Goodbye Birth Control: The End of an Era
I struggled with acne all through high school. While I didn’t connect the dots between stress, diet and acne back then, I still think it would’ve been something I suffered from regardless. To make matters worse, I played sports. For three hours, i’d be covered in a film of sweat that likely sent my pores into retaliation mode. Their weapon of choice? Chest acne and bacne (back acne for those of you blessed with perfect skin.) Besides overthrowing my confidence, this war also put me in a lot of uncomfortable situations. I’m talking, sweaters in 80+ degree weather, uncomfortable.
Everyone has their own reasons for going on birth control, but mine had everything to do with sticking it to those little monsters that were constantly taking over my life. I went on and never looked back.
The first time I went off birth control, it was by mistake. Boy, did I pay for it. I had no idea of the side effects and found out the hard way that when you put a bandaid on a bullet wound, it will come back to haunt you. My acne came back with a vengeance and before I knew it, I was back on the pill. I was a slave to birth control, and it had made me its bitch.
It wasn’t until the first time I did a Whole30, when I had to take inventory of everything going into my body, that I realized I was taking daily synthetic hormones with no idea of the long term effects (side note: still have no clue). Truly, I wanted to see if I could go off birth control, balance my hormones naturally and relieve myself of the necessity to take a pill every day. Here’s how that went:
December 22, 2018
Today is the day I take my last pill. It feels really good to Gronk spike my BC pack into the trash with an attitude, even though I had spent the entire month moaning to my friends about how terrified I am. Whatever, I’ll show the pill that I’m better off without it, scorned ex-girlfriend style.
December 28, 2018
If I’m going off birth control because I’m worried about what I’m putting into my body, I need to start worrying about what goes ON my body as well. I sent Ash a text asking if she knows of any good natural cleansers. We’re clearly new to the natural world. Hey, you have to start somewhere.
January 1, 2019
I resolve to begin my year with a Whole30. Besides the fact that I feel great during, I know people have good luck with their skin when their diet is clean. Not to mention, I ate every food group under the sun for the holidays and wouldn’t mind a hard reset.
January 7, 2019
After falling in a google search black hole, I am in a panic. Just as Ash said, I would proceed with caution if you’re looking for answers on the internet.. not sure you’re always going to like what you find. There are a few books on the market that the masses recommend. The Woman Code and Beyond The Pill. Quite frankly, I’m impressed by the amount of people making a killing from creating products specifically meant to help your body adjust after the fact. But no honey, you ain’t getting my money.. I can do this on my own.*
*I could not, in fact, do it on my own.
January 11, 2019
Today Ash told me she’s forced into going off birth control, and while I do feel bad, I am elated that we can be on this journey together. After all, misery loves company. (Read her post BC diary here)
January 15, 2019
Flying out to California to begin the process of moving back home to Boston. Kind of freaked out by the amount of stress I’m putting myself through, and also have no idea how I’m going to manage doing a Whole30 on a road trip. Instead of adding that to the list of things to stress about, I’m just going to give myself a break and do the best I can.*
*I did not, in fact, do the best I could.
January 24, 2019
After almost a week in the car, zero hydration and daily fast food stops, I’m back in Boston. Somehow, my skin is glowing. It feels a little like I cheated death, but I don’t want this sick joke to end.
It’s hard not to drink while being back home. I live in a small town and there’s not much to do so I look forward to food outings and drinking with friends. This, however, does not make for a great diet. I’ve noticed that the 5 lbs. that I used to fluctuate between are now permanent. I feel better blaming it on birth control because my diet isn’t that out of the ordinary.
I am taking a few supplements, including my OG Vital Proteins collagen. I add Zinc and DIM to the mix. Somehow taking away one pill and adding 3 more things to take on the daily feels counterintuitive, but at least these supplements are good for you.
I’m starting to see acne pop up more often now. The things that I used to be able to get away with now affect me. Long makeup wear, dairy, stress = pimples.
This is the first month my period is late.
March 5, 2019
And just like that, my dewy, glowy post-bc skin is now a disaster. WW3 is going down beneath my pores and I want to crawl in a hole and wait for it to be over before I crawl back out. I can’t remember the last time I had more than one zit on my face. I now realize what an ungrateful little brat I’ve been because I didn’t thank the skin gods for every day they blessed me with spot-free skin. I’m not much of a selfie taker, but today is the day I wish I took more selfies, only so I could put on Sarah McLachlan’s ‘I Will Remember You’ and swipe through pictures of my cherub smooth skin.
March 7, 2019
It feels like zits the size of golf balls are inhabiting my face. I keep having to look in the mirror to remind myself that it’s not as bad as it feels. I can’t even wash my face without wincing in pain — what the fluff.
