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Period Story Podcast, Episode 8: Kat Horrocks, Coming Off Hormonal Contraception Improved My Mental Health

Period Story Podcast Episode 8 Kat Horrocks

For the eighth episode of the Period Story podcast, I had the pleasure of speaking to Kat Horrocks, a women’s life coach and fellow podcast host.

Kat shared the impact of getting her first period at 10 years old and how by default, she became the one that all her classmates went to for advice and with their questions. Kat says that even now she’s the person in her friend group that gets asked all the period questions.

Kat talked about her journey with hormonal contraception and why she decided to come off of it after 7 years. She says that a conversation with her partner about the impact the pill was having on her emotions and their relationship was the wake up call she needed to make changes.

Kat says she wanted to have a period and now that it has returned, she knows her body is healthy and operating in a natural way. Kat uses her period as a marker of where she’s at, physically and mentally and says it keeps her in check to make sure she’s looking after herself.

Kat discusses the research she did when she decided to come off hormonal contraception and how she geeked out on all the new information.

Kat says that we shouldn’t underestimate our bodies; they’re amazing and they work. She says that listening to our bodies and learning what our bodies are saying is really powerful and I completely agree!

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Kat’s Bio

Kat Horrocks is a women’s life coach and host of the Put Yourself First Podcast. She believes it’s time for you to start putting yourself first and achieving your goals! Her work offers 1:1 coaching and online resources to provide you with practical and emotional support to do just that. You can also hear inspiring stories from badass women on her podcast every Monday morning. From business and careers to personal development and self-care, you’ll get the resources and guidance you need.

Find Kat at kathorrocks.com and on Instagram @kat_horrocks.

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Show Notes

Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler

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Show Transcript

Le’Nise: On today’s episode, we have Kat Horrocks, a woman’s life coach and host of the Put Yourself First podcast. She believes it’s time for you to start putting yourself first and achieving your goals. Her work offers one to one coaching and online resources to help provide you with practical and emotional support to do just that. Welcome to the show. 

Kat: Hi. Thank you for having me. 

Le’Nise: Let’s start off by getting into the story of your first period. Can you share with us what happened? 

Kat: Yeah, and I really have to think back to this, because I’m sure like many women being asked this question, you’re like, oh, that was a long time ago. But I do remember being at home, and I think I just went for a wee. I went to the toilet and my mum was, you know, around the house, luckily. And I just wiped myself and there was blood, and I was like, oh. I knew what it was. I knew that it was a thing. So I just remember opening the bathroom door and saying, Mum, I think I’ve started my period. So, yeah, I was quite lucky that I was at home. I was comfortable and my mum was there to help me. 

Le’Nise: How old were you? 

Kat: I was quite young. I was I think I was 10. 

Le’Nise: 10 years old. OK. And were you the first of your friends to get your period? 

Kat: Yeah. Yeah. 

Le’Nise: And so how do you think that affected how your education around your period and menstrual health and the conversations that you had with your friends about it? 

Kat: Yeah. So I’d say it was a very different experience being at home vs. being at school. At school, I felt a bit like an alien or not an alien in the sense that I was treated negatively. But obviously, for all the other girls, it was like a mystery. And they were, oh, my God, like this has happened to you, you know, it was just such like a new world for them to even imagine. So, yeah, I had a lot of, you know, girls, and we can get onto like school period stories, I’m sure. But I did have a lot of girls like circling me at playtime asking, you know? Oh, what’s it like? Like what? So have you got something in your knickers, what is that? How does it work? Yeah, as a kid, I was quite shy, so it was definitely awkward, but luckily at home, it was completely a conversation. It had always been a conversation. And my mum is amazing. So she always made me feel, you know, she said, this is normal. This is healthy. You know, every woman experiences this, so never feel embarrassed about it or never feel like it’s a shameful thing. 

Le’Nise: So you’re educating your friends and then you are getting this education from your mum. So when your friends got their periods, did they come to you for advice?

Kat: I think so, yeah. Yeah. Just because I was obviously the first in my friendship group. So over the next sort of few years, five years or so. Some people yea, they came and asked me about, and to be honest, I still speak to friends about it now just because, even as adult women we don’t often talk about it. And I think you always have that friend who you can go to and ask the most TMI questions. So a lot of my friends still now to this day are like ‘what’s a moon cup? How does that even work? How do you put it in?’. Oh, yeah. I’ve always been very like, I’m just happy to chat to friends about it. Yeah. 

Le’Nise: So you’re kind of like the period expert amongst your group of friends? 

Kat: I wouldn’t say expert, but more just, I genuinely, I’ve never been embarrassed about it. So I’m always happy to have a conversation about it yeah. 

Le’Nise: Getting a period that young. Do you feel like that affected your knowledge of your period? And did it change the way you thought about your body? 

