Coming off the pill series (1/7) – making the decision

I am baffled. I am angry. I am astounded. I am excited. I am worried.

Yes, all these things at once.

I started reading Code Red on 28th January, on the second day of my period, on the day that I was going to start the last packet of my pill. As soon as I reached the chapter about the pill, I knew that maybe I wouldn’t even start that last strip.

Because what I read in that chapter made me suddenly realise that maybe, just maybe, my chronic fatigue and adrenal fatigue are (also?) due to being on the pill.

The fatigue started in October 2007, during a 6-week trip to California (my husband was sent there through his work so I went with him), at which time I wasn’t on the pill any more as we were trying to conceive our first baby. So the start of the fatigue definitely wasn’t due to being on the pill. (See below for what I now believe it was due to.)

Fast forward to August 2013. I went back on the pill. The one I used to be on wasn’t available any more. I was so disappointed because it had been so perfect for me, never any period discomfort, great skin, no mood swings, nothing. Pretty linear, pretty much like a man who has no emotional issues 😉

So I tried a new pill. It was awful. I became even more tired. My mother, who is a gynaecologist, said it takes up to 6 months to get used to the hormones, so I should stick to it. After 6 months, still feeling awful, and still with a daughter who didn’t sleep through the night consistently, I gave up and asked for a different one. This one was better, I didn’t feel so tired, I could live through each day, even with the sleep deprivation, even through the grief of losing my father on Boxing Day of 2013, even with the stress of a house move in September 2014, even with the stress of my daughters having illness after illness, bug after bug, throughout the autumn of 2014.

I then crashed in January 2015, though. Completely crashed. Adrenal fatigue hit me hard. I had to do absolutely nothing the 3 days of the week that I wasn’t looking after my youngest. Just lie in bed and wait to feel better. After 3 weeks of doing this, I started feeling a bit better. Spring arrived shortly after and it helped too.

However, I was still feeling awfully tired a lot of the time. Just one bad night with our youngest daughter and it would throw me for 3 days, and she would have another bad night just as I was recovering and feeling better again. It was endless. It felt endless.

When she started sleeping through the night consistently in August 2016, at the age of 3 years and 9 months, I felt like a new woman. But it didn’t last. As soon I had a bad night (not because of my daughter, but just because of waking up at 5am instead of 6.30am, or being awake for 2 hours in the night, unable to go back to sleep (bad ‘habits’ from my daughter’s ‘not-a-good-night days’ die hard! But I also have another perspective, which I can’t wait to tell you about!), my body still couldn’t recover quickly.

When in December 2016 I was still completely exhausted (this time because of working so hard on my business, my new Freedom from Food for Mums website, my EFT challenge in my Facebook group and then straight to Paris with my mum and Christmas at home, with not a quiet minute to myself, shared between husband, mother and daughters), and when in January I was still completely exhausted despite a week of not doing much, I realised that I really had chronic fatigue.

It was something I couldn’t diagnose as long as I had a daughter who didn’t sleep well consistently. The fatigue had disappeared after the first trimester of my first pregnancy, so in about May 2008, but had returned when my baby was about 2 months old, and I would say it returned with a vengeance. My thyroid tests came back normal, though. (In December 2007, my THS levels had reached 38 instead of around 1.5, so I had been on thyroxine from January 2008 till about May, when things felt like they had got back to normal, and my TSH was indeed back to normal too.) So I just put it down to having a baby, recuperating from a C-section, adjusting to motherhood, realising it was really tough to survive on interrupted sleep.

This went on till she was 3 and a half years old, when she was finally sleeping through the night consistently. At which point I was pregnant again, and the whole thing started again, as described above. It really was relentless.

Whenever I think about the 9 years of sleep deprivation I went through (which also followed a year in 2003-2004 when I didn’t sleep well because of high stress at work), I have tears coming into my eyes and I wonder how I have survived it all. I also cry because quite frankly, I think it buggered my body. On so many levels, including weight gain, stress, fat around my abdomen and inability to sleep properly consistently.

But then I came across Medical Medium and Code Red. Two transformative books.

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Medical Medium

The first book, Medical Medium, is a bit whacky and I don’t really know how much of it is true, no one knows, not even doctors, not even alternative health professionals, but it makes total sense. The origins of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, if one may believe the author, Anthony William (a medium who can tell what is wrong with anyone he comes across, including people on the train, in front of him, behind him, to his side, including anyone he brushes past in the streets), is the Epstein-Barr Virus, EBV. There are several stages in the virus’s life, and I truly believe I have now reached the last stage (the fourth stage).

I would say it all started during the plane trip to the US in October 2007. I caught it then, it manifested as non-stop fatigue and fibromyalgia, and it never left my body. Because once you’ve caught it, it just doesn’t leave your body. It lodges itself more and more deeply into your body, in your liver, spleen and other organs, and it gets harder and harder to get rid of it. And it knows that, haha!

In the book, Anthony William describes how it all happens, and then gives a list of foods to eat and supplements to take in order to kill the virus and get rid of it for good. He also gives a list of foods to eliminate from your diet, and of course, unsurprisingly, this list (which is also valid for adrenal fatigue) includes sugar, wheat, most animal fats, all dairy and eggs. All for different reasons. I won’t go into any detail here. I urge you to read the book. Truly enlightening.

