The path to finding myself

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On the outside I have always upheld my usual confident smile, drive to succeed and loyalty as a friend and partner. I go out of my way to help a friend in need, or even a complete stranger to ensure everyone is happy. I take on any job opportunity that comes my way and I do that with a strong work ethic – no matter how many jobs I have to balance.

But there comes a time when you bite off more than you can chew; that smile becomes forced, that drive goes into autopilot, and helping others means you put yourself last.

There comes a time when you can become so caught up in how perfect you have to be, how well you should do, how you should look/act/seem and what you think is right, that your idea becomes so far from reality.

And by ‘you’ I mean myself.

This past two years has been the bridge I’ve had to cross to my new life chapter and I’m almost on the other side. The road in the near distance is what I feel 2015 is about to offer.

To close off the year though – to reflect on my lessons learnt – I have to go back one more time to this last year that has caused a roller coaster of emotions; finding myself and losing it again; and what caused the uphill battles that I can now learn from. This included a regretful decision to get the Implanon (contraceptive implant), which plays a crucial part to this story.

2014 started off to be the perfect year. I had met my soulmate, I was heading over to volunteer in Cambodia with a best friend, I was working a cool job, and I was about to commence my second semester of a Bachelor of Science. The world was my oyster.

Self help school
Some of the incredible volunteers and the students.

Cambodia was life-changing to say the least. While volunteering at a self-help school just outside of Siem Reap in our second week, we met the man who started the project. Like everyone, we couldn’t wait to hear his story on how he started the school and village with nothing but a couple of hundred dollars, and a determined heart. But the way it would effect me, I had not anticipated even the slightest.

The Cambodian children are so cute, curious and always smiling.
The Cambodian children are so cute, curious and always smiling.

 

As the humble man, Sambaht, took us on his story-telling journey, I started to feel heavy. My eyes began to water. My heart was pounding and kind of felt like it was on fire. As he spoke, I was having flash backs to every choice I had made in the last year based on what I ‘should’ do and not what I ‘want’ to do. My emotions were taking over and I just couldn’t fight back the tears. As I kept my sunglasses on to cover the droplets rolling over my cheeks, I kept fading in and out of what he was saying, to then relating it back to something I could have done better. 

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We built a hut just like one of those, which provided a space for students to cook, study and even sleep.

I got back to our hostel that evening and was a balling mess. What was happening? I was just crying uncontrollably because what Sambaht had shared with us that day made me realise I was about to change my life. It made me realise that if someone could start a school after working as cleaner and Tuk Tuk driver – then I should be following my heart with ease.

After a consoling talk from a beautiful fellow volunteer, Valerie, and a talk with my boyfriend, I knew what I had to do. It was time to start taking the reins and stop procrastinating; stop making up reasons why I can’t or shouldn’t do something.

For me this included a few things. Firstly, I loved studying science as I wanted to become a zoologist. But all I ever talked about (as many of you would know) was health and herbs. Everyone kept saying “Jade, you really should be studying nutrition or something”. I always responded with “yeah, but I’ve started this now, there’s no point changing”. So that was ignorance part 1.

Secondly, I had this fixed idea that it was getting too late in life to not know what to do. As if 22 years old was really pushing the age limit on studying, or wasting time mucking around.
Thirdly, I had so many great ideas of what I wanted to do but I wasn’t acting on any of them. Just letting dreams and time pass by.

Now this had changed.

I got home from Australia after a last stop in Thailand, and within the second day I was enrolled in a Bachelor of Health Science (Naturopathy). I decided I was going to move to Melbourne with my boyfriend at the end of the year – because it felt right; not because we had to be together for some certain amount of time that would seem acceptable. He also bought me the amazing gift of this website for my birthday, which only facilitated my hopes and dreams – something I had wanted to do for so long but was too afraid to take the first action on.

Everything was setting up to be a good year…

Until, I decided to put a rod in my arm that turned my new-found positivity upside down, backwards, and down a deep dark hole.

