I had visions of sharing this blog post with a triumphant, encouraging, Hollywood story plot unfolding. When I started being thrown into the challenges of balancing my stubborn hormones, I knew I was not alone and that my experience would one day be worth sharing. As time has passed by, that authentic, real voice in the back of my head has nagged- don’t you always say that wellness is a journey, not a destination? How can you honestly believe that, but be too afraid to share your journey while it’s still messy raw and unresolved?
Over time, I’ve realized that I am far from alone. As I have become more open about discussing my female challenges, I am discovering that more often than not, my friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers can completely relate. It saddens me how much harm we are doing to ourselves by giving into the fear and discomfort of sharing our stories. By opening up with the women in our lives we can build community, share advice and solutions and help chip away at societal female shame.
Today I am telling my story of having a difficult time coming off birth control after a decade of being on the pill with no break. I hope that all I’ve learned this year can help others who are either in the same boat, want to prepare for this possibility or simply be able to empathize with a friend, sister, daughter or fellow female human who’s going through this all too common challenge.
Okay, now let’s get to it….
One year ago, this week, I tossed out my hormonal birth control, sat back and waited for a magical flip to switch in my body. Surely an alarm would sound and all the little systems would work together to bring back the natural rhythm of the female cycle in no time… My OBGYN had assured me (without discussing alternative possibilities) that in no more than 2 months I would be back to a normal, healthy cycle. Those months flew by and before I knew it my world flipped upside down and everything I thought I knew was suddenly in question. Bouncing between experiencing amenorrhea (absence of a period) and oligomenorrhea (irregular periods with abnormally lengthy cycles) was confusing and still continues a year later.
I didnt understand how it was possible that with nothing diagnostically wrong with me, my body could be so mysteriously out of whack. I had never even considered this could be an issue while I was on synthetic hormones the majority of my adult female life. Overwhelming feelings of shame, confusion, frustration, resentment, and guilt washed over me day after day. I felt betrayed by a body I no longer recognized as my own. I can now say that I have tried eastern, western, holistic, metaphysical and traditional forms of healing this and want to share what I intuitively feel has helped or hindered.
Being open- sharing my experience with family and friends has helped decrease the shame and let me connect with other women in my life who can empathize and share their own stories.
Finding the right doctor- One year and 3 OBGYNs later, I have now found one who I feel confidently understands how to steer me in the right direction, and also is able to give me the time and respect I know I deserve. Sure it was frustrating to change doctors a few times, but it was worth it for a practitioner who we as women really need to feel comfortable with.
Having a medical advocate- the functional medicine practitioner I have been seeing has become a medical advocate for me. He compiles all of my test results, symptoms, etc. and is able to synthesize, analyze and explain what it all means. Unlike some of my other doctors, he explains how the systems all work together and how supplements, hormones, diet and other factors all interplay.
Finding a balance of alternative/eastern and traditional/western medicine- Incorporating acupuncture, energy work, traditional Chinese medicine and homeopathic remedies in addition to being open to tests and prescriptions from my OBGYN has helped me find a balance that I feel comfortable with.
Therapy/Self-Help- seeing a therapist and reading her recommended metaphysical healing books (such as You Can Heal Your Life) has allowed me to see how my mind/body/spirit are connected and that true healing for any bodily issue has to happen in all 3.
Compartmentalizing my health- focusing solely on the issue in a vacuum at first had limited solutions and didn’t make sense. I also felt like I was putting too much trust/pressure on one person/solution working only with an OBGYN before exploring acupuncture, functional medicine and bringing it up with my therapist.
Having the wrong practitioners- As mentioned, the first 2 OBGYNs who I was seeing were nice people, but I didn’t feel comfortable with their care. I didn’t feel like they were being thorough, responsive or helping me understand the issue. I also have recently switched acupuncturists to one who does a better job explaining TCM to me and I feel more connected to. I think women tend to feel indebted to continue as a client/patient somewhere as a form of loyalty but we have to let that go and take care of ourselves the way we deserve.
Going down the research rabbit hole- Podcasts, webmd, blogs, oh my! I think we’ve all been there for one thing or another. While it can be helpful to see what has worked for other people, obsessing and taking too much time to see what is out there can turn into a bigger stressor and also misdiagnose.
Keeping it a secret- it felt embarrassing and rare to have this issue at first. We are so conditioned to keep anything having to do with female health a secret, but it was causing me to feel lonely and lost.
Obsessing over remedies- I spent a period of this summer with a full court press on remedies, strictly following a number of different guidelines such as eliminating cold foods according to TCM, completely cutting out sugar, alcohol and other foods to balance hormones and sticking to a strict supplement/herb regiment. This is just TOO much and caused me to be stressed, which honestly probably effects hormones even more than those practices may help. Now I have found a balance where I consider these things and incorporate them when possible, but don’t obsess and live my life according to what intuitively feels best.
This is my story and what has worked for me. I am not a doctor or hormone expert, but am so glad to be able to build community around women’s health and help make this topic less taboo. I see a future where it’s something we can holistically understand and better support and advocate for ourselves and the females in our lives.