Periods, The Pill, & Other Things My Boyfriend is Tired of Talking About

I know there’s nothing the internet loves more than an unapologetic fat woman discussing her menses, so let’s roll!

For real though, as mentioned in almost every blog post so far (or at least in every other conversation I’ve had this week), periods are a bitch. A big ol’ raging bitch who wants to punch you in your lady bits and your back and your legs and hey, maybe your stomach, too. Want some nausea? Or maybe some diarrhea? Hell, let’s throw in a headache for good measure. Okay, now let’s do one last check to make sure your innards feel like something is furiously gnawing on them. OH AND I ALMOST FORGOT, YOU’RE REALLY BLOATED LOL. Good luck finding any clothes that fit this week, not that you’ll need them thanks to that hot bath you’ll keep retreating to. It won’t really do much, but that’s how every “remedy” seems to work during this magical time. Advil & Midol might as well be placebo pills. Heating pads are the equivalent of someone gently patting you and saying “there, there.” Nice gesture, but wholly ineffective.

And then there’s the blood. OH, THE BLOOD. I feel like referencing Carrie is so overdone, but still applicable. You’re either waking up multiple times a night to go to the bathroom & empty a few buckets of blood, or you’re sleeping through the night & then doing this really charming penguin waddle as you race to the toilet in the morning. Spoiler alert? You rarely get there in time. If you slept all night without taking care of business, you will most likely have an accident. Hope you weren’t wearing cute panties! (But WHY WOULD YOU BE WEARING CUTE PANTIES?!) I keep a special selection of, erm, “tie-dyed” granny panties just for this time of the month. They are hideous. They will get more hideous over time. My crotch will never know the freaking difference.

As mentioned before, these god-awful periods are why I’ve taken birth control pretty consistently for the past decade. Human beings are typically expected to be functional, but Stephanie on Her Period is capable of very little other than bleeding and cramping and trying not to feel like death. I’m obviously being a little hyperbolic, but uhh, not much. Ask those who’ve had the pleasure of being around me during that special time when I’m not on the pill. I get pale. I get weak. I get terribly freaking sick. It’s the pits. THE PITS, dude.

So anyways, birth control. Suppresses ovulation, you get a nice little pseudo period, no more cramps, no more heavy bleeding. Bada bing, bada boom, you’re good to go. Right?

Uh, nah. In my last post, I said:

There are times when I feel a little more…uneven than usual, but so far, no major problems. Sometimes I do feel like I have to choose between my mental and physical health with birth control which isn’t fair, but it’s also not necessarily the truth. So far, I’ve been treating one aspect of my PCOS – painful periods. But what if I made a concerted effort to treat my PCOS in its entirety instead of just one symptom of it?

Let’s start with the first part. I have felt like I’m torn between mental or physical health, and especially so in recent weeks. It’s weird – I do great on most forms of birth control for a few months, but then I start to realize The Change. Sometimes it’s Jekyll/Hyde kinda shit, and sometimes it’s realizing you’re crying in a parking lot because you accidentally ordered fries instead of Greek potatoes with your gyro. I’m an emotional, sensitive person. I’m a crier. But even I’m not THAT much of a crier. It was a good day! I was in a great mood! So why the everloving fuck was I crying over steak fries?!

Birth control, man. It’s fabulous for some women & I am openly envious of them. It’s wonderful for my periods. But for my mind, my emotions…it’s pure hell. And sometimes the change is so subtle that you can barely distinguish the side effect of the pill versus a normal mood change or “rough patch” for you, at least initially. But over time, for me at least, it’s easy to tell when things aren’t right. Like when I’m crying over steak fries. Or not wanting to touch Dustin with a 10-foot pole. Or being afraid to leave the house ever, even when I really want to. I get irrationally sad and scared and angry on birth control. My sex drive withers up & dies. (Sorry, boo!) I don’t find humor in the little things anymore. I don’t find humor in much anymore. It’s super scary, honestly. Super scary to realize that you’re not yourself and you now have to parse all of that. But I’ve been suppressing my hormones with synthetic hormones. That affects way more than just “that time of the month”. It affects every single moment of the month. And for me, the negatives heavily outweigh the positives when I look at it all objectively. (When I’m in the middle of my period, I’d probably agree to never have sex or leave the house ever again if it meant the pain would go away. Sorry again, boo.)

