My Pill Usage
Guest Post by Trena. I am really thankful for Trena’s decision to write about the pill in a way that most people never consider.
When I was a senior in high school, my period got really out of hand. For several months, I would come home sick the first day of my period. I would get so sick that I would vomit the entire day. Everything I ate, everything I drank, I eventually would dry heave the rest of the night. It was bad. It would be so unbearable and I was pulled out of school several months in a row. It wasn’t Toxic Shock Syndrome because my period was so heavy the first day that I couldn’t even wear a tampon. I would soak through a jumbo tampon in an hour easily. Instead, I would wear an overnight pad and change it every two hours. Like I said, it was unbearable. After several months of this happening my mom set up an appointment with a gynecologist.
He had a solution to the problem and it came in the form of a pill. It was the birth control pill but he said it also worked to help women who had issues with their menstral cycle. The only catch was that I had to make sure to take the pill every single day at the exact same time. No problem at all.
I started taking the pill and it was magic! My periods were no longer heavy and my sickness went away. That pill was my lifesaver and I was so thankful for it. It turned out, the pill came in handy for other reasons. Well, maybe it became a little too handy too. I mean, I had to take it for my female issues, so I might as well use it.
Fast forward seven years later when I meet the man of my dreams, Francis Wayne. I knew right away that he was the one and I even nicknamed him, “The One” to my friends. He was absolutely everything I wanted in a man and I was beyond Cloud 10.
He knew I was on the pill for female issues and it never really came up that I could use it for other reasons. But after we were dating for nine months, we started using it for other reasons. It just happened, something we really didn’t plan and both felt awful about. But the pill kept us safe and we just pushed the issue to the side. This went on for months and we both felt bad about what we were doing and knew we needed to stop, but neither one of us talked to the other person about it. Finally, a year had gone by, and one of us spoke up. I still don’t remember who it was, but thankfully that person did. I guess it was such a hard subject to talk about, even though it was a very important subject, that both of us were afraid to hurt the other person. But someone spoke and we decided it wasn’t right. We practiced our faith together, always attending Mass on the weekends, but we weren’t living what we were preaching. We kept thinking about God looking down on us and being ashamed. And then we were ashamed.
But words are weaker than will power and we all know how powerful the gift of will power is. So to keep to our word and know that there was no way to fall back on what we agreed, I stopped taking the pill. I knew that there would be a chance that my periods from hell would return but I weighed my options: periods from hell or feeling like I was in hell? I took the periods from hell.
And to my surprise, my periods were fine. All together I was on the pill for eight years. Gosh, that just makes me shiver to think how long I relied on that crutch to “cure” my female issues. When I look back at my life, I realize that when I was a senior I had stopped playing soccer and was no longer a cheerleader. My eating habits were disgusting as well. If I would have taken better care of my physical well-being then I may never have had the issues I had. Five years after starting the pill, I started to workout. (It is so gross to think that I went nearly five years without working out consistently!) I started taking kickboxing and was started my love for running. I started to watch what I was eating and was more conscience about making healthy choices. Two years later, when I met Frank, I ran my first marathon and was continuing with my healthy lifestyles.
So my female issues were solved by diet and exercise. The eight years of paying anywhere from $3 to $30 a month for the pill, depending on which insurance company I was with at the time,were fruitless. It not only robbed my bank account, made me believe it was fixing my issues but it also gave me the ability to do things I might not have done otherwise. The pill gave me power and honestly, I didn’t deserve that kind of power.
After I quit taking the pill, which led to us quiting another part of our life, we dated for four more years until our wedding day. And let me tell you, the wedding night was amazing. I’m thankful for the mistakes we made in our relationship because those mistakes only brought us closer to God and each other. We learned to trust in God’s Word deeper and practice what we preached. We learned to open our communication lines and trust each other, 100%. The pill did that for us by allowing us to give into pressure. But removing the pill, or I should call it, the band-aid, set us free.
More of Trena’s writing can be found at The Third Prayer. Please check it out!
- When the Saints…
- I am thankful 1/31/2010
This is great, and I think it probably rings true for a lot of women! My favorite line was “periods from hell or feeling like I was in hell?” What a blessing that your cycle turned out to be fine after all that!
I took the Pill for about five years in high school and college because I have PCOS, and without the Pill (or so I was told) I wouldn’t get my period. No one told me that PCOS can nearly always be controlled through diet, exercise, and medication other than the Pill. I too used the Pill for things other than the medical purpose. Only I wasn’t lucky enough to make those mistakes with the man I would go on to marry. I can very much relate to this; thanks for such a great guest post!
My OB/Gyn prescribed the pill for me to help irregular periods and painful menstrual cramps when I was 16, too. It’s like the antibiotic of the female reproductive system. Go in for a cold…take some amoxycilin! Heavy bleeding? Here’s the pill! Luckily for me, the nausea I got from taking just one pill made me realize I’d rather have the bleeding and cramps. I turned to Advil instead.
There are some circumstances that DO benefit from regular usage of the pill, like ovarian cancers and poly-cystic ovarian syndrome. But I worry about the side effects, both physical and emotional. Like you said, if you’re on the pill anyway, you may as well use it. And it IS so hard to maintain will power, especially when you’re with someone you’re madly in love with. My husband and I struggled with that issue ourselves before we were married. In fact, he was the one who finally said we should abstain for the sake of what I believed in. When I realized he was willing to suffer for my faith, (not his,) I knew he was the man I was meant to marry.
Thanks for this honest post.
