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Do you feel in control of your body?

| MAR 21, 2024

Taking back control of my body

As a teenager, I can remember friends as young as 12 years old taking the pill. This wasn’t necessarily for contraceptive reasons, for this friend in particular it was to ease her acne. But as far as I can remember, the only form of contraception ever spoken about, other than condoms, was the pill. Going onto the pill felt almost like a right of passage for teen girls, the next step towards womanhood. When it came to anything hormone or period related, the pill was the wonder drug that could fix it all. Struggling with period cramps? Take the pill. Need help regulating your cycle? Try the pill. Dealing with heavy flows? The pill can help with that. So I suppose the convenience of these added benefits meant it was an easier conversation to have with a parent as to why you needed to start taking the pill. And this was certainly the case for me. I suffered hugely from period cramps, as did my mother when she was younger. Knowing the pill had helped her, I knew she would be sympathetic and not ask too many awkward questions about the contraceptive aspect. So, at 16, my mother took me to the GP and I began my journey with hormonal birth control. 

It took me a few tries to find the ‘right’ one. The first one I tried caused me to bleed for an entire month and left me feeling uncontrollably angry and low. In hindsight, this really should have been a red flag. I eventually found a pill that felt like it hit that Goldilocks sweet spot. I continued to take it without ever questioning what it was doing to me. After 8 years of religiously taking it, enough research and articles had come out about the correlation between being on the pill and mental health and a lot of my friends had started switching to alternatives for these reasons. Truthfully, I naively didn’t feel like I was one of those affected, after all, it was all I’d known. During university I developed anxiety, often leading to panic attacks but I never thought the two were connected, and by my mid-20s it had improved enough that I was able to deal with it. The reason I ultimately decided to come off the pill was due to inconvenience. I was tired of having to make a GP appointment every 3 months to top up my prescription, especially with the after effects of COVID, so I decided a longer lasting contraceptive method was the way to go. 

I went with the next best thing: the implant. Same hormones, same result, just surgically placed into your arm. It couldn’t be easier, right? So this is when things got interesting. As I was no longer an oblivious teenager going through constant hormonal shifts already, I was able to notice the effect the implant had on my body and mood. And it was intense. The mood swings were extreme, they were like roller coaster rides. My periods were all over the place (and still are), sometimes lasting weeks and often with minimal breaks in between. My body was a total mess; my metabolism plummeted, my skin was constantly breaking out, and the scariest part was I noticed my emotions were dulled and numbed. This is when I realised just how much these artificial hormones could control, and that we’re consciously letting them. It made me think back to my time on the pill and question everything, including who I was. I found myself asking the question: who am I without these hormones? This might sound a bit dramatic but the way I see it, they dictate so much of my body and mind, what does that leave me with? 

As we often do, I shoved it to the back of my mind, telling myself it would get better (it didn’t) and struggled on for a further two years. At the beginning of this year I decided enough was enough. After being inspired by a piece Mel wrote about the effects of the pill on teenage hormones and the start of a new year, I decided to take back control of my body. I booked an appointment to have my implant taken out and I’m excited to be artificial hormone free for the first time in over 10 years. I have no plans for having children anytime soon, so I’ve chosen the copper coil as a precaution. But this time, it’s 100% hormone free!

I know it’s going to be a journey, but I’m looking forward to getting to know my body again and most importantly, to finally take back control.  

Written by team member Olivia Conway

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