How I Lost My Cycle

I received a request to write a post detailing how I lost my period and how I was able to get it back. I am happy to do so and will plan to make this into 2 different post within the next month or so. I appreciate the support from my 2 years with a Copper-IUD, My Experience post and it seems like there is a lot of interest in women’s health. As an adult going through hormonal issues, I have realized women’s health issues were not as well known to me as I thought they were and I am happy to share what I have learned.

First off, a woman who has had a regular period before and goes through 3+ months without one is said to have amenorrhea. Second, the main reason I lost my cycle was from being on birth control pills for a long time (over a decade). If you look through the information packet that comes with the prescription, you will read that it is possible to have loss of cycle due to taking birth control pills.

Back in graduate school, I saw all those mighty appealing commercials about seasonal birth control. With the knowledge I had about periods why would I not want to only have to deal with it 4 times per year. And at first that was how it worked. I only had 4 cycles each year. Additionally, the length of my period decreased by a day and they became very light. At 24 years old, I could not be more thrilled.

Unfortunately, other things started happening that I assumed were linked to relationship issues and diet. My vagina became very dry and my libido disappeared. I also started to wonder at times if I could be pregnant and just not know because the pill would hide that fact. You know sometimes you do not take the pill on time or forget so what if you got pregnant.

As the years went on and I continued to be naive, I did not think that there were any symptoms related to taking the pill. That is until I had a conversation with my cousin regarding the effects hormonal birth control had on her and other family members, which revealed the possibility to me that my vaginal dryness and loss of libido could be connected to the pill. I got me thinking that maybe I should look into other methods of birth control.

Only months later, I had a one day cycle and developed a deficiency in B12 (during a time period I was eating meat regularly throughout the week). The cycle after that never came, which made me scared. My mother had mentioned so many women on her side who experience amenorrhea and found out it was due to cancer. So I made a doctor’s appointment.

Around the same time I had lost a good amount of weight and was feeling proud of that until a doctor my physician was consulting with about my concerns said I hit the lower threshold weight limit for the seasonal birth control and that was what was likely causing me all these issues. While my doctor argued that there is research showing vitamin deficiency linked with hormonal birth control use for longer than 10 years.

I also questioned whether my workouts could be causing this issue and maybe I was at one point doing too much cardio while restricting my calories, but it had been a year since that maybe 1-2 month long endeavor. I had been eating a lot more food since then. Plus, I gained a bit of weight and cut down a lot on cardio. My doctor looked at my routine and felt like what I was doing could not be the reason.

Either way, I was sick of all the testing and wanted off of the hormonal birth control ASAP. So I got an Paragard IUD inserted and I continued experiencing amenorrhea for another year and a half. This begins the second part of the story, how I got my period back. I will write about this in a couple weeks. If you have any questions, please let me know πŸ™‚

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Thought Cleanse

 

I am having a moment of intense contemplation and I just have to write it out. Not all of this is a complete thought… πŸ˜›

I am a person who is influenced by the people and world around me, especially in day to day decisions like what I am craving to eat. I also have a strong desire to improve myself. I feel these are both good and bad qualities about myself.

At the best times, I gain a lot of inspiration and motivation from my interactions or experiences. I get a lot accomplished in short periods of time and have confidence (a feature I would say I am typically weak in, but try to not show it). I started this blog at a time when I was on a high note or when I felt like life was as perfect as it could be.

My high notes have always correlated with having at least an hour a week devoted to socializing outside of my work environment, 2 hours a week of additional physical activity (meaning outside my walking to and from work or cleaning the house type of movements), great sleep for about 8 hours a night and a variety of tasks available to work on. I thrive on feeling like I am part of a community and having others to work with in person. As I write this I realize how key some of these points are for interviewing, but these thoughts do not have that intention behind them. These things make me feel good, connected and stimulated.

Of course, who the hell has the endless high life or can maintain perfection constantly. I attempt to do my best at scheduling or making time for these essential things for my happiness, but it just does not always work out the way I plan. My minimums are harder to describe, they are moments in life when it is off in some way. Like when I have nothing to do, no where to go or lack of any happening (like work, school, projects, etc.) for weeks to months at a time. Or when I have way too much time to focus on myself.

