Ladies (and gents if you’re reading) I keep coming across stories of period problems, acne and the pill so I thought it was time to share my perspective on the contraceptive…
I started taking the pill when I was 16. It was for medical reasons, I had acne and irregular periods, although I remember feeling mature and grown up when my doctor suggested it to me. I had tried everything for my skin; creams, facewashes, roaccutane, toothpaste (what?) I would carry home buckets of seawater from the beach convinced washing my face in it would help — but nothing did. When I heard about the benefits of the pill (clear skin) I had no doubts or questions it was the answer.
I was on the pill for eight years and during that time my skin was clear, I had control over when I had my period and was fortunate enough not to carry any extra weight, it seemed to fit me well and so I relied on it.
For me, it was just as important as drinking water, eating, breathing. I remember going on a weekend trip to Berlin and I lost my pills at the airport. Three days without taking the pill — what monster would unleash itself in the next few days? That was my trip, ruined.
It was three years ago that my sister sent me an article which spoke about some horrific side effects of some contraceptive pills, including the one I was taking. I was reading about depression and anxiety and in some rare cases, death. I had been warned of these side effects but had never thought they might actually happen, especially not to me. My doctor had told me that eventually, the pill would regulate my cycle thus clearing my skin, and so I thought O.K eight years on it should have done the job and I decided to stop taking it.
Within two months of coming off the pill, my face and back were covered in acne and I hadn’t had a period. You don’t need to hear it from me that having bad skin sucks, it knocks your confidence and makes it hard to do normal things, actually no, it makes it hard to do anything. I hated going out, I hated showing my face and no amount of make-up or support from friends was making me feel better. Along with the new bout of acne came a loss of self. I was so disconnected from my body after coming off the pill I didn’t understand what was happening. I suffered mood swings and panic attacks and blamed myself for not being rational enough in situations, not reacting normally when things went wrong. I was stressed all the time and I could feel friendships being strained and the relationship with my boyfriend slipping away. I had two choices; go back on the pill or find another treatment.
It is at this point that I want to offer the only piece of advice in this post: educate yourself. Read books, or blogs, listen to podcasts, watch documentaries and talk to other women. It wasn’t until I spoke to another actor I met on set that I realised she was going through the same trauma as me — and it is traumatic. We exchanged stories, felt the comfort only empathy can offer and helped each other. She spoke to me about hormones, I was 23 and only just discovering how my body works, why I need a healthy period and how the pill stops that happening.
Enter Lara Briden, my Fairy Godmother, introduced to me by my actual Mother (who is not a Fairy but is a Goddess). Lara Briden is a naturopathic doctor, a hormone specialist, a badass woman and is fighting for healthier periods. I had a half hour consultation with her and came out of it with a magnesium and zinc prescription and a six month diet plan (not wheat, dairy or sugar). I had regular periods and clear skin in three months. Two years on and I’m still going strong. I've eased up on the diet but I’m still in control. If I ever notice my skin breaking out I just cut back on the sugar and dairy and everything settles down.
This is not an anti-pill post. I respect all women’s choices — but it should be just that — a choice. A 16 year old should not have to feel like the pill is her only way out, no woman should have to feel this. If it is suggested to someone so young, then they should not only be told of emotional and physical side effects, but of hormonal ones too.
The pill prevents the hormones in a woman’s body from functioning and takes away her natural ability to have a period. As we carry on supporting a woman’s right to love her body, let’s not only celebrate physical beauty but hormonal beauty too.