Big Note: I wrote this entry about a week ago, and while everything I say remains true, the thing I figured would happen has happened and instead of remaining constantly giddy and exciting, I’m going a bit back and forth with the way I feel and general life outlook. STILL, though, I feel worlds better than I did before, and I’m pretty sure things are only getting better from here. Proceed!
I am here to talk to you more about this whole hormonal contraceptive business. Seriously. Let’s talk.
First of all, I want to put a disclaimer here: I am a greatly feeling person and I experience all sorts of these crazy things one calls emotions. Highs. Lows. Ups. Downs. The works. I like to ride these things out and appreciate what I can of each one, bad or awesome. I also realize that sometimes my emotions take the things going on in my life and dramatize them by about 500x. If you read my blog or know me in real life, you probably also realize this. That said, I am doing my utmost in this entry to be objective, straight-forward, and non-feeling about how taking some hormone-altering drugs has been for me. In other-words: I tried, kiddies!
The story of my starting taking hormonal contraceptives: I decided to start taking oral contraceptives over a year ago, because these freaking monthly cramps I was experiencing were rendering me useless and miserable for two days a month. Many many friends (and my doctor-person) I’d talked to said that birth control had pretty much made their lives manageable, and maybe had some other added benefits like making one’s skin happier, or less of a PMS experience. I hemmed and hawed about the possible side-effects, but in the end went “screw it!” The whole sudden-having-of-boyfriend thing happened coincidentally around the same time, fyi.
What happened: Oh, things happened. Good things. The cramps got better. My skin was AWESOME. I experienced minimal weight-gain. Maybe a few initial lbs that later came off. Maybe my PMS symptoms were better. Who knows!
But bad things: Oh, there were bad things. They say that it usually takes a couple months for one’s body to acclimate to this stuff, and that any negative side-effects could take time showing up, or even fade after that initial period of time. Well DAMN, if it took me forever to figure out that birth control was making me miserable. It happened so slowly and subtly that it was impossible to know if school/Rochester-living/whatever was stressing me out or it was the birth-control. The things that finally clued me in were: random, constant and unpredictable crying when I experienced ANY kind of emotion, the “winter blues” that pretty much never went away even by the time June came along and the weather was all non-wintery. I also noticed a distinct lack of creative energy, the thing that usually pulls me out of my life-slumps. Also: not to say way too much here, but oral contraceptives were apparently way effective in that they pretty much made me 100% disinterested in that which gives them purpose. Yep. I was miserable, to say the least, and after switching to a brand with smaller dosage, I only found myself MORE CONSTANTLY depressed and miserable.
After getting off the stuff: I know this is only about two weeks after being officially off of this hormonal birth-control crap, but I cannot tell you how different I feel. I mean, yes I can, and now I will. Here is how I feel different:
DRIVE: The most notable thing I’ve lacked in the past year is drive of any sort. And with that, enthusiasm. Which is a damn shame because I’m pretty sure random unbridled enthusiasm is the reason I’ve managed to get as far as I have. Drive is also what inspires me to create things. Without this, I’m useless.
CELLO: I am ashamed, really truly ashamed, to admit to the internet or to ANYONE how little I practiced or gave a crap about cello during this past school-year and especially this past semester. I’ve always had some enthusiastic love for cello and learning how to play, and it’s been as though that very thing has been sucked from me, and with it the idea that I want anything to do with the cello or classical music. Great situation to be in when one is a graduate student at…the school I go to. As of last week, I’m actually practicing again. Like, I wake up in the morning I have this urge to go play the cello, and then I go do it and it makes me feel GOOD. I have this desire to learn notes and sound good. I think this is connected to the general “drive” thing listed above. I can’t even remember the last time I felt that way. Well over a year ago.
OUTLOOK ON LIFE: It’s true that I like to feel emotions, good and bad. And while I’ve experienced life-blahs and periods of anxiety or down-ness or whatever, I’ve never felt depressed to the point where I’ve felt like my life is a useless waste and all I can think about is the far-off future when I’m bound to be disappointed with my life before my own death, i.e., totally ambivalent about life. I’ve never felt so helpless or hopeless or unable to appreciate some aspect of what’s going on around me in life. It’s not something you can force somebody who doesn’t know what it’s like to understand, this weird “sadness” that won’t go away no matter what you do to make yourself feel better or what you immerse yourself in. I felt like shit. Continually. I couldn’t be happy in the ways I once could. I couldn’t be happy running around in the trees or sunshine. I couldn’t be happy listening to music. I couldn’t be happy around the people who I like to be around. I was so convinced that my feeling so bad was due to life in general, I couldn’t dare to hope that quitting birth control would make it better.
But it did. Around a week after I quit, I would wake up in the morning and feel good. Full or purpose. Full of enthusiasm. Full of life. Like I had things to accomplish and stuff to ENJOY. OH, THE THINGS TO ENJOY. I’m kind of perpetually giddy and excited about stuff now, and it’s great. I feel like I’ve stepped out of the shadows and am the me I’ve been for the last 20-whatever years.
I can’t be the only one. Side-effects of birth-control pills are so varied person-to-person, and some people don’t experience a thing. But there are definitely other people out there who have had/are having a miserable time of life right now. I’ve talked to some of them.
So my question: WHY DO GIRLS PUT UP WITH THIS CRAP?
I have to agree that birth-control has come along way, and being this readily available for women is a big step and I’m glad for it. However. I have been reading about this crap for a while now, and there are some things I take issue with. For one: the fact that if there was a birth-control option of this sort with these kinds of symptoms for MEN, the FDA wouldn’t approve it (I’ve read this in several articles and a sex-ed book). That speaks worlds to me, and really says that despite awesome medical discoveries and advancements of the last century, things have a lot further to go. Also: it is much, much easier and less time-consuming for a doctor to write a prescription for an oral contraceptive than it is to fit someone for a diaphragm or cervical cap, which probably points many more people towards that option. And here’s the thing that especially freaks me out: while studies are almost nonexistent, it is suspected that hormonal methods of birth control can have effects on sex-drive and libido that are slow to reverse, or possibly even irreversible. Dear people: DO MORE STUDIES.
I don’t know. I know not everyone has such a crappy time with this stuff. But I had it bad enough that I never want to do that again. My suggestion to anyone considering taking hormonal contraceptives — know the facts. Be aware of what might happen. Check out some other cool options. And do what you must, I guess.