I became a secret agent the winter of 2010. A secret agent to my health and my agency in deciding to go on the pill. Despite a household comprised of 4/5 women, periods, birth control, and sex were far from any topic ever discussed. The closest we got, years before I was ready to think about sex, was that my mother was supportive of abortions if I ever needed to go there.
That winter I planned my first trip as an adult to India with my boyfriend and our friend. The three of planned to explore the wonders of my home country and the last thing I wanted to worry about was my period. All my life I have been cursed with the heaviest flow imaginable. Gym teachers refused to acknowledge the self-descried bowling ball in my stomach that I insisted was too painful to participate. I was accustomed to monthly night sweats, weak legs, fits of crying and craving sugar, stealing tampons from CVS shelves because I was too embarrassed to buy them in front of friends.
That winter I took matters into my own hands and drove over an hour to Planned Parenthood. This was the only place I knew dealt what I was looking for, a month’s worth of tiny blue pills. I sat waiting for over an hour in a room lined with scientific drawings of vaginas and pamphlets of STD testing. Finally, I was taken to a small office where a doctor asked me how many sexual partners I had. I paused and counted. “Try to keep that number low throughout life”, she advised. Suddenly this became about much more than me trying to avoid a period during a month of travel. It became about what birth control was really meant to do, control my getting pregnant. I have never considered it doing that since I always had protected sex, but I realized the extent of what I was doing, and possibly why I found the need act and secret, lie about where I was going, and keep this from my mother.
I packed my small container of three months worth of blue pills into my toiletry kit and headed to India with my monthly flow out of sight, and out of mind. Throughout the following six years, I had less than five periods. I popped those pills every day, skipped the week of placebos, and I lived my life as a pain-free woman. Free from PMS, from the worry of being pregnant, or missing class. I did much more traveling and I biked across the country, all without having to worry about tampons on hand or missing out because my body was shut down. I viewed my habits as liberating. I was a period free woman.
Every time I tried to go off the pill I paid the consequences severely. If I missed a few nights my body would burst with pain. Once I passed out in the hallway during the first day of class. I was convinced periods were not for me. With my doctor I discussed alternatives- the IUDs women can get, but she warned me that pain can be made far worse with these. Without great options, I deiced to stick with the pill.
As I got older, I was really interested in letting go of this daily dose of hormones. I was curious what would happen to my body if I stopped taking them. Would my acne go away? Would I lose weight more easily? And most importantly, would it help my constant battle with depression? Because I had been taking birth control for so long, specifically in the transformative years of 17-23, I had no idea what was naturally me, and what was the because of the pill.
Last December I prepared for a trip abroad with my cousin and then planned to spend a few weeks in the comfort of my parents home. I figured it was as good a time as any to test things out again and see how my body and mind reacted. I got into an exercise routine, I stocked up on Midol, and I waited.
After two months, my period arrived as a complete surprise. No pain, no sore breasts, no sugar craving. She came and left in three days. In those two months, I lost ten pounds, My acne disappeared, and I shared with people anytime they asked how I was, that I was the happiest I had felt in a long time. Even in the dead of winter, I was light and energetic.
I can’t say for sure how much of this is to do with jumping off the pill, or why it worked this time and not the others, but I can say I feel significantly different than I did for the six plus years I took birth control. Today, my period has returned again after a month and a half. I had all the typical symptoms, and I was excited in a way to notice them. I am crampy today, and I know I will be tomorrow. But I am more ready to deal with what ever I need to and take things as they come. I feel proud knowing that I am experiencing what (almost) all other women do, and taking the time to care for myself and my body during this time. I did the pill, I got comfortable with how easy it was to not worry about my period, but now I am ready to learn and listen to my body, and feel the feels. She’s back, and I’m going to welcome her.