The pill was perhaps my favourite form of contraception – it was low-fuss, timing my period by its packaging made me feel even more excessively organised than I was before, and the lack of invasiveness was particularly appealing to someone who dislikes needles. IUDs weren’t for me, I thought, as I was a little scared about signing on for five years of having a metal object in my nether regions. So one day at age 18, in a nurse’s office at Family Planning, AVA 30 and I were paired together.
AVA and I were, in the beginning, a perfect match. I was relatively unremarkable in terms of complications, I didn't experience any weight gain, besides what I put on myself by eating pizza all the time (and shitty hall food), I was terribly consistent about timings and I never skipped. She let me have my own life, was always there when I needed her and I thought ‘YES!’ here is my forever contraception.
And then I started reading.
I started reading about the side-effects of women who'd been on the pill for years and the countless stories of how they felt when they came off the pill. One need only type ‘pill side effects’ into Google to come up with a host of issues that have the potential to scare the crap out of you.
While reading about the experiences of others, I thought, "could that be happening to me?" and into the once perfect relationship, doubt emerged. I couldn't tell if my anxiety and paranoia were my brain chemistry or the pill and I began to wonder what life was like without an alarm and a pill packet.
So I decided that we needed a break. I needed time to clear my head and be in control of my own body. Like my relationships with men, I needed space to be myself. Unadulterated me, without hormone changes, or the anxiety that had begun to sour most of my relationships.
I’d bounced from relationship to relationship fearful of the cliché that I couldn’t really “have it all”, and throughout AVA kept me warm and safe, a daily reminder that I could damn well do what I wanted. But if I'm going to be honest, boys and AVA also kept me from facing myself. I began to realise how toxic AVA and I had become. So like any good romantic comedy, I walked away in the hope of finding someone new.
It’s been just under 12 months since AVA and I broke up, and I can honestly say that my life is the better for it. For me personally, I have always used condoms even when I was taking AVA so deciding to stop taking the pill meant that I kept practising safe sex. It’s important, regardless of whether or not you use oral contraception to always, always make sure that you are practising safe sex, and are protected from STIs – don’t forget to get regular check-ups. As always, when it comes to sex and sexual education, never be afraid to ask questions and find out information. You’re never going to be worse off by having that information.
In the wake of news that the scientists who created the pill knew about the significant side-effects that it created, and the realisation that men can’t hack their male equivalent, I've become okay with the split. Like other past relationships, AVA has faded into the background.
Recently, in a frenzy of packing, I came across AVA’s drawer, and inside it, my last packet. I thought of her fondly and then placed her in the bin. I don’t miss her or need her anymore. And that filled me with more confidence than I’d ever had when we were together.
Editor's note: Women report having many different experiences of being on the contraceptive pill. While some women experience significant difficulties, others experience no side effects at all.