Hormone-Free at Twenty Three

Initially I had a great experience with BC. I was 15 and I didn’t have to come home sick from school every three weeks because of insane PMS symptoms. I thought it was a great solution. A tool I used to stay focused on my education.

Fast forward to now.

I just celebrated my 23rd birthday. This is my first birthday in over 8 years I haven’t had some kind of artificial hormones coursing through me. I feel the way any 23 year old should feel; like I’m going to wake up and kick ass today! It was a long journey getting here in this new phase. In reality, it’s only just begun. But I want to bring you through it with me because if I can help one person, that will be enough.

We don’t talk about periods and (I, at least) have always felt some sort of shame around them.

WHY?

HALF of every one in this world, billions of people, all have periods. Every human being on this Earth is here because of a woman’s cycle. So why are we not talking about it? Especially now? Infertility is increasingly becoming a problem, not to mention the numerous amount of women who have to deal with endometriosis, PCOS, and PMS. If you don’t already know, those things are not normal. They should not just be something we grow to accept and deal with.

My Story

I first started having those symptoms at 15. At that moment, that should have been the red light. Right then was the time to tune into my body. But I couldn’t have known then. I didn’t think to take away all of the endocrine-disrupting toxins pumped into our products and produce. If you didn’t know before, you know now: our bodies are bombarded by endocrine disrupters daily. Instead of slapping the band aid of a pill over it and masking the real problem, I really should have been evaluating what else was being put into my system to cause this. We didn’t know better then. 

I was on the pill (well, three or four to be exact) for 6 years straight. When my awful cramping, nausea, heavy bleeding, and other awful symptoms starting to resurface through every pill, I went back to my doc. I told her I wanted to try Nexplanon since a lot of my friends had been on it and had great results.

I had Nexplanon for a total of 15 months. It was placed in March 2018 and removed end of June 2019. From March to December I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. I had NO periods. I had significantly fewer panic attacks, even Jonah mentioned it to me. Everything was going great.

In January I bled for three weeks straight. I figured, “Okay, I’ve had it pretty good. I guess i’m making up for lost time.” It stopped and I resumed my usual ‘Yay no bleeding!’ attitude.

Then April came.

911

I estimated that I bled for just over 60 days straight. One day it just came, and never stopped. I kept pushing it off, thinking it would stop just like it did in January. I thought, ‘I can make it to the three year mark (when it expires and has to come out)’. I thought, ‘it’s better than dealing with all of those other symptoms’. I thought, ‘I can handle this’.

Let me paint the picture of how much I could not handle this.

I’m 40 days in to this bleed, and it was so much heavier this morning. I’m sitting in the lab of my Nursing school program. My instructor passes out IV flushes. We are learning to do IV flushes. ‘Why can’t I make sense of anyone’s words? Why is nothing making sense? Focus Kelsey, this is important’. I kept thinking, what an easy task… ‘open the plastic Kelsey, tear open the alcohol pad, Kelsey’.

Everyone is standing up. ‘You need to stand up too. Why am I not standing up?’ People say things to me but nothing’s making sense. I lower my head. Something’s wrong. Get your head even with your heart. Your brain needs blood. People start rushing around me. I hear a voice yelling “nothing is making sense!” it’s my voice. Thankfully the instructors are nurses. One takes a manual blood pressure. I feel the cuff squeeze. I'm lightheaded. Tears are rolling down my cheeks. I’m apologizing for interrupting. I don’t want to lose consciousness, I don’t want to lose consciousness. One instructor gets to my level, they’re trying to assess me. The same questions I’ve had pounded into my brain. The one that’s not working right now. I’m grasping to stay awake. I yell '“everybody out!”

I don’t want them to know I’ve soaked four supers before noon today.

A stretcher. I’m laying on a stretcher. They’re bringing me to the hospital. Labs are drawn, EKG’s performed. My school-sister is next to me in the same scrubs I’m still in. We carpool. She drove my car to the hospital, she wouldn’t leave my side. Jonah’s here from work. Everything starts making more sense. I was hypovolemic. I bled so much for so long, my body was shutting down. I absorbed 1000mL of IV saline in 30 minutes. They usually infuse over at least 4 hours.

I made a follow up with my Ob/Gyn. She was beside herself. She says they have no way of knowing when (or if) this is going to happen. She asks what I want to do now.

I wanted it out. I wanted my body to heal.

