Before I begin, I will stress that this blog post is anecdotal only and does not constitute health advice. I am not a health professional, just a young woman with a menstrual cycle.
My experience coming off the pill
My period for change began a few months ago, around the same time the Covid-19 pandemic started in Australia. I was working from home everyday, spending a lot of time inside, a lot of time staring at my own kitchen, becoming intimately acquainted with the pots and pans that sat in the large drawer and sometimes on the drying rack. I would spend my lunch breaks folding loads of washing while wearing the same pair of track pants for the fourth day in a row.
I would cry, often, not a lot, but often enough to feel tired from it. I’d cry in the shower, go for walks so I could cry, I’d burst into tears when I got constructive feedback on a piece of work, I would sob if my partner left a light on when he left the room. I was irritable, everything annoyed me and nothing relaxed me. Objectively I knew I was lucky to have kept my job and be living in a house where I felt safe, with people who care about me, but I felt like shit. And I was sick of it.
Through my work we have ‘wellbeing checks’ every quarter, because of the heavy content we work on. During my scheduled appointment, I offloaded onto the counsellor about how I was feeling, and I blamed Covid-19 and working from home. I thought that was the reason I felt on edge all the time. She listened.
Talking to the counsellor helped, but it didn’t make anything better. I couldn’t figure it out. Then, I had the light bulb moment that maybe the new contraceptive pill I was taking had caused this shift. I realised that maybe a hormone imbalance was putting me on the verge of tears, not the beginnings of a global health pandemic, as sad and distressing as that was. I dived into my own research, watched women on YouTube talk about their experiences “coming off the pill”, and decided that maybe this could be the right move for me, at this time.
In the lead up to the end of my final packet, I spoke to a friend about it, I spoke to my partner, I spoke to my GP, and just like that, I stopped taking it. After eight years of a night time ritual, popping it back before bed, carrying it around in my wallet, trying different brands, spending money on GP appointments to get the referral to spend more money at the chemist so I could continue the ritual for another 4 months, it was all over.
Despite stories of feeling liberated and free, I can’t say that coming off the pill made me feel like a brand new person, I just felt like the old me again. A weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I could think much more clearly. No longer did I feel the need to cry at the tiniest of inconveniences. I now felt much more rational, at ease.
I have now been “off the pill” for 2 months and I’m going to stick with it for the time being. The reported side effects of gaining weight, losing weight, skin breaking out, skin clearing up, and getting cramps so bad you need to stay in bed all day, haven’t found their way to me, yet. Maybe they will and maybe they won’t. Either way, I’m happy with how things are going and I will reassess in a few months.
Transitioning to a menstrual cup
Another change I recently made was trying out a menstrual cup. If I was going to come off the pill, I was definitely going to be getting my period, no opportunity to skip it now. I read up on these silicone ‘cups’ and a few friends told me how much they LOVED theirs. Would I develop feelings for mine? Let’s see.
I purchased one from a local health food store for just over $50. A little pricey, but it was meant to be an investment for the next decade, apparently. That’s longer than some technology lasts these days. The thought of no longer needing to scramble to the chemist because I had nothing in my bag, no longer awkwardly deciding what home bin to put the used tampons in, doing my bit for the environment once a month, was all the convincing I needed.
The first time I used my menstrual cup was much easier, and cleaner, than I was expecting. It was so satisfying to know that this was all I needed. Within the first 24 hours of inserting it I went for a long run, and I couldn’t even tell I was using it. It felt like nothing at all. A mild panic came on when I thought about the possibility of forgetting I was using it, like forgetting to turn the iron off or something. However, I figured the energy I once used to remember the pill could now be used to remember that some silicone was inside of me.
I’ve used the menstrual cup for two cycles now, and I really do love it. It’s easy and it’s fuss-free, like a weeknight meal idea. I don’t see myself going back to tampons, unless I find myself running into a chemist because I’ve left my menstrual cup at home.
At the age of 27, sixteen years since I first learned about periods in primary school, I’m still learning about periods and how they affect me. There’s always room for change, and I’m pleased to say I made two important ones, for me.