This is a pretty long post, and if you make it to the end, I want to thank you for being here and taking this journey with me as I put this whole thing into words. I am not looking for sympathy, this post is meant merely to inspire and educate anyone who is going through or has gone through a similar situation.
When I was 17 years old, I woke up two nights in a row with intense pain in my abdomen. On the second day, I went to the hospital and was told after ultrasounds and CT scans, that I had a cyst in both of my ovaries, about 7cm to 8cm in diameter. I was immediately advised to start taking birth control to help subside the pain and regulate my periods. After 4 months of no improvement, I was booked in for a laparoscopic surgery. This surgery was meant to remove the cysts and excess tissue, much like the modern day removal of an appendix with very small incisions.
The procedure was scheduled to last for 1 hour, and turned into a 4 hour operation, as there was a lot more tissue that needed to be removed than expected. I woke up with a five-inch incision right above my pelvis.
Instead of being sent home the same day, I was told that I needed to stay in the hospital for about four days so that they could monitor my progress. I’ll leave out the details, but the whole experience was not pleasant. I was put into a room with other women suffering from thyroid cancer, diabetes, miscarriages, and to this day, I count myself VERY lucky.
During my second day in the hospital, my doctor came in and told me that I had stage four endometriosis. Endometriosis is a chronic disorder where tissue from your uterus attaches itself to other parts of your pelvis including outside of the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, pelvic walls, and anywhere it can reach really. This movement and attachment of tissue is associated specifically with menstruation and it is actually a lot more common than one might think. 5 million women in the United State alone suffer from Endometriosis, and the frequency of misdiagnosis for this debilitating illness is incredibly heartbreaking.
Endometriosis is classified into four stages, stage four being the most severe. Not to pat my uterus on the back here, but stage four is pretty darn rare for a young 17 year old girl to have.
My body hurt for the first month back home. One week after my operation, I was actually able to drag myself to my winter formal IN HEELS! I still remember my mom cinching in the waist of my vintage dress on the day of the event, because I had lost some weight. It was painful, but worth seeing my boyfriend in a kilt!
This all happened about 7 years ago. Since then, I have been put on 4 different types of birth control to help regulate my menstruation and stop my body from allowing the same thing to happen.
This was a tough pill for me to swallow (pun intended), as I come from a pretty organic and natural upbringing. The first two pills (Alesse and another I cannot remember the name of) were oestrogen based and made me throw up every month at 3am when I took the first pill after the placebos. I also experienced spotting for 30 days in a row on one of those pills. As those two were not agreeing with my body, and my periods were still unbearably painful, I was put on another pill called YAZ. This pill actually agreed with my body and made my breast grow (great for a girl like me), but YAZ was shortly discontinued due to its effects on women including fatal blood clots.
About 3 years ago, I was advised by my specialist to try a progesterone-based pill (kind of a last resort at this point). This pill called Visanne, is not your normal birth control pill. It is meant to be taken everyday without stopping to completely suppress your period. My doctor advised me to try it as not only would it suppress my painful periods, but also it would probably help save my fertility, as the operation was fairly invasive.
After 4 years of intense pain and discomfort, and the unpredictability of the way my body was reacting to the other pills, this pill surprisingly agreed with my body and actually allowed me to go about my day-to-day life. Even prior to the operation, my periods had always been heavy, long lasting, and incredibly debilitating.
For once, I felt free! I wasn’t getting sick, I wasn’t doubled over in pain, I didn’t have uncontrolled spotting, I felt normal!
So three years ago, I started taking this pill, and about 3 months ago, I decided to come off of it.
If you’ve been keeping up with my blog at all, you know I suffer from anxiety and I’ve recently moved to Japan for the year which has definitely heightened it all. I hit the biggest wall I have ever hit mentally this past summer where I found myself spending days crying and I mean CRYING my eyes out on the floor, wishing my clenched anxiety ridden stomach would just STOP for a moment so that I could actually eat and function like a normal human being.
During this time, I had a huge amount of support from my family back home, and especially Bryson who would curl up on the floor with me and tell me how strong I was every day.
I got a call from my mom who had spoken to my specialist back home, and I was advised to come off of the pill. As many women know, birth control pills have all kinds of side effects, and for some reason this pill had apparently heightened my anxiety over the years.
The thought of coming off of the pill was terrifying, let alone coming off of the pill in a foreign country so far from home. For once in my life this pill had allowed me to go about my day-to-day life without debilitating pain.
But, for those who suffer from anxiety, I feel like many of us would choose pain over the overwhelming sense of panic.
So that night, I didn’t take the pill.
Just like that, the next morning I woke up feeling like me.
No anxiety, no discomfort, no influence of anything in my body.
After 7 years I met myself again, and boy did I miss her.
After about 1 month off of the pill, I got my first period. It had been three years since my last period and I definitely hadn’t forgotten the feeling of it all, but this time, I felt different, in a good way! Instead of dreading these feelings, I immediately embraced them as my body just doing its natural thing.
This acceptance has helped me change my outlook on both my body as a whole and my periods. Instead of seeing them as a monthly chore, I’ve chosen to welcome this natural womanly process and thank my body for being so strong and amazing.
One thing I sort of took for granted during my time on the pill, was that I didn’t need to buy and use tampons or pads. It honestly felt pretty good knowing that I didn’t have to generate waste every month and harm the environment by throwing these feminine hygiene products (full of bleach, chlorine, lotion, perfume, and glue) and their packaging away.
I’d heard about menstrual cups, but didn’t look too much into the idea, as it hadn’t been on my mind for the past three years. After buying a box of tampons in Japan and seeing that the cashiers doubly wrap them in dark plastic bags, separate from all of your other groceries to ensure that nobody sees your “embarrassing” purchase, I decided it was time to move on from the wasteful products.
I did some research and decided to contact a company called OrganiCup.
OrganiCup is a menstrual cup for women that if used correctly, can last up to 10 years! Their packaging is made up of recycled paper, their products come with a reusable organic cotton bag, and the menstrual cup itself is made of a very soft silicone, so it is really easy to use.
If you take a look at their website, you can see just how much money you can save in the long run by buying a menstrual cup, as well as how much positive impact using a reusable feminine hygiene product can have on the environment every year. You can also read about the different ways tampons and pads affect your body negatively (including the unnatural additives as well as the dryness and irritation they can cause) when compared to a menstrual cup.
They also go on to explain how to properly insert and clean the OrganiCup, as well as the many other benefits that come along with it.
In short, switching to a menstrual cup is kind of a no-brainer, especially one with such environmentally friendly packaging, great customer service, and really informative diagrams and blog posts!
It has only been a few months since I came off of the pill and so far my body is reacting really nicely to this change, but I’m honestly not sure what to expect with how I will feel in the future.
I don’t know if the Endometriosis will come back and I don’t know if my periods will become debilitating and painful again. But for now, I’m choosing to be embrace this new me and be proud of myself.
I’m proud of myself for trusting in my body and coming off of the pill.
I’m proud of myself for being in a foreign country and managing my anxiety.
I’m proud of myself for making the decision to switch to an environmentally friendly menstrual product.
I’m proud of myself for being brave enough to actually write about this subject on my blog after years of procrastination.
AND I’m honestly surprised that I went through this whole post without saying the word Vagina. There. I said it.