There’s a Feeling. A very specific Feeling.
11 years ago, I was prescribed hormonal birth control for the first time. That’s also when I was first introduced to that Feeling.
It's difficult to describe in words. It’s frustration. Ennui. A lack of drive to even try, yet an overwhelming weariness over the complete absence of change. Over what? You’re not really even sure. But the longer it sticks around, the more it becomes desperation, hopelessness. Exercise doesn’t help; changing the food you eat doesn’t make any difference. You don’t recognize your own body anymore. Sometimes, you simply can’t muster up any emotion toward something you should care about; other times, mild concerns becomes wild anxieties. You don’t even know why. You stand in a room, watching yourself have what seems to be a complete mental and emotional breakdown, without any idea how to stop it. It's like slowly drowning in everything and nothing all at the same time. Imprisoned in a complete lack of control. You’ve lost the ability to fix what you can’t even identify is wrong, but you know something is very, VERY wrong.
Six months later, as I opened my birth control pack, ready to take my daily dose, to be “responsible” for my reproductive system, I looked at that tiny pill in my hand. “What if it’s this?” Could it really be that simple?
“You could just….NOT take it.”
So I didn’t. The whole pack went into the trash. Within 24 hours, the Feeling began to fade. I started seeing the real me in the mirror again. The stark contrast pushed me to start researching. That’s when I began to learn what synthetic hormones, especially third-generation progestins, really did to the human body. That there have been tens of thousands of lawsuits and even deaths over blood clots caused by the very birth control I had just thrown in the trash. (My own life would later be threatened by an ectopic pregnancy due to a blood clot in my Fallopian tube.) I swore I would NEVER go back on synthetic hormones again. EVER.
Fast forward several years. I had trouble getting pregnant. I learned all about fertility, or more accurately, infertility. As miscarriages started to become our new normal, I suspected hormone imbalance from the thyroid disease and PCOS that runs in my family. Despite being given test results “within normal hormone range”, I still knew something was wrong. The Feeling had started creeping back in. Depression. Confusion. Complete lack of focus. Overwhelmed. Anxious and lethargic at the same time. Simultaneously trying to be my own advocate and absolutely hating myself. Infertility is hard enough to deal with without the added sense of being trapped in your own body with no idea why you can’t get a grip on your own mind.
This time I knew what to look for. There they were again, those synthetic hormones. In every single prenatal vitamin. In the soy that comes in every product celebrated to be "especially for women".
I adjusted appropriately. It all went out. All BPA plastics went in the trash. Everything with phytoestrogens was tossed. Every synthetic hormone or hormone disruptor had to go. My fertility never fully recovered, but the Feeling faded again. It became undeniable that it was directly linked to hormone imbalances. As I climbed out of the hole for the second time, I used the indignation as fuel. I changed my food intake. I changed my exercise. My life exploded in potential. The woman I saw in the mirror was authentically happy for the first time in a long while. Gratefully, it remained that way for the last couple years.
Until two months ago. Out of what seemed like absolutely nowhere, there it was again. The Feeling.
But why would my hormones be imbalanced? I’d gotten rid of everything. I was exercising regularly, eating well, deliberately spending more money on ingredients with no hormones or antibiotics added. As the Feeling got stronger and stronger, I felt weaker and weaker against stopping it this time. I WAS DOING ALL THE RIGHT THINGS, AND IT STILL WOULDN’T STOP. I became terrified that this was my new normal again, because it seemed unexplainable. It seemed every aspect of my health was sluggish, no longer functioning properly, and I had no idea how to escape this time.
Yesterday, in tears over another relapse of a virus I'd been battling on and off since Thanksgiving and the obvious onset of another overwhelming menstrual cycle, I prayed. “I can’t live like this again, God. What is going on???” I didn’t hear a voice in response, but I did feel goaded that, even if I did nothing else that day, just go take a shower and wash my face.
In the bathroom, I took a quick peek in the mirror. The impressive hair growth on my chin in the short few hours since I’d last checked made me burst into tears again. This was definitely the hormone imbalance prison from which I thought I’d wriggled free. The tears rolled down my cheeks as I begrudgingly grabbed my new face wash.
This face regimen was new. Well, two months old, to be more precise. Two months...
THE LAST TIME I REMEMBER FEELING BALANCED WAS ABOUT THE TIME I BEGAN USING THESE NEW FACE PRODUCTS.
A single quick Google search of the ingredients gave me an immediate answer: "HORMONE AND ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS HIGH." Hydroquinone. Propylparaben. Even the retinol lauded right on the front of the bottle. Reproductive toxicity. Immunotoxicity. Developmental toxicity. Organ system toxicity. Allergies. Biochemical and cellular level changes.
These bottles were absolutely loaded with hormone disruptors.
Come to find out, that’s how anti-aging products work. They deliberately tweak hormones to make your skin behave more like it did when you were younger. I'd been smearing hormone disruptors directly on my face four times a week for two months, ironically in an effort to combat the very problems they were causing.
Just to have even a hint of an explanation, something that makes such perfect sense, makes me feel like I can get my feet underneath me again. It’ll take a while to return to normal. These chemicals are still in my system; I need to flush myself out. But my systems should start functioning properly again eventually. My digestion. My immunity. My reproduction. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
Not everyone responds to synthetic hormones or hormone disruptors this severely. Some women don't have any sensitivity, can't relate at all, and will never fully understand. Therefore, my goal in sharing is not to vilify specific products. But to anyone who can relate to anything I described, or if anyone in your family has hormone imbalances from genetic thyroid or endocrine disorders, you need to be aware of the likelihood of these effects. Be aware of the Dirty Dozen. Learn what risks there really are in taking synthetic hormones. These things are so powerful, they're hiding everywhere, people are legitimately dying, and they don’t even come with labels.
We are not crazy; we’re just battling unseen enemies.