Written by my Spring 2017 apprentice, Jamie Forward, this post discusses how birth control can hijack your life!

Birth control dulled my creativity and dimmed my spirit for more than 15 years.

I knew from a young age I was meant to do something great. I had visions of helping women purposefully, creating an impact that I couldn’t understand at that age. I dabbled in the arts, and have danced for my entire life since age 3. It’s been my deepest form of connection and creative expression. My creativity also flowed in the form of writing, which came with ease and delight.

As a teenage girl, I STRUGGLED with hormonal, cystic acne.

By 16, I had taken all forms of antibiotics, pills, gels and creams that existed. While they masked the issue temporarily, they never quite corrected my underlying root cause.

Along came hormonal birth control. The results I received with clearing my skin were amazing. However, like most temporary solutions, over years I built a tolerance to it and my skin continued along a breakout rollercoaster.

Like most teenagers do, I also struggled with “moodiness”. Looking back, mine were more severe than the average. Cyclical as my feminine cycle, I’d experience bouts of depression, anxiety and beating myself up. A LOT. Adding early 20’s post-college “scaries” of worrying about my future? Forget about it. I also added insomnia to my list of terrible symptoms.

This continued into my 20’s, as did my breakouts. Eventually, I was strongly advised (against my own intuition? ) to take on Accutane. The. Scariest. Drug. Ever. Blood tests? Fear of birth defects? Extremely dry, cracked skin? AND a chance that my acne wouldn’t be permanently clear? ( This last one proved to be true for me- THANKS ACCUTANE, FOR NOTHING!) Talk about terrifying.

I was stumped. What was so wrong with me both mentally and physically- that I couldn’t “snap out of it”?

That I couldn’t find a solution to clear (notice back then I wasn’t using the term “heal”) my acne? I felt so defeated, and so alone in my struggles.

  • No one ever once talked to me about acne being a hormonal issue.
  • No one EVER mentioned functional medicine. In fact, when I told my doctor I thought my acne was linked to a food sensitivity, my stress or a lifestyle habit- she told me I was wrong, and that it was “definitely a bacteria thing.”
  • No one EVER mentioned that my hormonal birth control was likely the link between my struggles with depression and anxiety either. At one point, I told my father I felt like there was a “dark cloud” dulling my spirit. How sad is that? That small voice in the back of my head telling me I was going to help people became a faint whisper surrounded with doubt.

When I decided to pursue my career as a health coach- my world shifted in amazing ways. FINALLY I was exposed to professionals who talked about a connection between food and mood. The fact that there were different ways of eating that suited each person’s unique genetic makeup. That nutrition, physical health and mental health were all correlated on a continuous feedback loop.

I experimented with removing certain food groups, and adding in new ones I learned about as the struggle to heal my acne continued. All while continuing hormonal birth control use, which probably wasn’t ideal. But as a woman who was in an intimate relationship, but not ready for a child- I felt my options were so limited that I had no choice.

I guess you could say I was “half clean”. As in- I cleaned up my diet after my coaching education.

However- other aspects of my lifestyle needed a good “cleanse” that I let linger–including my hormonal birth control routine. I feel fully for all of my clients who struggle to make a lifestyle change for the better. It’s not easy. If it was, we’d all do it without hesitation or difficulty. It was something I was used to for so long, it was part of my life.

I assumed that unless I wanted to surgically insert an IUD into my body, (which frightens me, although I hear it works wonders for many) hormonal birth control was my best option for preventing unplanned pregnancy.

Maybe I was naive, maybe I didn’t pay attention. However, I feel as a woman in this world, we don’t get an education around our cycle. Around our miraculous, unique female bodies. Around how to take care of ourselves, manage our cycle and know of our fertility. It wasn’t until I continued my studies deeper into women’s health that I was forever changed, and that “dark cloud” over my spirit lifted for good. My studies also allowed me to make a connection not between my food/lifestyle choices and my reproductive health, but ALSO my mental health. Game. Changer.

I stopped my hormonal birth control after over 15 YEARS on the pill.

It was a frightening decision, but also one of the best things I’ve ever done for my health- both physically and mentally. My pill didn’t control me, I NOW controlled me. I took my feminine edge back. It took almost 5 months for my period to come back regularly. Sadly, that’s better than the average. Some women wait months or even YEARS for their periods to safely resume.

The difference? I learned how to nurture my reproductive health and love my body through food and lifestyle changes. I began to pay attention to my cycle, and empower myself to be in the know.

I learned how to properly nurture my hormones nutritionally with adding quality animal protein, additional healthy fats, and supplementing where the nutritional gaps fell. I also made a conscious effort to love myself, embrace down time, and find healthy ways of coping with stress through meditation, yoga, and carving out me time.

But, most miraculously to me, that dark cloud I felt for years over my spirit while struggling with my mental health almost immediately lifted. My creativity came back. My struggles around depression and anxiety eased up. I felt more than ever connected to my spirit, the universe and my calling. Slowly, I felt like myself again.

About Jamie:

Jamie Forward is a Holistic Health Coach based in the NYC area, with a focus on women’s hormonal and mental health. She works with her clients to help educate them on functional nutrition and behavioral/psychological hacks for a healthy, happy life. With a degree in Psychology, she is a graduate from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, the Fix Your Period Apprenticeship, and a Spirit Junkie in progress. Jamie is also a passionate classically trained dancer and dance fitness instructor. She is a contributing writer for the New York Observer. To keep in touch with Jamie, find her on Instagram or check out her website.