Thought Catalog

An Open Letter To Birth Control

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Dear hormonal birth control,

Screw you. Yeah, I know, I know: you’ve played a huge role in giving me the opportunities I now have as a 25-year-old, single, independent female – the whole ‘having control over my own reproduction so I can create the life I want’ thing – and I also know that were it not for you, instead of drinking a delicious coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts and bemoaning the banality of my #whitegirlproblems job in Manhattan, I might be trying desperately to calm a screaming child or dealing with the emotional repercussions of choosing to have an abortion. Yeah, for these things I acknowledge that I am thankful, but really I just want to say: screw you.

I remember well my first encounter with you, at age 18. At that time I finally felt ready to boff my high school boyfriend, and I completely fell for a pill that was marketed as every woman’s dream come true. Only four periods a year! We can wear bikinis and go swimming anytime during the summer! No more planning vacations around that annoying thing called menstruation! We can have sex with our men 48 weeks out of the year without it being gross and weird and morbid! (And let’s not forget Tina Fey’s genius hyperbole of this sacred medicine.) I was SO excited to start popping this magical sex freedom med.

But you met my excitement with something a bit less than, um, exciting. After a few weeks on you, I started to feel pretty glum for no reason. At this point in my life, I had never been depressed before so I didn’t really know what was going on. You clever little bitch, you blindsided me! Things that, before, would have just vaguely pissed me off would now make me burst into tears. At this time I was attending camps to prepare for my first and only summer of marching drum corps (yeah, #nerdalert), and I remember walking around at rehearsal one day in a total haze and pondering why I felt so sad. When I look back on it now, those first few months of our time together are tinted gray.

Like in any abusive relationship, I thought it better to stay with you than to be alone, so I fought off the depression, eventually overcoming it and staying with you for nearly three years. I will confess, it was nice not having a period every month. I saved beaucoup money on tampons and I did enjoy the extra week of sex that came with skipping menstruation. Like most things in life, nothing that good comes without a price, and after I had broken up with my high school boyfriend I slipped into a depressive state again and decided I had had enough with my birth control. But I still wanted my sexual freedom dammit, so I went to the doc and he prescribed me another version of you.

I started seeing someone new around age 22, and we began having mind-blowing sex. But then I found myself, late at night, sitting in his bed and having incredibly intense emotional outbursts about stuff that was totally vague and stupid. I remember one night I ugly-cried to him about the fact that I was about to graduate college in a few months and I would never be able to “be a child again” and I would have to say goodbye to my parents forever and ever. I basically saw my entire adult life laid out before me in exaggerated scenarios. He just patted my back and tried to sooth me whilst my mind slowly slipped away.

Then my first period came. I am not lying or hyperbolizing or even exaggerating when I say that it was not all that different from the scenario Tina played out. After having not bled but once every three months for the past three years, and then suddenly switching to a different version of you, my uterus was all WHAT THE HELL. And so I bled. I bled like I have never bled in my life. I would go through a super tampon in an hour. And I don’t just mean a little bit of blood would drip through, as it is sometimes wont to do; I would pull the tampon out after an hour and it would be completely soaked through. Additionally, I had the worst cramps I’ve ever had in my entire life, before or since. One night I curled up into the fetal position in my boyfriend’s bed, in so much pain that I could not move. He left and went to the store and bought some of those Icy-Hot heating pads that stick to your body. I took some Ibuprofen, rolled onto my back and he placed a heating pad on my lower abdomen and it felt so good that I passed out. I woke up in the middle of the night and my stomach was on fire from the pad, but the cramping had mercifully stopped. Not cool, HBC.

After I finally stopped hurting and bleeding, I went to the doctor and had an intravaginal sonogram. (So fun! Thanks for introducing me to these, HBC!) The doc found that I had ovarian cysts, due in part, he said, to my lack of having regular periods while on my first kind of birth control; he said that having a period each month can actually help “flush” out cysts, which are largely harmless anyway. He told me to stop birth conrol and to get on a steady hormone – to prevent the rabid mood swings and horrific periods – that would still allow me to have a period each month to assist with ridding my ovaries of the bothersome cysts you blessed me with. So he prescribed me something that had the same hormones as my current birth control, but on a steady dose instead of one that cycled thrice each month.

