An open letter to birth control, from a PCOS survivor
Dear Birth Control,
I was 14 when I thought about you for the first time. I had (finally!) gotten my period the year before, but had only menstruated once since then. When I told my friends, they said, “No period? No problem!” I had cramps twice a year at most. What else could I have asked for?
Well, maybe I could have asked what was actually going on with my body.
I had always built muscle very fast and had a ridiculously fast metabolism. I was painfully aware that my ill-disguised, tiny mustache and the random three or four hairs I pulled from my chin every week weren’t present on the other girls in my class.
After a couple of trips to the doctor, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). The doctor said I should go on birth control as treatment.
My estrogen levels were too low, and my androgen and testosterone levels were too high. As expected, I freaked out. I panicked and ran out of the doctor’s office wondering how I was going to explain to my mom that (a) my body wasn’t 100% working right, and (b) that I needed to go on contraceptives. Birth Control, you had never been a part of my conversations with my mom before, because bringing you up somehow automatically meant sex. And sex? Not up for discussion. So, I did what any sensible, scared girl would do — and I didn’t tell her. I resolved to be done with you forever, and pushed the memory to the back of my brain.
PCOS means different things for different people.
For some it means acne, hormone imbalances, irregular menstrual cycles, and an increased risk for heart disease. I was told that it was the reason for my strong ‘stache and my muscle gains. PCOS is one of the most common causes of infertility, and I was told that I would have to start treatment if I ever wanted to possibly have children — and that meant taking birth control.
Several things about this situation were weird to me. Firstly, I’d never associated you with getting pregnant – birth control is supposed to prevent getting pregnant, right? Next, I was suddenly dealing with a decision that I wasn’t expecting to need to make for at least another ten years.
Did I want children? Could I even have children?
In any case, Birth Control, you came into my world and turned it on its head. Initially, you weren’t as intrusive as I thought you would be. Nothing noticeably changed in my body for the first two months, and then you stormed in like a hurricane. None of my bras fit anymore, and having to spend $30 on a wired boob cage every two months hit me and my bank account square in the face. Next came the unexpected rapid weight gain, and and a complete halt in my progress at the gym. I wasn’t prepared for how you would affect my brain, and your side effects sent my depression into a spiral.
You are a 9 o’clock habit, and now I get two days of agonizing cramps per month that I wouldn’t suffer from without you. Bonuses include mood swings, migraines, and waves of nausea. You put me at an increased risk for cervical cancer and hypertension, but you keep my insides from going totally rouge.
I appreciate you, and I appreciate the access I have to you.
I hope that you will remain the necessary part of my life that you are, even if Obamacare is replaced by the AHCA. Thank you for being you, Birth Control. See you tonight.