Going Forward

Every body is different. But to me, these artificial hormones are not okay. I’m not just talking about the ones we are prescribed.

Knowing what I know now, our bodies have been overwhelmed by things that affect our delicate hormone balance. Anything from cleaners, to beauty products, to food. These substances go by the name of phthalates, BPA, and Dioxin, just to name a few. You can read more about them and their friends here.

The best way to avoid these chemicals is to read your labels and better yet- make your own things! Not only will it be better for you, but better for your family and the environment. And who doesn’t love themselves a healthy family and environment? Look for foods that are locally grown without pesticides. Organic foods are safest! Something I learned on this journey of mine was that if a label says Non-GMO, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is Organic. But if something is Organic, it is Non-GMO. (Kinda like a rectangle’s a square, but a square’s not a rectangle, ya feel?) Look at the code on your produce… there should be a #9 before any other numbers, that also means it is organic.

As far as cleaning products go, there is a lot of greenwashing that happens. What is greenwashing? Well I’m glad you asked! Greenwashing is when a company creates packaging to trick you into thinking it’s good for you when really it isn’t! That’s not nice! Beware of these products, they’re what my mom would call “wolves in sheeps clothing".

For cleaning I like to use my own mixtures. They typically include distilled white vinegar, essential oils, Castile soap, hydrogen peroxide, or anything from Young Living Thieve’s line! Thieves concentrated cleaner is a God send, and my house smells spicy and fresh afterwards. Jonah loves this because the smell of bleach makes him physically gag every time! We haven’t had bleach in our apartment since the first day we moved in. I have faith that these do the trick because I conducted my own experiment with them in my microbiology lab before Nursing school! You can see those awesome results here.

As far as beauty is concerned, we are in a very exciting time. The mass wave of Green Beauty is really starting to rev up its engines and plow through the countless products that haven’t had their ingredients assessed since the previous century. In my last post you can read all about some of my favorite green beauty products. One of the biggest points I cannot stress enough is the use of Fragrance. This “ingredient” is not just one thing, but rather a loophole for companies to incorporate multiple chemicals and constituents without having to name them specifically. Who KNOWS what that could be masking… My advice? Learning your own recipes and using things that are already in your house. Face scrubs, for example, are such an easy DIY. Hence why I’ve posted those before on this little sight of mine too (check ‘em out in Sustenance).

Most importantly, I think it is vital to consider the products you use during your bleed. Many of the “sanitary” things we use are pumped full of things like chlorine. Why do we need chlorine there?! There are some really great brands of pads and tamps that use natural cotton and can be found at Target. But the pinnacle of period care has been the cup! They’re good for up to ten whole years and can be worn for 12 hours. I found the Saalt cup at Target and also the OrganiCup online!

The takeaway

I hope you…

…listen to your body. Listen when it is whispering so you won’t have to when it’s screaming. Don’t let it get to that point.

…are mindful. Mindful of the things you put in, on, or around your body. Read the labels, question the ingredients. If you don’t, who will?

…make swaps. Maybe instead of buying that liquid body soap in a plastic container from a big box store, head to the farmer’s market and see if they have any plant-based, locally made, bar soap! (Little to no packaging = good for the earth, locally made product = good for the economy, knowing and seeing all the healthy ingredients = good for you!) There are so many wonderfully waste-free, chemical-free, cruelty-free, versions of the things you use all around you. It just requires a little thought and compassion.

…will be more aware. Aware of the science surrounding these products’ ingredients and how common they can be found in the things all around us. How common they could be affecting us.

There are some really excellent resources out there to learn more and delve into. For starters, the MindBodyGreen Podcast, Episode titled, “How to Hack Your Hormones with Alisa Vitti” is an excellent introduction to how hormones play a pivotal role in our health and what we need to do to help them. She also wrote the book, WomanCode, and has the MyFlo app that teaches you how to nurture your cycle. I have also looked into the Daysy fertility tracker, which is a way to get to know your cycle better through the use of basal temperature tracking. I would like to preface all of the aforementioned in saying that this is all based on my own personal experience and I, in no way, replace the need to consult with a physician (or whoever you see to help you through your journey of health). I only hope that through sharing my own anecdotal evidence that you can feel empowered in the choices you make, whatever the best decision is for you and your well-being!

If you’ve made it this far, thank you. Thank you for having the compassion and the drive to absorb all of this information. Thank you for considering the alternatives. Thank you for listening to my story.

All the best,

Kels