mental-health

things that happened when i came off the contraceptive pill, part 2

May 15, 2018 Roobs Leiser

where were we? apologies for the delayed follow-up, life just gets in the way sometimes (all the time) yknow?
ANYWAY. the last post was VERY long, but the way i see it - if you’re posting something that’s intended to be educational, you can’t just present info as fact, without giving the background to the situation. it’s a widely-acknowledged truth that no two experiences on hormonal contraception are the same, so it is of literally no use when you see people listing the things that happened when they stopped taking it, if they haven’t provided any indication of their experience before/while taking it.
and, unfortunately, even tho i’ve detailed my experiences both before & on the pill, it doesn’t guarantee that someone with the same experiences will share the one that i’ve had since stopping it, too.
this is not a medical journal, and i’ll be using no jargon or technical terms, or quoting what ‘most doctors’ say etc. this is simply my experience, and whether or not it’ll be yours too is completely impossible to tell. the following info isn’t intended to be medical advice, nor am i trying to paint a *general* picture of what happens when *one* stops taking the pill, this is simply my experience.
so, here are some things that have happened now that i’ve stopped taking the pill.
  1. my period came back pretty much straight away. i was about 5 days off the date it would’ve been due if i’d kept taking the pill, but i stopped before the end of the pack so there may have been some discrepancy there. it’s important to bear in mind, however, that your first bleed when you stop taking the pill is still just a withdrawal bleed - like you’d get every other time you stopped taking the pill for your week off - and that your ‘actual period’ is the one after this. so even if you get your period at the normal time with the first one, if you don’t get it bang-on time the month after, it isn’t automatically something to worry about. remember also that if you had irregular periods before going on the pill, it’s potentially likely that this will continue when you come off it.
  2. my period was not as bad as it was before the pill. this may be, unfortunately, just due to the fact that i haven’t settled back into a totally natural ‘normal’ cycle yet, but regardless - it’s month 4 and i have not yet suffered like i did before i started taking the pill. and think about it - a LOT about me is different now than it was when i first went on it aged 17, so why shouldn’t it stand to reason that periods have changed too? obviously i’m still bracing myself for them to become unbearable again, but it’s definitely not beyond the realm of possibility to think that you won’t have exactly the same period in your mid-20s as you did when you were a teenager.
  3. my ovaries hurt a lot. now, let me clarify first - i *am* going to see the doctor about this, because the pain is fairly bad and - more pressingly - my OCD makes me very, very anxious about my health. i know that mid-cycle ovary pain (aka when you’re ovulating aka about 2 weeks after your period and 2 weeks before your next one) is a fairly common occurrence. what’s slightly worrying to me, however, is that my ovaries hurt even when i was on the pill at the time i should be ovulating - even though the pill stops you from doing so. while i was on the pill it was a slight twinge, now that i’m off it the pain is fairly severe for a couple of days. it also hurts when i have my period. it’s top of my list to get checked out - but, generally, pain on one side of your stomach/groin (depends which ovary is doing the work that month) *is* common, and can be quite disconcerting for women who’ve never experienced it while on the pill
  4. my skin got bad. well, bad for me. i’ve always had fairly good skin but now i feel the full force of hormonal breakouts. i used to get spots (mainly through bad habits like picking) but would always get a horrible deep, painful cyst-like spot or two around the time of my period. now, from ovulation to period (something called the ~luteal~ phase) i am subject to BAD breakouts - usually around my forehead (that i know my fringe doesn’t help). hopefully, again, this is just settling down and will eventually become more levelled-out, but in the meantime it’s pretty garbage. if you had bad skin before, i’d prepare yourself for the possibility of it coming back with a raging vengeful fury. 
  5. my boobs have gotten smaller. or, maybe not so much *smaller* as just kinda…deflated. they don’t feel as full as they did before, and while this is a bit annoying given that i’d sorta just gotten used to that being the proportions of my body - the upshot to it is that they hurt a lot less when i’m pre-menstrual. while i was on the pill, they were very tender and achy when i had PMS, whereas now i don’t notice the difference so much. 
  6. my libido started to come back a bit. this is a tricky one, because after a recent hormone test i discovered that i have very low levels of testosterone - the hormone which is largely involved in women’s sexual drive. it’s been shown that hormonal birth control decreases your levels of testosterone which is why a lot of women find that they have lower sexual desire when on the pill. my levels (at this point after i’d been off it for about 3 months) were even lower than women who also took part in the study and who were still on the pill. it might be safe to assume, therefore, that i just have naturally lower testosterone levels to begin with - and that the pill just exacerbated it. either way - i do feel *some* level of difference, although it’s something i’m going to keep an eye on. because so many of us go on the pill when we’re so young, it’s often a very over-looked topic of conversation when it comes to our relationship with birth control - not to mention the implicit societal construct that puts men’s pleasure to the forefront of the discussion, while women are expected to just match up to their partner’s level of sexual desire. but more on that another time….
  7. my mental health got better. NOW, this is not empirical, scientific, hard fact, standardised evidence. i have no proof, and there is essentially no way of proving it anyway. mood is contextual and situational, and regardless of what we think - we can never, with 100% accuracy, prove that something is the basis of a mental health issue. the brain doesn’t work like that. BUT from a purely observational, and correlational, point of view - my mental health has improved since january - which is when i stopped taking the pill. i am, however, now in therapy and that is undoubtedly contributing to a better handling of my mental health issues - none of which have been ~cured~ btw. i do think, however, that i am *more* stressed than i was in the months before stopping the pill, but i’m handling it much better than i did then, and am far more rational and in control of my emotions when it comes to dealing with things that knock me down. it’s totally possible, of course, that this is a placebo effect - aka i thought that the pill was to blame, so that now i’m off it, i’ve made myself feel better. but, even so, that in itself is proof that the pill wasn’t right for me. if it was causing me to make myself sicker by being so worried about it, then it isn’t something i can justify continue to put into my body. 
  8. my paranoia got worse. i’ll write more extensively on this another time because i’ve never seen anyone else discuss it but i refuse to believe it’s only me that experiences it. i do know that this is a symptom of my OCD but i also know that generally it is a shared concern. when i was on the pill - and even before i ever had sex, to put it into perspective - i was terrified and paranoid about getting pregnant. like, obsessively so. now that i’m off the pill well… i’m sure you can decide whether you think it’s gotten better or worse. it’s a horrible, constant experience for me and, at this point, doesn’t feel worth it. i am very, very glad to be off hormonal contraception - but the paranoia is hitting me hard - even when there is PHYSICALLY no possible way whatsoever for it to be justified. next stop: copper coil?
i’m sure there are other changes but, having been on the pill for 8 years, it’s hard to spot differences that may have developed slowly over the duration of such a long period of time. my general advice would be - if you’re worried about something, go and double check with your gp/OBGYN. i’m a firm believer in being tuned in to your body enough to know when something changes for the better or worse, so i always trust my gut on these matters. 
at the end of the day, making the choice between physical and mental health is neither a) easy or b) fair. we shouldn’t have to choose. but, currently, that’s the state of medicine. and while i could write for days about this, using words like patriarchy and misogyny, it won’t change anything. the key, until something does change, is to do your research and, even then, to just be patient. there is no guaranteed outcome for when we either go on, or come off, hormonal contraception. all we can do is read up on it, try it out, hope for the best, and then move on to the next option if it doesn’t work out. 
sending you love & luck on your contraceptive adventures!
xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox


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