I’m going to make this bold observation, since I live with hypermobility type EDS and have noticed this thing so very starkly now that it really bears saying out loud.
Many people with hypermobility disorders seem to be asking “what triggers my symptoms, why do they get worse or more noticeable at certain times”, which suggests they are anything but consistent or predictable. Hypermobility forums seem to be full of versions of this question and, of course, those who offer tips such as that stress and tiredness, diet and so on can play a big part are onto a truth of the matter, because they certainly do.
However, as well as all those things, I have noticed for some time now, and can retrospectively trace backwards, how many of my flare-ups of hypermobility coincide with the waning of the moon in its monthly cycle, though I still cringe to say such a thing out loud (such is the lack of conversation about how such natural phenomena such as the moon and sun cycles or the circadian and circannual rhythms so profoundly and, to me, obviously, impact our health). To this day, there remains such a pervading attitude of ready dismissal of such hypthotheses as “non-scientific” that I realise I lay myself open to a criticism of superstitious thinking to even put this out there.
I’ve talked about the effect of the seasonal cycles on health quite openly over the years as there seems to be more acceptance of that but what about the moon; why don’t we talk about that much more, especially us women, who seem to have forged a closer relationship with the moon due to our hormone cycles yet, even in the age of female liberation, this topic still feels to be largely taboo in accademic circles and I long to air it more freely with people who won’t scoff at it. The fact remains, my body closely follows the trends of the moon, I notice it more and more as I grow older and dare I say wiser as to my own health, and why not (given the moon moves our planet’s oceans) since I am largely made up of water too!
It makes complete sense (another kind of sense to that wholly left-brained version on which we have more recently come to over-rely) that what affects the planet and its body would likewise affect ours. In fact, when we engage the whole of our brain in such enquiry, we notice that we wonder how we ever missed out such an obvious realisation as this, throwing the baby out with the bath water of the scientific revolution to become, in many cases, blind idiots in the face of some of our most chronic and persistent health crises.
When we include natural cycles into our thinking, it becomes equally idiotic to expect that the human body behave the same at all times, that a “fixed daily dose” pharmaceutical approach will be appropriate to tackle any long-term health problem without hitting times when the dose is all wrong or even counterproductive, that those symptoms the patient presents on examination day must necessarily look the same as those they described when they made the appointment, or that operations and such are an equally good idea at all times of the year, month or day. Its been documented that healing and even operation outcome are affected by the stages of the moon, for instance outcomes for heart surgery are better on the full moon (here’s a couple of science articles here and here pulling together some recent studies of this phenomenon) which, of course, is just old wisdoem rebottled.
Its just the same as how the crops we plant in the ground are profoundly affected by the of particular phase in the moon (as well as annual) cycle when we sew, reap and all stages in between, as still observed by biodynamic farmers to this day. Having spent a summer holiday on a biodynamic Italian vineyard and smallholding four years ago, I was encouraged to learn more about this and how it can be put to good use as regards yield and resilience of crops. This is largely forgotten yet essential wisdom; a topic that doesn’t get nearly enough airplay in an era that despereately needs to hear about it.
The moon is an electromagnetic influencer in our near environment and so its no surprise to consider that it affects our body’s biology in ways that, until we develop more curiosity and far less easy-dismissal, will remain much of a mystery. Likewise, the sun and its cycles has a dramatic effect on the geomagnetic forces we are subjected to (the annual and elevn year solar cycles profoundly influence my health rhythms too, as I have spoken about before) and, of course by default, so do man-made interferences to these in the form of EMF pollution omitted by the electrical devices we have lately become so reliant on, but those topics are for another post.
Back to the moon, it seems fairly obvious that as the moon wanes and becomes, daily, more “dark” the body…my body…will “go to ground” (just as the waxing moon is the time of planting and fertilising and the waning moon is a time for harvesting, pruning and cutting back). Likewise, its as though my body becomes distinctly more “manifest” at full moon, at which time I can sometimes become a foe unto myself by severely overdoing things, like a child let lose with a new toy. Thankfully, the moon cycles are short and we don’t have long to wait for the appropriate season to carry out our wishes…the problem being, human beings have become so impatient and arrogant and, as such, have learned to shove their fingers in their ears to such wisdom, determined to override with schedules all of their own. However, when chronic health issues take a hold, we have no choice but to listen (or rue the day) and nothing teaches patience or curiosity like a long-term health challenge!
