People talk about living these out-of-body experiences, ones in which they feel they are watching themselves live from another body’s perspective. That comes close to describing the last two months for me. I feel as though I’ve been watching, through memories, the person that I want to be while living in the body of someone I do not want to become. And because life seems to move at the speed of lightning sometimes, I haven’t had a minute to realize this until now.
I’ve hesitated to talk about this for a couple reasons: 1) it’s a touchy, personal subject, and 2) I like to write about and share the things I conquer (I haven’t conquered this… yet). And yet, here I am. Though it’s a touchy personal subject that I have not yet conquered, my experiences matter and - hopefully - can positively impact in one way or another even just one person who reads this.
About two months ago, I began taking oral hormonal birth control, “the pill”. I decided that a low-dose pill was the best option for me at the time. Much of the research explained similar potential side effects: mood swings, acne, changes in menstrual cycle, weight gain, among others. My doctor assured me that those are rare, and minor when they do occur, so I trusted her and moved forward.
One month in, the changes became more apparent. I wouldn’t describe it as mood swings, but rather just an overall mood change - my usual and frequent bubbly happiness required energy, while a foreign and monotonous mood I can only describe as “blahhh” become the norm. I have found myself, multiple times, flipping through old photos and gazing at the girl I know as Haley, longing to feel like her again. Sure, life’s giving my family and I some downs right now, but the Haley I know would normally be much better able to cope and support her loves ones, too. I love a good cry every so often, but multiple times a week isn’t what I mean by that. I cherish moments when I can lean into my support system of loved ones, but the Haley I know is normally strong enough to at least manage a spoonful of life’s downs. She’s independent. This person’s body I’ve been living in seems dependent and selfish.
And this has been the hardest part - the weight change. The handful of close friends to whom I’ve opened up about this encourage me and love me, and they remind me that I’m beautiful despite my body size and that they see no difference. I believe them. I really do. I just know that things have changed, and unnaturally so. Just because weight change is a potential side effect of hormonal birth control does not make it something I need to just swallow and move on. I believe in body positivity and supporting, encouraging, and loving all shapes and sizes, and I will do everything it takes to love my body at all stages of life because I know my body will change. Naturally, it will change. This, however, is not natural. This is not a weight change I need to just swallow and move on.
I have been physically uncomfortable and mentally discouraged. I take care of myself by moving and eating intuitively and speaking kindly to myself as much as possible, so to feel like a potato when I want to move, or like garbage after I eat a balanced meal… that doesn’t make sense to me.
Everyone I talk to tells me this uncomfortable phase will pass, that my body will adjust to the hormones. Okay… is all I can seem to think. It’s all I’ve had the energy for. I consulted my doctor again and reported how I’ve been feeling. Instead of comforting her unwell and already very discouraged patient, she told me I was wrong about this, that the pill does not ever cause weight gain. That I must be doing something wrong - am I eating more? Moving less? Living mindlessly? I couldn’t believe her response, her invalidation of my feelings without an ounce of hesitation or without one single question about anything else that could be going on.
Interesting. Article after article (from credible sources!) I read warned of these side effects. Very interesting.
I weighed the pros and cons, and I examined every option, and I have decided to stop the pill and hold off on any other birth control for the time being. Some have looked at me like I’m crazy and others have promised to stand beside me, telling me they admire my decision. Brenè Brown might even do the same - I’m braving my own wilderness.
Anyway, this isn’t about that doctor or the pill, but the whole experience lit a fire under my booty that leads me here - to encouraging you to advocate for your own health. To stand up for YOU and do what’s right for YOU and take care of YOU because, at the end of every single day, you are the one you live with. Yours is the mind that thinks for you and speaks to you. Yours is the heart that beats for you and loved ones. Yours is the body that moves and functions for you. So please, please, please, whatever you do, do it for you.
My intention for this post is to share my experience, not to advertise or demonize hormonal birth control. I hope that everyone who considers it takes the time to learn about all possible side effects and consequences. Educate yourself and make the best decision for you. If someone you know is struggling with something similar, here are some resources: