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Better Living Through Chemistry…?

So I’ve noticed something…odd. Ish.

Possibly it’s nothing at all, possibly it is coincidence or good self-esteem or…something or other along those lines, but it has recurred often enough that I am starting to wonder.

About five weeks ago, I had an IUD put in, and went off the pill. I have been on the pill since I was…Fifteen? Sixteen? Somewhere in there. Over half my life, anyhow. Which means that for over half my life, my body has a vague feeling that I’m pregnant, and now it means that my uterus has a vague feeling that I’m pregnant, and the rest of me not so much. I’m on the one with a progesterone thingy in it—didn’t really want to go cold turkey—but even so, I’m getting a much lower dose than I would with a daily pill.

If I needed any proof of this whatsoever, it’s that I immediately started getting acne again. Goddamnit. There ought to be a law—once gravity starts seriously affecting the boob-line, you ought to be done with acne. Seriously.

(It’s not nearly as bad as when I was a young nerd of pockmarked mien, but I notice it.)

I was anticipating brutal mood-swings and so forth, and I did get a twelve-day period out of the deal (o joy, o rapture) but no real problems there.

What I have noticed, however, is that I…err…this sounds corny, but I pass the mirror now and half the time I go “Awww, yeah.” I mean, it helps if I’m wearing clothes, but even so, I feel better about how I look.

I have changed nothing. I have lost less than a pound, well within the slings and arrows of outrageous weight fluctuation. I have been doing a fair amount of manual labor in the garden, but before anyone gets excited about increase in muscle mass, my pants fit EXACTLY the same. I am exactly the same exaggerated hourglass I have been for years. I got big hips, big boobs, and while my waist is substantially narrower, my stomach is about as toned as a goosedown pillow, so there’s some pooch goin’ on.

By standard BMI measurements, I am obese. (Mind you, according to those, I ought to weigh 140, and the only time I got within spitting distance of that, my friends were ambushing me with cheesecakes and words like “drowned rat” were being uttered. I looked badly unhealthy. 165 is more realistically my optimal weight, and I tell you now, it’d be a whole lot of celery sticks before I got down there again.) I’ll give you that I am somewhat overweight and quite definitely out of shape, though, and that certainly hasn’t changed.

And I still see myself in a long tank top and underwear and grin like an idiot. I have to be wearing a decently fitted bra, mind you, but them’s the breaks on this side of DD.

So now I’m wondering if there is some way in which whatever pill I was on was feeding a bit into a negative body image. It’s entirely possible that I’m nuts—it could be nothing more than a long run of good hair days, good boob days, and well-engineered undergarments. It’s not like I NEVER felt that way in the previous two decades, it was just less common. It could be the fact that I am starting to run out of give-a-shit on the body image front—sure, I’m chunky, but I’m a lot of fun and my career is kickin’ ass, and I think that’s probably a lot more fun to grow old with. It could be that I am finally over my ex-husband, who left me for being fat and boring (his words*) and that does tend to screw with you a bit, but hell, the best revenge is living well, or something like that.

But it seems odd that all that would hit in five weeks. One’s emotional growth tends to be a long-term struggle. And my experience with anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs are that some very weird internal things that seem like they should be entirely in your head are easily tweaked with chemicals. (Who knew that they made a drug that made you stop having one-sided arguments with other people in your head? And if it hadn’t caused intense nausea, I’d still be on it! That was the quietest things have been in here in twenty years!)

So. Lower progesterone apparently makes me feel better about my body. Who knew?


*In retrospect, our wildly different understandings of “boring” may have been a source of contention. If things were any more exciting, Otter would refuse to go anywhere with me, for fear of a rain of bulls and fishes.

Originally published at Tea with the Squash God. You can comment here or there.

>If I needed any proof of this whatsoever, it’s that I immediately started getting acne again. Goddamnit. There ought to be a law—once gravity starts seriously affecting the boob-line, you ought to be done with acne. Seriously.

>(It’s not nearly as bad as when I was a young nerd of pockmarked mien, but I notice it.)

Well, yes, people generally notice gravit--oh.

Heh.. My father has always had bad acne, even to this day. Runs in the family, really. My sister's acne scars are a thing of legend, sadly. She tells people she was mauled by a leopard, and that's the best the doctors could do. Still, he was happy for one thing: As a 'chronic acne sufferer', he could get prescription-strength Retin-A, and as a result looked MUCH younger than his years.

"Who knew that they made a drug that made you stop having one-sided arguments with other people in your head?"

WHAT IS THIS DRUG??? Needs it, we does! D:

That was my exact reaction. WAIT WHAT? GIMME.

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I hear you on the acne front. One would THINK that by 30 one would be done with that BS. One would be WRONG. One would also be cranky with one's hormones, too. Grrr. Argh.

My mom was getting acne into her 50s, but said she stopped when she started taking B12 regularly. I've been meaning to try it.

Also, w00t at the Whedon reference!!

Oh my yes.

While body image isn't specifically something that I've noticed, I did tend to cycle through depression periodically and had always kind of figured it was a fact of life. Since getting away from hormones, I just feel... better about things in general. Of course, it helps because one of the main arguments I had to stop taking the pill was because the hormonal fluctuations tended to cause severe migraines, and not spending days every month sick in bed is the sort of thing that brightens your outlook no matter what else happens.

Mom warned me way back when that when she started taking the pill, she went crazy. I asked what she meant, and she answered with something about sneaking out for candy bars at 4am. She added the caveat that this was back when the pill was first available, and the dosage was much higher than is typical of birth control today.

This exactly.

I took Orthotricyclene during my teenage years, and it nearly killed me, literally. Turns out I have clinical depression to begin with, and being on the pill made me so depressed I attempted suicide. After that happened, my mom told me to get the hell off of the pill - since it was the only thing that had changed. Within a few weeks I was as right as (undiagnosed clinically depressed) rain!

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I went on a microgestin pill in January (a much briefer flirtation with something else in '05 resulted in nausea being a Major Problem), and came back off in September because I was suspicious it was making me more baseline irritable.

Survey says yes, though how much is placebo I couldn't tell you.

Woo good body image, though. :) (I'm still hoping that cup I jumped when I went on the microgestin goes away. G is plenty, GG/H are just a pain. =\)

It is DEFINITELY lower progesterone, and actually has a lot to do with ovulation on the regular cycle, and biological urges and such like. Progesterone is generally lower in the small window of ovulation cycle, and your body is all ready to catch a man and put him to good use. Nicely enough, it makes you think you look damn good too.

I'm in perimenopause right now, and all my cycles are wildly heightened; it's bizarre to have a sudden urge to wear a miniskirt and corset a few days every month, but probably the only fun thing about the process.

Oh, God! You mean this is normal?!?!? I thought I was just going insane along with everything else!


Somebody thought you were *boring*? Wait, that can't be right. Yes, here it is in my thesaurus. One of the antonyms of "boring" is "ursulav."

If you were any more interesting there would be serious property damage.

In the years when I was still on the pill I moved to another country and couldn't get the brand I'd been taking. I got something that was supposed to be identical and realised about 2 months later that I had gradually become quite insane - I was hysterically depressed in the mornings. Everything was The Worst Thing Ever and I cried and cried.. and then sometime after noon my mood cleared and I couldn't really figure out why things had upset me that much. As soon as I realised I got my family to send me the original pill I'd been taken and the insanity stopped almost immediately. So damn weird.

At one point I brought two packages into my doctor. "What's the difference between these?"

"Uh... they're supposed to be medically identical."

"This one makes me crazy."

"... okay. I'll put 'no substitutions' on the prescription."

Took a long time, though, because I got too depressed and crazy to remember my suspicion that the pills were making me depressed and crazy.

I recall your stories of him from long ago, and I'm sure he was a good guy at one point. However, what about your life then was dull and boring?