On a walk I took earlier this week (I feel like when I am walking is when I do my best thinking), the times when I am alone often (living alone, solo work project for several months, lacking social events, always eating unaccompanied, etc.) correspond to these lows in my life. I feel like I can do things unattended (like go to a movie or eat lunch at the bar in a restaurant) and sometimes I feel I need some solo time, but consistently having days with minimal face to face interactions may be the means to my not feeling as though I am myself or “living my best life.”

I started thinking about all of this because a few questions family and friends asked me lately that felt as though they were expressing concern for me. One of them involved my weight gain. While it was not what I consider polite, I do think it is interesting how I thought I felt completely comfortable with myself until someone investigated why I stopped running and “let myself go.” Other questions may have been innocently expressing a worry, but I started to doubt my feelings and thoughts about myself. Which lead me to wonder why my confidence drops so much when questioned by others.

Though I have always felt that going on a walk is therapeutic, I have wanted to find someone to talk to about things like my lack of confidence. I have tried to work on my confidence for years, but feel that I can not achieve the level of confidence I wish I had on my own unless everything in life is great. I know I might be able to use something like BetterHelp, but I want to make sure I am taking the best route. Please let me know if you have any advice!

 

Workout Update

February marked my 3rd consecutive period after having no cycle for 2 years. I have been slowly getting back into working out and thankfully had a 4th cycle in March. I intend to really take it slow because this is an opportunity to build my strength up first instead of focusing so much on endurance as I had in the past. My activities have included:

  • getting out more by giving tours at the museum, going to events around town or joining my partner on campus,
  • walking at least every other day for 20-45 min,
  • doing yoga 6 times a week for 15-30 min,
  • and trying to do two 15 min body weight resistance training sessions per week.

Honestly, the resistance training has been quite tough. I did one 15 min lower body session the Monday following my cycle and was extremely sore for 5 days. Almost a week later, I did a 15 min upper body workout in St. Louis the evening I joined my family at the gym. Since I felt like trying to get in yoga or another workout while I was home would be a bother, I just focused my attention on enjoying my time there instead. Moving in someway came naturally by hanging out with people (mostly in the form of walking and climbing stairs).

It was a great trip and I do not regret my lack of workouts. When I returned I got back into routine within a week, but did not do any strength training until later in the month when I felt up to it. Again I felt very sore after the first lower body workout. Although, my upper body workouts do not leave me feeling stiff and sore, just energized. Fortunately, Friday’s lower body workout left me invigorated and only a little sore Saturday. Yes! I will do more as I feel up to it and my body continues to respond well.

Sincerely, I briefly had those thoughts of, “a year ago I was in a much stronger place with my physical activity,” but I am so happy to be in this place. I feel blessed to have a cycle back, to have a chance to build a healthy mindset and have the opportunity to help out others. For a while there I was deaf to what my body was needed and it feels great be reconnecting.

“Never feel guilty for starting again.” ~ Rupi Kaur

2 years with a Copper-IUD, My Experience

Disclosure, I have some TMI (Too Much Information) level stuff in this blog post. Nonetheless, I feel it is very important to share this information for women’s health reasons.

Before the IUD

Two years ago, I decided to change my method of birth control. I have been on 3 different brands of birth control pills since I was about 18.5 years old. Back then, I was a dysfunctional human being one day a month because my cramps made it impossible to stand unless I overdosed on analgesic and strapped a heating pan to my lower abdomen. Also, I had my first irregular cycle ever (likely due to the stress of my first semester in college) and Β I was thinking about becoming sexually active.

The pill was what my doctor recommended and I figured it was the obvious choice because it seemed like the most reliable option. After I started taking the seasonal birth control pill though, I noticed a lot of negative changes. My sex drive was non-existent, I became anemic and my cycle slowly disappeared completely. I went from having a 5 day cycle to a 4 day to a 3 day pretty quickly. Slowly it dropped down to a 2 day cycle. Then as I was losing weight in 2015, I had a one day cycle and then no cycle for 2 whole years.

I was scared, especially after Googling all sort of things in regards to losing your period. On top of that, a conversation with my cousin about birth control pills made me connect the lack of sex drive, anemia and lack of cycle to the pill I was on. After doing more thorough research, I learned being on the pill for more than a decade is not well research and most of the experience others documented were similar to mine. So it was not just was type of pill I was on…

Making the Decision

Next step was to begin researching a new method of birth control, since now I am sexually active and hoped my sex drive would return as soon as I discontinued the use of the pill. I wanted something non-hormonal, which did not leave me many options that were easy to obtain and something that worked for my partner and I. I decided upon the Paragard copper intrauterine device (IUD) for the following reasons:

  • affordability (It did not cost me anything, but a doctor’s copay.)
  • non-hormonal
  • easy of use (in that once your doctor implants it you are good to go)
  • few and manageable side-effects
  • length of effectiveness (it protects you for 12 years).