After the period-from-hell, anything seemed normal. I stayed with it through the breakup from my boyfriend, college graduation, the summer after college graduation, a new boyfriend, an internship. Everything was great. Then, around age 23, I moved to New York.

Not unlike most people, I moved to the city from another state and was broke as shit. I had saved up a few thousand dollars interning and living at home after college, but most of that went to feeding and boarding myself. As a newly unemployed transplant, I had to cut costs. I had stocked up on a few months’ worth of you before I left home, and I had about a years’ worth of refills from my doc back home that my mom graciously agreed to pick up and ship to me. To lighten her financial burden, I agreed to switch to a generic version of you. Word to the wise: if you are going through a big life change, don’t ask your body to adjust to a new medication.

I’m aware that they say generic is exactly the same as the brand name. Bullshit. What follows is a list of the symptoms, in no particular order, that I dealt with post-switch to a generic you. My hair began falling out. I would just be in the shower lathering up my head and I would pull my hand down and see huge clumps of hair in my fist. I would get enraged and then sad and then enraged at the smallest transgression. I remember talking on the phone to my new boyfriend, who was on a beach vacation with his family in a locale with no decent cell service, practically yelling at him simply because I hadn’t been able to get in touch with him earlier. The call got dropped and I think I screamed out of sheer rage, and then began to cry because I didn’t understand why I was so angry. My skin got dry and large patches formed that would then become itchy and peel. I got sick a lot for no apparent reason – unrelated to food or alcohol consumption, I would get up in the middle of the night to puke or have diarrhea. My sex drive was completely gone. All of this went on for a couple months, until my boyfriend dumped me and finally I had had enough with you, HBC. So I quit you, for nearly two years.

While free of you, my periods became regular and benign, a welcome reminder every month that I was a functional, fertile female. All of the aforementioned torture-symptoms became distant memories recalled through a fog. Then I met someone I really liked, and I wanted to fuck him, and I wanted to do it without a condom. So I called up the doc and he wrote me a scrip for you, round two. I thought, I’m much more well-adjusted now and no longer going through a stressful move to a new city, so perhaps I won’t react the same way. And, mostly, I was right. But – somewhat hilariously in retrospect – you brought me new, different and equally horrific reactions. You’re so creative!

I started taking you the Sunday after I began my last period. I didn’t take a shit for four days after that. I’m not kidding. And normally I’m as regular as unwelcome announcements on the G train, so you can imagine my alarm. On the fourth day I finally felt the urge to take a dump and then spent an entire morning in the bathroom at work, doubled over in pain as my stomach cramped and tried desperately to purge the shit that it had unwillingly collected. And needless to say, they weren’t exactly healthy poos.

My boobs got sore, my skin broke out and, perhaps most pleasantly of all, the taste and texture of my lady parts did something completely bizarre. My new guy was fingering me one night, and he pulled his fingers out to find them completely coated in a yellowish-white substance approximately the consistency of Elmer’s glue. I was like, well that’s weird, and was slightly embarrassed; then I tasted it and was completely mortified. Normally I love the way I taste, but this was so sour and awful that I basically wanted to die. He said he couldn’t taste a difference, which was a blatant lie in a moment of kindness. No woman should ever be embarrassed of her lady parts for any reason, and for the first time in my life, I was.

So screw you, HBC, for making me feel that way. Screw you for making me irrational, hairless, enraged and depressed. Screw you for making me bleed like a stuck pig and curl into a fetal position from such exquisite pain. Screw  you for messing with my beautiful skin. Screw you for making me vomit and shit until I was dehydrated. Screw you for making me constipated. Screw you for giving me ovarian cysts but then also being the prescribed remedy for said cysts. Seriously, that’s twisted. Screw you for charging me exorbitantly for the convenience of having all of these experiences. And, finally, screw you for making me believe I needed to go through all these things just to have power over my own body.

