When Gabrielle Schlegel, 22, first got her period, she was deeply embarrassed and saw her monthly menstruation as a burden.
That’s definitely not the case now.
These days Gabrielle is an artist who paints with her menstrual blood and even applies it to her face as a face mask.
She says that using her period blood for art and self-care is a way to fully connect with her body and appreciate this ‘sacred fluid’.
The artist now shares photos of her work online to encourage others to embrace their monthly cycle.
She looks forward to her period rather than dreading it.
That’s a big change from a few years ago, when painful PMS made Gabrielle dread that time of the month.
When she started her period at 13, Gabrielle was scared to tell her mum. In her late teens she experienced incredible pain in the run-up to menstruation.
Things began to change in October 2014, when Gabrielle found yoga and felt more in tune with spirituality. After seeing a woman on Instagram using her menstrual blood to paint, Gabrielle decided to give it a go, too.
Each month she collects her fluids using a menstrual cup, then uses it to paint something beautiful. Gabrielle uses this time as a chance to celebrate her body and all its wonders.
Gabrielle says: ‘Many feel ashamed and embarrassed, simply because they were taught to feel that way. We are so casually encouraged to enshroud and be discreet about our most innate, human life-giving processes. That does not come naturally.
‘For thousands of years, societies have been ruled by males and more masculine ideals, in which menstruation was not the most embraced or of critical importance in accepting. Thus resulting in generations of shameful mothers inadvertently teaching their daughters to feel that same shame their mother taught them to feel in regards to their monthly bleed.
‘I once felt utter disgust when my blood would accidentally get on my hands while changing my tampons as a teenager. Physical feelings of nausea would literally come over me.
‘Once I overcame the shameful feelings of disgust I was conditioned to feel in regards to these acts, feelings of freedom, empowerment, and a love for my body gracefully replaced them. Something that had such negative feelings associated with it, suddenly felt so good.’
Gabrielle hopes that by sharing her rituals, she’ll help other people embrace their periods too.
‘Seeing myself in the mirror, with my blood smeared all over my face, really allowed me to realise that there is absolutely nothing disgusting or wrong about menstrual blood,’ she explains. ‘In fact, it is completely harmless, manifesting without a wound to the body of any kind.
‘If anything, it is the most sacred fluid the human body is capable of secreting. The literal shedding of the uterine lining that was preparing to grow a human body, should a fertilised egg have been implanted.’
Plus, she claims that a period blood facial does wonders for her skin.
‘Not only does it leave my skin absolutely glowing, in my experience, it actively works in treating breakouts, as there are stem cells and many nutrients that are meant to help grow a baby if pregnant and the uterine lining were not to shed,’ says Gabrielle.
‘It has helped me understand why I bleed, what processes the blood is actually a result of assisting me in understanding the entirety of my monthly cycle, as well as the multitude of effects and changes my body endures while not bleeding, throughout the rest of the month.
‘It has also helped me understand and relate to the cycles of nature, such as the Earth’s seasons and phases of the moon, and how that correlates and impacts my own body.’
There’s currently no scientific evidence to suggest that menstrual fluids could pose any skincare benefit.
But if it makes Gabrielle feel good, why shouldn’t she go ahead? There’s no suggestion that putting period blood on your skin could be harmful either.
Despite this, Gabrielle gets some backlash online.
‘People have commented many things from claiming I am a disgusting ‘feminazi’, to accusing me of practicing witchcraft and trying to start a cult as well as all and everything in between,’ she said.
‘I was fully aware of the backlash that would ensue as a result of sharing such sensitive and atypical content, as it is the internet and people are free to say whatever they wish to behind their screen.
‘All that they say has merit, for I probably would have had the same things to say at one point in my life. The reality, however, is that another can only meet you as far as where they have met themselves, no matter what words they have to share.
‘I know that there are many people that will not accept this as truth or find any inspiration in this whatsoever, and that is totally okay with me.’
The painter is motivated by the people who do find her photos helpful, and by anyone who says she’s working to break down the shame around periods.
She says: ‘I have received many positive comments from those who bleed all over the world, letting me know that they have tried using their menstrual blood as paint or as a face mask, inspired by my posts.
‘There is nothing that makes me happier than to know that something I share has encouraged someone to accept and love themselves and their body more, especially in regard to something so taboo within our society.
‘No amount of negativity will ever surmount the feelings that follow another human being’s empowerment as a result of sharing my truth.
‘I know that you have been led to believe that your blood is everything but beautiful, magical, and holy but I would like to emphasise how truly sacred and special it is to bleed this blood every month.
‘This blood acts as a web, connecting us to every mother that bled before us. Not only within our own ancestry, but within all of us humans, as we all are born from wombs of ‘womben’ that bled each and every month to be able to grow the next generation.
‘It is what unites us all, so it’s no wonder the trouble we have in accepting equality within one another possibly equates to the lack acceptance we have in regards to menstruation. Without our periods, humankind would not exist.
‘I am well aware that sometimes it is not the most enjoyable, beautiful, and magical experience, but it totally can be.
‘And I, as much as anyone, do not have to grant you permission for it to be so, but I will say this: What are you waiting for? Why aren’t you embracing your period as something you are gifted with experiencing every single month?’
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