To Pill or Not To Pill?

By Taren Silvia Bernardini

I believe to share one’s story could be one of the most important objectives to carry out in one’s lifetime. If not to learn thyself, know thyself, and share your experiences so that others may take value in it, what else are we here for? Each individual is on their path, making choices, creating a sort of case study as to what may or may not work, whether that is in terms of life in general or more specifically one’s health. Therefore, I have decided to share some of my story and my case study.

I feel called to talk about one topic in particular for this space, A Tribe of Women. My experience with the birth control pill has been the main juncture on the road that has led me towards seeking alternative health and a more holistic approach to achieving balance in the body.

It seems society and medical professionals kind of push “the pill” on us from a young age, portraying it as healthy, or somehow essential. I do want to re-iterate that this is my story, and I am in no way trying to force my beliefs on anyone else. There may be women out there who have really benefited from the birth control pill, but that wasn’t the case for me and putting the information out there could be of use to someone going through something similar to what I have gone through.

I went on the birth control pill at the age of 18. At that time, my teenage acne seemed to get more cystic and the composition of my skin changed. I wasn’t as aware of these things taking place in my body then, but looking back, I now can see the cause of many of my issues.

With the pill, it can be quite subtle. The doctors will tell you to go on it for many reasons. Number one, of course is to prevent pregnancy. They will also tell you that it helps to mitigate PMS symptoms like cramping and acne, to regulate your period, etc. So I got on it. I was off and on for many years thereafter. Through those years, it can really be hard to say what might be the cause of the overall state of health of a person. In hindsight, I can see there seemed to be quite a cloud persisting over my well-being. I tended towards depression and anxiety and my weight fluctuated. I began to get terrible headaches and migraines and my digestion was all out of wack. There were many symptoms where it was hard to sift through, and really pinpoint the root cause. The ups and downs were many. I can’t necessarily say it was one thing that caused it all. However, over time, this one thing seemed to keep coming up in my experience as the possible cause of my extreme lows and over-emotional behaviors.

The battle of off and on continued. In college, I was getting the pill through my school. I was warned about this particular brand YAZ. It had been recalled for reactions and hospitalization for aneurisms, blood clots, stroke, etc. For some reason, I decided to stay on it, mainly because my skin was staying clear while on it, and getting off would result in bad acne flare ups. I was desperate to keep this under control, seemingly not caring for more internal detriment that it may be causing. This goes to show another side of our human experience, caring more for the external than internal.

Off and and on I was on this ride for so long, I couldn’t see straight as to what was me or not, a symptom or reality.

I got off, thinking this is it for real. This pill messes with my head and I don’t want it anymore. Three months later, like clockwork, my skin broke out with a vengeance and didn’t stop for months thereafter.

My mood swings were getting worse. I was desperate once again and knew the only thing that would bring relief. It was this whole cycle I couldn’t stop. The pill became part of me-giving me the hormones that became regular although not natural. My skin adjusted accordingly. Although, once you take that element (hormones) away, it would result in a major downswing of the body’s reaction of trying to rebalance with now the lack of extra hormones.

Once my emotions got worse it was a battle to stay through those terrible times. I thought that if my skin was better, then I would be happier and therefore not so emotionally disturbed anymore which was always the reason I got off in the first place. Round and round I went.

By that time I was in another relationship. My skin cleared back up after the first 3 months back on the pill. I was happy for that. Then, the dark side started to rear its ugly head again. I had a lot of anxiety/depression in those times. This got to a point where I did not recognize myself anymore. And you don’t exactly know why. You think it’s just you and that you are going crazy. This is the chemical imbalance in the brain and body. We think there is something wrong with us, when really we are made up of chemicals that do effect all systems of the mind body connection. I didn’t know what to believe. It got so bad and I was getting really bad bloody noses, like huge clots coming out of my nose straight out of a horror film. I couldn’t believe it.

I decided it would be the final time I got off this ride and would journey my way, however difficult the road may be, back to health. And oh how difficult it was. The body mind reacts in such a way, pumped full of synthetic hormones only to be taken away. For about 9 months, I was having the lowest of lows, irregular periods, terrible acne, panic attacks. I tried many different natural herbs to try to bring my hormones back into balance. I was doing all of it based on my own diagnosis, symptoms etc. Maybe something would help for a bit, then it would come back. Of course, diet is a big one, but can be hard to really see results. I knew on a deeper level it was my hormones out of balance. I was really trying to read my body.

If you really think about what the birth control pill is doing to the body. It actually stops a woman from ovulating and tricks the body into thinking it is pregnant. And how do you think a pregnant woman feels? The irony of the use of the pill is that one goes on it to regulate, however, you will become dependent on those hormones. If you decide to get off, the imbalances will be many and much more difficult to come back from.

It is in retrospect, I can see it all. Now that I have been studying and practicing Chinese Medicine on a deeper level, I can actually see the imbalances that were happening all those years. In 2012 I had deficient Blood and Kidney essence with Liver Qi stagnation on the rise. I was having dizziness and fainting episodes quite frequently. I pulled my lower back and blacked out one night. I was still on Yaz at this point, which I will repeat and cannot stress enough, was recalled with major health issues such as blood clotting, aneurysm, pulmonary embolism and even death.

Those bloody noses are a sign of heat in the blood. I was draining up my yin fast. Other symptoms of heart palpitations, chest tightness, emotional outbursts are signs of Liver Qi stagnation.

We have not necessarily been encouraged to eduacate ourselves on the systems of the body. For instance, I was only in recent years made aware of the fact that there is a window of time during the monthly cycle that a woman is fertile and able to become pregnant. One can use what is called the Rhythm Method in order to track their cycle and discover which days they would be able to conceive. Whether or not a woman is trying to achieve pregnancy, this can be an effective birth control method as well as a highly intuitive practice in understanding your own body and cycle as a woman.

After 5 years being off the birth control pill, I can finally say that my efforts were not made in vain. While utilizing herbs, helping the liver to process toxins, better diet choices, calmer state of mind with meditation/affirmations, cleanse/detox techniques, yoga and exercise as well as frequency therapy, my acne is nowhere near the severe state it ever was during those times. I feel balanced in my emotions and more connected to my cycle as a woman, in tune with my body and truly myself.

Taren Silvia Bernardini offers wellness guidance and tools blending the use of TCM, yoga, frequency therapy, and tonic herbs to help others on the path towards achieving balance, health, and vitality. Follow her page on Instagram and discover more about what she does on her website.

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