15 Months of Birth Control And Why I Stopped

I started oral contraceptives—birth control pills—in September 2015, and stopped in the third week of November 2016. I was on Alesse’s 21-day packet that included 7 days “off” that lacked the hormonal contraceptives and was supposed to simulate a period.

Why I started

Well, the most obvious reason was the sexual health and not getting pregnant. But my PMS symptoms were getting really bad. The change in hormone levels made me moody and really affected my depression. In a way, I used the birth control as a form of mental health: I was not capable of handling the emotional changes that come with menstruation. For the first few months of 2016, I went to therapy once a week and finally learned some tools to deal with my mental illness. The birth control helped to balance out everything, and I was able to get more in-tune with how my emotions and mental state were affected by hormones. It was easier for me to see what was depression, binge-eating, and trauma—and what was simply change in hormones. My acne was also causing me a lot of stress and body image issues, and I knew taking birth control could help with that.

How it affected me

I knew I would go through a transition phase as my body got used to the change in hormones. It lasted 3 months, actually, and my withdrawal bleeding (like a period, but an egg doesn’t get released) was incredibly sporadic. My mood was also very up and down, although mostly up. But aside from that, I felt fairly normal. I moved around when I took the contraceptives and the placebo pills a few times, to coincide with when I’d be seeing my boyfriend, or to stretch out the pack until my next refill. The only downside was the 7-days-off: I would have breakouts more easily, my overall body odour was a lot stronger, and the bleeding was a bit sporadic. Sometimes the withdrawal bleeding (the simulated period) would come a few days before the 7-days-off pills; sometimes not at all; sometimes longer than the placebo pills; and sometimes just as scheduled. I thought this was caused by the change-arounds I did, but it happened when I was taking the pills on a schedule too.

Why I stopped

First and foremost, my coverage and prescription both ended and I would have been paying about thrice as much for the pills. But I decided not to get a refill for reasons other than finances. I want to see how my mental health would be with the natural hormone balance in my body. I’m also curious to see how my skin handles the difference. The main reason, though, was to get out of the 7-days-off transition. It was a little unpredictable, with the odour, acne, and bleeding. I could look into different brands with different levels of estrogen/progesterone, but I don’t want to go through the larger normalisation period again, or risk a birth control pill that doesn’t work or have more intense negative reactions with me. I also felt that nearly a year and a half was a good span of time considering the reasons I went on to the pill. I also kind of missed having my period, complaining about cramps, and the joy of wearing cute panties again without fear.

If I need to in the future, I would definitely go back onto the pill. I might not use the same brand, but I might stick with it just because I know what to expect.

Therapy Diary: Day 7

Blue and white paint splattered and dripping down a black wall.

My first short-term therapy session was on January 15 and the last was on March 18. It’s been two months since I last saw my counsellor and I can definitively say that even this short amount of counselling was helpful.

What’s Changed?

I’m doing more yoga and I’ve been approaching it differently than I did last year. There’s something more to it now. Before, it was focus on shape and form and getting a pose correct. Now, I focus on how it feels: how I can feel my strength or my weakness; my inhales and exhales. In particular, I can feel a connection between all of my body parts. Yoga has been one of the best practises I could have chosen, since it drastically lowers my dissociation—though I still struggle with it.

I’m also more aware of what sets me off/what triggers me. In particular, what triggers my anger and my panic attacks. I can’t even describe how this has helped me be able to even deal with life. From talking to people to running errands to sitting alone, I’m aware of my emotions and understand how to express or disperse them.

What’s The Same?

My depression is still fairly the same. I’m not that happy and barely anything gives me joy. But I’m trying not to dwell on that, on how I should be, or how I want to be. I know my friends have noticed it, and I’m trying not to talk about it because it’s a cyclical conversation. I’ll start talking about being depressed and it increases. This isn’t something I’ve learned to resource/cope with/deal with/etc. Pick a synonym.

I’m also still struggling with my dissociation. It isn’t as intense as it was in January, but it’s still around. I feel like the film on top of a stew left to cool on the stove. Like, I’m still part of the stew—or my Self—but it isn’t the same. I can’t simply stir the film back into the stew to have a whole stew—a whole Self.

What Next?

I’m going to be completely honest here: I don’t know.

I do not know what to do next.

I know I still have a lot of work ahead of me, but I’m not ready to take on more. I’m just going to continue doing what I’m doing and hope that, little by little, something else will change. I guess there won’t be anything new to do: simply practising what I’ve learned in the hopes it’ll become habit or second-nature instead of a conscious effort.

