Ever since I posted Trena’s story on her pill usage I’ve meant to post about mine. I’ve hinted at my story before, but now it is time for it to get its own post. This will, as always, include plenty of what normal people consider to be TMI. You’ve already been warned. And perhaps it is worth stating explicitly that this is about the use of the pill for therapeutic, not contraceptive, reasons. Lots of sickness, no sexiness. So don’t be scandalized.
My first near-encounter with artificial hormones (henceforth, “the pill” even though much of it -including my own experience- is not in pill form) happened when I was 19 and Josh and I had first started not-dating. Prior to that point we had been sort-of friends, but then Josh expressed an interest in “something more” and so we entered the phase of not-(yet)-dating. I was incredibly stressed. I went from 12 mile runs every weekend to not being able to run a mile without cramps and nausea. I had started fertility charting a few months before and so it was quite clear that my body had gone crazy. I ovulated, but then went weeks without menstruation. So I scheduled my first gynecologist appointment.
I left with the reassurance that “sometimes these things just happen” and a prescription for a progestin-only pill which was supposed to bring on my period. I was irrationally afraid of it, and had a feeling that my body was going to resolve the situation soon after I’d finally gotten to see the doctor, so I delayed filling that prescription. It is probably still with my old papers somewhere, unused.
Two and a half years later Josh and I were engaged and I had gone from struggling to run to struggling to walk. I started skipping daily mass because the two mile walk was more than I could handle. Josh moved to be closer to me and for the first time we got to see each other frequently. It was wonderful.
I was still quite opposed to the pill and had laparoscopic surgery in an attempt to both get an accurate diagnosis (endometriosis) and cure through removal. It did not work. So I caved into the solution which had been offered to me every step of the way and went on the pill, much to the relief of my surgeon who thought it the wisest way to preserve fertility by preventing the endometriosis from destroying my ovaries etc.
While I was concerned about the pill for health reasons, I had no religious qualms. I knew that the Church had no objection to me being on it to control cramping and excessive bleeding. It would not be okay for me to rely on the pill for its more oft-prescribed purpose, but as long as I wasn’t using it for contraception it was perfectly fine.
You know exactly where this is going, right?
Once I was actually on the pill everything changed.
My feelings about my sexuality were dramatically altered, as was the way in which I related to Josh.
I was no longer in pain for three weeks out of the month, and the fourth week (which I cut as short as possible) was quite bearable in comparison. Suddenly I had strength to spend time with Josh going for long walks in the woods and visiting churches rather than spending so much time alone in my dorm room.
The pill was, of course, not without side-effects. My sex drive disappeared. I loved not being in pain, but I hated the way that my body felt. For someone whose natural cycles meant debilitating pain, I felt surprisingly separated from nature.
And I was utterly gleeful. Who knew chastity could be so effortless? Was this the famed lack of interest in sex which so many claimed was normal for women? Oh what delight! I had gone from being disinclined to sin to being disinclined to contemplate anything remotely sexual. Even if the sweetest of kisses had not been so unappealing, who would want to waste time with such things when one was feeling well enough to actually live? There was so much that I could do once I was on the pill– things like visiting museums and going to mass!
Eventually I stopped taking the pill. But its impact on my life and the way it radically altered my relationship with Josh for those 4ish months has stayed with me.
I know that not everyone has the same experience with the pill. There are many different forms of artificial hormones in many different doses, and women react differently to them.
I do not think of myself as at all virtuous in “resisting temptation” or the near occasion of sin. I think of the pill as chastity in a bottle.
And that is my experience with experimenting with artificial hormones for health reasons while unmarried.
- Skin and the Sun
- Birth Control, Contraception, and the Catholic Church