I also have the super fun side effect of artificial, neverending hunger when I’m on the pill. It’s one of the reasons I quit taking it before, and yet another reason why I’m done for good this time. I’m overweight (okay, fine, OBESE), and excess weight increases allllll of the nasty PCOS symptoms that I’m trying to fight. The pill makes me ravenously hungry 24/7, and I genuinely never feel full. Ever. Since I’m fat, some people would undoubtedly just attribute that to my diet & my desire to eat, but I was fat before restarting birth control last time and I NEVER felt hunger like this. It’s horrible. There are times when I genuinely don’t want to eat, but I feel super hungry & like I have to eat. Dustin is a big dude (how many times can I apologize to you in one post?!) and I could out-eat him literally any day of the week. It’s insane. There are times when I’ll finish my meal and then eat his leftovers, too. And then dessert.

I need to lose weight to treat my PCOS, but the pill makes it really difficult for me to lose weight. But I’m to the point where I believe that significant weight loss (among other things) would have a more positive effect on my body & my symptoms than the pill ever could. See, the pill is usually prescribed as the first line of defense for PCOS, but I think it’s important for people to know that it doesn’t actually cure anything–it just helps manage some of the symptoms. Like many treatments, it acts as a bandaid: it may alleviate some of your symptoms, but it doesn’t cure the root cause of your problems. When you go off of birth control, your symptoms come back.

You often hear that PCOS isn’t curable, but it’s treatable. And I think that’s important to consider, too. For some women, birth control is a godsend. It’s an effective form of treatment for them. I know it was for me for many years, back when it worked effectively and didn’t negatively impact me mentally & emotionally. I’m in no way trying to downplay the effectiveness or the worthiness of birth control as a treatment option for PCOS, because so many women have had great experiences with it. But as someone who had to go through hell to realize that it wasn’t a great option for me personally, all I can do is recount my own experiences. (And lord knows I’m not a medical professional, so please don’t take any of my words as advice. It’s just my rambling ass story, nothing more.)

PCOS can be difficult to even treat successfully because the causes and symptoms vary so widely from person to person. For instance, I’ve spent most of this post bitching about my period, but there are many women with PCOS who never even get theirs. They’d probably love to have my period problems instead of wondering where theirs went. And although it’s called polycystic ovarian syndrome, you technically don’t even have to possess ovarian cysts to have the syndrome. Confusing, right? So it’s tough for doctors to prescribe a cure-all (or, uh, treat-all) for PCOS when it’s an entirely different thing for each person who has it. For years I’ve lamented the fact that I’m insulin resistant (while simultaneously ignoring said fact with my poor diet), but I’m finally getting to the point where I realize that it’s a blessing in disguise. I don’t like being insulin resistant, but I’m honestly lucky to know that I am. So many women with PCOS would love to know some of the underlying causes of their problems, but they don’t. I do. I know that insulin resistance plays a major role in my version of PCOS, so I know I need to start treating that directly. There isn’t that much literature on how to effectively treat PCOS yet. There’s a ton of information on how to address insulin resistance. And in doing so, I’ll also be addressing my PCOS in the process.

It’s taken me years to get to this point, though. For so long, I was happy with the “bandaid approach,” if you will. I was content with sacrificing my emotional wellbeing for period relief. I was okay with ignoring the underlying problems associated with my PCOS. But how has that helped me? It hasn’t, at all. So now, I’m taking a much more aggressive, integrated approach to treating my PCOS. It’s a work in progress and will be for the rest of my life, I’m sure.

First up, my supplements:

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Yes, that’s a hell of a lot of supplements (or #expensivepee if you’re a hater, haha). And no, I don’t want to get into why I’m taking each one of them yet because this is already a really lengthy post. But in the future? Definitely!

And yes, I’m the fool who changes all the variables at once instead of gradually adding them in and seeing how I react. I’m not proud of my all-or-nothing mentality, but it is what it is. I knew if I didn’t start everything now, I wouldn’t get around to trying them all. It’s dumb, I’m dumb, it’s fine. Think whatever you need to. But I know that I can always weed them out one-by-one in the future if I have any problems and I’m not afraid to do so. But I’ve put a TON of research into common deficiencies for PCOS patients & people with insulin resistance & on & on, so I feel really good about starting here.

I also got a prescription from my gynecologist for generic Lysteda (which is still $52! save us, Bernie Sanders) which is supposed to help with heavy menstrual bleeding. You take 2 pills, 3 times a day during your period for 5 days and it’s supposed to substantially lighten up the bleeding situation. If it works without any major side effects, that would be AMAZING, because then all I’d really need to address is the horrible cramping. From the reviews I’ve read, some women reported that it helped with their cramps, so it would be an absolute freaking GODSEND if that was the case for me. If not, I’ll keep pestering doctors and trying supplements and doing what I can to try & make that one week per month more livable.

And until then, I’ll be content knowing that the other three weeks per month will be so much better because I’ll finally feel like my damn self again.

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