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Why I Ditched The Pill

Teenage years. The worst or the best? Or the worst of the worst and best of the best?

Your body is changing, your friendships are changing, you have the first important exams of your life, and worst of all, you have no idea what the fuck is going on.


I’ll set the scene. I went to an all girls’ boarding school. I suppose you could say it was a bit like St Trinian’s, except without the fun and whole tonne of mental health problems lumbered on top. I’ve always felt awkward in my body, but that awkwardness was multiplied by about 100,000,000 (what is was costing to put me through my bedlam experience of school, or at least that’s how my parents felt) whilst in my mid teenage years. It’s an awkward time for everyone, and I’m not over using the word ‘awkward’ here. When I was 16 I got my first boyfriend. Woohoo! And no his name wasn’t Mr Kipling nor was it Ben nor Jerry. However this all came crashing down after about three months, but this time it wasn’t my fault. Though this break-up wasn’t my fault, I did lack something, something quite crucial... Fortunately, almost ten years later my ex and I are still good friends, and he’s still more popular than me with our shared interest in the same sex... Enough of teenage heartbreak though. I stumbled my way through school to get ‘passable’ GCSEs on to Sixth Form, miraculously.


What wasn’t miraculous at this time was my painful heavy periods that I was being plagued with every month, or what was actually every 6/2/4/8 weeks because the fucker couldn’t make up it’s mind as to when it was visiting.


Everyone says your first period is to be celebrated, a sign of maturity, a sign of wonderful fertility and womanhood. Well fuck that. No it was awful, embarrassing, moody and bloody. There’s nothing gracious or miraculous about it. Okay, yes I know it’s a sign of a healthy body but to a teenage girl it was a nightmare, bleeding on my bed sheets at school and leaking through my summer school dress. The only time it came in handy was being able to get off swimming during PE classes. Periods made me feel like I had no control over my body.


When I was eighteen I had had enough and I learnt of a miraculous thing that stopped the bloody bastard (pun intended), all the other girls at my school were on ‘The Pill’. So I strolled down to the GP and after a woeful sob story of painful periods I was put on it to help my irregularity, my abnormality, my curse, me.


I felt empowered. I was finally in control of my body. I joined a private members club of girls who took control and became WOMEN. It was very much a right of passage. I was finally a woman. Two months later I was sitting my A-Levels, stressed as hell I fumbled through and managed to bag some decent grades that would see me on to the best university in the world for my subject, History of Art.


My first term on uni was a stressful one. Trying to make friends, juggle a degree and learn to live in a big city when really I’m very much a country gal. My eczema flared up and I found myself in a cycle of bad skin -> bad mood -> bad skin -> bad mood. Just this wasn’t just a ‘bad mood’. I blamed my skin for feeling low and every time I went to the GP to sort it out I had no response other than ‘I’ve seen worse, go home and moisturise’. I would leave the GP in an even worse mood. I went to the GP for help and really all I got was a slap in the face and a guilty feeling I was wasting their time.


My skin got worse and my mood was even more worse. I was bleeding on the sheets every night, this time from my skin rather than my lady garden. I couldn’t sleep my skin was so painful, I couldn’t exercise because sweat would make my skin sting. I couldn’t even shower. So I lay on my bed in my room every day and just waited for the pain to send me to sleep. I barely moved for three months. I lacked the confidence to go out and meet new people. I did make two friends though, Ben and Jerry (I knew they’d be there for me eventually). They were the only two that seemed to not judge my self-wallowing. My wonderful boyfriend of six months put up with everything. The tantrums, the mood swings, the lows, the highs, the affair with Ben and Jerry, the ‘can you rub cream into my back?’. Miraculously he stuck by me and its now been five years. Even more miraculously, this one isn’t gay.


The stress was really starting to get to me. My hair started falling out and my periods stopped completely. I assumed the period stopped because of the pill and my hair falling out due to the stress. Just I didn’t realise I was stressed, because I had nothing to be stressed about. I had friends, I had a lovely boyfriend, I had a wonderful family I saw twice a month and uni was going fine.


So life was perfect, that’s what I kept telling myself when actually deep down I was broken.

I knew I had this deep feeling of misery down inside. I assumed it was my skin, so my mum made me see a dermatologist. Within one week my eczema was cured (down to a miraculous, marvelous, magical, mystical cream).My skin was clear and I could finally sleep well again. So why was I still sad?