Now, before I proceed, I want to firstly say this doesn’t mean this will happen to everyone who gets the Implanon. Every body reacts differently to hormones. Secondly, this is in no way a ploy against the medical system or general practitioners as I highly commend the work they do and have done. I am also not saying ‘don’t get the Implanon’ as it is your decision to make. But I feel I still need to warn those who might be susceptible and are considering getting it.

I had never reacted well to the pill. Weight gain and mood swings were just some of the side effects. There was only one pill that worked okay, Yaz, but it was too expensive for a uni student. After finding out that with concession I could get the Implanon for a mere $7 for the next three years, how could it not seem attractive? The doctor did warn me of some side effects such as breast tenderness, mood swings, spotting, and the rare case of mild depression. I asked if this would occur for the full course but he said usually it would settle down after about a year. I thought I could deal with that. So I payed the small amount, had my arm numbed and in this big rod went for the next three years.

The first couple of weeks were fine. I got my period a couple of times, irregularly, but this was supposed to be normal. I started putting on a bit of weight but I was hopeful it wouldn’t go past a couple of kilos.

About a month in, the moods started. I remember being overwhelmed with a strong need to cry over absolutely nothing. I just kept telling myself this would pass in time.

The feeling to cry began turning into weekly bouts of spontaneous tears.

This then quickly spiralled out of control and soon I felt like I had a demon in my head. I started to hate myself, I kept telling myself I was ugly as I was putting on more weight. It also didn’t help that my cravings were out of control. I kept thinking people were staring at me or people would be talking behind my back. I then even started thinking that my boyfriend wouldn’t want to be with me anymore.

I clearly remember one day going to lunch with him and was reading into all these ‘signs’ that weren’t even there. I thought he wasn’t interested in me that day, that what if he wants to break up with me, and what am I going to do without him. These thoughts were far from the truth and there was a quiet voice in my head that realistically knew this. But this demon kept shouting over and drowning out any positive thought I had.

After he went back to work I remember leaving him that day feeling ill of anger and sadness. I was on my way to pick up a parcel from the depot and I could hardly see the road as tears kept swelling up in my eyes. I got home and lay on our bed in the foetal position balling my eyes out.

I felt like I had a ball of fire in my chest and a rock in my throat.

I grabbed the pillow and screamed into it so loud I hurt my throat. It felt better… for a minute. I then started to hyperventilate and I could hardly catch my breath. At that point I actually looked at my phone contemplating calling for help. I then rolled onto the floor on my hands and knees trying to breathe but all I could do was cry uncontrollably and feel like my life was falling down around me…

Yet in reality, my life was pretty damn good. My boyfriend loved me unconditionally, my family loved and supported me, I was living a damn fortunate life. Yet this voice in my head was so loud that it almost felt real. That day, I even contemplated what it might be like to end it all. I always knew I wouldn’t, or couldn’t, but that thought was there. This was so far from my true self.

Finally my boyfriend returned home that night. While I thought I could keep it from him, I started the minute he asked me one question. My stupid thoughts couldn’t have been further from the truth. For a gender that finds it hard to understand the female cycle, this man said all the right things and understood completely. I felt better and everything was going to be okay.

I would feel better for a week… and then it started again.

I would be at work and just lose my emotions once more. But could you believe I kept justifying these horrendous feelings by saying “well I’ve got it in now, and I can’t afford to go on Yaz, so I will just put up with it”.

After going back home to visit my family for a couple of weeks I told my mum about how it was making me feel. And not surprisingly, she told me I should get it removed if it’s effecting me like this. So finally when I returned, I got it taken out. Three months of hell was finally being removed. A week later I had another bout of severe emotions; almost as bad as the previous. But I think that was the ‘demon’ leaving me for good.

It took months for my cycle and hormones to balance out again. I still couldn’t shake off the weight either. But I was so content that it was over. All I kept thinking was that I had to find out other people’s experiences and also share mine.

