You might have noticed in my last #Periodically that I wasn’t feeling too hot about my time on the pill so far. I’m happy to report that things are going much better, but this second pill pack hasn’t been without its fiascos. Before anyone gets scared, don’t worry, I do not plan on documenting every pill pack ever, cycle by cycle, but during the adjustment phase and partly for personal record, I want to document the changes I experience during the first three months.
The Second Pill Pack
I won’t lie, the start of this cycle and my first withdrawal bleed on the pill didn’t catch me at my most mentally stable. For moments, and I mean brief seconds, I repeatedly convinced myself that I was about to drop dead, which I’m sure you can appreciate, isn’t very nice. My PMS is undeniably worse on the pill and unusually for me this bout extended well into my period.
After early signs suggesting the pill was going to improve my skin, this cycle proved that that is not the case, it has in fact got worse. It’s a bummer but acne is something I am well-used to dealing with, and I’ll take it over pain any day. A more positive facial change (this one feels like TMI but hey, sharing is caring) is that my “beard” has vanished without a trace. I say beard and mean like four hairs but it was one of the reasons my doctors suspected I had PCOS way back when. Now that it’s gone, I can only deduce that whatever was causing it was hormonal.
My period itself was exactly the same except it was two days shorter. I guess that’s nice but it was the two good days at the end that were cut off so if we could switch the off-days around that’d be ace. As my period ended and I began to think about starting the next pack, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of normality that I was certain was because I had been off the pill for six days. I even began to get my writing groove back, so taking the pill again felt like I was poisoning myself. But I did, and once I started I wrote in my diary “feeling slightly better about the pill but not actually any better – confusing feeling” – I’ll say!
So a few things, like my face, began to settle into new normal realities on the pill. My weight is up and my hair is being weird but my motivation and creativity didn’t slump like it did last month which I am so grateful for. In fact writing-wise, March has been a bit of a boom. I’ve started reviewing plays for AYoungerTheatre.com and I had an amazing response to the article about the Always Period Poverty campaign I wrote for Harpy. You can read it here. I’ve even had a couple of moments where I’ve tracked “euphoria” and “clarity” on Clue – there were a few days and mornings where I just felt really damn good for inexplicable reasons.
On reflection, these peaks might have been because the mood swings began. Maybe I missed that phase of puberty but I do not remember my mood ever swinging so literally. My sister was staying with us and wanted to have a bath and mentioned that she had scuffed-up my book (The Cows, come on Sally!) and I just flipped. I was sitting in a different room but my blood felt like molten lava and I wanted to hit something. Five minutes later I wanted to cry and another quarter of an hour later I was laughing at something and then it all happened again. I’ve always had grumpy days and sad days and happy days, but to swing so violently from mood to mood is new for me. When it finally settles I’m just left sitting on my bed like I’ve been bitten by a magical creature going “what’s happening to me?!” I was hoping this was just a phase too but they’re still rearing their heads regularly, so that’s a thing I’m trying to navigate.
By this point I had finished three months on iron tablets and had a blood test to see if my anaemia was gone now. When I called to get the results, expecting the all-clear, I was told I needed to see my GP. “Piss it, what now?,” I thought. Disturbed by the mood swings, thoughts of spontaneous death and occasional “growing” pains in my legs I was looking forward to speaking to a doctor the next day. But then when I woke up, I couldn’t move. It was so bad that the first thing I remember thinking was “is today the day my ovary finally takes me to hospital?” Something in my right side had been bothering me all week, but on this particular morning it was stabbing me every time I so much as wiggled a toe. I called the doctor as planned and got an appointment with yet another new doc, this time a female Dr P. When I got there she told me that my iron levels were fine (yay no more horrible iron tablets!) but that she was worried by how much pain I was in. Given that it was my right side it was important to rule out appendicitis, which she did swiftly since I didn’t have a temperature. After she felt my belly up and read my file, she expressed concern that either a cyst on my ovary or the ovary itself, had “torted” – twisted.
Not greatly comforted by that prognosis I sat while Dr P called the hospital and arranged for me to go straight to Gynaecology Emergency Unit (GEU). As my dad drove me I had a look through the files she had sent me with and took pictures of them – for the first time I was actually made privy to the inner goings on of my body and my doctors’ conversations – a rare treat. We got to the understandably rather scary and sad place that is the GEU and I was seen by a nurse who took my vitals, a gynaecologist who did a pelvic exam and another nurse who did some tests. Typically, by now whatever the pain was it had peaked and eased off and the gynae reasonably came to the conclusion that I was not at any great risk of emergency. The pelvic exam hurt, but not as much as it would have if a cyst or ovary had been twisted. She sent me home with an obscene amount of co-codamol and an appointment for an ultrasound in a few days.
By the time the scan arrived I was feeling a lot better, without any help for the co-codamol which I didn’t take. I was relieved to be having the scan though because I was going skiing at the end of the week and was growing increasingly worried that if I fell over I was going to burst a cyst. Before I went to the scan I wrote my expectations on a post-it to make the inevitable easier to process. The post-it says “there will not be anything there. Good and healthy. Looks normal. No change”. I was right. The sonographer was really helpful and speculated that it was possible the sudden increase and then complete drop in pain I’d experienced was caused by a cyst rupturing or going away. The gynaecologist I then saw in the GEU afterwards was not as supportive or helpful. As far as she was aware, and I understand she had very little to go on, there were no cysts or any other indicator of a gynaecological problem, and so there was nothing a gynaecologist could do. I think the fact I still have an open case with my regular gynae made her words easier to swallow because even though she was saying ‘”nil gynae” case closed’, I knew the case was far from closed. I was once again told “that’s life,” “we rarely get to the root of these problems” and “try your bowels” – just like after the surgery. It was all horribly familiar but I took it much better this time. My mum was irritated by it too and fought it more than I did – thanks mum!
Anyway, I was happy to have confirmation of a cyst-free uterus for the beginning of our mini ski break. I was nervous about it (as were insurance companies who took more money than normal, ugh) because about a year ago I stopped running as it was aggravating my pain. Since I refuse to pay to exercise when running is free, this has meant I’ve done nothing more than hiking and walking in the last ten months. If a cyst didn’t interrupt our ski trip, a heart attack might… I am so happy to say that three days of skiing were accompanied by absolutely no uterine or fitness induced pain – all injuries were purely skiing and ski-boot related!
When I returned home an amalgamation of PMS, sciatica and post-holiday blues left me feeling pretty glum. Yet when I look back on March and the second round of the pill, I actually feel really hopeful. I’m working on the basis that I’m cyst-free for now because the pill is working. My pain levels haven’t come down drastically but there is a small improvement, and I’m confident it’s going to get even better. Now that I know I can ski I’m also filled with the hope that I can start running again soon, or doing something at least, because the pill/croissant combo has done nothing for me on the scales… Plus, if it does all get better on the pill then it will prove that the cause is gynaecological – that would be a really satisfying up-yours to the doctors who have said “nil gynae”. I just hope that if the pill is the solution, that I can get a grip on these mood swings soon.