Cramps now accompany my period and I AM NOT A FAN.
March 9, 2019
I become one of those people that leave the house with a white head. I mentally go back in time and apologize for ever judging those poor humans. All they were trying to do was live their life. While I hate to be the one subjecting people to look at it, GIVE ME A BREAK! I am trying not to scar my face so that my ego has a fighting chance at life after this misery.
March 21, 2019
After battling back and forth with these demons, I finally get my face under control. The thing about hormonal acne is that it comes on strong and hard, and even when it has already done the worst damage, it leaves a lasting mark. I still have spots left over from zits that went away over a month ago, not to mention a makeshift beard of redness. Luckily, it’s nothing a little makeup can’t fix, but I hope one day I won’t need to rely on makeup to leave the house.
April 2, 2019
OMFG - If I have to deal with acne AND going bald, I’m going to lose it. Ash texted me to check to see if I had noticed any hair loss? Well, yeah, actually.. now that you mention it, I have noticed that my already thin hair looks more thin. My little baby hairs seemed to have disappeared, not strong enough to withhold the nutrient sucking monster that is my body post birth control.
Something tells me that after my hormones are balanced out, I will need therapy.
April 3, 2019
I read somewhere that DIM makes your hair fall out. Instead of considering that the hair loss could be due to my body being out of whack, it’s easier for my brain to blame it on the supplement. Not to mention, it’s extremely dehydrating. I would need to triple my water intake in order to feel normal in my day to day. I already suffer from migraines, so it doesn’t seem worth it to me to be bald and have a headache 24/7. I stop taking it.
April 11, 2019
I have a flashback to when I was in middle school and had to drink a full glass of milk at the breakfast table before I could go upstairs and get ready. I haven’t had regular cows milk in over 3 years and this little image of my younger self choking down a glass makes my stomach turn. It’s the LA basic bitch in me to only drink milk made out of nuts, oats, or preserved beetle dung. As long as it’s not cows milk, I’m told that I’m good.
April 16, 2019
I am now 2 weeks late for my period. Pretty sure it’s gone. I still experience the acne that comes along with the period, which feels a bit unfair. My acne seems to be showing up more often, and my hair has stayed the same. I am going to go back on DIM to see if it will bring my period back. Ashley claims that prenatal vitamins may be the cure for hangovers and I consider how weird it would be to go on a prenatal vitamin with no plans to prep for a baby in sight.
April 22, 2019
Instead of saying I’m 20+ days late, I think it’s safe to say I skipped my period. Sure, it’s great to have a month off, but it’d be better if I had a say in the vacation time. It’s not very comforting knowing I don’t have it because my hormones are THAT out of whack. I read that slathering castor oil all over your stomach, setting it with a heating pad and praying to your uterus helps bring it back, so I search castor oil on amazon. I don’t buy it, but save it in my cart for a later date.
5 month reflection
Honestly, it feels good to be 5 months in. I say this only because I read that it takes roughly 8 to 9 months for your body to readjust. Knowing that I am more than halfway through an imaginary timeline just gives me a sense of ease. Not sure if you’ve noticed, but I am that irrational person that grabs at whatever she needs to calm her worries.
I have a lot of respect for my body these days. While I’m a little rounder around the edges than I’m used to being, I still find reasons to love myself. It’s important to me to not let these external factors define me. I leave the house with no makeup on and don’t care what people may be thinking. First of all, my skin has to breathe, people. Second of all, no one is thinking anything because (hopefully) they have other things to worry about. I avoid restrictive eating because I’d rather live than punish my body for holding on to 5 extra lbs. I listen to the things my body is telling me. Right now, not having my period means my body is still working through ALMOST A DECADE of a routine that I stopped cold turkey.
If you’re thinking about getting off birth control, my advice would be to do your research. Everyone has a different story, and while it’s okay to read about them and learn more about what people are going through, your experience is going to be unique. This is my second time trying to go off birth control, and even for the same person, it’s totally different. Talk to your doctor and create a game plan instead of diving headfirst into the post-bc abyss (like I did).
The greatest side effect of going off birth control has been the exponential growth in my self love. While going through these experiences hasn’t exactly been easy, it could be a lot worse. The things my body does for me on a daily basis is nothing short of a miracle, whether it’s making it out of a hangover alive or simply going for a walk. Acne and hair loss SUCKS but it’s a problem that so many people would kill for, if they were able to choose between their troubles or mine. Perspective, girlfriend. xx - Marissa
PS: make sure to read Ashley’s Post BC Diary Here
April 25, 2019
Freakin’ hallelujah I GOT MY PERIOD! I’ve never been so excited by that time of the month before, but didn’t realize how horrible it felt to not have it. Hopefully from here on out we’ll be back on track, but just grateful that my body seems to be coming back around.