What I notice is that, in daily increments, my joint instability becomes more pronounced, the gastrointestinal and bladder foibles of hypermobility increase, my breathing capacity much reduced during my exercises, my blood pooling episodes more frequent, my ability to walk far or with vigour shrunken into a precarious shadow of its former self (whereby I easily injure myself doing very little of it if I try to stride out like I did the week or so before) during the waning phase of the moon. My face shape alters, my skin becomes dry and fragile, allodynia and neuropathy more prevalent. All but the smallest, lightest meals feel heavy and obstructive. The likelihood of injuring myself, in some freak everyday accident, such as from walking, reaching, grasping or simply putting a joint out of whack doing what I normally do, is vastly increased in the waning phase of the moon. In fact, I really seem to struggle to sit in an upright posture very much at this time of my calender, my organs pressing down on each other in the most uncomfortable way, thus seem to spend much of my time in a posture of semi-repose on the sofa, with my legs arched over cushions to prevent an overstretch of the knee joints. My POTs symptoms and other kinds of dysautonomic chaos increase in proportion to how hard I try to resist these dictates to slow down, attempt less and lie back into gentler, more sedentary, contemplative tasks. They can also worsen from being too sedentary, which swifty deconditions my body (the less I am able to do, the less I have the stamina or balance to do anything), feeding into an awful catch-twenty-two where I am damned if I do and also if I don’t. In short, I get to spend less and less time positioned upright or on my feet as the moon cycle darkens and then, like a fresh green shoot rising up from the soil, I start to emerge from the ground and become more upright as the moon fills out again.
This week is point in case: I tried to walk as much as I had just a week or so ago on Tuesday and the result was a day of enforced leg-elevated rest on Wednesday, such was the intense pain and joint instability I was in by that very evening. I was so fatigued I spent half a day in a half-conscious doze. Today, I have written just so many words as these, above, before I have had to contrive a way to elevate my legs again and drag my table top over me so I can continue to write from a posture of almost lying down, the “chaise-longue” type position that seems to define so many of my days or, I could probably estimate, about half of my life, the half that is into a particular phase of a cycle and slowly coming back out of it. Most of those kind of days, when I track them, correspond with the darkening phase of the moon, progressively worsening to the point of the absolute dark moon, and that very new moon is upon us this coming Saturday.
The good news is that, after that, I can expect renewed strength and reliability to return to my body drip by drip, day by day, until I almost bristle with too much energy and the desire to spend it by the time of the full moon, two weeks later. My risk, at that time, is not to over do it, to over spend what is my temporary influx of energetic riches and enhanced stability, only to find myself in desperate deficit in the days after, as the moon withdraws again, such is my pattern played out many times before. Then there is my long track record of hypersensitivity, headaches and burnout at full moon, too. A full moon spent too wildly appreciative of suddenly having the physical strength to follow through with all my heart’s desires to move and to explore and be upright all the day can be followed by two week’s spent repaying the debt with interest…at least these days, anyway (since menopause moved my health along to where my hypermobility became stark). Looking back, this pattern of fat followed by lean first made itself obvious in the perimenopause years and fed into much that I associate with my decade and a half of chronic pain, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, more lately joined by PoTS and of course EDS. Even before my periods stopped, which also had their impact on my health rhythms, I noticed this moon effect so much so that it has long been the case that I never dream of planning a holiday or a dentist appointment in the wrong phase of the moon!
I’ve had hypermobility all my life but only called it EDS when it began to dictate the ups and downs of my health to the degree that it now does. Of course, Nature is meant to dictate our cycles to a far greater degree than we presently allow it, so perhaps this was just its way of getting my attention at long last. What comes, along with recognising how the natural cycles play their part in my health rhythms, is a greater degree of acceptance of them…and I have long since known that acceptance is one of the keys to the door of living well with the vagaries of health and the ageing process, both of which like to take us by surprise and remind us we are “only human”. When we fight “what is” we only encourage those aspects we tolerate least well to persist and grow stronger, becoming the tyrants of our lives. In acceptance of my chronic health condition, instead of pursuing blindly the idea that one day I will be miraculously cured of it and restored to some sort of “perfection”, I have lately reached a new, far higher, plateau of peace and comfort…not through absence of symptoms, but by working closely with them, acknowledging them, taking them into account. This, in a round about way, has taught me how to do the same with nature.
