shifts, irritability, like just feeling emotionally dysregulated. And to me, it’s really shitty that we have normalized taking contraceptive pills, regardless of if you are experiencing all these hormonal side effects and just being like, well, you just have to stick it out because you have to stay on this contraception. And that’s the right thing to do, or you’re responsible for keeping yourself from not having a baby. So you have to deal with all these side effects.

So I just wanted to bring that up in that using contraception to manage and skip periods and the outdoors might be really awesome for some people, from my experience, when I was using pills, I had maybe six months of emotional dysregulation, but generally loved it. But at the same time, it might not work for somebody who has mental health stuff going on. It might not work for somebody who the effect of the hormone causes an increased anxiety or depression. And so just from a medical perspective, I just want to have good knowledge that I think that the medical world hasn’t done a good job of believing people who are on pills when they say like, Hey, this doesn’t feel great. And switching pills, you know, because there are different options. So if something is coming up for you, like listen to that and talk to your doctor, get that changed out so that when you go on your trip, you can actually have a good experience.

Laura Borichevsky:

That’s incredibly well said, thank you for bringing that up because it is all a balance. And the end goal with how anyone who menstruates manages their menstruation is that you’re able to feel good physically and mentally and go about living your life. You know, the way that hopefully that you want to. So there’s more factors to consider within that than just when and how you’re bleeding. And speaking of blood, I actually didn’t even think about this question, which is interesting because I think in terms of being in the outdoors and talking about menstruation, this is probably one of the, at least as far as I’m aware, this is like one of the longest questions that’s been asked throughout the history of folks going outside. And that’s whether menstrual fluid and specifically miserable blood attracts bears or not. And the, She Explores community brought this question up. A lot of folks acknowledged that from all the things that they’re aware of, that this is a complete myth, but also that this is something that a lot of folks have been told growing up and that it did prevent some folks within our own community, as well as outside of it from going outside. And so I want to get your take on that. Starting with, does blood attract bears?

Mary Ann Thomas:

No, blood does not attract bears. Patriarchy attracts bears. It’s just patriarchy. It’s just shutting people who bleed out of spaces. I don’t know that I really have more to add.

Laura Borichevsky:

That’s okay. No, I think it’s great to at least acknowledge that. That’s a question that’s been asked and a myth that’s been told for so long that it even came up for this episode. And yeah, I’m glad that we can just say like the answer’s no, you can go outside whether you’re bleeding or not. And that’s that.

Mary Ann Thomas:

Absolutely. That’s that.

Laura Borichevsky:

Cool. This question I was really interested in. So someone was curious about energy levels at different stages of somebody’s cycle, who meant. And so this person asked when in your menstrual cycle is best with your energy, for hiking or doing other more rigorous outdoor activities?

Mary Ann Thomas:

Yeah. And I’ll go back to what I was saying earlier around, like getting to know your period, getting to know your body. And one phrase that I really like in terms of rest is to move at the pace of the earth. This is really timed with the moon. Like the moon regulates a lot of people’s periods, whether they realize it or not, a lot of people bleed either during full moon or Newman. And then the opposite is true for ovulation. So then folks who bleed during full moon often ovulate during new moon and vice versa. So if you pay attention to the moon, then you can often more easily gauge what’s going on with your menstruation. And again, this is like a very large generalization, not everyone is on that 28 day cycle, you know, and there’s different apps. I think one of them is called Clue that can help you get to know exactly when you’re going to obviate.

And when you’re going to menstruate, if you have a regular cycle and her quote, unquote, regular cycle could be longer, it could be like a 40 day cycle. It could be one 40 day cycle on one 20 day cycle. And they could alternate that way. So getting to know it over a long period of time can help you gauge what’s going on with your body. But I’m just using the moon. As a example for if you’re on a 28 day cycle, you might actually have different fluctuations in energy level based on whether you’re going from menstruation to ovulation or ovulation to menstruation. And that will depend on you. For me, that has varied as somebody who doesn’t bleed, I can pay attention to the moon and kind of gauge what’s going on with my energy levels. And I used to be that from new moon to full moon, I had more energy.

I felt more fired up to do the things I was passionate about. I felt more engaged, more like attuned to what was going on. And then from full moon to new moon was more of a period of rest for me. And it was more internal, more calm and just like, you know, increased, sleep, less communication with other people kinds of things. And just knowing that process has helped me be a little bit more forgiving to myself that if from new moon to full moon, I’m not feeling super fired up. That’s just okay. Like that can be a period of rest. That can be a period of settling down a little bit. Nesting is a big part of it for me, you know, like taking care of my apartment kinds of things. So those are some really general broad strokes cycles, but there’s a lot of information out there about what different phases of the moon can offer you. And like I said, that doesn’t necessarily align with your period. It can align with your cycle, but I think paying attention to your cycle, it can tell you a lot about what you can spend your time on in a way that is most aligned with your body.