April 26, 2019
Ashley and I have started to feel a bit like drug dealers. Many times, our conversations start off by talking about the latest and greatest we’ve seen on the interwebs. We talk about where to get the hook up, what we might expect.. it’s an operation and we’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done.
April 29, 2019
I think today is a day that will go down in my memory bank as the first day of my post-bc life. I’m not positive if I’m just experiencing heightened emotions because I have regular human hormones again or if I’m just losing it. What do they call it? A mood swing? Good lord, get me off this GD swing, will you?! We all have our go-to taming practices. Mine happen to be some delicious food and a gratitude list - well, a burger and fries deep and about 20 items down on my list and IT’S NOT WORKING.
May 2, 2019
After watching Game of Thrones, it dawns on me that periods are like the Night King. When it’s time, they lift their arms, signaling to the dormant hormonal acne to wake the eff up and wreak absolute savagery on your face. If you don’t burn the MF to a fiery death, they only get smaller in size and come back to haunt you on the next round.
You know it’s bad when you equate war scenes in a TV show to your period..
May 5, 2019
Looking at my reflection in the morning can be a hit or miss. I am not a morning person in general, and my reflection seems to agree sometimes. This AM, however, something happened. Somehow I’ve lost 5 lbs. in two days. While packing for London, I try on things that I’m sure don’t fit right… and they fit!!! I unbutton and button a pair of jeans, that I lovingly describe as human sausage casing, over and over again in disbelief. I ascribe this surprise weight loss to positive self talk and chalk it up as a very big win.
May 8, 2019
A few days ago, I took the leap into natural deodorant land. Ashley had great reviews about the Native brand, but homegirl wasn’t about to shell out $12 for something that may not work for me. I ended up trying the new Dove’s natural stick. I put it on for the first time today and OMG I smell like a GD vacation. I genuinely ask my guy to smell my armpits, unashamed. This change was risky, especially with hormones being out of whack, but I have never been so excited by deodorant. It’s the simple things on this journey, I’m telling ya.. embrace ‘em.
May 12, 2019
Since arriving to London, I go through a high stress Airbnb situation, eat all the carbs and suffer from a severe lack of sleep. My skin is glowing. Seriously, how are we ever supposed to get the hang of this ebb and flow?
May 18, 2019
Ashley and I come up with an appropriate hashtag: #RIPBCBOOBS. Unfortunately, our experiences are quite different.
May 28, 2019
I never thought I’d be upset about a 3-day period, but there’s something disconcerting about your body not functioning in the way it’s meant to. Although, now with no form of birth control, a missed period holds a lot more weight… so I am grateful nonetheless.
June 2, 2019
I didn’t end up packing my OG Vital Proteins powder for London. I had a few of the single packs to last me through the first few days, but when they ran out, I decided against paying exorbitant international shipping fees and ordering a new tub. BOY, WAS THAT A MISTAKE. By this time, it’s been about a month or so since I’ve stopped taking my daily scoop of collagen. You know that filter that makes you into an 80 year old version of yourself? I don’t mean to be dramatic, but damn… looking in the mirror feels a lot like that. For those of you in doubt about the effects of collagen, I can confirm that the difference you will see when you go off of it is astounding. I order a different brand with good reviews and wait by the door for two days.
June 5, 2019
Bloating will be the bane of my existence. At this point, it’s only the week after my period that I can see any semblance of bone structure in my face and other than that, everything is puffy. Aside from Motrin, I need to look into ways to help with bloating, because it is not a fun feeling.
7 month reflection
The bad news is, with or without acne, time still flies by. In the moment, breakouts can seem like they halt time in its tracks, but on the other side, you realize you were just wishing precious time away. 7 months in and my handle on my acne is a tiny bit better. Breakouts are less frequent and seem to show up a week or two after my period. The time in between that, my face is decently clear, aside from the hormonal acne scars that now riddle my face with small red spots.
Since I’m in a different climate in London, I’ve been having a few other skin issues so it’s hard to tell what that is from exactly. I’m happy to report that my collagen arrived safe and sound. As soon as I started taking it, I also started a nightly routine of having a turmeric latte. About a week later, I broke out along my chin. This is frustrating because I’m not sure if this is because of where I am in my cycle, a new collagen or the lattes.
My only option at this point is trial and error mixed with time. My hair has been surviving. I feel better about being on the collagen for that and skin purposes.
Balanced hormones seem like a faraway dream. With the 9 month mark in sight, it feels a little too good to be true that my body will be settled by then. It’s time to evoke the power of positive thinking into this situation. Expect some good news on the next update. xx Marissa