Right first of all, some truths, disclaimers, apologies etc. Since I started the pill, and I don’t know if it’s because of the pill or whether it’s just a coincidence, but I have really struggled to start new writing projects. Ongoing projects have been fine, but creatively, coming up with new ideas and starting new sentences has been a challenge. So while it’s been a hot minute (5 weeks) since I started the pill, I’m only now writing about it for the first time.
It has been a total ride, hell, it still is. From temper tantrums to bowel-crises, emergency gynaecology appointments to jaw aches – the last five weeks have had it all. For today though, I’m just going to focus on the first pill pack and how that was. As many will know, when you go on or off a hormonal contraceptive, or any hormonal treatment, things can get weird for your mind and body. I knew it was coming, but unfortunately that didn’t make it any easier. Knowing it was going to be a period of change for potentially unpleasant reasons, I decided to add some *nicer* changes too, so I bought a new menstrual cup from Me Luna (which I love and will talk about in more disgusting detail another time) and readied my period pants sent to me by Thinx.
The first pill pack
When you start a combined contraceptive pill it’s recommended that you take the first pill on the first day of your period. This immediately means your cycle will be shorter that ‘month’ because your withdrawal bleed from the pill will come in three weeks from your last period, not four. I did as followed, of course, and was immediately confused. Despite all the signals my body had been giving me that I was about to have a particularly bad period, nothing really happened. My period had started but not really. At this point I thought two things: 1) woah does it really work so fast – this is kind of great! and 2) but what if the lining of my womb that had built up to shed now never sheds – where’s it going to go?! So as you can see, I was thinking really clearly.
Going into it I was determined to have an open mind and not to be paranoid about every tiny little symptom I experienced – yeah, surprise to no one, that lasted about 23 hours when I got a migrainesque headache, the first I’ve had since, well, what do you know, the last time I was on the combined pill! “Keep an open mind, keep an open mind,” I said through gritted teeth as I took the second pill. In the morning, on day three, I was actually relieved to discover that my period had properly started. I was in pain, felt a little nauseous, but I always feel slightly relieved when that happens (for like five minutes, don’t get me wrong) – it’s the fifth vital sign and all that.
And then Tuesday came. I remember that it was a Tuesday very vividly because every week that’s passed since I’ve noted, “it’s been X weeks since that Tuesday. I survived – I can survive anything.” Fuck me – this is why I haven’t written this blog yet because I am trying really hard to block that day from my mind, but in the name of documentation I will relive the experience. In fact this is the furthest I’ve got writing this story so far (deep breaths). It was, to be frank, the most pain I have ever been in in my life. I was expecting things to get worse before they got better, but I also didn’t know that there was so much more pain yet to be achieved by my period. I was woken up by a regular period pain that just continued to get worse and worse and worse throughout the morning. Painkillers did nothing, moving did nothing, lying still did nothing, hot water bottles did a little but I’m fairly sure I burnt the skin on my belly from using them too much. It eased off at lunch and then returned in the afternoon. Honestly, I feel pretty traumatised by it, even now. I was at a point where I was googling “is it totally ridiculous to go to A&E for period cramps?” and I might’ve even convinced someone to drive me there if I hadn’t been home alone. There was vomit and tears, Bridget Jones and chocolate (usually pre-menstrual treats, not menstrual coping distractions). At the end of that fateful Tuesday I remember feeling as though my body had gone into shock. In hindsight now I’m like, “alright drama queen *eyeroll*” but I am also aware that it was really fucking scary and that I never ever ever want it to happen again to me nor anyone else.
Needless to say, this wasn’t an excellent introduction to life back on the pill. I tried, am trying, really hard not to blame the pill but there’s only so much I can do to stop my brain making the connection between horrible, horrible pain and a drug designed to mess with the affected organs. Like I said, now I’d survived that, I could survive anything. Or so I thought until I realised that THIS PERIOD WAS NEVER GOING TO END. Twenty-two days. I bled, for twenty-two days straight. I know they say to expect “unusual bleeding” when you start the pill but come the fuck on. I decided it probably wasn’t too healthy to wear a menstrual cup for three weeks straight and while I tried my Thinx pants (jury’s still out) I only had one pair, and so I had the delight of wearing sanitary pads for three fucking weeks. Sorry for the profanity but TWENTY-FUCKING-TWO DAYS.
I was also consistently plagued by a few charming new symptoms during this time. One change that I was not particularly excited about was a change in my breasts, which happened quickly and painfully – I’m talking stretch marks on my tits after just five days. Thankfully they seem to have resettled and calmed down now (hopefully!) The other symptoms have namely been: headaches, migraines, an unexpected jaw ache presumably caused by my habit of stress jaw-grinding, growing pains in my legs (please don’t say I’m still getting taller), the mood swings of a 14 year-old, a generally gloomy demeanour and unexpected creative block. The last three have irritated me the most. Not being able to write, whether caused by the pill or not, has just been incredibly frustrating. The way I would describe it is that it feels like someone is sitting on my head and that I can’t look up to see what’s going on. I’m hoping – by the fact that I’ve finally written this blog, that the person on my head has buggered off, but I will be honest and say that I am not feel overwhelmingly positive about the pill so far.
Back to the twenty-two day period, if you’re good at period maths, it means that I didn’t actually come off my period until I had finished the first pack of the pill. So again, it was hard not to let my brain process the obvious fact that pill = extension of the world’s worst and longest period. True to form I came on my next bleed two days later but that, and the story of the emergency gynae trip, is a story for another blog.