Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ups and Downs

I had a check-up yesterday; I was overdue. My doctor says my blood pressure is still too high. At the beginning of my appointment, her assistant checked it twice on each arm with their cuff, and then she tried it with my own battery-operated cuff a couple of times. I'd dutifully bought one last month, at my doctor's suggestion, and brought it in so we could check its accuracy even though I'm too freaked out by it to use it at home. Each time she took a reading, it was higher than the previous time; we both thought this was hilarious. Laughing probably raises blood pressure. Or it's just more proof that blood pressure cuffs raise my blood pressure.

When my doctor appeared, she took more readings, even trying a couple of sneaky maneuvers to distract me. But she got similarly alarming results. The upshot is that I either have to stop taking birth control pills for a six weeks to see if they're the problem, or start taking a couple of antihypertensive drugs.

I opted for the former with deep misgivings. The Pill cured my migraines, acne, agonizing cramps, wildly irregular periods, and mood swings. I'm not looking forward to welcoming those old pals back into my life after a blissful 17-year absence.

Nor am I looking forward to hot flashes, night sweats, hair loss, and whatever other horrors synthetic hormones have been protecting me against in recent years.

Nor am I enthusiastic about barrier methods of birth control. God, they are still so primitive. When I consider our options, I feel like my life has been catapulted back to the 1950s. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich would be in their element there, but I am not.

On the other hand, it will be interesting to see just who I am when I'm off the Pill. I'm convinced it affected my personality for the better. It certainly made life more pleasant — clear skin, fewer bouts of excruciating pain, and never having to worry about pregnancy can account for that, of course, but I loved the way it stabilized my moods. I believe we are often at the mercy of our hormones for they can strongly influence our emotional states. When I took a different formulation of the Pill back in the 1990s, I predictably became paranoid and suicidal on the third Tuesday of every month. On Wednesday, I would resume my cheerful, untroubled life, already in progress. When I reported this to my doctor, she switched brands, and I never experienced that again.

Maybe there's a crazy, brilliant artist lurking inside me, who will assert herself now that the hormones percolating within me will be mine, not some pharma company's. Maybe I'll start writing poetry again. (Don't worry, I promise I won't post any here.)

But I won't be able to help writing about my experiences off the Pill. Fasten your seat belts, I bet it's going to be a bumpy ride. 

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