Laura Borichevsky:

That makes a lot of sense. And I hadn’t thought about even just breaking it down into some simple terms to get started, it’s felt like for me as someone who menstruates occasionally, I’ve been wondering, yeah. How do I stay in tune with that? Especially since I’m not normally bleeding sometimes if like, I can feel really intense energies or like my anxiety spikes, but then yeah, I haven’t had a guiding star to go off of. So even just starting to make some observations based on the schedule of the moon and what phases it’s moving in and out of could be a really nice way to get to know myself a little bit better. So on a personal level, I really appreciate that. And I’m sure some other people listening do too.

Mary Ann Thomas:

I’m glad it’s helpful. Yeah. It’s been really helpful to me this, this year, this pandemic year.

Laura Borichevsky:

Totally. In terms of managing some of those symptoms that folks might have that could go along with menstruation. Cramps came up as one of the biggest things that could get in somebody’s way from having a good time outside. Although there are a lot of symptoms that could get in someone’s way from having a good time outside, but in terms of cramps, what tips do you have to manage cramps in the back country or other remote areas

Mary Ann Thomas:

As maybe you are somebody who carries a heat pack with you in the outdoors. I don’t know your life. But one thing that can also be helpful if you are somebody who carries like a steel or aluminum water bottle, you can boil water and put it in there and use it as a heat back. 

Laura Borichevsky:

Yeah, absolutely. Our last question then from the community– and this is a very open-ended question that could be perceived a lot of different ways, so whatever this means for you and your perspective or what you think the community maybe needs to hear is great– but it definitely has to do with relationships or at least having a longer-term partner who doesn’t menstruate and how to navigate that. So the question is, what tips do you have for non menstruating partners, either living in a van or on the trail with a menstruator?

Mary Ann Thomas:

I’m giving this from the perspective of a non menstruating person who often travels with menstruating people. And I’ll offer my perspective on having travel partners generally, because I really like thinking about it this way is that essentially if my travel partner is going through something that is affecting our shared experience, it is affecting me. If it’s affecting them, it’s affecting me. If my travel partner doesn’t sleep well for whatever reason, and they wake up irritable and hungry, that is going to affect me when I apply that to menstruation, that has meant that as somebody who doesn’t menstruate, I keep tampons and pads around in my apartment, in my life. So that when I’m interacting with people who menstruate that I have supplies. And I wonder if there’s a way that folks who don’t menstruate can apply a similar philosophy to living in a van or hiking and actually give a structure for care around that to say, “hey, like I know this might be something that you’re going through.How do you want to be cared for when you’re going through this? What supplies do you need on hand? How can I make sure that those are available? Do you want to reduce the number of miles a days where hiking, if cramps are an issue or if energy levels, if rest is a priority during menstruation, are there ways we can incorporate stillness into our travel? “

So I think those are some things to think about from my perspective, hopefully folks who are listening to this, if you’ve been straight, you can share this with the people who don’t menstruate straight in your life, because I think there’s a way that we can just provide a little extra care when people are going through things. And I think that applies to menstruation and that applies to travel.

Laura Borichevsky:

Yeah. Agreed. You know, one story that came up for me when I read this question as well was sometimes it’s undervalued how important it is to just like hold space for those conversations. And the example I have is I was traveling in a van full time for about a year and a half. And I had had my IUD for a few years and had not bled in a long, long time, like years. And so I stopped carrying any type of menstrual products because I was not expecting to start bleeding anytime soon. And I was out camping with a non menstruating partner in the middle of just very desolate, open camping, and woke up the next morning and was bleeding a significant amount. And I had cramps and suddenly I was menstruating. And I was like, “Oh my gosh. I don’t have anything.”

So I ended up telling this person like, “Hey, we, you know, we need to go to grocery stores or something.” And I felt totally comfortable explaining my needs, but I also felt guilty that we had to change up our camping situation. And like the outdoor experience was different because of the fact that I was suddenly menstruating and that I felt kind of guilty too, that I didn’t show up prepared. You know, even though like, it was very reasonable for me to like, not really be prepared at that point, but I wasn’t. And I felt that. And just being able to have that conversation in a way that like, I didn’t feel guilty. They didn’t make me feel bad. We went to the store, got the products, continued on with our rest of our trip was really great. And that in itself was a complete gift to like anybody at a bare minimum, you can do that and like hold space for that. Don’t make it an inconvenience. See know, just understand that yeah. That everyone needs different things at different times. And menstruation might be a part of that.

