MY PERIOD STORY + EXPERIENCE WITH BIRTH CONTROL

Oooh boy. I have never shared this story publicly until very recently in a 2 sentence blurb on Instagram. To me, this story is incredibly personal and I'm still feeling the effects of it.

This is my birth control story: why I went on it, how it gave me my life back, and how it is 100% without a doubt a form of healthcare. I'm a couple of weeks late from the initial outrage, but this a conversation that absolutely must be had!

Also, before we start, wanting to go on birth control because you simply do not want to get pregnant is absolutely a valid reason to get birth control. Full stop, end of discussion.


Okay... onto my story!

I remember when the first girl in my class got her period. I was in 5th grade, and 11 years old. Everyone knew about it because OMG she was a woman now. Officially on her way to being a teenager! And then in 6th grade, one by one, more girls started to get their period. It's a weird thing when you're going through puberty as a girl because you both desperately want to get your period and also hope it never comes. It felt like every girl got hers before I got mine.

I finally had my first period in December of 7th grade. My grandma had just died, and I was super emotional. It was the first time I had ever experienced loss and coupled with growing bodies and hormones, I feel confident that that's what triggered it. I remember being SO HAPPY!! It lasted for a few days and then stopped... and never came back.

Until I was in Scotland with my youth group on our choir tour. Yeah, that was fun. I was so unprepared but the older girls helped me out and we all went on with our days. Luckily we were toward the end of the trip, so I went home and expected it to be over in a couple of days.

But it never stopped. In fact, it got heavier. I was going through several pads a day, and when I finally learned how to use tampons, I was going through those even quicker (I even started to double up and use pads and tampons - but nothing seemed to help). I couldn't relax at the pool, I never wanted to hang out with friends, I was tired and irritable and mortified that my period was like this. I knew it wasn't normal but it was also my period, and there was nothing I could do except wait for it to end.

Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months. Nothing changed. My period was heavy, steady, and unyielding. Summer came to a close and 8th grade began. At this point, I was so miserable I didn't want to do anything. After an entire summer of bleeding through swimsuits and clothes and onto seats and pool chairs and cars the last thing I wanted to do was go back to MIDDLE SCHOOL. Could you even imagine what people would say?! Um... pass.

I begged my mom for a doctor's appointment and off to the OBGYN we went! I'll never forget the (invisible and totally made up) judgment I felt for being a 13 year old at the gynecologist's office. The doctor asked me about my symptoms, ran some blood tests, and then I got an ultrasound. They told me to hang tight and in a few days, I would come back to hear their thoughts.

At my follow up appointment I FINALLY started to get some answers. I had (have?) a very thick uterine lining, which contributed to my heavy AF period. I was missing Factor 8 in my blood, which accounted for the lack of clotting. I was borderline anemic. My iron level was 4, which meant I was severely iron deficient. All of these are symptoms of Von Willebrand Disease - a genetic blood disorder that can cause excessive bleeding in your gums, nosebleeds, and *drumroll please* heavy and long menstrual bleeding.

Von Willebrand's disease is very common, and in my case solved with birth control. I left the doctor's office with my first prescription (for Yaz) feeling grateful that I finally had answers. I had to adjust my dosage a couple of times, but I finally found a high-estrogen birth control that worked for me, ended my heavy periods, and finally gave me my 8th-grade life back! (Fun fact: did you know that suddenly starting on estrogen-heavy pills like BC can cause you to get sick? I spent the first week on birth control puking my brains out.)

I spent the next 12 years of my life on birth control pills, grateful for a "normal" period. But there were always a million questions running through the back of my mind.

Will all of these years on birth control affect my ability to have children? Even without birth control, will this disease affect my ability to get pregnant? Are these extra hormones in my system causing negative side effects? What will happen if I ever come off birth control? Will I have to take these pills for the rest of my life? Is over a decade on birth control pills what caused the mass on my thyroid? and so on.

I'm unable to donate blood, which has left me feeling helpless more times than I'd care to admit. I have to get bloodwork done every time I have my annual exam. I had to have extensive bloodwork done before getting my thyroid biopsied for the first time, for fear that I would bleed out in the exam room.

A little over a year ago, I decided that birth control pills weren't working for me anymore. I hated taking them at the same time (and honestly was really bad at that part) and hated the idea of loading excess hormones into my system. So, when I moved to LA, my prescription ran out and I didn't renew it. I was so scared of what was going to happen... was I going to get a period? Would it be "normal?" Would it naturally stop?

The anxiety definitely plagued me as I sat around and waited for my period to come... but one day it did. Then 3 days later, it stopped. I was so giddy, is this what other girls felt like?! Is this my normal life post-birth control or was it just a fluke?! For the next few months, I anxiously waited for my period, then anxiously waited for it to stop. Every time, after 3 or 4 days, it did. It was amazing - our bodies are truly incredible.

I ultimately decided to get an IUD in January and I haven't had a true period since the very first month with it. It was a great decision for me and my health, and I'm glad that I was able to get it. I'm set now for the next seven years of my life.

I'm also glad that my healthcare enabled me to receive birth control fully covered for over 10 years. However, I'm also fully aware of my privilege and know that my family would have been able to pay for it each month. Birth control gave me my life back, and my heart breaks for the 13-year-old girls across the country with Von Willebrands who now, because of the Supreme Court, may get denied birth control.

I'd love to ask Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas about their experience with Von Willebrands or PCOS or the countless other diseases that come with menstrual cycles, but alas. They have no experience with any of them.

There is more to birth control than pregnancy prevention. Birth control is healthcare.

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