Disclaimer: please remember that I am not a doctor nor have any medical background and advise speaking to your doctor about any changes this article might inspire you to make.
'Stead of makin' me better, you keep makin' me ill,” sang Pink, of a dysfunctional, relationship back in her 2002 hit ‘Just Like A Pill’. Back then, likening a dying relationship to a pill seemed odd to me – after all, aren’t pills supposed to make you feel better? Fast forward to taking a daily dose of Co Cyprindiol for over half a decade, and I can somewhat understand the metaphor.
Co Cyprindiol, also known as Dianette is a contraceptive pill used for the majority, clearing up acne. *Enter 15yr old me, who at this point had already experienced several years of soul-crushing, skin-blotching skin* “Sure!!! I’ll go on the pill,” I said…I had a boyfriend at the time - it’s a win-win I thought. It’s safe to say I was blissfully naive to the numbness that was to creep into my life - from the pill and relationship come to think of it.
I never knew, nor asked about the potential side effects of Co Cyprindiol - I just wanted my spots to go away. And for a while they did. Or they at least seemed to weaken after a couple of years swallowing down a suppressed menstrual cycle and a whole bunch of other feelings I was non-the-wiser of.
I was a bit sad when I was a teenager. But what else can you do - I got on with it. I dipped in and out of seeking professional help but never truly got very far with it as I was always too much of an awkward age. Too old to go to a ‘children’s’ clinic but not old enough to go to an ‘adult’s’. Ticking boxes ’n all. Without any answers, I grew to believe depression was just who I was and thus would be. Never once had it occurred to me that the pill was making me depressed. And why would it?! How the hell was I supposed to know my behaviour wasn't normal when I hadn't yet lived to know anything other - not really - not when you’re at an age still unsure of who the hell you are. I essentially ‘grew into myself’ hooked on a drug that was altering my perception of my own personality - why would it even cross my mind that maybe, depression wasn't normal. When this revelation clicked little under a year ago, it would be an understatement to say it was a relief - I felt like things finally made sense.
Fast forward again, not too long ago, I made a trip to the doctors. My usual GP wasn't available but I asked the locum to write me a prescription for a fresh packet of Co Cyprindiol anyway. He asked how I was doing on it and I answered indifferently. Upon discovering that I’d been on this particular contraceptive for as long as I had, the doctor sounded rather alarmed - explaining that women are only supposed to be on this particular pill short term because it has an excessively high dosage of hormones compared to the other contraceptive pill options. That’s why you won’t ever be prescribed Co Cyprindiol as a contraceptive alone. I only recently discovered that the treatment should be withdrawn completely 3-4 cycles (roughly 3-4 months) after the acne has subsided - which in most cases is after 3 months (lol I wish). So roughly, Co Cyprindiol should be completely withdrawn from use after around 6-7 months.
"Just because I was ‘healthy’ on paper
doesn't mean I wasn't severely increasing my risk of not being."
I made my pact to come off the pill after 6 years in January 2018. My skin was just as bad as it was when I was a teenager, so I didn’t have worry about it going AWOL the minute it caught wind I was no longer ingesting those tiny little sugarcoated shits. I came to this decision through my own deeper research of Co Cyprindiol and how worryingly long I’d been allowed to stay consistently on it without any doctor even suggesting to change to a different form of birth control. I have no idea how much danger I’d put my body in and that’s what frightens me the most. Obviously I had my pill check every 6 months but just because I was ‘healthy’ on paper doesn't mean I wasn't severely increasing my risk of not being.
I’ve been tracking my menstrual cycle via Clue for an entire year, but up until this past January when I decided to come off the pill, has this analysis been a reflection of a natural cycle without artificial hormones and suppressed ovulation. Has been a rekindling to my body and the true magic it provides as a woman each month. For the first time in (what I can remember) my entire life, I can feel that tiny egg being released and travelling to my uterus: MIND-BLOWN. I’m beginning to feel reconnected to myself and truly understand what it feels like to have a body. When you’re on the pill, it’s almost like you’re walking in a shadow of your body - a substance-less reflection of your true self. Upon coming off, I took myself for a lymphatic drainage massage or ‘full body detox’, which included massage and cupping to remove any excess or lingering substance and encouraged my body to get working again. My period has come back - I’m still completing my third cycle of the year but they’ve returned nonetheless. For a lot of women who come off the pill after years and years of being on it, their period doesn't come back for a good year. I definitely believe my detoxification played a role in getting my body’s natural rhythm back on track sooner rather than later.
"I wish for my period because the season’s of the body
crave my springtime once again."