Working more closely with nature is surely one of the prime objectives of our lives, certainly at this crux point in our natural history. So, if the moon is a factor in helping me to learn the patience, the receptivity, the acceptance and the wisdom to do this more, and with ever-increasing grace, then I am thankful for that too. Whether we regard this as coming to work more closely with our own nature (as in, the way we are made, like it or not) or “external” nature (though there is really no such thing…) matters not; since it is all a case of getting to know nature better, acknowledging it is there and cannot, will not, be ignored! Not by anyone, whether they are a billionaire throwing satellites into the sky like the liberal scattering of a pot full of glitter by an overgrown child with no concern for consequences, or the person that throws rubbish into a ditch because they believe it is “not their problem”, since nature will always have the last say.
Maybe I do this to myself, getting my full moon dopamine fix too vigorously when I can. This happened in March when I had a tremendous week over the moon’s fullness, adding an additional dance-movement session into my mornings simply because I had so much energy to burn (coming to recognise the huge part my ADHD rhythms play in this bigger picture of my yo-yo-ing physical health has been tremendous). Having already done my 40 minutes or so of qigong and yoga on first waking each day, I additionally began the routine of heading off to my practice room around midmorning to dance to 2 or 3 favourite songs as a “break” from whatever sedentary task I had got myself into, and would work myself into such a foam of enthusiasm I would bounce back down the corridor past my husband’s office, panting and grinning, like a child that had eaten too much caramel. I would then insist on going for my daily walk an hour later, only with new vigour and speed as I tackled the hill. I was also, for the record, multi-tasking all over the place those few days, with bright ideas coming out of me on several fronts at any one time, joining dots and weaving thoughts so fast it was much as I could do to keep track of them all but, really, feeling in my absolute element as its at these times that my ADHD-giftedness seems to shine. Honestly, this was the best I had felt in years and the difference in how that body felt and behaved to the version that becomes, suddenly, hypermobile and unable to sustain itself versus gravity, my brain dissolved into fatigue and brain fog, is so stark I find it hard to convey to anyone that hasn’t been there themselves.
I began this new ritual of morning dance a few days before the full moon and kept to it for more than a week, because I enjoyed it just so much I forgot to listen to my body and made the habit of it…
It was later that week, with the moon now several days past its peak, that I suddenly and bizarrely injured myself in a freak accident during my pilates, only, it wasn’t the pilates that did it but me chest punching myself hard as I fell onto my own clenched fist as I overstretched to reach something from the mat I was propped up on. In another part of my cycle I would, no doubt, have laughed it off….instead, it felt like I sublimated my rib because the pain was intense…and lasted, for weeks, through our little holiday and sleeping in an alien bed and out the other side to where I still have twinges of pain during hypermobile episodes or if I overuse my left arm, almost five weeks later. In fact, it flavoured everything about my month as it was as though I missed out my full moon vigour altogether this time, being so fatigued from my injury it altered everything and felt like a giant set-back.
The day it happened, the moon was already into the last days of its waning phase, as we are in now and, just like now, I was destined to spend the next week or so laid out horizontal and in almost too much pain to move at all. How did this even relate to the person that was “up” for all that dancing a few days earlier? Yet I have countless such anecdotes and no proof at all…though, really, I have nothing to prove to anyone and no agenda, except to offer this to you in case it is useful and knocks a half-baked realisation into place. At least consider the part played by these cycles in your stark rhythms, if you happen to have them in your health (hypermobile or not…I suspect it is just because the vagaries of hypermobility are so dramatic that they show up more than other health variables). If these yo-yo-like ups and downs are your experience then bear them in mind, notice when they happen, chart them against the natural cycles and learn how to work with them, through the eyes of Nature’s perspective of wax and wane, growth and withdraw, because in gaining broader knowledge (about ourselves…no less, everything else) we find we have so much power.
Also hope: because, I know (with the same certainty that the sun will rise in the morning and the moon will always grow again) that I will feel very different, much more robust, in just a few more days. In the meantime, by accepting what is, I know that a few days’ rest won’t do me any harm, that (as I proved yesterday, which did me so much good) a day or two of enforced leg-elevation and compete rest will support the body to recover itself since the body so often knows what to do for itself, far more than we ever give it credit for, if only we can learn to offer what it most needs in the way of peace, time and space and then leave it to Mother Nature to do the rest.