When I first started taking the pill, I was ready for a miracle.
I had heard all the wondrous tales of the gifts of hormonal birth control: Cleared-up acne and bigger boobs, less painful periods, and more stable moods. As someone who deals with PMDD, the promise of a calmer, easier period was enticing to say the least. And of course, almost entirely eliminating the risk of pregnancy was a total plus as well. After talking to my friends and my mom, and most importantly, my doctor, picking up my prescription from CVS felt like picking up the golden ticket to my chocolate factory of health and happiness.
Well, I got to go to the factory, but just like there’s a dark side to the Oompa Loompas, there can also be a dark side to synthetic hormones. Hormonal birth control can make acne go away, but in other cases it can just as easily make it worse, along with bringing on bloating and nausea. Worst of all, birth control can cause severe, almost debilitating mood swings. And I, unfortunately, experienced all of it. That first month of birth control was one of the worst times in my life; the drug made me feel like I had lost all control over my body and emotions.
Most doctors recommend sticking it out with a new birth control for at least three months to see how the side effects settle; I couldn’t make it through my second month. I felt defeated. I had been so sure that that little pill would be the answer to everything for me. But it wasn’t, as these things rarely are.
I took some time to let my hormones settle down a bit. My body relaxed back into itself and my moods stopped swinging so far. I swore off hormonal birth control, proclaiming that my body’s chemistry was far too sensitive to tamper with.
After some time and a few too many instances of condom paranoia, though, I reconsidered my stance against the pill. After even more conversations with my friends and my mom, and my doctor, I decided I wanted to give it another try. This time, though, I went into the experience with a more balanced attitude. I knew that birth control wasn’t going to solve every medical issue, and I also knew that there was a chance I would need some time to adjust. My doctor and I decided on a different brand of the pill, a low dose that hopefully wouldn’t rock my boat too much.
This time, the prescription didn’t have quite the same sheen and shine of the first one. Instead of believing that it was the easy solution to everything, I felt much more grounded in reality and strength. This time, the pill wasn’t some piece of magic to fix things, but instead it was a tool to help me take control of my body.
And this time, it worked. Sure, I still have some PMDD symptoms, but my periods are lighter and easier in general. This time, I made sure to keep track of my side effects, which were much less severe, and I communicated with my doctor. I approached the experience with much more balance, accepting the fact that sometimes things don’t work perfectly the first time around. But with patience and care, something usually does work.
We have to remember that different forms of birth control work in different ways in different people. Every body is different, and it’s important to listen to your body and talk to trusted professionals when making this decision.
Have you had a winding road navigating birth control? What did you learn? Let us know in the comments!
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