The summer before my freshman year of college my mom took me to my doctor to get on birth control.
I was almost 17 but still seeing a pediatrician because my mother was and still is in denial about the fact that I’m a sexual being. She never discussed sex with me, or ever acknowledged that I should go to the gynecologist.
For her, getting me on birth control was more of the natural next step, not a precaution against pregnancy.
I’ll never forget when my doctor asked my mom to step out of the room so she could ask me some personal questions. Like, you know, had I ever had sex before. The answer was yes. I lost my virginity when I was 16 and had been pretty sexually active since. Given that I grew up in the age of shows like “16 & Pregnant,” I knew to always use a condom, and I did.
Getting on the pill was more of a symbol.
I was a woman. I could have unprotected sex if I wanted because I was on the pill. That never happened, though. I was and am still a germaphobe, so no glove no love.
When I left for school I had been on birth control for 2 months and was loving it. Lighter flow, my period used to be like shark week 3-5 days each month, and little to no cramps. The biggest plus was my acne started to subside, which was a big deal for me because I’d suffered with it ever since puberty.
All in all, it was going well.
A few weeks into the semester though, I began experiencing excruciating headaches. These headaches became migraines. And they went from being sporadic to almost constant. I was popping ibuprofen like skittles, and dreaded when the medication would wear off because I’d get that searing pain again.
I went to my school’s health center, which was a joke, and they attributed the migraines to stress. During my appointment, I told them I had begun taking birth control, but that wasn’t deemed important information.
I ended up having extreme migraines almost every day for the next few months. There were times that they were so bad I’d skip class and just lay in bed crying until they went away.
It wasn’t until I went home for winter break and made my mom make me an emergency appointment that I found out what the real problem was.
It was my birth control. Specifically, it was Yaz.
You may not know what Yaz is or maybe you forgot about it. But at one time, it was the most popular birth control on the market.
My doctor specifically put me on it because its lack of side effects, which seems like a tragic joke in hindsight.
When my doctor realized the timing of my migraines coincided with me starting birth control, she became very concerned and told me to stop taking them immediately.
“Shouldn’t I finish my current pack?” I asked.
Her response was, “Absolutely not.”
She told me there was a possibility I could have a blood clot or something more serious could occur if I didn’t stop taking the pills.
I was traumatized.
My doctor recommended me getting off birth control for the next 4-6 months, and then coming back in to make sure the migraines and any other symptoms went away.
I thought the fuck not.
At my next appointment when I was given a clean bill of health and told I could get back on birth control, I vehemently objected. Although my doctor mentioned the positive effects I received from the pill: lighter flow, less acne, no cramps. I still refused.
As she couldn’t make me get on the pill, she dropped it and gave me some free condoms.
From then on during my yearly physicals, I would be asked if I wanted to get back on birth control and I said no.
I was scarred.
I was probably experiencing mild anxiety which I wouldn’t be diagnosed with for another 5 years. But I couldn’t stop googling all the terrible things that can come from hormonal birth control.
No, thank you.
Because I refused to get on birth control, I was extra careful about using protection during sex. This would prove to be a turn-off to many of my male suitors in college, who complained it didn’t feel as good without one. I told them it wouldn’t feel good when I was knocked up at 19 and asking them to babysit our child. They’d oblige.
Having to have the conversation about condoms with my partners also gave me more confidence and a voice during my sexual encounters. Which I learned not many of my friends felt like they had. I was sexually independent and didn’t let men convince me to do anything I didn’t want to.
I would stare at them deadpan when they’d whine about condoms not allowing them to cum.
And they couldn’t coerce me by saying the pill was effective so they didn’t need the condom anyway.
It’s now been 6 years and I’m still not on birth control. Other than one slip up where I needed to get plan b the next day. I’ve never had any issues with protection. My acne cleared up once I stopped eating like shit and drank more water.
But my cramps and flow are still as heavy and painful as ever.
I’ll take these symptoms any day, than to live with the fear, no matter how irrational. That any little pain or a headache I get in the future is because of my birth control.