Therapy Diary Day 7

A Typical Boy Day

The Day Before

I notice sensations against my skin. The dryness of my elbows scratching on the desk, or pulling on sweater sleeves as I roll them up, and the uncomfortable pressure against my ribcage from the underwire of my bra.

When I get changed out of my clothes and into something comfortable, I stare at my chest, touch my breasts briefly, and find myself frowning. I slip into a large t-shirt and sweatpants and put in earplugs for sleep. I’m not going to bed yet. Just trying to drown out the noise around me. Something is askew in my universe.

The Morning Of

My hair is too long and my hips are too wide, and I stare at myself in the foggy mirror after showering. My body is a freshly washed series of misplaced lumps. When I wrap the towel around myself, I close my eyes and brace myself for the chill of nakedness.

As is my habit, I have set out my clothes the night before. I do not think well in the first few hours of waking (not necessarily the morning; sometimes I sleep past noon. #noshame). Clothes are too many decisions, even the order of putting them on: underpants, bra, jeans, t-shirt, socks, sweater. I put the bra back on its hook in the closet and pull out the chest binder from a drawer. Before I make the effort to slip it over my head, I remember how terrible it is to put on when my skin is even the least bit damp. I pat myself down again. Through the towel, I touch individual parts of a body I hate today—the one that doesn’t feel right and that I can’t temporarily change.

The binder is tight around my ribcage. I inhale deeply, to remind my lungs how much they can expand while being willingly bound. It isn’t nearly as much as I normally can. When I first bought and wore the undershirt-like formwear, it would barely budge past my arms while I shimmied into it. It moved like a starch-laden tank top and rubbed my skin terribly.

I change the shirt sitting on my dresser. The relaxed-fit t-shirt with the beautiful design can’t be worn today: the neckline shows part of the binder and it is too fitted for my waist to feel comfortable. I do not want to be touched. My body is a virus. I open the drawer, place the Girl Shirt back in its place, and pick a Boy Shirt from the other side. It is loose. Crew-neck cut. Longer sleeves. Reminiscent of my preference when I would harm myself and hide the wounds on my biceps.

When I’m dressed and brushing my teeth, I see myself in the mirror and feel better. I mess up my hair, still unsure how to make my face look the way it should. It seems as if it will always be a She Face, regardless of how the rest of my self appears.

I’ve thought of wearing makeup, not for enhancing my lashline or enunciating the shape of my lips, but for contouring my cheekbones, my jawline, and my eyebrows to seem darker; deeper; dastardly. I do not have the money. My teeth are clean. I spit and rinse and rinse and rinse and floss.

Interactions

Either everyone knows my secret or they think I’m angry. My step is involuntarily more aggressive, I think, or perhaps the way I carry my shoulders and arms says something. Do I slouch more? Do I seem more forceful? Do I seem like an angry woman instead of what I am today: a boy?

I can’t walk as fast as normal, or take the stairs as quickly, because of the tightness around my breasts and ribs. The bottom of my binder rolls up toward the bottom of my ribcage, which doesn’t bother me as much as the way my skin and fat tissue are pinched under my arms. (An unfortunate downside of being overweight and trying to combat body dysphoria.)

In classes, I take notes and keep my head down. I don’t chat with acquaintances. I’m on a mission: survive the day. Running errands, I ignore the casual “hon” and “miss” the older cashiers use. Am I a flat-chested girl to them? How do they know what to call me? My confusion is hidden after a brief moment. I don’t know if they notice—they probably don’t. I walk in a fog and jolt when I can’t remember if I put away my wallet and cards and cash and receipts. Disorientation, over and over again, and I settle into the movements like a mix of floating and sinking.

I don’t ask friends for hugs. I don’t want them to squeeze me. I don’t want to be touched.

The Night Of

When I’ve returned home and after I remove the binder, I return to the baggy clothes from the day before (sweater and sweatpants). The first time I removed the binder was in front of my boyfriend. He was the first to know about my wearing it the first time it was on. He said I looked good. He helped take it off, since I got stuck. It was like I had shimmied myself into a plastic Chinese finger trap.

But removing it now is an easy slip. I’m always sad to take it off, but the discomfort on my skin hinders me from wearing it too long.

Any intense efforts to feel better about the femininity of my body would make things worse.

After I place jeans and a t-shirt on the dresser, I snuggle into bed. The binder sits in the drawer and the bra hangs in the closet. I will decide tomorrow when I feel and see myself moving.

