Ah, the pill. The daily(ish) tablet we pop in our gobs to make sure there are no buns in the oven. Sure, it has many benefits - like knowing when your next period is due and maybe nicer skin - but is it really worth pumping synthetic hormones into your body if you don’t have to?
That was a question I asked myself last year and I decided that, for me, it wasn’t worth it. I’m not in a long term relationship and hey, that’s what condoms are for (sorry, Mum…and my brother). There were no real benefits for me other than knowing when my time of the month was due. I originally went on the pill for my skin but given it wasn’t really helping in that department, I thought, ‘screw it!’ and decided the pill and I needed to break up, for good.
MY GOD has it been fun ever since.
A whole 12 months later and it is safe to say the impact of coming off the pill has been well and truly felt – both physically and emotionally. The point of this blog isn’t to convince you to not to come off the pill – far from it! I think it’s important for us to talk about the impact of coming off contraception so we realise we aren’t alone if we are struggling. It’s not something we are discussing enough but I’m going to, hopefully, change that.
Photo credit - independent.co.uk
Mood Given this is a mental health blog, it probably makes sense to focus on the emotional impact first. I am going to get straight to the point – I have never been this emotional in my whole life. Now, I have definitely had far more challenging times in my 27 years of life than what I am experiencing right now but even then, I've never cried as much as I have over the last 12 months. In the days leading up to my period and the week of the big event, I am…difficult. Things that I’d usually shrug off make me sob or scream. I'm either crying or screaming and there is rarely anything in between. Quite ironic really that my mood mirrors that of a baby given it is my body's way of confirming I do not have one growing inside of me. ISN'T LIFE JUST HILARIOUS SOMETIMES?!
Thankfully, I'm told that when my hormones and my cycle stabilises, the mood swings shouldn't be so extreme. Honestly, the whiplash from how quickly my emotions can change really is incredible. In the meantime, I am just going with it and letting myself embrace how I'm feeling in that moment. Suppressing emotions during this time, I've learned, only makes things worse. If I want to have a good cry about nothing, then I'll have a bloody good cry about nothing. If I want to get really annoyed about something that I'd usually laugh about, then pass me the pillow while I scream into it. My rule is, as long as I'm not hurting anyone, there is no harm in expressing how I feel and letting all those emotions float on up to the surface.
Cycle length So, a typical cycle lasts 28 days, right? Well, if you’re me, you’re sometimes looking at 72 days (my record to date). Now I am a competitive person at times, but this isn’t the kind of competition I want to win. Not having a period sounds like bliss but trust me, it’s not. It comes back with a vengeance, eventually. It’s like all the stuff you’ve missed when you didn’t have a period builds up and you end up with one SUPER period. I usually like anything with super in front of it – superfoods, super Mario, super…man?! – but this is definitely an exception to that rule.
There isn’t really anything you can do to induce a cycle (well, as far as I know) so the one thing I’m learning to do is to not get so stressed out about it. The more pressure I put on my body to perform, the longer it seems to take. So, instead, I'm upping my yoga sessions and journaling and meditating more often when my period decides to take an inconvenient vacation.
As we’ve already discussed, I do not have the luxury of a regular period just yet. That means that when there is a month or two (or even three sometimes) where I don’t have one and one finally arrives, it is painful. I mean P-A-I-N-F-U-L. The other week, I had to take co-codomal AND ibuprofen. Yeh, you read that right. Now, I’ve had a tattoo on my inner arm and ribs so my pain threshold is pretty high (I know, I’m like proper hardcore), but this really pushed me to my limits. To help you really visualise just how painful, I sat in child’s pose for 20 minutes breathing in and out like a woman giving birth AT 3AM. True story that. I wanted to run a bath to ease the pain but I didn’t think my housemate would appreciate being woken up by me running a bath in the early hours of the morning. As chilled as she is, I think she may not have appreciated the wake-up call at such an ungodly hour.
One thing that does help to take the edge off is Our Remedy CBD oil. If you fancy giving it a try for yourself, you can use ‘likeicare20’ at the checkout to get 20% off. No, this is not just a product I am plugging that I haven’t really tried. I don’t promote products I don’t believe in. Come on now, I’m far too blunt and honest for that behaviour! Our Remedy’s CBD oil has really helped me to relax me when my cramps are at their strongest. And I know what you’re thinking, ‘you’ve just said that you took co-codomal and ibuprofen – how can this stuff be any good?’. Well, I am terrible at organising myself, apparently, so when I went to have some CBD oil, it turned out that I’d ran out. Yes, I did shed a tear (genuinely). Yes, I have ordered more so that I never find myself in that situation again.
Photo credit - Our Remedy CBD
Before you jump to conclusions that I’m vain (okay fine, maybe I’m a little vain) I have suffered with acne since I was 11. That’s right – 11 YEARS OLD. I’m 27 now. That’s a hell of a long time to dream of clear skin, I tell ya. I’ve tried roaccutane and that worked for a whole...6 months. I know that, for me, completely clear skin isn’t on the cards but only having to tackle 2 at a time would be a blessing. I’m getting a bit tired of the small colony that decides to reside on my skin. What is it with breakouts happening just before you are due to see a load of people as well? It's just rude.
I know some of you reading this will understand what I’m about to say; having bad skin really can make you feel like shit. You feel dirty when, in fact, your skin care routine is probably more impressive than those without skin problems. Don’t get me start on the people who use just a face wipe or a bar of soap and have immaculate skin. You can get in the bin!
When you have bad skin, the morning routine tends to look the same. You run to the mirror as soon as you get out of bed to see how many squatters have rocked up overnight. Just to rub salt into the wound, you open your phone and get slammed by endless adverts on social media convincing you you’re ugly for harbouring these new pals you didn’t even want, just in case you didn’t feel bad enough.
My skin has really erupted since coming off the pill and the one lesson I’ve learned, having seen and spoken to a number of skin therapists, is that it is best to keep it simple. Do not overcomplicate it. It has taken me a while since coming off the pill to find a routine that works for me but recently, this seems to be doing the trick:
Morning Salicylic acid face wash
Salicylic acid serum
Evening Double cleanse with gentle face wash
Exfoliating pad (2/3 times a week)
Salicylic acid serum
Twice a week, because I sometimes feel a little fancy, I’ll throw in a face mask. I do ask my housemate to give me a head massage at the same time but I am yet to succeed with my request. I really am treated so terribly by her. Accepting all rehoming applications (for me, not for her)
Coming off the pill is a very big and personal decision and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered going back on it to end the list of side effects I’ve listed above. However, these side effects should calm down eventually. My body still hasn't adjusted to coming off the pill just yet so I am currently going through the worst of it. It simply can't stay like this forever. Plus, if I ever doubt my decision, I quickly remind myself that if this is the impact coming off the pill has on my mind and my body, what is it doing when it’s in full flow (no pun intended)?!
Although the last 12 months have been hard, I don’t regret coming off the pill and think I have made the best decision in the long run. In fact, I’m sure of it.