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kill pill: part four – imagine

Image of Madeleine Ryan courtesy of WE LE MIR

Image of Madeleine Ryan courtesy of WE LE MIR

My sweat patches smell sweeter. My hair is greasier. My orgasms feel deeper. Words are bubbling out. I can’t stop eating tofu. Dogs seem to be barking at me more aggressively. I prefer the scent of the Bulgarian Rose candle to the Almond Milk one, which is very strange. Very strange indeed.

My skin is dewier. My body is indicating a forgotten vividness of sensation that I’m now remembering. When I run I can feel the wind on my skin to an almost frightening degree. I feel guilty for something I can’t explain. My hands and feet are warmer.

I’m happier. The last week has had a dizzying, kaleidoscopic quality, which has left any kind of clarity begrudgingly on the sidelines. ‘Come on! Let me on, coach! Let me on!’

What the hell is happening and, who cares? Should I? Should you? Is sharing my personal experience of this any use to anyone? I’m not a scientist or a doctor. I’m just a woman who has switched on her ovaries for the first time in a decade. What would I know? I handed myself over to the authorities a long time ago: pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, fashion. Ever since I’ve been buying back “sexuality” and “femininity” in pills, perfumes, gluten-free pasta and La Perla. Why did I choose this? Did I have a choice? When and how did I choose it?

Oh, I remember.

It was a school day and my best friend wanted to get an Implanon. If I recall correctly she couldn’t be bothered taking a pill all the time and that was the choice we had: insert a hormonal contraceptive device you don’t understand into your arm or swallow it everyday. Or else.

We went to a windowless clinic in the CBD and sat in the waiting room, feet tapping, school hats in our laps. Actually, we may not have had our school hats. I hope our homeroom tutor isn’t reading this. Anyway, hats or no hats, we were there, we were virgins and we were freaking out. A middle-aged woman with a firm grip and latex gloves smoothed my friend’s left tricep with an alcohol swab, then inserted a small, blue bit of plastic – which apparently glowed in the dark. Cool. That would be a neat party trick at the clubs we hadn’t set foot in yet. My friend winced, there was blood, I couldn’t look away, I didn’t get it done and I called my mum.

I have a record of phoning mum when I’m in the process of talking myself in or out of something that requires: a) warm encouragement, or b) hasty intervention. In this case it was the latter and I’m grateful. Mum believed the pill to be the safer option because, in theory, you can stop taking it or switch pills if you have problems (the whole “switching pills” thing being presented as a liberating array of “choices” is a point of contention for me now, however). But once the Implanon is inserted into your arm, you may have less expenses, but you’ve also got far less control and two years until it “needs” to come out. Unless you have horrific “side effects” before the two years is up (note the language: “side effects” not “effects”, implying any adverse experience you have consuming a medication is not the main dish).

The pill seemed like the best option. Diaphragms seemed old school and “fiddly”. I don’t remember hearing about the NuvaRing. Condoms weren’t enough, The Rhythm Method was unreliable and I don’t recall a discussion about spermicide. Fertility Awareness or a device like Daysy certainly wasn’t on the cards, either. Taking the time to record your bodily changes and temperature each day can simultaneously seem too easy and too time-consuming. However, evidence suggests it to be an ancient and effective method because it alerts you to the few days a month when you’re fertile and allows you to get to know yourself and your body without pharmaceutical intervention.

Because we aren’t “sick”. We may be fertile, but there’s nothing “wrong” with us. There is impatience, inconvenience, shame and secrecy around: discharge, pimples, sweating, fainting, unpredictable moods, acne, migraines, hot flushes, menstruation, pregnancy and cramps. But why are we so quick to hide these with synthetic hormones and Sephora? Why doesn’t our society respect or accommodate for the biological experiences of being a woman?

The choice to stop bodily functions like ovulation and menstruation needs to be a fully informed one. But being informed about this isn’t easy. I’ve seen many specialists over the years and not one of them talked about it. General practitioners. Gastroenterologists. Gynaecologists. Psychologists. Chinese Medicine practitioners. Naturopaths. Homeopaths. Osteopaths. Chiropractors. Myotherapists. Kinesiologists. Personal trainers. Alexander Technique teachers. No one suggested that my difficulties could be a result of taking the pill and no one suggested other options.

The health benefits of ovulating and menstruating are extensive. We forget that the body is more intelligent than any man-made thing. Dr Jerilynn Prior, Endocrinologist and Director of The Centre for Menstrual Cycle Research, led studies that revealed regular, uninterrupted ovulation and menstruation were the ‘key’ to a woman’s heart, bone, fertility and breast health. Lucy H Pearce, author of Amazon Bestseller Moon Time, believes that respecting our cycles can ensure physical, spiritual, mental and emotional wellbeing. She also notes that if you started taking the pill in your teens, your levels of globulin – which binds testosterone and effects libido – is four times lower… forever.

I don’t share this to scare you. I share this with you because no doctor is going to.

I stood in front of the mirror naked and said to my boyfriend that I’m enjoying my body more. I like its appearance more, too. ‘Well, maybe everything negative in your life can just… disappear with the pill,’ he laughed.

Maybe it can.



Disclaimer: Consult your local sexual and reproductive health clinic or GP before going hormonal contraceptive free. The views espoused in this article are that of the author and not Lip Magazine.

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