A Typical Boy Day

Bigender Basics

Some days are chocolate chip cookies: primarily sumptuous dough, but interspersed with rich, tiny clumps of semi-sweet chocolate.

Other days are full-on triple-chocolate cookies, with a cocoa-enriched dough, hunks of chocolate throughout, and a drizzle of melted vanilla sweetness on top.

And even other days, there are some none-chocolate cookies on my plate and other double-chocolate cookies that I pick from. I nibble at both, but never eat an entire cookie.

Another analogy: hot and cold. I put on layers of sweaters and camis and button-ups, or undershirts and t-shirts and sweaters and coats. I can wake up and the weather is below freezing. The sun comes out. The temperature changes. I become warm. I started the day cold, and tried to be warm. Then I warmed up, and now I want to be cold.

The basics are this: I am never one or the other. I am always two. I can lean toward one side of the spectrum, or I sway back and forth between them.

For me, being bigender means I am a boy and a girl. I can be both at once. Sometimes I’m one for the day, sometimes I’m the other. Sometimes I’m both all day, neither one of them exclusively.

Pronouns and gender-specific identifiers cause me the most issues. I can never tell on any given day which of the genders I’m more inclined to until someone identifies me as one of them. Sometimes the person who identifies myself as one is myself—when I look in a mirror, or when I feel my body move. In person, I’m only ever labelled one gender. I haven’t exactly come out to many people I know in person, mostly because they won’t see me very differently. (As my boyfriend put it when I told him: “You’ll still be you.”) And if they will look at me differently, in a negative light, then it doesn’t matter that they know or don’t know.

I don’t exactly correct people when they misgender me, because the majority of society I interact with associates gender with a body.

gender =/= body parts

I pass most easily as one gender on the spectrum, and not very easily as the other I identify with. And this disappoints me. I put in effort to make myself look a way that makes me feel comfortable when I look at myself and move around. But most people don’t notice this. I’m still gendered as the other one by people who don’t know me.

It isn’t easy to have people misgender me on a daily basis when I fluctuate so much between two of them and it’s very much an internal experience.

Sometimes I misgender myself because I’ve been told I’m one for my entire life, even when I started thinking I wasn’t just that one when I was 13.

The binary view of genders in modern society is my biggest obstacle, aside from my body dysmorphia. There’s a resistance to spectrum and dualities.

I feel like I can’t identify as transgender because I can identify with the gender I was designated at birth. I’m able to. But it isn’t the only one. Of course, I still hold internal transphobia and stigma; I’m trying to unlearn the “you can only be one” mentality in terms of gender identity. A transwoman doesn’t need to transition to be a transwoman. A transgender person doesn’t need to go from one binary to the other to be transgender—they can fluctuate along a spectrum, too, even if it’s between two socially enforced binaries (as I do).

Internalised bigotry. I think a lot of marginalised individuals still hold internalised bigotry, whether it’s sexism or homophobia, or transphobia or all the others. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

All I’m trying to do is make peace with myself and how I view myself. Being bigender is one of those ways I’m legitimately achieving that peace.

Basics of a non-binary gender: bigender.

This Was A Day: February 13

I slept terribly last night. Packing until 1am, after waiting for laundry, and then the excitement of returning home. I wake at 6:30am and rush to get things done: shower, breakfast, brush teeth, make and pack lunch, check my luggage to ensure everything is packed, get dressed, grab a bus ticket, and stuff my phone in my pocket. I leave the house, dragging my suitcase, bundled with my winter coat against the -35C weather, and my backpack loosened to accommodate the extra bulk.

When I wait at the stop, unfortunately one without an enclosure, I pace back and forth until I remember that jus wastes energy. My breath is collecting on my scarf and moistening the area around my mouth.

The bus is late. I have just under an hour until my train leaves and the bus takes around 20 minutes to get to the station. When it finally arrives, I sit next to an Asian girl who also has a large suitcase. I place my backpack on the seat between us and spend the ride avoiding the sun shining into my face through the opposite window.

I see the parking lot and the series of loft apartments. I pull the cord and the driver stops. After I thank him and cross the intersection, I realise I left my backpack on the bus. A blonde girl, who also had some luggage, was right behind me. The bus has a stop a little further down the road, just after another intersection, and I ask the girl if I could trust her with my suitcase. She said yes, and I sprinted like all hell to catch the bus waiting at the next stop.

I wasn’t fast enough. It is me, after all. I suck at physical activity.