Also, I had a friend who loved hers and it is the only copper IUD available in the US. However, with ALL forms of birth control there are risks. The risks associated with an IUD are serious and should not be taken lightly. The biggest risks in my opinion was the possibility of the IUD perforating your uterus and the rare chance of experiencing an ectopic pregnancy.

The first few months to year should be thought of as a trial period. Many woman get an IUD each year, but have them removed within a few months due to many reasons that I sum up to being just not the right birth control for them.Β It is common for women to experience discomfort with the device, birthing of the device (meaning your body expels it on its own), severe cramps for weeks, and more. That was not my experience, however.

My Experience

The insertion was not very comfortable, but neither is having my cervix scraped once a year for my pap smear. I mild cramping, in my opinion because the cramping during my teenage years was many times for painful, for less than 24 hours. I spotted a little, but it was not your normal cycle like spotting.Β I was discharging rubbery like tissue that was not as dark as blood and was tan in color at times.

The real test to me was how well it would work for my partner and I during sex, especially since my issue with my previous birth control was resolved with the fact that Paragard in non-hormonal. Here is where my over self-awareness came into play. Our first moment of intercourse with the IUD was very distracting. I was thinking about every sensation and suddenly wondered if I would know or more like feel if the IUD perforated my uterus. Needless to say, I did not get off. My partner said he could feel the strings (the strings that are attached to your IUD and allow your IUD to be removed eventually), but now does not feel them.

I could even feel the strings rubbing against the walls of my vagina for the first year. After half a year past I stopped over thinking everything completely. Sex is more enjoyable than it has ever been for me and my sex drive is more reminiscent to my teenage years. Additionally, it feels so good not to have to worry about taking a pill every day around the same time and about whether what I am consuming might effect my birth control.

Overall, I am happy with my choice. I do not regret it. I am going to end this post answering the 3 most common questions I had received from talking to friends about this. Please leave ANY questions you have below in the comments and I will respond as soon as possible.

Does it hurt?

Insertion was painful, but only for the brief moment they opened my cervix. I might have a highly tolerance for pain though due to having extremely painful cramps as a teenager. For the rest of the day after insertion (I had a late afternoon appointment), I experienced mild lower abdominal cramping. Since then I have not experienced any unusual pain. I am slowly getting more painful cramps with each cycle, but it is still a vast improvement over the cramps of my teenage years.

Are your periods painful and heavy?

Oh, yes they are heavy. The pain as I explained in the last answer is manageable compared to my teenage years. I have been going through 8 regular tampons plus 2 overnight pads in the first day of my cycle. Day 2 is more like 5-6 regular tampons and 1 overnight pad. Things greatly decrease from there. This is heavy for me and my previous cycle experiences. After I use up my current supply of feminine products I will be using a mental cup and period panties so reduce waste and save money.

When are you going to get it removed?

When my partner and I are ready to start trying to have children. Simple as that. Just have to make a doctor’s appointment to have it removed and can start trying immediately.

Going With the Flow

I have struggled with this for a while. I realized I had not normal digestion problems at the end of 2014. I had to record everything I ate to figure out what the issue was and do the Whole 30 program to reintroduce foods to make sure my doctor’s interpretation was accurate. It was determined that I had stress related irritable bowel syndrome. Things like alcohol, sweets and heavily processed food cause severe bloating, gas, constipation and diarrhea. Needless to say, dealing with that made it hard to go with the flow…

I just remember having to bring my own food everywhere and being anxious about going out to eat. While I may have felt great and lost a lot of weight, I was alone a lot and people voiced how annoying it was for them to have to deal with my IBS. That put stress on me, which only caused me more digestion issues. So I stopped hanging out with others, unless it was my partner and my family when I took trips home.

This lead to the most rigid routine I have ever followed and possibly depression from being solo most of the time. I planned out everything. I became obsessed with it to the point of keeping a detailed schedule of exactly what and when I would eat for breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner. I also did this with my workouts, walks, yoga and pretty much any movement I made.

Mean while, I was dealing with nutrient deficiencies from being on birth control for over a decade, my cycle went AWOL, my partner’s time in school was being extended, my funding at work was coming to an end and I had so much to complete before that last day. I became so burnt out.

