I’ve had my contraceptive implant taken out last week, and within a day and a half, I already felt so much better.
As I wrote in a previous post, I decided to get it removed because of the effect it was having on my mood.
It was a bit of a palaver to arrange. I couldn’t get an appointment for weeks, but then I found another, little-known sexual health clinic, that was actually nearer my house and open some evenings.
I went along last Monday night. It was drop-in, rather than appointment, so I just turned up and waited. I had to wait about forty minutes.
Annoyingly, I only had 1% battery left on my phone, so I was stuck reading the magazines in the waiting area.
Most of the magazines weren’t even proper magazines – they were supplements that had come with Sunday newspapers, several months earlier.
I found one that was a proper magazine, aimed at older ladies, from May 2018.
That’s the month I met Andrew! I thought.
I flicked to the horoscopes to see if it would say “this month you will meet the love of your life.”
Oh my god! I thought, when I found the Pisces section.
“You will have a breakthrough on 25th.”
The 25th was the day I met Andrew!
Are horoscopes real after all?!
I read some non-Pisces horoscopes as well and imagined they were mine, to remind myself that you can interpret any old vague crap as being meaningful if you want to.
I also found an article where various ladies where describing their ‘woman sheds’ and was shocked to see one of them was one of my old primary school teachers. I tried to surreptitiously tear the page out but everyone in the waiting area looked at me.
There were lots of other people, also waiting. Everyone was checking out who else was in the waiting room, trying to work out how many people were ahead of them.
Two woman were having very personal phone conversations.
“Why are you always like this!” One woman was saying into her phone.
I would’ve saved that call for later, I thought, as we were all listening avidly.
The other impassioned phone conversation was in French.
The woman sitting opposite me was annoying me because she had the volume on her phone up very loud. She received several Whatsapp messages every minute.
I think the thing that annoyed me about this the most was that no one was messaging me.
Two girls came joined the waiting room and had a very loud, sassy conversation, which seemed to be for our benefit.
A girl came back out of the clinical area and into the waiting room, and said, “Let’s go to Nando’s!” to her boyfriend, who stood up and walked out with her.
Yes! We all thought. One less person.
I had thought the boyfriend was someone ahead of us all in the queue.
Eventually, the doctor called out my name.
I was anxious that I’d have trouble getting the doctor to remove the implant. I’d read some women’s experiences of being encouraged to stick with it, despite unbearable side effects, being told to wait for longer to see if the side effects improved.
I was also anxious about the procedure for getting it removed. I had felt faint for a while after getting the implant put in.
According to the NHS website:
“It only takes a few minutes to remove, and a local anaesthetic will be used. The doctor or nurse will make a tiny cut in your skin to gently pull the implant out.”
As the doctor and I walked along the corridor, she coughed and then apologised for coughing.
By the time we reached the clinic room, we were still talking about the cold and flu which has been going around.
“I work for the NHS too, and everyone seems to have been struck down by this mutant strain of flu,” I said.
The doctor sat down and then fiddled around with her desk chair, which “suddenly started sinking.”
Someone complaining about inadequate, basic NHS office supplies made me feel very at home.
We discussed that I wanted to get the implant taken out, and why.
She did ask more questions about my mood, and what it was like before the implant, but she didn’t try and talk me out of it, especially when I added about bleeding for 3-4 weeks at a time, and how it gave me vagina eczema.
The doctor seemed more focused on helping me decide what contraception to try next, instead of the implant.
She gave me condoms, female condoms, a leaflet about a new kind of injection and some progesterone-only pills to try, and then it was time for me to lie down on the couch.
She got some tools ready while I got comfortable.
Oh my god I haven’t mentally prepared myself enough for this…
She asked where the implant was.
“In my left arm, and there’s actually a helpful freckle just above…”
“…oh yes! Here it is.”
She gave me an injection of local anaesthetic.
“That was the most painful part, when they put it in,” I said.
“Well, this time we don’t have to use as much, but you will feel a scratch…”
I did feel a scratch. The injection wasn’t as painful as last time.
“OK, now I’m going to make a tiny cut…” she said.
I braced myself and concentrated very hard on looking away. I couldn’t really feel the cut.
Then she had to get the implant out through the tiny cut.
This is where it started to go downhill.
She couldn’t get it out!
I started feeling faint.
It didn’t really hurt, but felt uncomfortable and unsettling.