It’s not me, it’s you. And we are so done.

Sincerely,
Meghan TC mark

image – Starbooze

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    • Jreader

      this is stupid

      • Ryan O'Connell

        no it's not honey. IT'S REAL.

        • http://profiles.google.com/mcblaloc Meghan Blalock

          thanks :)

      • JLondon

        How is this article stupid? I commend the the writer for being able to write about real-life shit that women go through every day. If you can't handle this, you probably shouldn't be having sex with anyone…just sayin'.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_77IKEONCPUXHUWP6JGXFPAXRTY Erin Finnerty

      tl;dr

    • clairefm

      Ugh, girl. So much sympathy for you.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

      The ovarian cysts made me sick to my stomach. Period are 'sickening' enough.

      • http://www.noahtourjee.com Noah Tourjee

        Uhm, Really? Because it was the part with her boyfriend's vagina “Elmer's Glue” covered finger she licked that got Me.

        • Gentle_red

          periods are the only reason you are alive, and i hope you don't pretend to be progressive in real life, 'cuz you're sexist.

        • http://www.noahtourjee.com Noah Tourjee

          lol Chill Out.

        • Anna

          Fuck, being disgusted by YELLOW FLUIDS AS THICK AS GLUE COMING OUT OF A VAGINA make you a sexist? I hate myself then.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

          I don't know… Cysts…

        • DISCHARGE HAPPENS, BRO.

          if you're not ready to deal with the wide variety of materials that can possibly exit a woman's vagina then you should probably steer clear of them all together, you know, in case you ever encounter something that “disgusts” you (spoiler alert: seems like you will).

        • http://www.noahtourjee.com Noah Tourjee

          Believe me, I have enough male anal discharge to lick up before I even consider climbing down that hole.

    • http://esterbloom.com ester

      Get a non-hormonal IUD. They're covered by insurance, usually, and once they're in they're good for five years or so.

      • http://twitter.com/buytoiletpaper Meaghan S

        I tried this after a similar experience. it's not for everyone, believe me. I was in constant pain, bloated, crampy. Sex hurt, exercise hurt, I bled like none other, and it all made me so depressed. I felt like I was broken. If you've had cysts or an infection, this is a bad way to go.

      • http://profiles.google.com/kimmp12 Kimberly Prell

        Non-hormonal IUDs are generally good for 10 years. The most common one, at least in the US, is ParaGard. I've had one for 3 1/2 years because I hate HBC and I love it. Some women do have slightly worse cramps or heavier bleeding but, honestly, I haven't really noticed a difference other than the first month or two. I think I paid maybe $30 out-of-pocket after my insurance.

    • Kaitlyn_Flynn

      Thank you for this!

    • Irina G

      I highly HIGHLY recommend the Mirena IUD. I've had it for 2 years and have never felt better. I don't really get periods anymore and it feels nice, and haven't had any cramping or other symptoms either.

    • http://twitter.com/buytoiletpaper Meaghan S

      man, this was totally me. hope it's not a 'meghan' thing.

      • http://profiles.google.com/mcblaloc Meghan Blalock

        me too, gurl.

    • ees314

      I got on yaz when I was 17 for a hormone imbalance (now I use it for reals) and it's been great, the only downside was a liiiiiittle bit of weight gain. I've sinced switched to the generic and it's alright too. Your experience sounds freakin horrendous but definitely not the norm, or maybe you just weren't on a good pill…? Those ones with limited periods always kinda weirded me out. That really sucks that it screwed with your body so much though, but it definitely doesn't happen to all of us…pretty unfair. As much as I feel for you I just hope people don't get scared away from the pill because it's a really protective thing and successfully treats a lot of other stuff.
      Sorry for the long comment, even though I may not completely agree this was a well-written and interesting article!

      • emrog

        I would agree with this. I think the risks of pills like Yaz compared to extended cycle pills like Seasonale, etc. is much less, especially for someone with cysts. I don't think too many studies have been done on long-term effects of suppressing menstruation, however. And it's amazing how differently people react to different medications.