When the specialist I talked to told me to stop all the obsessive behavior and focus on listening to my body’s needs, I was a mix of feelings. “Thank goodness!” “So… how do you do that again?” “How long will this take?” “It is good that I will have plenty of time to focus on this.” “What’s on the schedule for dinner?” “Can I really stop running and resistance training for months?” “I wonder if I can find someone to talk to to help deal with this and not break the bank…” You know, your stereotypical female response of thought vomit.

Even a reader of this blog recommended that I go with the flow when it came to visiting my family. I had 3 trips during the Fall where I was put to the test and last week’s trip to my hometown made me feel like all my hard work was worth it. I had some vague plans to collect the last of my belongings from my mother’s house, see as many friends and family as possible, enjoy some Ted Drewes frozen custard and eat my favorite sandwich, but I just let all of that happen naturally. I was there to visit and worked around their schedules and what was decided among the group.

I am the type of person who is always trying to better themselves. For a few years, I got caught up in myself and forgot that one of my life goals was to be a thoughtful person. My maternal grandmother I did not get to meet, but the stories I hear about her are ones that melt my heart and makes me wish I had met her. She seemed like a kind, generous, go with the flow woman. I have always wanted to improve those qualities within myself in hopes that I will be remembered like she is by so many people.

I can not explain how much better I feel just relaxing. Sure, my digestion is better if I choose particular foods and get out for a walk everyday. However, letting things happen naturally lately has really made me feel whole again. I feel like there is a metaphor here or something because I am a serious river town gal. I grew up along the Mississippi and have loved every river town I have lived in or visited. πŸ™‚

Day in My Life

I like seeing how others go about their days. I find it useful for picking up techniques to make life more efficient and a lesson in being flexible. So I thought I would share my typical day.

7:00 AM – Alarm goes off and take my temperature. I take my temperature as one of the ways to track my cycle. My doctor is having me track it using the Fertility Awareness Method. I sometimes wake up before 7:00 AM, but have been taking that time to read in bed so I can measure my temperature at the same time everyday.

7:15 AM – Take a probiotic, start drinking a quart of water, use the restroom if needed and put away all clean and dry dishes. I am always pretty thirsty when I wake up in the morning and I try to drink water until I start to feel hungry which can be anywhere from 8:30 to 10:00 in the morning.

8:30 – 10:00 AM – Eat breakfast and take my daily vitamin. Check email, watch some videos, do some chores, and clean up for the day.

10:00 AM – 5:00 PM – Volunteer at the museum. Not everyday, but whenever the museum lets me know they need someone to help with the exhibit change over or they need someone to give a mansion tour.

1:00 – 3:00 PM – Eat lunch. This is pretty flexible because I will eat when I am hungry and am able to take a break.

4:00 – 5:00 PM – Workout, Yoga or walk followed by a snack if I am hungry. My snack is usually homemade baked good or something like a Larabar or RXbar.

7:00 – 10:00 PM – Quality time with my partner. We eat dinner and then talk, play a game or watch TV together.

10:00 – 11:00 PM – Bedtime, I have been laying down around 10 PM and reading until I feel ready to sleep.

I want to start waking up earlier and get started on packing us up for the move or sorting out what to sell.

 

 

Feeling Good!

I just feel good. It has been a while since I felt good about all aspects of my life. I am sure it is linked to the most recent changes coming about all at once. My partner and I have had a lot of quality time together lately (so my love cup feels full), I have been very consistent with eating well and not over-eating, I am back to drinking a gallon of water each day, volunteering has been getting me out of the house more and I got to work out for the first time in 6 months this week. It has also been beautiful out most of this week, so much sun and temperature above 40!

I just feel like I do not have anything to complain about right now. Please feel free to share what is good in your life right now πŸ™‚

 

Fighting Negative Feelings

When I lost weight 2 years ago I got rid of my largest pair of pants. At the moment I could probably use those pants because I am being stubborn about buying any new clothes even though I only have 2 pairs of pants that really fit. Yesterday I even ripped a pair of pants trying to get them on. I immediately thought, “I am so fat.” Negative thoughts like that have crippled me in the past. I do not want to be crippled by a bit of weight gain and pants that rip.