I’m still figuring out my relationship between my au-natural self and my mental health - I mean, I’ve got a lot to learn about myself in general after 6 years of disconnect to my mind, body and soul. But something has definitely shifted. I don’t mean weight wise but it’s almost like a fog has cleared and I can see more clearly for the first time. I now look forward to my period. I see it as a divine time in a woman’s cycle that deserves to be honoured. I wish for my period because the season’s of the body crave my springtime once again. I am continually discovering revelations that fascinate me and I never fail to be surprised at my body’s working mechanism along with being deeply inspired to share more and more insight into my journey of figuring out who I am with this almighty body of mine.
Coming off the pill isn’t for everyone and certainly isn’t always an option for others. I applaud the pill for it’s service to women in need and direct no such judgement to anyone using it. It’s from an extreme place of privilege to have the choice to live pill-free and in general is a tricky subject to navigate without being part of an ideology that tells women what they should be doing with their bodies. I recently read in Vogue Magazine that “one in 10 women and girls aged 14-21 in Britain can’t afford menstrual products” and subsequently have to skip school to avoid bleeding through their uniform. When you can get a free prescription of the contraceptive pill that can be used to control when or if indeed if you bleed at all, it’s no surprise that girls jump at the opportunity to reach out to their doctors. I know I would if I was heartbreakingly, unable to afford sanitary products. And then there are the countries where abortion is still illegal and the risk of becoming pregnant is just too high to come off. When the contraceptive pill came on the market in the 60s, it was the ultimate liberation for women and I believe it still is. But in today’s society of rising consciousness and spiritually-inclined self-improvement obsessives, the pill is gaining some backlash. When I interviewed Vanessa Cuccia, founder of the crystal sex-toy company Chakrubs for The Goddess Issue of Hook Magazine, we spoke a little bit about the shame attached to hormonal birth control and how it’s affecting the way we open ourselves up to sexuality. She said: “everybody needs something different and I think there’s value in medicine and science for some people. It's about acknowledging your needs - on a physical, metaphysical level. I wish I was this person that was extremely connected to myself and just knew when I was ovulating but I'm not there yet. So I think that it's also about not shaming yourself for having these specific needs. I knew in myself that the stress [of not taking birth control] was worse for me than taking birth control.”
“Everybody needs something different.
It's about acknowledging your needs."
- Vanessa Cuccia of Chakrubs
There are a significant number of things to take into consideration when toying with the idea of coming off the pill but being aware of your body’s needs is by far the biggest indictor to which way your decision should swing. Whether you’re currently happily married to the pill or are wanting to ditch the bitch, I’d like to share the importance of doing your own research into the correct and safe consumption of the type of pill you might currently be on. I was given zero knowledge about the dangers of staying on Co Cyprindiol for as long as I was and you too, never know what your doctor is choosing to completely advise you on or not.
I have future pieces scheduled to talk about how to maximise your productivity based off your menstrual cycle (which can only be done pill free) and the looming concern and questioning around contraception for pill-free bodies but for now, my journey off Co Cyrindiol is at the beginning of it’s story. I wouldn't completely dismiss the possibility of using the pill in the future, but for now I’m wildly enjoying discovering the magic of my divine femininity and feeling like I am truly inside of my body.
Here are some pros I've found based off my own experience of ditching the pill:
I can understand the seasons of my body and I experience the natural dips and spikes of Oestrogen, Testosterone and Progesterone.
My mental health has improved.
I have a higher sex drive / sex is less painful.
I have more energy and am less fatigued.
By tracking my natural cycle, I can understand what my body and mind want at particular times of the month and can plan ahead effectively.
It generally just feels great to not be putting an artificial substance in my body every single day.
My period pain (thus far) has been little to none.
Feeling ovulation is actually magical.
My skin is no longer dried out and is actually producing oil.
Recommendations for ALL women regardless of where they are on their contraceptive pill journey:
Download a cycle-tracking app such as Clue - get in touch with your body and the changes that occur within you every single day.
Read Sweetening The Pill by Holly Grigg-Spall - get clued up on what the contraceptive pill actually is and what it’s actually doing to you (thank you for informing me about this book, Rosie).
Familiarise yourself with the work of leading menstruation leaders such as Claire Baker and Lisa Lister.
Consider how you can donate or make a positive change towards period poverty.
Talk to your girlfriends and your boyfriends about the pill and your experiences - there are so many different types of contraceptive pills out there, so much so that more or less all of my friends are all on different ones completely. Open up the conversation and take away the stigma from this very real issue.
Look into the metaphysics of your period pain - if you struggle with extreme period pain and have not been positively diagnosed with Endometriosis or other menstrual disorders, consider what might be emotionally and physically out of whack in your life.
If you are currently taking Co Cyprindiol or other forms of the contraceptive pill and would like to chat to me about your experience of transitioning off the pill or have anymore questions about my experience, I’d love to hear from you. Comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wishing you all happy bleeding,