Though I loved that my periods stopped I thought I had better see the GP about it. They changed the pill I was on to a different one. A new miraculous, marvelous, magical, mystical pill. However, the mood swings got worse and I told myself I had anxiety. The longest I went without leaving the house was over eight days. I binged on take away and just watched YouTube all day and that’s the only way I managed to get by. I lost all control. I didn’t recognise myself anymore, not just because I put on so much weight from not moving and binging takeaway, but I didn’t recognise the person inside. It sounds cliche but cliches are cliches for a reason. To be honest the whole period is a bit of a blur. I don’t remember much, I seem to have blocked it out. I don’t remember the happy times or the sad times. It feels like during that period of time, I was whacked in the head with a cricket bat, and I don’t even like cricket.


Anyway, life went on and I was growing more insecure. I changed pill again because I asked my GP if the pill and hormones was contributing to my low mood. Without question he put me straight onto anti-depressants.

‘Okay’ I thought, ‘another miraculous pill that will solve my life problems’, so I left feeling fulfilled. I took them every day and joined another private member’s club, just this one I didn’t want to join and I wasn’t proud of having joined it. It was at this point I started getting panic attacks. I realised what was getting me down, UNIVERSITY!!! Of Course!!! How did I not realise sooner!? I was getting panic attacks at university, so it must be my prestigious university that I don’t deserve to go to, and don’t belong to. So I made my decision, I dropped out and started a new course at the neighbouring University, quite literally about a hundred yards away.


I started my new course with a new pencil case (all good things start with new stationary) and a double lever arch folder in tow. I even have new glasses. So new pencil case, new glasses, new university, new Claire. I AM A MODEL STUDENT AND PERSON. What could possibly go wrong?! I’ve done this before (two years to be precise) so I’m already an expert at this uni business. I am amazing. I am brilliant. I am going to absolutely kick ass. Though my optimism was admirable, this attitude lasted a little less than one week. I really did think new highlighters and a new moleskin notebook would really make the difference this time between dropping out of university and a first class degree, but sadly I was wrong.

Shit was going down though. Whilst new stationary was failing me, I had no clue what I was doing or what was going on. Quite frankly I had more idea of what was going on when I was a teenager. What’s more, I’ve run out of the pill. Damn. I should really just make a trip down to the GP for another green slip that I can trade in for a pack of three pill trays... but I haven’t got the energy and I’m seeing the GP more than anyone else - think I need to find a new friend... Might as well ditch the anti-depressants and beta blockers too while I’m at it. So again, I fumbled through uni take two without the pill, the anti-depressants and beta blockers. The truth is, I was simly too tired to even make the trip to the GP, so I went cold turkey.

The panic attacks were getting worse though, I would get to uni, get to the doors and BAM. Well I haven’t had heart palpitations like this since I saw Colin Firth in that wet shirt scene. Best go home, next time will be better. But alas, this happened again and again and again. These panic attacks got worse and worse. It was eventually suggested by my tutor I take a year out to sort myself out. All I could think was ‘babe, if I take a year out, I ain’t never coming back’.


However I did, I took the following year off and had some therapy over the course of that year. It was the best decision of my life. I was finally a new person, or rather that the old me was back. And no, I didn’t go back to university. It’s taken time (George Harrison is playing in the background “a whole lot of precious time”) to come to terms with the idea I’m not a failure but a success, I’m finally taking control back of my body and mind. I’m making my own way in life now, and that might not be in conventional way but it’s my way, and it’s a fucking awesome way. I couldn’t have done it without my amazing friends, family and boyfriend but I certainly couldn’t have done it without MYSELF.


Now, though it might seem as though I’m blaming the pill for all my problems. I’m not. And I’m not saying that all my problems will go away if I stay away from the pill. And I’m certain that I will face down times in the future, but I’ll face them head on and go in knowing I’m in control and I’m the one with the steering wheel. Perhaps this long winded explanation of why I don’t personally like the pill is actually more an explanation of that loathsome term ‘self love’,


As annoying as that term is. It’s actually pretty damn bloody important. Don’t change yourself for other people. Stop scrolling through Instagram and thinking you should look a certain way, because you shouldn’t look any way other than yourself. You are you, and you should be proud of yourself. This is your life and your body, no one else’s. Nevermind what next door thinks or what that person you went to school with a decade ago thinks. Without being too cheesey and too cliche, It doesn’t matter one bit what anyone else thinks, let them be them and let you be yourself. It’s actually remarkably simple. Not miraculous, nor marvelous, nor magical and definitely not mystical. Finally I’m a member of a new club, and this one I like. This club is called the ‘Celebrate Your Body Club’, rather than ‘Berate Your Body Club’.


It’s been two years now exactly since I came off the pill and I’ve just had my second period. HOORAY. Did I ever think I’d celebrate my period, the cramps, the hanger? Not for a moment, but now I greet her like an old friend. Yes, she can be annoying and inconvenient at times, but she is a celebration of my womanhood, my humanity, my normality and all the other alities... but she’s also there to remind me ‘you’re doing alright, you’re only human but you got this’.


CLAIRE GRAHAM