There I am, on Wyandotte and Walker, wailing and cursing; wondering what the hell I was going to do without my wallet, ID, subway fare, lunch; looking up the phone number for Windsor Transit to see if I could locate my backpack or inform them about the incident. I am too upset to acknowledge if I’m crying or cursing or simply screaming, “No, no, no, no!” over and over. I try to collect myself and think straight, planning what to do, but I am certainly distraught as I walk back to the girl watching my suitcase.

And then I see with her the Asian girl who I had sat beside on the bus. Holding my backpack.

I wish I could have done something more than thank her too many times and ask if I could hug her (which she obliged). Maybe I should have offered to buy her Tim Horton’s.

I arrive at the train station, my lungs aching from the sudden aggressive use after sprinting so hard. I empty my water bottle, re-fill it, and step outside. The station is rather crowded and I need to cool down.

When the train arrives, I get to my car and sit in my seat. I settle in easily, putting on my music, adjusting my coat and sweater, and placing my bag securely between my feet. My phone is at hand, since I have my ticket saved on there. I bring out a book—The Silver Chair by CS Lewis—and finally get settled in by removing my glasses.

The attendant scans my ticket and I return to my book. I hope to finish it this train ride. It isn’t long and I don’t have much to do, after all.

The seat beside me stays unoccupied for a couple hours—the train ride is just over 4 hours long—and halfway, when we reach London, a chatty woman gets on with a friend of hers.

I’m going to blame the snow for my distraction. Also, probably hunger. That egg salad wrap in my bag has been on my mind since I got onto the train.

My timing for the ride and my reading ability is fairly accurate: just as I’m reaching Toronto, my destination, I’ve finished the book. I prepare for the terminal, the new renovations, and hope for no confusion as I try to get to the subway.

After a sign on printer paper directs me toward the TTC, I follow more permanent ones. The construction has lessened compared to my last visit to the VIA station.

As I get into the junction between Union and the TTC, I spot the girl who had picked up my backpack. She’s heading toward the University-Yonge line, as I am, and I slow down. The area is wide and not busy. Numerous DO NOT ENTER signs are around different spinning gateways that look more like torture devices with how man bars are in the way

After I pay my fare—exact change—I make my way toward the different lines. One is north toward Finch and the other north toward Downsview. The girl from earlier heads toward Finch and I almost head the same direction until I read the sign.

I can only fuck up so many times in a day.

The ride on the subway is fairly pleasant. I sit near the back of a car, my one side against the wall of the car and near the accordion-folding floor. I put my backpack beside me and keep an eye on it, with my knees gripping my suitcase. I take out The Last Battle and start reading, with one ear free to hear the station names announced over the speaker. Waiting for Yorkdale.

While reading the first two chapters of the final instalment of The Chronicles Of Narnia, I think of abusive relationships. Shift and Puzzle definitely have an abusive relationship, filled with gaslighting and everything wrong in communication, skewed to make it seem like compassion.

It is even colder up here in Toronto than it was in Windsor, and I call my dad to let him know I’m on the Yorkdale platform. He instructs me to go where he’s going to pick me up. I stand in the underpass, unsure where I even am, in the wind and the cigarette smoke. I try to huddle between two weird boxes; one is digital and the other is locked. I watch the intersection for my dad’s van and he finally arrives.

Halfway into our hour-long drive to my hometown, we stop for food. The supposed “udon” noodles I have, with teriyaki sauce, vegetables, and beef, are like thick bits of dough, rather than the authentic Japanese udon noodles I’ve had before. But I’m grateful for the food. The beef is nice.

I’m finally home and the first thing I want to do is snuggle my rabbit. He’s been staying with my little brother since I returned to university at the beginning of January.

I barely recognise Pringles. He doesn’t seem real to me, like he’s a very well-done CGI rabbit. He reacts to my voice and hides in his blue hut. I take him out and snuggle him. I splutter and whine, and then splutter some more since he’s shedding—which I didn’t know. His fur gets all over my mouth, nose, and shirt, but he nuzzles into me.

I wonder if my love for him is like a parent’s love for their infant.

When my brother returns, I give him a hug. We watch some movies. I snuggle Pringles for many hours and accidentally fall asleep on the couch.

It’s nice to be back. The snow is falling and the air isn’t as dry as in Windsor. There are no people shouting as they walk by a sidewalk—mostly because there is no sidewalk and the population in this town is mainly retired folks instead of post-secondary students.

I do some low-key unpacking and am relieved I haven’t forgotten anything.

This Was A Day: February 13 - A play-by-play of February 13, the day I took a train from Windsor to Toronto to visit family on my mid-semester break.