I know from work that if someone feels faint at the sight of blood or a medical procedure, it’s because their blood pressure drops. We can teach them to do something called ‘applied tension’, to try and keep their blood pressure up, to stop them fainting. It just involves tensing and releasing muscles, to keep the blood flowing faster.
I gripped onto the couch with my non-implant arm and hand, to try do kind of applied tension.
However, I think the doctor thought I was gripping the couch because I was freaking out.
“Do you do yoga?” she asked.
I think she was asking because of the relaxation breathing side of yoga, but at the time I thought she was asking about my hobbies, so I said, “I used to do a hula-hooping class but I haven’t been for ages.”
I asked something about whether this clinic was part of the same service as the other clinic, where my implant was put in, and she said No, this service was actually not NHS, but was run by a charity.
She went to get a different tool to try and get the implant out.
She asked a bit more about my job, and said, “is it as stressful as I’d imagine it to be?”
“Err, yeah, it probably is!” I replied.
I felt a lot more relaxed as I started talking about mental health service pressures, as she continued to wrestle with my implant.
We got onto talking about patients who have PTSD after being tortured in other countries, and it turned out she worked in a service for victims of torture when she wasn’t doing sexual health.
For some reason, talking about torture really perked me up.
It distracted me from what was happening to my arm as we compared notes on the political regimes people we’ve treated patients from.
“Yes, we got lots of people from Sri Lanka. And Iran?”
“Yes! Iran! Of course. God, it’s terrible.”
Eventually, it seemed like she resorted to trying a different technique to get the implant out, which she’d put off as she thought it would hurt.
“Sorry, if this hurts, I’m just trying to push it from the other end,” she said.
“It’s fine, I can’t actually feel it at all!”
And it was out.
She put some steri-strips across the incision, and then put a big dressing on top of that.
I had to keep the dressing on for five days, but she said she’d give me some spares in case I got the dressing wet in the shower.
She suggested I sit up slowly as I had been feeling faint, but I didn’t feel I needed to lie down for too long.
“Yes, your colour looks OK.”
This time, compared to when the implant was put in, she spent more time helping me think through how I could keep the dressing dry in the shower.
“I think clingfilm actually works best,” she suggested.
“Thanks so much!” I said, once I had my jumper and coat back on, and all the various contraceptives in my bag.
On the drive home, I felt pretty shaky.
I made myself dinner and felt fragile and sorry for myself. I wanted to go back out to buy clingfilm, for when I had my shower in the morning, but I couldn’t face it. I wished I had someone else to go and buy it for me.
I texted Andrew saying it was out, and a bit later he phoned me.
He was very sympathetic when I described how she couldn’t get the implant out. However, I came away from the conversation feeling a bit annoyed.
It was partly because I think the procedure I’d just had reminded me of when I got the implant put in, and felt let down by Andrew back then. Also, on the phone, we talked about a rash that he’d just got that day, on his thighs. He kept joking about it being caused by sex with me, even though it really seemed to be from not drying himself properly.
I felt like it wasn’t the time for STI jokes.
I think I just felt resentful that it had been so horrible having the implant. Sometimes being a woman is a nightmare.
The next day, I managed to keep the dressing dry with a combination of a freezer bag and some hair bands.
I felt a bit feeble all day, as my arm hurt, and I felt fed up with Andrew. I think my emotions were up and down because of the sudden change to my hormones, but already, it felt better than before.
I felt crabby, but it just felt flat rather than self-destructive or unbearable, like before. It already felt calmer and more rational. I just felt like, “I’m annoyed but it’s just one of those minor things,” instead of the frenzied “I need to do something drastic to get rid of these feelings!”
Andrew phoned that evening and immediately said, “I’m sorry I made you feel bad and unsupported. I’d take a male pill if I could.”
I felt so much better.
Then, the next day, only a day and a half after getting it removed, I felt unbelievably cheerful.
I was late for work because my car doors got frozen shut, and then I had to have cold soup at lunchtime because the work microwave wasn’t working, but I still couldn’t stop smiling.
A week and a half later, there’s just a tiny bruise left and a mark where the incision was.
I’m not saying the implant caused all my problems, because I had bad feelings and insecurities before I got it put in. However, I feel like the implant gave my existing emotions a level of intensity, persistence and urgency that made them dangerous.
I feel so much calmer and more relaxed about problems now.