Laura Borichevsky – Narration:

When Mat isn’t working as an ICU nurse writing or spending time outside, they’ve been thinking a lot about our connection to the land in many forms this year, Mat’s been hard at work, developing a course to speak to this wide ranging topic and the traumas associated with it.

Mary Ann Thomas:

The course that I’m offering soon is called “Intro to Land Trauma”. It’ll be a six week course and we’ll offer perspectives for myself and others around the separation of humans from earth. It’ll include essays, audio recordings, readings, physical practices, and writing prompts to this idea of land trauma within yourself and your lineage and around the land that you currently live on. So I’m defining land trauma as first of all, a severed connection from the land that nurtured an individual and or their ancestors. Second as the last messages and ways of living that have been communicated by the earth to Indigenous peoples, but that are, have been destroyed or lost due to histories of, and current systemic oppressions and colonization. And I’m also defining land trauma as the physical trauma inflicted by humans onto your so the course is really meant to be like an introduction to a journey towards coming back into right relationship with land.

I’ll be open to registration from the first week of December to Winter Solstice. And then it’ll go live on January 1st. I’m really excited for this. It’s something that has been coming to me as I’ve been building my own relationship with the earth. And as like the pandemic has brought me into stillness in a way I haven’t been before that, there’s a way that I feel like this relationship has been growing. And I just think it’s a really important journey. So I’m excited to be sharing it with other folks so that they can get on this journey too,

Laura Borichevsky – Narration:

To find out more about Matt’s online course, covering land trauma, stay tuned to their Instagram @postcardsfrommat.

You might think this is the end, but it’s not. In fact, Mat and I talked to her a couple more questions that we think you’ll love to hear. You can find it right now by heading over to our new podcast, Sex Outside in your RSS feed and listening to orgasms as back country cramp relief, or by clicking the link in our show notes while you’re there, make sure you subscribe. We have a lot of fun things planned.

And if you haven’t heard about what Sex Outside is just yet, that’s okay. It’s our new sister podcast, which I’ll be hosting set to air premiere episode on February 11th, 2021 with many airdrops in the meantime to make it easy, to get to know what sex outside is all about. We’re going to play the trailer for you right now. Hope you enjoy it.

Sex Outside Trailer with Laura Borichevsky – Narration:

What did it feel like the last time you talked about being outdoors? You probably shared all the details you thought were relevant, felt pretty comfortable answering follow-up questions from your friends or family, told jokes, and didn’t get at all nervous or ashamed about it, right? Because he loved talking about how it made you feel, how it helped you to grow and what you learned now, what did it feel like the last time you talked about sex? Probably not the same, right? But what would it look like if it did? I’m Laura Borichevsky. I’m a podcast, host a traveler and someone who likes to spend a lot of time outdoors. And that’s how a lot of people me, but would only handful of people knew until right about now is that I also have a passion and background in sex education and advocacy. I’m no expert by any means, but in combining my interest for talking about sex, with my desire to listen and ask questions of anyone with advice or a good story, it seemed like there was an opportunity to normalize conversations about sex in any form by using the outdoors as a tool, to see those conversations through.

Because the reality is that talking about sex, doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people. But thinking about the ways of intersects with the outdoors just might be a good place to start. Sex Outside is a podcast peering into all the nooks and crannies of sex, gender, and love, and their connections to the natural world around us. We’ll get a little dirty in the name of opening up conversations many of us want to have, but so few are willing to utter out loud.

On the show, we’ll talk about everything from gender and sexual hygiene, to relationships and dating to the practical aspects of having sex in the outdoors. Nothing’s off the table, which means one very important thing. This podcast is for everyone. You don’t have to be an expert. You don’t have to know what sex means to you right now. You don’t even have to have listened to a sex podcast before. Because no matter how talking about sex makes you feel, we know there are plenty of conversations to be had the first full episode of sex outside launches in February of 2021. But don’t worry. We’ve got lots planned in the meantime, subscribe to sex outside in your favorite podcast app now. And if you’re curious about what’s to come consider pulling along with us on Instagram, @sexoutsidepod, to receive fun updates as the anticipation builds. We hear it’s more fun that way.

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