People use the phrase “life changing” all the time to describe products or practices, but the only thing that I’ve experienced that was truly life changing was going from taking birth control pills—placebo pills and all—to skipping the iron pills and using the hormone pills continuously. Doing so cuts out the faux periods I got every month.
Not having a period has actually been life changing. Since I was 11 years old I’ve had terrible periods every month without fail. As a teen I would try to go to school despite being in so much pain I could barely sit, let alone walk.
When I got to first period I often would faint or pass out in class. On those days that I made it to class, I always ended up needing to call my mom to come pick me up so I could go home and lay on the couch with a heating pad turned up to high. My cramps were so bad that I didn’t even notice when I gave myself first degree burns on my legs and belly.
I started taking birth control pills as one of the only options offered by medicine to reduce the severity of my cramps and blood loss. The birth control pills helped a little. I was able to plan when I got my period and my pain was a bit more controllable.
However, when I got to college, I started getting menstrual migraines. My horrible periods got even worse. I didn’t realize that could happen. Instead of a day a month when I would be out, I now had to contend with possibly losing two or three days.
I tried to schedule class and work around my period although it was always a struggle. I had to ask to work from home a day or two a month when I got my first full time job. The men in my work place didn’t understand why I “got” to work from home when they didn’t.
And honestly, I would take my anti-inflammatories, get under my heating blanket and nap most of the day. Then I would make up my work at night or on the weekend. I didn’t really have another option.
My periods always made my chronic back pain worse. Everything hurt. It was like having the flu, I would even vomit in pain at times.
And most people didn’t understand why I was so debilitated by my period. After all, all women have periods. Most women do everything including exercise on their periods. It was almost anti-feminist to some to tell them I had to be at home and resting when I got my period. Some women told me they got cramps too. I just nodded. What can I do if people refuse to understand?
Learning about a different way to live
When I started my PhD program and I went in for my annual exam at the student clinic for the first time, I requested the birth control pills and pain killers I was on.
The nurse asked, “Have you ever tried using birth control continuously? Your periods sound awful. You shouldn’t have to deal with that every month.”
I looked at her in slight confusion and replied, “I didn’t know that was an option. That’s an option?”
She responded, “Of course! There is very little need to take the placebo pills unless you want to get a period every month.”
I laughed out loud. Why on earth would I want that?
She concluded, “Let’s try it then. If you don’t like it you can just take the placebo pills again. I’ll put a note on here for your insurance. Good luck! There’s no reason why you should suffer so much every month.”
That simple visit actually did change my life. Those words were magic in themselves. I wanted to cry that someone got it.
The first month that I skipped my period I was able to move right along in my life. I didn’t have to worry about scheduling and how I’d feel the week of. I didn’t worry about migraines, cramps that lasted for days, or having to miss meetings or class. I didn’t worry about missing time to work on my assignments. I didn’t spend a day or two lying in bed trying to sleep away the pain and watching Netflix when I couldn’t. I was no longer at the mercy of my menstrual cycle.
That was three years, and I am so so grateful to that nurse. She changed my life and gave me back days, weeks, and months of my life. I now have the freedom to work, go to class, or do anything I want without worrying about having to take time out from my life to be in that specific kind of pain.