Saying goodbye to hormonal birth control
Last November, I decided to get off birth control cold turkey. Although I wouldn’t recommend such drastic measures, the two months of bleeding from a new pill pack was driving me insane, and I had just about enough of the constant life changes in the name of contraceptive drugs. (Anyone remember Yaz circa 2009 and the corresponding murderous side effects? That one Tina Fey SNL Skit suddenly became reality for many women. Not my best moments.)
Last March, I was also weaned off the antidepressant medication that was prescribed for my Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). Although I support an individual’s independent decision to treatment (and my SSRI tremendously helped through the years), I personally didn’t want to be on medication anymore and wanted to experiment with new ways I could heal my body. If medicine is working for you, by all means leverage the power of science and pharmaceutical support. These things are such a personal choice, I cannot express how important it is to be okay with what your path is. However, if you’re interested to read about how removing these things affected me, read on.
In lieu of antidepressant drugs, last year I opted for more holistic treatments to address the mental symptoms of PMDD. I dove deep into weekly talk therapy. I took an 8-week MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) workshop. I made dietary changes, exercised more regularly, and attended another 8-week workshop teaching me how to be more self-compassionate. I spent more time writing and less time working. I dug deep, got curious, and started listening to my body for the first time in my life.
Of course, I know none of this would happen without my relentless support system, financial freedoms, and access to things like self-compassion workshops (yea, I know how it sounds).
Since being off birth control for the past seven months, I can feel my body trying to figure out WTF is going on. I’ve been on and off hormonal birth control for over a decade. It’s the longest relationship I’ve had and here I am - cutting my body off to its unending supply.
The premenstrual vomiting came back for a while. I acquired a new thing called menstrual migraines that inspired us to hang wool blankets over our windows - ensuring complete blackout in the mornings. And for the first five months, I had a hard time tracking my PMS week as my periods are irregular so even the best fertility tracking app didn't seem to help.
It’s been a trip, the progress has been tough, but I can start to feel some real changes happening. In my sixth month, the menstrual migraines started to fade. I noticed that taking magnesium and Ritual supplements as well as cutting back on refined sugars helped ease them. I nearly cried when I realized my period had come and no headaches were paired with it.
My next goal is figuring out how to ease some of the heavy mood swings. Unfortunately, my panic attacks still come and go, but I try using my breathing work and writing to help ease it. It doesn't always work - many times I've felt down for days, but I can do this. I know I can.
I’m reading more about the four phases of my cycle, optimizing my diet and exercise to fall in line with what my body needs. And I’m just making taking more time to learn about what causes PMS, PMDD, etc.
Most of all - I’m checking in with myself in a way that I hadn’t before. I’m honestly asking … What do I need right now?
Women are often catering to the needs of others, using that powerful insight and intuition to take care of people around us. But through this process, I’m learning a lot about what I need and what my body needs. I’m learning about what foods worsen my migraines and how self-compassion practices can alleviate my mood swings. I’m experimenting with my body every day. And although it’s hard to stay committed, I’m excited to see where these changes lead me.
Are you trying anything new in lieu of birth control? Have any big revelations or things to share? I’d love to know!
As always, it's important to mention that we are not medical experts nor do we suggest using this as medical advice. The intent of sharing these stories is to let women know they are not alone in their journey and to speak up about your own experience - whether it be here on our site, with your partner and family, or your doctor. There are always other options if what you're experiencing makes you unhappy and unhealthy. We believe sharing stories brings that fact to life.