On the positive side, I have officially had 3 consecutive months with a cycle! I have been doing short yoga sessions 6 days a week and walking 2-3 times a week. I have been eating when I am hungry. I have been increasing my vegetable intake and reducing my junk food intake. Chocolate is the item I can not resist, but I am working on making my own chocolate with coconut oil, cacao powder and maple syrup. Well, what I am really going to do is make Take 5’s with a pretzel, date caramel, natural peanut butter and my homemade chocolate. πŸ™‚ Its really good.

I am also getting busy. With my volunteering and reading, this week I was out of the apartment the most I have been in months. With my 3rd consecutive cycle, I can slowly start working out again. This week I am going to do a couple short body weight routines I use to do. At least an upper body and a lower body routine. I am very excited because I miss feeling strong and working out.

I get to see my family soon. I feel like I have a wonderful relationship with my partner. He scheduled his defense for the end of March and we are going to New York at the end of April to look for a place to live. So why should I let a negative thought sabotage all the amazing things I have going for me?

Refocusing My Negative Efforts

I do not want to be negative. This week I was reminded of a time when I can be quite negative and felt like I was wasting my energy doing so. I think valentine’s day a bullshit, commercial holiday, which causes people to focus way too much on what is not important (high expectations for “expressions of love”). Maybe this negativity toward this holiday is not just due to commercialism, but also from many poor experiences in my past relationships.

An ex-boyfriend put so much pressure and expectations on this holiday with anticipating his favorite chocolates in a larger package than the previous year, something made from the heart in the same manner as he would compile special mix CDs for me and a expensive meal out even though we were both struggling to pay college tuition. The important thing to him was that it top the previous year. When I did not meet his untold wishes I only felt horrible and stressed out from his harshly expressed disappointment. I see this theme with many couples each year.

Frankly, I feel we should show love everyday and a couple who are committed to one another should clarify early on in the relationship what they need to feel loved. My partner and I were honest from the git go the anxiety this holiday induces in us and do not celebrate valentine’s day. Although it was a few years into our relationship that we had a chat about what we need to feel loved, we do not regret our choice to disconnect ourselves from it.

I would would say my only regret is how I have been rude to others who wish my a happy valentine’s day or have something to say about our choice to not celebrate. I want to handle that differently. Sure it is not great having someone tell you, “You are ruining the holiday for the rest of us!” However, I know that is not true. Then, I can wish them a good holiday and be done with it. I want to take more opportunities to be a good person.

Hope everyone enjoyed Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, Valentine’s day, Lunar New Year or whatever they had going on this week!

High blood pressure

My partner went to the doctor recently and his blood pressure was right on the edge of being high! Scary, but it means we have to take action pronto. He will be back to the doctor in just a few months and we hope this will be improved. I have very had an unhealthy blood pressure recorded, but hearing his was high made me feel just as nervous as if my own was.

I immediately looked into what we could do to lower it and found these resources:

First of all, we rarely drink alcohol or caffeine, so those could not be the issue. Currently we do not even have any alcohol in the apartment and the only caffeine around is the chocolate he refuses to cut back on. His stress load will not be reduced with his defense getting closer and closer and sleep still eludes him as an insomniac. So those suggestions not much more can be done about. Especially since sleeping pills or melatonin supplements either have too strong of an effect or do not seem to make one once of a difference for him.

My partner is a VERY sedentary person and only likes the outdoors in small doses. He loves to just chill on the couch in front of the TV as much as possible and works in front of a computer much of the time. We are opposites in may ways and this is one of them. I have to admit that I have been pressuring him less than usual to get up and get outside with me because he is so stressed about completing his PhD.

So we plan to get him moving a bit more. He has started dancing occasionally for a 1 minute or more when the game he plays has a good beat going on. He is also trying to walk a bit more, even if it is just to check the mail or take out the trash. He does not really want to be fit or as active as myself, but he realizes that being more active could help him stay healthy.

I already do not make salty meals and since we eat from home most of the time (we eat out maybe once every 2 weeks, maybe). However, working on getting him to eat more veggies and less peanut butter M&Ms is the goal. Often he will push vegetables to the side or put them on my plate or even just tell me not to bother putting them on the plate at all. I think I just have to begin preparing them the way he likes them best (except for frying, I just am not doing that and he knows it), then eventually add in salads and veggie heavy bowls in our meal rotation.

Hopefully with these changes we will see an improvement with his blood pressure at his May appointment. He is not making huge changes, but even his doctor said start small and with someone who is so resistant to change like my partner we are doing just that.