I write to you from Florida, my feet are swimming in a salt water pool, and two kittens are keeping me company.
I just got back from a toasty, okay sweaty, walk around the block and I’m trying to give my tired eyes a break from screen time. So, I’m writing this post in my journal first.
But ya’ll asked for it: a post about my birth control experience.
After sharing a post from Dr. Brighten about the impacts of Birth Control Pill on women’s health, I received loads of personal stories from women all around the globe! Your stories spoke so deeply to me and reflected back many of my own experiences with the birth control pill.
So, when you encouraged me to share my own, even after a day of screen staring, I wanted to. In fact, it felt majorly important to do so.
I also had women reach out to me expressing the importance of my own time and health. Reminding me to be mindful and respectful of my body and my needs. And there truly could be no better way to write this post, than in a space of balance, self connection and care.
And over the past few years that’s just how I’ve learned to treat my sexual health and reproductive health: with balance, connection and care.
But that body awareness, that compassion, it wasn’t always there.
At 15 I went to the Teen Clinic with my best friend to get the BC Pill (we were very fortunate to have access to health care and free birth control - this is something that I feel grateful for regardless).
We weren’t having sex with our respective partners yet, but we were talking about.
So, we did what our health class taught us.
Birth Control Pill + Condoms = SUPER SAFE SEX
And that was it. We would be all set. Noting to worry about from there.
Boy was that wrong.
When I did start having sex, it burned and hurt.
I blamed myself.
I wasn’t good at it.
I wasn’t into it enough, turned on enough, worthy enough.
I never attributed the pain to a latex allergy, to a lack of lubrication because my bodies natural lubricant was being hindered by the synthetic hormones I ingested every day, or straight up just not enough love and attention given to my body before penetration.
When my breasts doubled in size, I was jazzed! No weight gain like other women I knew. Just big boobs. I couldn’t have been happier. After all, 32D’s meant all kinds of validation and eye-oggling that I did not yet know how to differentiate from love and respect. I never thought about how concerning it was that a little teeny tiny pill was changing my physical body in such drastic ways.
When I stopped using condoms in my relationship, and all the pressure fell on my shoulders, the anxiety that had been slowing building since I started the pill shot out of control.
From panic attacks midway through dinner, to refusing to go to 7PM showings at the cinema because it would be too stressful to take my pill during the movie, to dread of daylight savings time or travel into different time zones.
It got out of control.
It ran my entire life.
I carried a compact mirror with me so that I could make sure the pill was on my tongue since it was too light to feel. I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and would run to my pill pack to count the days backward and make sure I hadn’t missed any.
And when my then-partner told me we could go back to using condoms. I could get off the BC pill. Guess what I told him?
I told him “no.” Because condoms hurt my body. Because it was my fault my body and brain were broken. Because stopping the pill was not the option. And he never brought it up again. Nor did any other partner after.
So a few months later when the first yeast infection came I didn’t consider getting off the pill. I simply reached for more pills, anti-fungals this time, and hoped that would fix my broken body.
No surprise, more pills, not the answer!
The yeast infections just kept coming.
The sex never stopped.
Non-latex condoms finally came into play.
But everything still hurt.
My body was being pumped full of hormones that weren’t my own.
But I never placed the responsibility on the pill. I placed it firmly on myself, as I popped my pill everyday and continued to loath myself and my body for its betrayal.
I hated myself,
for not being able to provide my partner with the joy he should be getting by having a girlfriend who enjoyed sex (ew, yes that’s what I actually though, that my pleasure should be for him. Barf.)
for not knowing how to heal
for not being able to do what I thought a “woman’s body should do.”
It was all my fault. I was bad. I was wrong. And I was broken.
I thought the pain, the infection, the anxiety would never end. It was just who I was.
And no one ever gave me a solution that told me any different.
Until one day I saw a Doctor who said the pill could cause yeast infection and painful sex, even anxiety. You might want to get off it, she suggested.
But somehow I didn’t hear her. 4 years on the pill. 3 years of painful sex. Almost 2 years of yeast infections. I was convinced this was my life, my fault. I still couldn’t connect it.
Monistat, Boric Acid, Probiotics, Ibuprofen, Benadryl. They were my best friends through my sophomore year of college.
More pills, and yet, still more yeast infections.
It wasn’t until a really devastating breakup and a long stretch of being single that I finally decided to get off the pill.
Not because I thought my body deserved it. But because for once I didn’t have a boyfriend pressuring me for sex all the time.
And even though I didn’t do it for my body, she thanked me anyway.
My breasts returned to their natural size, and I was finally free to ditch my bras.
I learned what it really felt like to ovulate, and how my body changed through different parts of my cycle.
And i had pain free sex for the first time in my life, at 21. 5 years after having sex for the first time. 6 years after getting on the pill. All those years later I finally discovered that my body was capable of pleasure.
But the next relationship I entered led me back to the pill, to painful sex and more self-blame and anxiety — even after seeing how happy my body was without the pill (man, patterns of thinking are tricky to break).
And this time, my body rebelled hard. So many years of constant infections, of teaching my body it was broken, it could only have painful sex, that one summer of bliss and pleasure was just a fluke. Well, my body listened, and that’s what she gave me. Constant pain.
When I listened to the podcast “Bodies” on Apple Podcasts a few months ago I bawled and the creator recounted the pain hormonal BC caused her, the doctors who dismissed her, the boyfriend who pressured her. It was my story in so many ways. But she found help sooner. A specialist recommended pelvic floor therapy and a topical cream and her body eventually recovered.
At 24, nearly 10 years after starting birth control, I’ve been off the pill for 2 years and my body is slowly recovering. But I’m still re-writing my narrative my body learned. My pain wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t because I was bad, or broken, or wrong. It was the synthetic hormones reeking havoc on my system.
As I’ve finally reached a turning point and realized the blame does not belong in my hands, that I am a whole sexual being, capable of pleasure, in touch and in love with my natural cycle and hormones, I seek out healing, pleasure and a platform to speak with other women.
Because we all have our own stories, silenced by doctors, by partners, by expectations. And our stories deserve to be heard.