        But in my experience with birth control WITH monthly periods, I've experienced less mood swings, less PMS, and less acne. My periods are also far less painful (I take BC for endometriosis and accompanied severe menstrual pain).

    • Gentle_red

      Thanks for talking about this.

    • tracy

      Yeh, birth control makes me a fuckin' wreck and it is Awful. I don't take it anymore. I can't.

      I can, however, very much appreciate this discussion of periods and other womanly things in a VERY public forum. All the dudes who don't know what to say make me laugh.

    • karina

      Ugly, but no less necessary. And the idea that it's somehow taboo to talk about this sort of thing is exactly what makes pills that erase or limit our natural processes so pervasive. Thanks for the truth!

      • http://profiles.google.com/mcblaloc Meghan Blalock

        Thanks, Karina! I totally agree. It was scary as fuck for me to publish this, but I figured someone else had gone through something similar.

    • Sarah

      okay – so…haven't read through the other comments yet but I have to let you in on my own experience (in brief): HBC also turns me into a raging psychotic. I quit that shit two years ago, and last year I decided to get the non hormonal IUD – the Paraguard. LISTEN!!!! IT IS THE BEST GD DECISION I'VE EVER MADE CONCERNING MY BODY!

      Just ask yo doctor about it, for real. Amazing.

    • http://profiles.google.com/mcblaloc Meghan Blalock

      Sort of surprised no one has asked what I plan to do now that I've gone off BC, barring the insertion of an IUD, which is honestly something I've never seriously considered… forego sex? Be extra careful with condoms?

      Eh. Sex is largely overrated. Or, I should say, penetration is. I can think of plenty of ways to get off that don't involve a dick in my vagina and/or a pregnancy scare.

    • Dat red wave

      Ugh, the first birth control I tried was Seasonique…I went two months without a period and was like “wow, this is so super great!” Then I started “spotting,” except it turned out to be the heaviest, most painful period of my life, and lasted for 3 weeks. It fried my right ovary somehow, and uh, I never took birth control again.

    • http://profiles.google.com/rosebudmeza Rose Meza

      I've had the same qualms with HBC for years. Seriously considering an IUD but I heard from a friend that ParaGuard was awful and her periods where like 2 weeks long and crazy.. I asked my doctor and she said most of the time she's removing those.. :/

    • http://www.noahtourjee.com Noah Tourjee

      This IS coming from a paranoid freak, but there are other concerns to condom-free sex than pregnancy. More curious than anything…it doesn't sound like you're having a ton of sexual partners or anything – but do you have an STD conversation at all? I know a lot of people who don't worry about it, and theres surely some middle ground that I need to understand?

      • tracy

        uh, that's not really your business, darlin'.

        • http://www.noahtourjee.com Noah Tourjee

          Woa. I don't even know you – please don't call me your “darling”. Creep.

        • Johanna

          And yet you're asking if she has any STDs. Who's the real creep here?

        • http://www.noahtourjee.com Noah Tourjee

          I'm still confused as to why my question is weird. But don't respond to this message PLEASE. Every time one of you responds with your scathing insults, I feel hurt and depressed.

        • tracy

          lol

    • http://profiles.google.com/isabelle.a.ferreira Isabelle Ferreira

      i will NEVER go on hbc ever again.
      horrible horrible horrible little pills.
      how about they make them for men?
      we have enough shit to deal with already.

    • Susan

      I was wary of putting hormones in my body when birth control became a necessity. I researched like mad and decided a copper IUD was the best option. After going to the doctor, however, she explained that women with cramps should probably avoid them because they make bleeding heavier and cramps worse. Now, I'm a bit of a hippie, so when my period comes I feel a sense of wonder about the amazing thing my body is doing, but I don't want to spend a week+ on pain killers/in bed crying. So she suggested Mirena. It is hormonal, but only locally (in the uterus) and releases less hormones in five years than the pill does in a DAY. Women have problems with it, and it is still 'hormonal' but my periods are light and pretty crampless for the first time in my life. Apparently, most women like it. I think an IUD is probably your best bet. Good luck!

