In my bookmarks I have conditions favourited. Nothing serious. A link to a page on hypothyroidism. A treatment for something else. Another thing I could push inside my body that might solve one or two problems.
$54.50. 100% natural carbon.
I asked my naturopath if it would help. It wouldn’t hurt, she said. I believe that was the logic behind most of the things I swallowed, the things I mixed into drinks, the things I stopped or started eating, the birth controls I swapped between, the things I pushed inside my vagina. Thousands of dollars spent on maybe’s. Some of them did hurt. Most did not.
I read the physical side effects on the packaging. I’ve always had a habit of checking those things. I missed a few red flags. I watched myself unravel, several times. I spent 7 years visiting walk-in clinics, a family doctor, gynaecologists, counsellors, a naturopath, an osteopath, and so on, on a frequent basis. I spent years using it’s nothing serious, it’s just… as a catchphrase, mostly with myself. I spent most of those years half-believing that everything was in my head – I had heard that anxiety can cause physical effects, so in a twisted way, the perpetual bleeding, severe mood fluctuations, and other trips to the doctor, became half my fault.
It amazes me how commonplace birth control is, and how little its frequent users actually know about what it is doing to their body. However, I imagine that can be said for many, many things.
The physical side effects associated with things like Depo-Provera became increasingly obvious over time, scarily so. In the moment you justify the changes in mood, the excessive periods, and so on, because you believe that everything takes time – you’re told, specifically, that this will take time. Plus, the symptoms before medication held their own pain and turmoil and going backwards doesn’t hold a whole lot of promise. At what point do you decide you have given it enough, or perhaps too much of your time, though? I imagine it is when the person in the mirror no longer makes sense to you. Or when it’s easier to count the days you haven’t had your period in a calendar year, than it is to count the days you had it.
Most side effect labels are exhaustive. They list everything that could happen, even if it’s incredibly rare. I found some important effects to be lacking, though. For instance, there’s nothing that says: If this is the 5th pill you’ve tried that hasn’t worked, you might begin believing you are the problem, and not the medication. Or, may cause feelings of doubt and disappointment. Those are figured out on their own.
Searching became an addiction for a while. Looking for answers. Finding new possibilities. Making lists of things to get tested for. Every almost-solution revealed more questions. The lines between who I am and the symptoms I was dealing with became blurred to the point of feeling entirely unsure of what normal is. So much so, I imagine, that even normal felt like a problem. A mood swing was no longer a mood swing, it was a condition. Another breakdown, another day of pain, another period, another doctor who said something entirely different than the last would just add to my list of reasons on why I’m falling apart, failing to notice the pieces that were still held tightly together.
Nothing serious was eating away at me to the point where I wished it could be something serious. I wanted all of it to become big enough that somebody would be able to tell me what was going on, in a single sentence. That sentence wouldn’t fix anything. But it would validate something that I clearly couldn’t validate for myself.
I imagine most things do have meaning to them, and answers, and single sentences that can summarize the existence of strange symptoms. The twist, I’ve come to realize, is that more often than not we do not get to know any of it. Instead, we’re forced to find contentment in the unknown, or risk watching ourselves become the condition as we let the search consume us. Perhaps I needed a prescription for letting go, more than anything else. Even more important, I needed to learn to write that prescription for myself.
I say that it has been a long time coming, though I cannot tell you exactly where I have arrived. Just that over time I have learned that there are not always answers written in the form of a diagnosis, a perfectly wrapped explanation offered directly to you. Instead they are hidden in books, in a validating comment from one of the few doctors to really, really pay attention, or in the moments you decide to listen to your own body, and stop searching so desperately. Some days, it’s in the small moments where you allow yourself to admit that nothing serious has been serious enough.