I’ve hinted I probably had adrenal fatigue on top of chronic fatigue. Hard to know for sure but my acupuncturist thought it was adrenal fatigue in January 2015 and that is why lying down for 3 days a week for 3 weeks helped replenish my adrenals – but didn’t help with the rest of the chronic fatigue.

And now that I’m back to adrenal fatigue on top of the chronic fatigue (again, self-diagnosis + diagnosis of the same acupuncturist), I know it’s time to change my diet.

Given my history with diets, dieting and restrictions, this is a bit annoying, to say the least. I am not being very successful with it so far.

I was sugar-free and wheat-free for about two months from 24th October, when I had sudden massive skin issues around my face and when I realised how anything sugary and wheaty made me even more tired. Then Christmas happened, and I haven’t been successfully sugar-free and wheat-free since. Some days yes, some days no, some days feel like post-diet days when I reacted really badly to the deprivation (read ‘bingeing’, though thankfully not to the same extent as before), so I’m being very careful. I still think ‘very little’ is better than ‘none at all’ because ‘all-out-bingeing’ usually follows ‘none at all’, and there is NO WAY I’m going back there. NO WAY. And of course, ‘nothing’ then ‘too much’ is much worse for our health than a little every day.

I don’t know what Anthony would think of this, but that’s where I am at the moment. Tomorrow is another day, next week is another week, next month is another month. I’ll keep experimenting and I will let you know what works best (for me). What’s for sure is that without wheat and sugar for nearly 2 months from October to December, I felt a whole lot better, I was much less bloated (not at all) and I had more energy. So I think I will manage to do it again. Just not right now, for some reason.

Code Red

Now onto the second book, Code Red.

Just a few weeks ago, on 7th January, I received Lisa Lister’s book from Amazon, and I started reading it on Saturday 28th. And that all made sense to me too. Maybe the pill wasn’t helping. I have felt worse and worse over the past few months. I have a mega headache for a whole day on Day 1 or Day 2, which nothing shifts – not Paracetamol, not EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques, aka tapping), either or both of which always work on a ‘normal’ headache. I never used to have headaches during my period.

I have felt more and more tired.

My boobs are often sore when they didn’t use to be.

My lower tummy is always sore for 2 days.

The only good thing is that I don’t bleed heavily, and if I do, it’s only for a day or two.

That is the only thing that improved over the months.

While it’s not negligible, I know that when I’m not on the pill, I don’t bleed heavily for days and days – just for 2 days, 3 at the most.

I also know that I don’t have worse uterine pains or worse boob pains.

This is all theory since I’m referring to times when I was young (or when I was at least 4-8 years younger!) and before pregnancy and birth. Maybe things have changed in the last few years. Maybe I’m perimenopausal (but I don’t think so, my mum’s menopause was at the age of 52 and so was my grandmother’s, and I don’t feel like I’m menopausal).

I feel that if the pill causes my chronic fatigue, or makes it even worse, then I need to know for sure. So I’m willing to give this a good go – be pill-free for at least 6 months.

And I want to take you on this journey. Because maybe you want to be pill-free too. Because you, too, suffer from chronic fatigue or other things that could well be caused by being on the pill. Research shows that the pill can cause headaches and fatigue indeed, and even depression. I don’t want to be depressed. I don’t even want those bad headaches. I would rather feel my body in all its variations and strength and weakness (and use condoms) than be at risk of depression.

Maybe this journey will inspire you. Maybe you will want to join me at the same time. It would be so much fun to share this journey with you 🙂

What I have discovered in the chapters that follow the one about the pill have transformed the way I see myself and my body already. Or rather, the way I see how it operates. It has already shed a lot of light on why I have so many bad days and so few good days. How I sometimes wake up in the night and am unable to go back to sleep. Why it always happens when I have just had a spell of several days of complete uselessness and exhaustion.

I know because I have literally just lived it! From Friday 27th to Monday 30th, I was an emotional wreck and beyond exhausted. Then on Monday afternoon I was starting to feel a bit more awake, a bit more alert, a bit less useless. And then BANG, it happened, I suddenly woke up at 3am that night (Monday to Tuesday), full of beans. True to my words, I got up and journaled.

I say ‘true to my words’ because when this happened last time (probably on Days 4–5 of my cycle last month, but I don’t know, I wasn’t charting anything at the time!), I promised myself that next time I wouldn’t waste my time waiting for sleep ‘just because I’m tired’ and that I would get up and write. And so on Tuesday morning, at 3.30am, I did. And I felt great! The fact that I knew I could have a nap at any time I needed it during the day helped, of course. If I had had to go to work in a factory manipulating heavy machinery or something, or being with clients all day, I would probably have not got up, I would have put my relaxation mp3s on and tried to go back to sleep. (Sometimes it does work…)

You see, from Day 4 or 5, I enter the season of spring in my cycle. I’m full of energy and have lots of brilliant ideas, I feel very creative, I just want to write write write. Hence this blog post and the ones for the next few days! I actually felt all right pretty much all day yesterday (Tuesday). But my 45mn nap at 2.30pm was most welcome! I felt good afterwards.

So reading Code Red has been illuminating (I am SO telling my daughters ALL about this as soon as they are ripe for hearing it and listening to it and understanding it!), and I haven’t even finished it yet! I am excited.

But yes, I am also worried. What if coming off the pill makes everything even worse? What if it doesn’t help in any way?

I am willing to find out. I have to find out.

I am charting my last cycle with the pill, and I will chart my cycles for at least 3 more months when I am off it.

Want to join me?

If so, do comment below and let’s share our journeys!

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