Despite the picture, no, I’m not pregnant. But damn, I’m so bloated that I look and feel like I am. My whole abdominal region is giving me a shit-kicking right now. My head hurts and my mood has been crap the last several days. I would like to reach into my bloated belly, pull out my ovaries, and flush them down the toilet. My hormones hate me, and I hate them right back.
Not off to a good start
The female hormonal cycle and I have never been friends. I started taking birth control around age 20, which was pretty good at minimizing the mood dips and the crampy-bloaty bullshit. I was on it pretty much continuously until 2015, when I realized just before I was about to leave on a trip that the doctor had forgotten to write refills on the birth control prescription. I decided that maybe it was worth giving my body an extended break from the hormones. My body wasn’t thrilled with it, but I decided to soldier on.
Depression and hormones don’t mix
Then in 2016 I had a relapse of my depression. I guess my serotonin and estrogen started doing the funky chicken, because things got a little crazy. I was getting my period every three weeks, and it would last about a week and a half each time. My mood would plummet right before my period, and my whole body would rebel on me. And despite the regularity of this happening, each time I would try to identify other potential causes for how I was feeling, and then it would hit me like a shit-ton of bricks that there was an obvious explanation.
Bring on the birth control
The prospect of having my period literally half the time was completely unappealing, so I decided to screw this hormone break bullshit. Bring on the birth control! My doctor suggested taking 4 packs of active pills in a row and having a period every 3 months. My body is quite content with that situation, except for that 1 week off to have a period. It’s like I’m in hormone withdrawal, the boat is leaking, and my belly is doing an SOS dance. The SS My Hormones Hate Me ship chugs into port tomorrow, and it can’t come soon enough.
So why on earth is something as natural as the female menstrual cycle such a monstrous pain in the ass? I wish I knew. I’ve never been formally diagnosed with any sort of premenstrual disorder, but Dr. Wikipedia tells us that up to 80% of women experience symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, with 20-30% meeting the full criteria for PMS diagnosis. 3-8% of women experience premenstrual dysphoric disorder, which involves mood symptoms that occur in a regular pattern related to the menstrual cycle. Then there’s dysmenorrhea (painful periods) that affects 20-90% of women. I think about this from an evolutionary standpoint and wonder why on earth the menstrual cycle isn’t a well-oiled machine by now.
The upside is that I’m not among the large group of women who can’t tolerate birth control pills. I’ve been on my current type of pill (Min-Ovral) since my early 20’s and have never had any side effects from it. At this point, I’m thinking I’m going to stay on them until I reach menopause, then hop right on over to hormone replacement therapy. Cancer risk, shmancer risk. I already want to crawl into a hole and die for one week every 3 months; that’s about all I can handle. Even my naturopath agrees my body is telling me this is what it wants.
So yeah, my hormones hate me. And that’s my rant for today.