Last night, I had two articles to write, and three to edit. My night was all planned out: I would go to yoga, come home and have dinner and a movie with my boyfriend while doing all my work. But my night didn’t exactly go down like that.
It started in yoga. I couldn’t quite get comfortable; no matter how many times I cracked my back and hips, I felt stiff and strained. By the time I got home, I was feeling nauseous on top of it. An hour and 1000mg of Ibuprofen later, I was writhing in agony. The pain was unbearable, radiating halfway up my spine, and down to my knees. I was nauseous, feverish, and my face looked identical to the “10″ on hospital pain scales. I was in such pain that my boyfriend had to physically carry me like a baby to the bathroom and the bedroom. The pain didn’t even start to subside for three hours.
In other words, I was starting my period. If you’re a squeamish Republican legislator, stop reading.
My periods have always been painful. I’m not incapacitated every month, sometimes months go by with relatively little pain. But more often than not, I have at least one day a month derailed by sheer physical agony.
I started my period when I was 10 years old. I was home from school because I had been throwing up – something I often do while I’m on period. The symptoms got worse as I aged; when I was 20, my roommate once came bursting into my room because he heard me screaming and thought that someone was attacking me. When I was 15, I went on generic birth control pills, which subdued the cramps – once my body adjusted. For the first four weeks, I was plagued with constant nausea. But I couldn’t let myself throw up, or I would have to restart the birth control cycle. I finally found a birth control pill that worked for me with no side effects, but at my college, there was no pharmacy access, and my insurance didn’t cover three months of birth control at a time, which is what I would have had to purchase to have it delivered to me.
So I stuck it out. Every other month, every two months, sometimes every month, I would be struck down out of nowhere into horrific, debilitating pain. Once I graduated college, I spoke to my gynecologist who recommended an IUD. “Mirena,” she said with a chagrined laugh, “I wouldn’t dare put you on Paragard and run the risk of your periods being even heavier.” So I made an appointment to have Mirena inserted – it was the same sort of hormones as Yaz, the BC I had liked. This was July of 2011.
A day before my appointment, I got a call from my doctor. Mirena was going to cost me $1200, because my health insurance didn’t cover one cent of any kind of contraception. My mom had switched jobs since the last time I had purchased birth control, and now we didn’t have a prescription drug plan or any contraceptive coverage. I decided to wait it out again, and the HHS birth control mandate passed two weeks later.
Great news right?
Wrong. The mandate, like most of the Affordable Care Act, was full of gaping loopholes that giant companies could take advantage of. My mom’s company was one of them – and no one would tell us when our plan would cover contraception. I found this out in January of 2012, when I made yet another appointment to get an IUD. The cost? This time, it was $600, because I went to Planned Parenthood. They determined that that was the amount my boyfriend and I could afford to pay for birth control – even though it would have been more than half of a month’s rent.
So here I am. Twenty-two years old, in my twelfth consecutive year of agony. My boyfriend and I are forced to resort to condoms even though they’re not as reliable and don’t offer me any relief. I self-administer a pregnancy test every month, even though we’re meticulous. Since I’m self-employed and the birth control pills I can tolerate would cost me $75 a month, it’s the only alternative until large companies are forced to comply with the Affordable Care Act – for some, that’ll be as late as 2014.
When people complain about the birth control mandate, this is why I am personally enraged. When people complain about “getting the government to pay for your free birth control,” my fury might be able to overpower even my worst symptoms. The mandate doesn’t make anyone pay for my birth control – it makes the money my parents and I pay towards our premiums go to something I actually use, not just to bloated salaries for the executives over at Aetna.
When people complain about the birth control mandate, all I hear is, “You deserve to be in agony every month. You deserve to live in constant fear of pregnancy even though you’ve tried to take responsibility for your sex life. You deserve to be unbearably nauseous if you go on the only hormonal birth control you can afford.”
I disagree. I missed enough days of middle school, high school, and college. I’ve missed enough deadlines, movie nights, and good nights’ sleep. I deserve better, hell, I pay for better. And if that offends your delicate sensibilities, your sense of “liberty,” or your “freedom of religion,” you can just curl up in the fetal position and moan through it. Take some Ibuprofen, and wash it down with some Pepto so you don’t get more nauseous while fighting the cramps.
Lord knows I have.