Here we go, here is how I went from a lifetime of "it's complicated," to "in a relationship" with my cycle, with MYSELF.
So, me and my heavy flow, my gnarly cramps, my copper IUD, my sea sponge, my glad rags, my acupuncturist, my period tracker...we're all just living doing our thing. And then I start to notice, in increasing frequency: my cramps getting worse, my cycle getting less regular...or is it regular and I am just spotting and cramping in between cycles? Wait, today I had cramps. But I finished my period last week so... I'm confused. Okay my app says I should get my period tomorrow...but now it's two weeks late....and I'm bleeding...but it's brown. Is this my period? OMG CRAMPS AGAIN...WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!
Cue PANIC. Kinda like how it felt to read that paragraph changing from past to present tense in the same sentence.
At this point I had the Copper IUD in for over TWO years, so that initial year of side effects should have subsided. And as you can see...it wasn't JUST a heavy period and excruciating cramps anymore. If you had a poster in front of you that listed the symptoms of endometriosis you would have a poster of ME. Unfortunately, I am under state health insurance because I cannot afford regular health insurance (just a side note: our country really needs to get it's shit together when it comes to healthcare), which means if I want to see a gyno...I have to pay out of pocket. So, I started doing some research and found a book that is now THANKFULLY blowing UP all over the internet: WOMAN CODE. I also did a bunch of research, and spoke with other women that have endometriosis as well as fibroids, and it turns out...if you have either of those, and don't need surgery, you'll be prescribed HORMONAL BIRTH CONTROL.
Cool. Cool. Soo if I do have one of these conditions which is causing all of these extreme problems I'm going to be told to start taking a pill/put something in my body that basically has always made me feel even worse?
Yeah so... fuck that.
I dove head first into the Woman Code to try and balance my hormones through food. My acupuncturist and I were in constant communication throughout the whole process and at one point I sent her a few frantic emails because I was sitting on my couch with a headache and my right underarm was emanating the most INTENSE smell!
It was ROUGH. Just a heads up: I've never had an issue with B.O. before. If I forget deodorant, it isn't a big deal. So to just be laying down on the couch and stink: I flipped out. I showered, I piled on my deodorant, I even went back to traditional antiperspirant deodorant. (I use all natural deodorant either by Meow Meow Tweet Tweet or Schmidt's Naturals). Nothing helped. I was also getting moody. She explained she had a similar experience and it's the liver working OT as a result of the body detoxing, so just to ride it out. Which I did, and doubled up my chlorophyll intake, and in a few days the smell AND the mood swings passed.
When I had my next appt with her we reviewed all the symptoms I had before during and after my cycle, and she gently brought something back up she had mentioned previously: had I considered taking out my IUD yet?
She had mentioned it twice now, because of how my cycle had changed while seeing her: I didn't come to her because I was spotting and cramping constantly IN BETWEEN periods, I came to her to regulate and better manage my periods. So she had a feeling my body was rejecting the IUD. And because going to a gyno would cost hundreds of dollars just for the appt (not to mention the thousands it would cost for a pelvic ultrasound and blood test) she gently urged me to really consider taking it out.
Again, this is NON hormonal birth control. I want to stress that, because you won't really find much on people having symptoms from NON hormonal birth control. And I have felt really fucking alone and distressed a lot because of my cycle. My fiancé would come out of his office and find me crying because I didn't know what was wrong with me, because of how much I hurt, and I because I was terrified this would mean I wouldn't be able to get pregnant later on. Even in Woman Code, only the negative effects of hormonal birth control is discussed (with good reason: that stuff is really bad for us!)
SO I want to be here and tell my story just in case there's another girl out there trying her damnedest to be good to her body, to the environment, and to be natural: and is still having cycle issues.
I had a couple conversations with my best friend (who is a doctor and was a HUGE proponent of me getting on birth control.) She agreed with my accupuncturist that the first thing I should do, before considering spending thousands of dollars I don't have to find out if I have endometriosis, is to get my IUD removed.
So, I made an appt that day.
And I also ordered and downloaded Natural Cycles so that I can not only be tracking my period symptoms, but know when I am fertile and not so that once we are married and ready to start a family I can more easily track and know when the best times to conceive will be. (I also use the My Flo app so I don't have to constantly open the Woman Code book each day. The app let's you know what phase you are in, as we all go through 4 phases a month, and also tells you the foods and activities to eat and do to support yourself and your cycle. It's amaze!)
I don't know why: for some reason, the thought of being off birth control terrified me. And for no reason: I'm going to be married in a few months, protection is our friend, and the pay off could be so great. But I felt like by removing my IUD I was all of a sudden being incredibly irresponsible. It's fun how society shames us if we are NOT on birth control, and yet our government is constantly in turmoil trying to take it away when a particular party comes into "power." We can unpack that another time.
Regardless of how nervous or "irresponsible" I felt, I couldn't handle another month of the spotting and cramps and confusion.
Just like that.
Painless, at first, then I had some really gnarly cramps. A little spotting. Two days later a little more spotting.
THAT WAS IT.
LET ME TYPE THAT AGAIN AND BIGGER:
THAT WAS IT!
That means there was nothing "wrong" with me! I was having the "foreign body response" my acupuncturist felt strongly about!!
Now, I take my temperature every morning. I don't have ANY symptoms to track when I am NOT on my period, so I use the MyFlo app simply to make sure I am eating the proper foods to support my cycle, and the last cycle I just had...
It lasted 7 days. SEVEN DAYS. And I had ZERO cramps!
Moral of the story: we can ALWAYS take our health back into our hands. It took me a long time, a lot of different methods: but it turns out trusting my body, taking herbs and seeing an acupuncturist, and NOT being on birth control was all I needed to create a harmonious relationship with my period, and ultimately with myself.
So if you're struggling with your cycle, and your relationship with yourself: know you're not alone!! Every woman has her own story with her cycle, and for most of us...it's complicated. I hope that we can continue to break down the stigma around our cycles, share our experiences openly, and all make our way towards being in a healthy relationship with our cycles, and thus with ourselves.