Honestly, he's still not a bad guy. He's a decent human being, he doesn't kick puppies, and so on. He's just...mmm...a serious conformist. If all his friends jumped off a cliff, so would he, no questions asked, because obviously there's some reason we're all jumping off the cliff together.

That was fine when we were hanging around with wacky artists and whatnot, but age exacerbated the tendency and once he got a job at an office with a very very conventional design staff, all of whom had Normal Girlfriends (they tended to be thin, baby-obsessed, and one of them told me without a trace of concern that she hadn't read a book since high-school) he wanted one just like that, and the people who weren't like that were Weird. ("I'm not interested in that!" I said once. "But you should be!" he replied.)

He's not a bad guy. He's just weak and wants to fit in, and believes that other people are happier than he is and should be imitated. So, y'know. I'm past the point of being particularly angry about it (although I occasionally trip over some unexpected leftover bitterness!) You can't get angry at a fish for not singing, and people are only capable of being what they are, after all.

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Given the fact that hormones absolutely effect mood this seems absolutely possible. Especially given what pghbekka said. It kind of makes sense that body image would be affected by sex hormones.

The first birth control pill I was on made me CRAZY ANXIOUS. About everything. And sometimes about nothing. I switched to a lower hormone pill and things are MUCH better.
On the other hand, on the pill (at the lower dose) I don't seem to have regularly scheduled week before my period hopelessly overwhelmed weepy time every single month anymore, so that's a plus.
So yeah. Hormones will do WEIRD SHIT to you.

On a high-dose pill I got crazy (argumentative, weepy, illogical crazy, my mom demanded I get off that pill), on a slightly lower dose it took a few years but eventually it made me depressed. I'm now on Alesse, which is apparently a super low dose, but I find I still get that one week of weepy illogical-ness. :/ As long as I know it's coming and mentally buffer for it, usually it's okay, but I could sure do without it. It does not stack well with other stress.

I was on the pill, and later the patch, for something like a decade. Then I quit all that stuff and just went celibate, but for the year after my hormones were totally wonky. I was super moody and had terrible painful, scarring cystic acne (adolescent years weren't that bad in the acne dept, so this was a new and awful thing). Then all of the sudden everything went away as if my body finally figured out what was up.

Glad the change has been a good one for you!

Just to be pedantic (because I loooooove being pedantic!), but it might be slightly more accurate to say that hormonal birth control tells the ovaries "you just ovulated; don't do it again." In other words, for many people, HBC is like that moment just before PMS starts... >_> (Disclaimer: And, just as some people get horrible depressive PMS, and some people don't, many, many people do just fine on HBC!) It's also accurate to say that it's similar to pregnancy; in both cases, progesterone is extremely high. But there's no hCG, which... makes for differences.

Congrats on losing the Eternal PMS! O:D Hopefully the acne will sort itself out after a while; I've heard there's often an adjustment period when dropping to lower doses or going off HBC entirely.

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I totally hear and dig what you're saying. Most definitely on that body mass bit; since I'm barely 5'3", that chart claims I need to be maybe 140. I rather disagree with said chart, vehemently. (Personally, I'll settle for 180, since that's where I still look healthy and don't look like a zombie)

Also hear you on the ex front; my dead evil ex (yes, dead, long story) used to throw me various guilt trips about my weight while simultaneously dropping minor compliments. Living well is the best payback on the matter, I think.

All in all, what matters most is that you're happy and comfy and healthy. :) Keep on rockin' it.

I'm 5'2. The charts say I should be 120. I totally hear ya.

Um. I'm built like a fireplug and play goalie. I'm healthy, just not built like a fire pole. (: The lowest I've ever been as an adult is 136, and my body seems to like 138-144 just fine.

;) weeona Expand
One of my friends discovered that the pill can cause you to need more zinc and low zinc can cause depression.

Your ex left you for being boring? Oh that was just weird, because "boring" is somehow not a word I associate with you.