Image credit: Elza Burkart, @elzaburkart

You’re upset. I can tell because you haven’t said a word in the eight minutes that we’ve been grabbing all of the shit from beneath our tent turned puddle. I told you I wasn’t sure about the open tarp layout, but hell, there wasn’t even a cloud in the sky three hours ago. We jam our soaking wet sleeping bags, a travel sized backgammon board, my underwear and your pillow (I forgot mine because duh) into the backseat of your Golf. Up until this point, we enjoyed a dry evening of beer salt and Modelo, pesto pasta from a packet, and a fire that never quite hit its potential. We fucked on a bench while hiking near the creek and you blew your load quick as I sat on your dick in the middle of Arkansas. But now — now we are wet. Now you are sulking. And now I have to smush my gangly-ass legs under the dash and try to sleep.

The strange thing is, though, I’m not upset, not even in the slightest. I feel grounded, eerily positive, and perfectly fine with getting rained out of our romantic camp under the Ouachita Forest sky. I feel weird because this isn’t a typical reaction. Usually I’d be huffing and puffing, stressed out while kicking myself and probably shedding a couple of irrational tears. Uncomfortably cold and wet Laura wasn’t far off from hangry Laura or sleepy Laura or any given Tuesday Laura. That is, until now.

I stopped taking birth control pills two months ago. I’d quit once before — I was 23, single, and too lazy to refill my prescription, so off I went into the wild wild west of my body sans artificial hormones. I didn’t get my period back for three months (in which time, I probably took 83,793 pregnancy tests). Amenorrhea, as the docs like to call it, is the absence of menstruation. Usually that just means you’re pregnant as fuck, but it can sometimes happen when your body is trying to get back into its natural cycle of eating an entire sleeve of Thin Mints while hemorrhaging blood from your vagina. Honestly, I was happy to have a break from the cramps and bloating and expensive tampons for those 92 days.

When my period resumed, so did the breakouts and excruciating cramps. My hair started thinning, too, but I can’t tell if that was from a hormonal imbalance or the fact that I was eating blow for dinner three times a week. Whoops. I remember feeling mostly happy during my year and a half off of birth control, but I eventually started dating someone new and the thought of condoms and pimples became less than desirable (shouts out to my cystic cheek acne of Winter 2015!). I don’t think I ever really gave my body the adequate time it needed to adjust off birth control, but fuck if I was going to let that zap my freedom of raw dogging my boyfriend’s dick or brushing through a full mane of hair.

Back to the gyno I went. I was just about 25 when I got back on those pretty little pills of hell. I dumped the boyfriend not long after, but I enjoyed the perks of clear skin, shorter periods, and zero babies (hoorah!). My 25th year contained a lot less illegal substances than 24, but I always felt unusually hazy and sad. I felt like a shell of myself, unable to fight my way out of any depression or moodiness that would come. I had dealt with depression off and on since high school, but this seemed like a hole I couldn’t climb out of. I hated myself, I couldn’t go more than a couple of days without crying, and I didn’t even want to fuck that much. I’d masturbate, orgasm, and then crumple into a puddle of tears and bloaty despair while wondering why the fuck I felt so gahd-damn sad.

It never occurred to me that my depression could stem from those jagged little pills. Like, if doctors are prescribing them like candy for decades upon decades, they must not be that bad, right? Right, Alanis?! I took to the Internet and discovered I was not alone in my emotional birth control woes. I read story after story, article after article about women feeling not quite themselves — about women drowning in their irrational tempers and molasses-like sadness. So when an extensive Danish study came out in the fall of 2016 that linked hormonal birth control to depression, I felt like it all started making sense. Of course, not everyone who takes the pill ends up in a depressive fog — the pill is a triumphant godsend for some people — but I finally felt relief in knowing why I might be feeling so unhappy and tired, so unlike myself.

After a few months of contemplation, I decided to take the plunge off the pill once again. Cons: my hair might fall out, I could get some awkward pimples, my horrendous cramps will return, and accidental conception (YIKES). Pros: I won’t feel dragged down in a pit of self-deprecation and desolation and I won’t want to kill myself. Considering that I want to lead a grossly long and slightly fulfilling life, I chose the latter. It’s been two months since I ditched the pill, and I feel so much like myself again. I haven’t gotten my period back, which means I’m running through pregnancy tests like a madwoman, but hopefully I start bleeding soon. I want to fuck ALL THE TIME so it’s nice to know that my sex drive is back and raring to go (shouts out to my boyfriend’s dick!). I’m pumping myself with raspberry tea, evening primrose oil, and probiotics to ease the side effects of withdrawal, but I’m happy to get back to my body’s natural rhythm, greasy skin and all. Moon cycle lyfe, nah mean?

I look at you from the passenger seat, my bed for the night. You’re tossing and turning and huffing and puffing. Your sighs pitter patter off the steering wheel as I reach over to rub your back and scratch the side of your neck. Hey, it’s no big deal! The trip isn’t ruined! Let’s just crank the heat up for a second! It’s all gonna be okay! BRB — quitting my job so I can become a motivational speaker. I never thought I’d be the one to reassure in times of distress, or be the one to remain even-keeled and optimistic while our soggy toes sit in freezing boots, but it sure feels good that I am.

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