I started looking up forums from other women’s experiences. One woman said she became so far from herself that it ended her marriage. Others spoke of those they knew who took their own life as well as stories of severe depression. Once again, not everyone goes through this, in fact this negative effect may only be a small portion of those with the Implanon. So please keep that in context. But the risk just doesn’t seem worth it. You may have the Implanon and have had no symptoms and I’m so happy for you that you never went through what I, or others did.

So I was finally on the road back to normality. However, something still stayed with me. I kept crying over just about anything that would set my emotions off – whether it be something beautiful, cute, or moving, or something that makes me sad, angry or disappointed. I felt like I was crying over something every week.

I also lost my self-esteem. I still had those faint voices in my head of ‘you’re disgusting’, ‘you need to lose weight’, ‘you’re so ugly’. While I was a lot better and realistically knew this was all ridiculous, I let those inner critics become a part of me.

Four months ago we moved to Melbourne from Townsville, and my routine was all over the shop. I was trying to study for exams, starting a new job, moving into a new place, helping edit a new magazine on the side, oh, and maintain my website and social media pages. In fact writing new recipes and blogs was almost out of question at this point.

On one hand I was ecstatic with the new move to the big city, but on the other hand I was once again eating myself up inside. Along with this, my hormones were running wild and my menstrual cramps were absolutely excruciating.

One week I would be so happy, confident, loved up, and full of positivity. But it would only take one thing, such as looking at the mirror in the wrong light, or having a ‘bad hair day’ to set me off again.

Something had to change. This was a toxic behaviour and no one deserved to hear me go on about it or have to be around it. Most importantly this wasn’t good for my own health. I can’t thank my boyfriend enough for putting up with it and always knowing the right things to say. He always made me feel better and put things into perspective. Yet despite all the right words, I would find a reason to shut it down most times.

Now though, I am realising it. I recognise that all these negative thoughts are not true at all. I could also see that the advice I would always give other people to love themselves, how to be healthy and positive, was the advice I wasn’t even taking myself. This is certainly not the person I want to be. I had to give myself a reality check and toughen up.

So 2015 is the year to focus on me – the year to do things for myself.

Whether that be working out, taking up a new hobby, writing some new songs on the guitar, or meditating in the garden – I’m only going to base my decisions on what will make me happy and what I want to do. And while it’s only the beginning, just the idea of taking on this new positive outlook is making me feel better already.

  • This year I am going to start exercising again – and not because anyone told me to or expects that of me, only because I feel like it, because I know it will make me feel good.
  • This year I am going to hone in on my endeavours to start my own business as well as release my first paid eBook.
  • I’m going to start making time to catch up with friends and enjoy every moment.
  • I am going to accept compliments gracefully and believe in them without turning them into a negative.

  • I am going to focus on my health; not just food, but anything that is ailing me such as my constant knee problems that hold me back and provide a constant excuse to avoid exercise.
  • I am going to focus on being pro-active about any dreams I aspire instead of sitting on them forever without action.
  • Out of every negative situation I will take away the positive.

  • And lastly, I am going to forgive anyone who has done me wrong in order to forgive myself for my own lessons learnt.

If you have made it this far in reading this last year’s journey, I thank you for going back in time with me once more. I hope you have gained something from this too. I also can not encourage enough that if you ever feel like you’re heading down a dark road, seek help before it becomes out of your control.

Here’s to 2015 and everything it has to offer!

You’re incredible.

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Top photo: an incredible moment caught by my friend Rianna, while I wrote in my diary while watching the sun rise behind Angkor Wat, Siem Reap. Last photo: another amazing capture by our team leader Dan.

11 Comments

  1. Thank you for being strong and sharing your experience Jade xo

  2. Jade you beautiful woman!!

    I absolutely love this post! Congratulations on sharing such a heartfelt and personal piece of your self. It sounds like 2014 brought you some intense highs and lows but just look at how you emerged at the end of it all!

