Birth Control and Why I’m Not On It

A topic that has been on my mind for a while now is birth control. In this day and age, more and more women are using hormonal birth control methods, to help prevent pregnancy and enjoy safer sex. I am 100% on board with this, and love that women have more choices when it comes to birth control, and that they’re empowered to make that choice.

However… there are some real issues with hormonal birth control, and I wanted to share just a little bit of a glimpse into my experience, as well as some feedback I’ve gotten from other women in my life. 

I made the choice to go on oral birth control (the pill) about two years ago. This was a complicated choice for me – and it was for a variety of reasons. I was having long, heavy, and painful periods, as well as mood swings and other symptoms that birth control can help with. I didn’t have any experience with birth control, and so I was a bit intimidated, but I set up the appointment at a local clinic, and it was surprisingly painless. The visit was short and to the point – the physician asked me about my last periods, trends I had noticed, why I wanted to go on the pill, and other questions about my lifestyle and medical history. Based on the information I gave, I was prescribed an oral birth control pill. At the time, I definitely thought it was odd that I didn’t have to have any sort of physical exam, or a blood draw in order to be prescribed a hormonal treatment – but not having any experience, I assumed that was okay and that I knew my symptoms and body well enough to have told the doctor all he needed to know in order to give me a correct prescription. 

I started the pill, and at first, it was great. I took it continuously in order to avoid getting my period at all (or have just a few light days), and the cramping, acne, and mood swings seemed to clear up. Fast forward two months, and things really started to go downhill. I was irritable, moody, and sad. I didn’t feel good about myself in any capacity, and the things that had once made me feel joyous and happy no longer gave me those feelings. Looking back, I know I slipped into depression during that time, although I didn’t realize it back then. I started to bleed almost every day. I researched endlessly, finding thousands of women saying the same thing. Most forums gave the advice to “wait it out”, the general timeline for adjusting to hormonal birth control being three months. I stuck it out – continuing my regimen and feeling worse and worse each day. I call my health care provider twice during this time, and was told that I needed to wait for my body to adjust, and that it could take up to ONE YEAR for the unpleasant symptoms to subside. ONE YEAR. That is one whole year of feeling horrible, a year of light bleeding, a year of painful acne breakouts. After the second call when I was told the same thing by a different physician, I decided to stop taking the pill. I threw out the remaining pills, and haven’t looked back since then. 

Fast forward to today – my body is just healing from the hormonal hell that I put it through. Only now have my periods begun to be normal, and not keep me in bed due to pain. Only now are my moods consistent, and I feel I’m in control. My acne has cleared up, and I find myself feeling much the same as I did mentally before I ever started birth control. I’ve lost weight since going off the pill as well, despite not changing my habits or routines significantly. 

I truly believe that hormonal birth control is not a sustainable regimen for women, and that it harms women more than helps. There has got to be a better way – one that will not wreck our bodies and minds, while still allowing us a choice and a say in what happens to our bodies, and the choice of having children. 

Doctors, nurses, and clinics worldwide need to better invest in their patients, and when prescribing hormone-altering drugs, be sure that they are prescribing the best thing for their patient. There is no way to know for certain, from a patient simply telling their symptoms, if they need more or less estrogen. There is no way to tell if that patient is suffering from another condition, such as PCOS simply by speaking with the patient. Putting women at risk by prescribing them incorrect doses or types of hormones is not something that is acceptable to me. 

It’s Okay to Miss Someone

Have you ever noticed that society trends towards encouraging us to bottle up everything neatly and tuck it onto the shelf, next to the thyme and rosemary? When was the last time you told someone the truth when they asked how you were doing? We tie up our feelings and thoughts in these neat little bundles, to be deal with later – always pushing them off, to an unknown later date.

Today – I feel sad. I woke up feeling sad. This often leads to an uneasy day, because it’s difficult to reconcile the general sad feeling. I feel as if I should be able to pinpoint exactly what was (and still is) making me feel the way I do, but it’s day like this where that reason is elusive and hard to find. It’s something that I’m trying to come to terms with – you are not required to always know how you feel. It is okay to feel something, and not be able to back it up with logic, with a solid sketch of exactly why you feel that way.

I went to the store in hopes that getting out of the house for a few minutes would provide some clarity, and hopefully make me feel better (I was also on the hunt for bananas, which, let’s face it, would help anyone feel better). As I wandered a bit aimlessly through the grocery aisles, there was still no moment of clarity as to why I had been feeling so down all day. I wandered on, eventually heading out and getting back into my Hyundai to make the short drive home. As I pulled out of the parking lot, it hit me like a ton of freaking bricks – I was missing somebody. The emotion was strong enough to make my eyes sting with the tears I’d been avoiding crying all day. As I blinked them back, I felt a familiar tug on my heart, and realized that I hadn’t thought about my brother in some time.

I drove slowly, thinking about the ways he used to make me laugh, and the times when he would show up unexpectedly – or when he would do something a little bit out of character and it would surprise me – a secret smile shared between us as we caught each other’s eyes. I couldn’t help thinking about what I would say to him if I could talk to him today – about what he would say to me, about what he would think. I tried to frame the decisions I’ve made so far in his eyes… and failed miserably. See, that’s the thing – the thing that makes it so hard – the wondering. What would he think of me today? Would he approve of the decisions I’ve made? Would he be proud of me? Where would I be if he was still here? So many unknowns, so many x’s and y’s in an unsolvable calculus problem.

I miss him. Terribly. And that’s okay – it’s okay to miss someone you love or have loved. Love leaves a powerful mark on the human soul – it fades, after time, but it doesn’t ever go away.

If you find yourself missing someone – stop. Take a moment. Take a few moments. Breathe. Reminisce. It’s okay to cry, it’s okay to feel sad, it’s okay to pound your steering wheel in frustration that whomever you are missing is not there with you.