      • Penny

        With my Mirena my side effects were just as bad as with on the pill – no sex drive, depression and weight gain! It did stop my periods, though, and was totally convenient, but HBC and I will never get along…

    • A female

      I'm on the cheapest birth control called orthocyclen for ovarian cyst issues (mine are really bad) even though it does double as pregnancy protector for me as well. A more important issue is that I think the developers of birth control are all masochistic men who hate using condoms themselves, don't give a damn about possible side effects and just want to be able to raw dog chicks without worrying about knocking them up. I swear, so much more consideration is put into developing viagra and male sexual health drugs than birth control. Plus so many insurances including my own don't even cover birth control, and if they do it's often still five times more expensive then shelling out for a box of condoms. And pretty much every insurance covers viagra.

      On a second thought, you're article got me wondering if my life is actually reaching a new pinnacle of stress (I do have a freakish amount of things going on right now) or if it's the birth control making me wired. No anxiety attacks, just a bit more OCD-ing than usual. I've actually lost weight because thanks to the new artificial estrogen in my body, I can't have a bite of sugar without getting a yeast infection, so I haven't eaten sugar in many ages.

      • http://profiles.google.com/mcblaloc Meghan Blalock

        nice use of “raw dog”

    • aaa

      very interesting. i've had a very positive experience with HBC and now i feel quite lucky.

    • mica

      Amen, this is totally true. I just want to be able to shit regularly and go 2 days without crying. (no but really, the other day i was unable to open a jar of peanut butter and ended up in a puddle on the kitchen floor. fuck that shit.)

    • Olivia

      DCI Yeah! You should write some articles about your experience because they are definitely an experience full of sweat, bizarre summers, people have sex on gym floors surrounded by 150 other people in sleeping bags and work like no other. Not to mention the amount of sex and cheating that goes on behind the scenes of a drum corps. What else are 150 21 year olds and younger going to do all summer? Also – this post made me horrified that my consistency of my lady parts and smell have changed because of the birth control. Crap.

      • http://profiles.google.com/mcblaloc Meghan Blalock

        Hahahah oh man. DCI was quiiiiite the nerdtastic/amazing experience.

    • http://twitter.com/kyleangeletti Kyle Angeletti

      Kudos for writing about this. I noticed very few men had anything to say on the topic. I learned something even if it made me uncomfortable.

      • http://profiles.google.com/mcblaloc Meghan Blalock

        Thanks, Kyle. It made me uncomfortable writing it, and I still feel uncomfortable when I read it.

      • Hotmail

        I'm a guy who read the whole thing and it didn't make me uncomfortable. I thought it was very interesting, like reading a non-fiction account of a day trader. Am I supposed to feel uncomfortable because I don't have a vagina?

    • Wally_2004

      As a man, I obviously don't have any personal experience with these issues. However, I have been able to listen to several of my close female friends talk about it on a few different occasions. Once one of the women brought up that she was having seriously unpleasant side-effects, that set off several other girls saying, “holy cow, I thought I was the only one!” I got the impression that a lot of women have side-effects that are significant to them, but that they don't feel like there's anything they can do about them or that they are in a tiny minority.

      I wonder why there hasn't been more of a movement towards non-hormonal birth-control methods (I have seen several shout-outs for non-hormonal IUDs here, however). Women are only capable of getting pregnant a few days out of their cycle, and it its possible for a large percentage of women to pinpoint their ovulation through symptom and temperature checking. I know that this means you would have to abstain precisely when your body is most interested in sex, but I wonder how that compares to the general lack of sex-drive that I read so many of you experiencing with HBC? We are open to being disciplined about so many things…diet, exercise, recycling…but it sometimes seems to me that we aren't able to talk about other birth control options becuase it would be like renegging on the freedom HBC offered. Again, man here, not a lot of room to talk, but would love to hear others' thoughts on this. I care about what my sisters/friends have to go through just to feel and live “normal.”

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