Trena, I’ll tell you what is most amazing. That you began a pattern of indulgence with your then-boyfriend and was able to stop that pattern…. for years. That is so rare. I know couples, and I am one, that managed to remain chaste until the wedding, and that alone was difficult. However, for those that I know who broke past that boundary, it’s like there’s no going back – if they decide to deal with it and change that pattern, they either marry immediately or break up, because the temptation is too much.
Your decisions and lifestyle choices clearly reflect your devotion to God.
This is such an interesting post!
I’ve also found that diet plays a huge role in my periods. When I ate gluten, my periods were long, heavy, painful and generally unpleasant. Once I took gluten out of my diet, my periods were much better. I also find that when I have too much dairy/chocolate that can affect how heavy my period is.
I took the pill for maybe 9 months and I hated every single moment of it. (I went on it before I got married in preparation for married life, etc.) It didn’t make my periods lighter or shorter and it didn’t help with cramps, moods or anything. I even switched pill types a few times, but nothing really changed. A month or two after I was diagnosed with depression, I decided that the pill wasn’t helping, so I went off it. I’m really glad that I did because now instead of feeling gross for a few days, it’s usually only just one day and it’s really not that bad.
I think that it can be risky to indulge in anecdotal science. Dysmenorrhea (ridiculously painful periods) is often treated with hormones (e.g. birth control pill) and it is effective for many women. While changes in nutrition and diet can ameliorate symptoms in some people, research shows that it isn’t as effective for some people. Age also plays a role. A lot of people experience more painful periods in adolescence/early teenage years than later in life. I think that people struggle with guilt and depression as a result of thinking they have more control than they have (if I ate better than my cramps would be more bearable) – when there is nothing shameful about seeking a medical intervention for a medical condition. And Trena does not know for certain which factor improved her menstrual symptoms (age, health, other factors…).
I find it incredibly interesting to read about you (and your guest bloggers’) perspective on these issues as they are very different than mine. I never intended to (nor did I) wait until I was married to have sex – but being on the pill never influenced my decision whether or not to sleep with someone (so I could not relate to this “power” you felt the pill gave you). As a bit of TMI – I also used condoms every time I had sex before I was with my husband as the pill does not protect against STDs.
And for my own anecdote: As a young girl, I would pass out due to the pain of menstruating. (I ran cross-country, played volleyball, and played basketball – so I worked out daily and ate very healthy meals). Was on the pill for a little under 14 years and was on continuous usage (thus menstruated only 4-6 times per year – similar to Seasonale). I never felt any guilt or doubt about being on the pill. The pill significantly improved my periods, and by menstruating less frequently, helped to keep my endometriosis from spreading. We will start trying to conceive in the Fall (I will be 30) and thus I went off the pill 9 days ago to allow myself 6 months to get onto a normal cycle. The point is, anecdotes are anecdotes – neither of ours should be taken as universal or truth.
I agree with Rae. Erin, A blog post about someone’s story is not an anecdotal claim for a universal scientific truth. Also, someone’s story about how the Pill played into their moral decisions is not a de facto judgement on you, either.
Although I’m sure your case is severe, there are non-Pill approaches to women’s health care that help even the most severe cases. NaProTechnology (fertilitycare.org) is the medical and surgical application of this approach, and I bet it would’ve even helped you had you known (and desired) that option. But it sounds like you are happy with your path.
That said, Trena, thanks for a refreshing summary of your journey from bandaid solutions and lukewarm faith to preventative and holistic wellness and purity.
I do not think that telling our stories is “anecdotal science.” You are certainly right that anecdotes should not be taken as universal truth, but they can still be extremely valuable as personal truth. We can have both perfectly randomized studies and perfectly personal stories. One of the things I most appreciate about Trena’s story is that her “anecdote” is the antidote for my tendency to imagine that everyone else is just like me in terms of making choices about hormones and sex.
My experience with artificial hormones was that they not only drastically reduced my pain, they also destroyed my libido. So prior to hearing Trena’s story, it did not seem real to me that someone’s choices regarding sex would be dramatically impacted by taking the pill. I am also a bit paranoid about birth control, and never trusted that hormones would prevent pregnancy with 100% certainty, so I never would have felt “safe” in terms of avoiding pregnancy. I was also overly concerned about weakening trust and respect if I engaged in physical acts which went against our spiritual/religious/philosophical beliefs. Because of this, it is really important for me to understand how these things work out for others.
I think that it is of utmost importance to share our stories and listen to others do the same. We need to know both that there are many other people who follow through on choices to abstain from sex outside of marriage and are happy with their lives. We need to know that there are many people who have sex prior to marriage and end up happily married.
Reading your endometriosis story makes me cringe because I can almost feel your pain. In fact my eyes might have widened a bit in horror at the thought of you experiencing possibly six months of real menstrual cycles. I hope that your doctor is helpful with pain medication!
I sincerely enjoy your blog because it is fascinating to see the incredible similarities side-by-side with the dissimilarities. As a whole, I think blog reading (in general) has made me much less judgmental and I greatly appreciate anecdotes. I just worry that one person’s anecdote (I had a natural child birth and insert horror story) is interpreted as fact (all natural child births are horrible – don’t do it). I was probably being too sensitive and should have just appreciated the story.
Pain meds have been used – but I’m very happy to report that I had my first non-medicated cycle last week and the pain was minimal (2 out of 10)?!?! In my case, it seems that age has drastically diminished my pain. Now let’s see if I can get pregnant. (Positive thoughts welcome!).
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