Bear with me here. This one gets personal. But as with all of our content, we try our hardest to only put things out there that are real and relatable. So if any of the below resonates with you, please let me know in the comments or by shooting me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here goes...
This April, I decided it was time to listen to the crazy lady in the attic (that voice in my head that really does know best) and do something I’d thought about doing for the previous 10 months. I decided to go off the pill.
I’ll briefly explain my history with birth control, but it’s not much different than the story you may be living (or have heard from loved ones and friends). I went on the pill when I was 18 years old. It was a no-brainer at the time and was just one of those things I did “because everyone else was doing it.” My [first] boyfriend and I had started dating, I was heading off to college, and it felt like the mature thing to do.
Over the years, my brands and dosages changed around (after experiencing weight gain, a dramatic increase in bra size, and more frequent breakouts.) I could tell that these synthetic hormones were affecting me, but I didn’t really question them. My most recent dosage of the pill had the most impact on my system and completely shut off my period - unknowingly changing my entire hormone constitution. While it was entirely convenient and inexpensive to not have a period (can’t remember the last time I bought tampons), I knew it wasn’t natural.
It was around the time I started taking online nutrition courses through IIN that I really started to question it. If I wasn’t willing to put processed foods and sugar into my body, why the hell was I okay with taking a pill that messed with my hormones? It just didn’t align with my lifestyle. So I started doing research and learned more about the side effects of the pill. Needless to say, I got more and more freaked out about taking it. I’d been thinking about it for a little over a year, but never had the guts to bite the bullet and stop. Then I listened to Alissa Vitti’s interview on the Almost30 Podcast.
Her words inspired me to take control of my own body - and I stopped taking the pill as soon as my pack was finished and I'd gotten the clear from my doctor.
I knew it was time to recruit some help since I didn't have the knowledge to go it alone. I bought Alissa’s book, Woman Code, attempted to reduce unnecessary stressors in my life, altered my diet, and called up Eric Cooper, one of our trusted partners in nutrition and all-around wellness, to discuss next steps. And as fate would have it, he and his team of wellness experts had been working hard on their launch of a personalized subscription box dedicated to helping balance your hormones. [My Mona Box will be available soon and we CANNOT wait to share this amazing product with you.] So the nutrition side of things was starting to come into place.
Within that same time-frame, I had reached out to Aligned Modern Health to see if there was anything acupuncture could do to help with the stress management piece. Here are the things I knew about acupuncture: zero.
During my initial consultation with Shawn Sisneros, acupuncturist at the Aligned Modern Health Lincoln Park location, we chatted for about an hour, discussing my health history and current symptoms and/or issues I was experiencing. It went a little something like this:
“I have pain in my knee every time I run.”
“I am easily stressed and feel that I have too much on my plate.”
“Sometimes I have really low energy. Especially after a hard week of workouts and teaching.”
“My hands and feet are ALWAYS cold. Always.”
“Oh yeah! And I haven’t had a period in three years.”
Shawn politely nodded along as I rambled, assuring me that each issue could be treated with acupuncture if given enough sessions. When I got to the last point, he set down his pen and looked me dead in the eye, telling me that we’d work together to get my cycle back “online.” It was the first time in this journey that I felt I had someone on my team. Someone that wasn’t just prescribing pills to make the symptoms go away. Someone that cared about my hormonal health now AND my fertility health for when that time comes in the future.
I’ve been seeing Shawn for about six weeks now, and it has turned into the best hour of my week. It’s time that I’ve carved out for ME and for my health. And most weeks, it’s the time I actually, physically relax. I spend that hour in a deep state of meditation [sometimes a deep sleep, I’ll admit it] and take advantage of the time away from my phone, my computer, and the distractions of life. I'm an acupuncture junkie.
A little bit about acupuncture and AMH specifically:
Basic theory: there are patterns of energy flow (Qi) through the body that are essential for health. Disruptions of this flow are believed to be responsible for disease, but acupuncture is said to help correct the flow imbalances.
How it works: tiny needles (less than 1/10th the size of a sewing needle) are inserted into the skin to promote blood circulation to targeted areas. For me, Shawn puts needles into my wrists, ankles, feet, shins and stomach (about a dozen total). The needles really aren’t scary - they’re so tiny! Pictures are at the bottom of the article - continue scrolling if you dare!
The blood circulation activates your body’s immune and nervous systems, reducing inflammation and releasing endorphins - which help to alleviate pain.
History: Acupuncture is a component of the healthcare system of China that can be traced back at least 2,500 years!
Who can benefit? Acupuncture helps to correct imbalances in the body caused by external factors such as stress, toxins, and injury. So really, all of us can benefit. If you don’t think there’s anything it can do for you, I’m telling you you’re wrong.
At Aligned Modern Health: all of the acupuncturists hold Masters or Doctorate degrees in Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, are nationally board certified and are licensed in the state of Illinois. I'm obviously partial to Shawn's work, but have heard great things about each acupuncturist on staff at AMH.
As of today, June 29, still no sign of my cycle yet. Key word - YET. It’s so important to not give up hope or get stressed out about it. Your body feels that negative energy and those increased stress hormones, further throwing you out of balance. I try to stay confident that what I’m doing IS working, and I know that it's all because of the amazing team of people that have my back. Alissa Vitti, Eric Cooper and Shawn Sisneros - THANK YOU for all that you do.
If you’re interested in acupuncture and live in the Chicago area, I highly recommend checking out Aligned Modern Health - tell them FitCityBlonde sent you!
Disclaimer: as ALWAYS, consult your primary care physician before going off the pill or seeking out new/alternative treatments. Your team of healthcare professionals should be just that: a TEAM. You're the captain, so take charge of your health today.