    You’re an amazing person, bursting with joy, optimism and inspiration; I have no doubts you will go far! Implanon…I have to admit, I felt angry reading of your experience and of the negative experiences you discussed of several others..synthetic birth control is a topic I feel so very strongly about..I believe modern medicine and society have a LONG way to go in this area…

    Blessings for a 2015 filled with all the very best that life has to offer you!
    xxx

  3. All my friends are on various brands of contraceptive pills and they have never had any problems. I would ask myself, am I normal? I have read hundreds of similar stories online but of all the people I knew, no one could relate to what I was going through. I even mentioned the symptoms that you wrote about perfectly (mood swings, sudden depression & emotional breakdowns for no apparent reason) to a GP and they didn’t seem to think that the pill would be the cause.

    At last, someone who understands and has been through the same situation and lived the emotions that come with it. Although it has been 3 years since I’ve been on any form of birth control and I never had the iud inserted (just oral contraception) I can still remember the way I felt and the disturbing thoughts I had. My mum was always able to tell within a few days that I had began taking the pill again. Just by my mood, sometimes I wouldn’t even notice until she would mention ‘You’ve started taking the pill again haven’t you? it doesn’t agree with you.’
    If I do need to start taking birth control again, I may get the copper coil inserted ( I tired Yaz but unfortunately had the same reaction) The reviews online are mixed but it is hormonal free and I can’t/ don’t want to put my body and mind through an emotional roller coaster again.
    Thank you for being so honest and open in this blog. It’s lovely to be able to relate and even more wonderful that you can reflect on such a terrible experience while now In a positive place.

    Ypu Angkor Wat photos are prefection. Cambodia is an eye opening an breath taking county.

    Xxx

    • Hi Chanae,

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I am so dissapointed that your GP seemed to think that the pill would not be the cause when there are so many stories like ours that clearly show a correlation between hormonal contraceptives and these severe symptoms. It is not a nice thing to be made to think your not normal. I am so glad you found your way through too.

      I was also in the same predicament; not knowing what to now do about birth control. I just could not justify using any form of hormonal birth control anymore but of course I also am not having children right now either.

      Then only just recently I have found out about the ‘sympto-thermal method’ which is a form of ‘natural family planning’. This might sound completely foreign to some (including myself until recently) and it is also not recommended for everyone. In fact I would not talk to many about this unless they have a human biology understanding. But if you have some understanding, or wish to learn more on the female cycle, it will make sense.

      Because we are only fertile for a very short period of our cycle (up to 48hrs), there are ways so be ‘safer’ by abstaining during that time (9 days to be safe). There are also symptoms and temperature changes in the body dependent on what hormones our body is producing at fertile and non-fertile times; hence why it’s called the ‘sympo-thermal’ method. I am still learning about this myself, but I have gained some great direction and explanations from someone who uses it and is trained in the method.

      I would advise you to search more info about that and even consult with a natural family planning practitioner if this is something you would be interested in. Of course, you would need to be with a trusted partner, need to have dedication (as you must take your temparature first thing every morning and chart the temp changes), and completely understand what’s going on. Here is a link that explains it http://holistichormonalhealth.com/what-is-the-sympto-thermal-method-of-fertility-awareness/.

      I would love to find out how the copper insert goes with your body. You’re very brave if you do get it!

      Feel free to message or email anytime you need any info.

      xxx

  4. Jade! This made me tear up with joy.

    You’re on a beautiful journey and I’m so proud of you for sharing your vulnerability.

    I’m so looking forward to seeing you go from strength to strength in 2015.

    Laura xx

  5. Jade!
    Another fabulous post! Thank you greatly for sharing this experience – I had an extremely similar experience half way through last year when I started taking and oral contraceptive (tender breasts, erratic mood swings, not wanting to get out of bed, weight gain etc.). Luckily for me I was easily able to stop taking the contraceptive as it was a pill.

    Thanks for sharing – glad I’m not a weirdo and the only one that reacted to estrogen like that.

    Keep the posts rolling! Chance those dreams!

    • Thanks sweets,

      I’m so glad you were able to recognise what was going on and stopped taking the pill. The more I hear of poeple’s experiences the more dissapointed I get that it’s so readably available. It’s sad for those who are still besides themselves but unable to recognise what is causing it.

      Thanks for your support xx

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