Kat: I don’t think so, to be honest. And I do think, again, my mum is getting a lot of air time in this chat just because she is genuinely, I mean, has been so amazing about it. So I always knew that it was normal. And I always knew that it was going to happen and had that education at home before it happened. I think it was interesting in terms of obviously being one of the earlier developers at school. That was an interesting shift in my relationship with my body. Because it was also around that time that of course I got my period, but then my boobs grew a lot, so I had like the biggest boobs in my year group. And then obviously that meant that, you know, unfortunately, like I got unwanted attention from boys and that definitely shifted. It was like that was probably the year where I went from being feeling just like a regular kid to feeling like, oh, my body is this is this, you know, different, different thing now. Like, I’m not only growing into a woman, but what the sort of implications of that meant in terms of how people viewed me and acted around me. 

Le’Nise: You said you got unwanted attention. How did you deal with that? 

Kat: Not very well because I was so young. And I didn’t know what that meant, what it was, whether it was anything serious. Well, it was never anything serious. I do feel like I should say that but, I didn’t even have the vocabulary to say, oh, I don’t want to do that or I don’t think you should do that. Because when you’re a young kid, it’s almost like kids don’t have any boundaries, do they? They just play and there’s no reason behind it. So, yeah, it was interesting. So I don’t think I really dealt with it, but I would say, it took maybe more into high school. That was when my confidence developed a bit more. And I was able to, you know, stand up for myself. And obviously at that point, other girls were experiencing it, too. So I probably dealt with it by speaking to other girls about it. And, you know, all of those sort of say, yeah, that’s really dumb or that boys really horrible or don’t go near him or don’t speak to him. 

Le’Nise: Having got your period so young and having made that transition from, I guess we can call it transitioning from a girl to not necessarily a woman but a young woman, that seems so weird to say it. You know, to talk about a 10 year old in that way. How do you feel about your period now? 

Kat: I love it so much, so much so that I was on hormonal contraception a few years ago and honestly, one of the big reasons that made me want to come off it was that I didn’t have my period. So I had the hormonal contraceptive implant. So a lot of people, a lot of girls experience just not having periods at all when they have that in and I think it’s because it’s a progesterone only one. And you don’t have a break like you would if you were taking a pill. So you don’t even have a withdrawal bleed. And I genuinely was questioning like oh, so I’ve not bled at all in years. Will my period come back when I stop, when I could take this out? And I actually missed that cycle, I just yeah, I felt like I don’t want to say I felt like less of a woman, but I did miss my period. In a way, I know that sounds really odd to some women who really struggle with their period. But I just feel like my body is so much healthier now I’m having my period. So yeah, I do really love it because of what it means. 

Le’Nise: So what does it mean to you? 

Kat: So for me right now, it obviously means that my body is healthy and operating in a natural way. And that’s obviously because I’m not taking hormonal contraception but even just the like what your hormones do for your body. I think a lot of people underestimate how powerful hormones are and how much they affect. So being able to work with that and work with my cycle to know that I’m looking after my physical health, I’m looking at my mental health and all these other areas. My period is kind of a real marker of where I’m at physically and mentally, which I really like. I feel like because I know it so well now, I can work with it and it tells me things,  if makes sense? 

Le’Nise: What sort of things does it tell you? 

Kat: So what I’m learning is if I’ve had a stressful month, my period is going to be horrible, and having that horrible period is enough to be like, OK, something needs to change here. I need to make sure I’m, you know, I meditate a lot more now, making sure my diet is on point. Think, you know, basic things like water, enough vegetables, fibre, all that kind of stuff, so that definitely affects it. I also think sleep is huge for me. So again, I notice that my mood, my mental health is worse, particularly on around my PMS when I’ve not slept. So it’s all those little things that keeps me on track and keeps me in check to make sure I’m looking after myself. Yeah. 

Le’Nise: And so you seem to be really aware of what’s going on with your body, what’s going on at different parts of your menstrual cycle. How did you learn about all of this? 

Kat: Honestly, through the Internet, I think and I, of course, had a basic understanding of my period and my cycle through school. But I’m sure many of us can agree that it is very basic and we don’t really learn about what hormones do, different types of hormones, how that affects, how they fluctuate throughout our cycle? So when I had this revelation that I wanted a period again, I wanted to feel “normal”, I went on this journey to research and learn and I stumbled across the fertility awareness community, which I don’t actually use myself but that was so valuable to me because these are women who track their cycle and know the ins and outs of their hormones almost every single day down to really specific things in terms of the changes in the body and all that kind of stuff. So I just dove in, I’m a bit of a geek anyway when it comes to a new topic that I’m passionate about. So I just Googled, I listened to, I know that sounds bad when it comes to health but I just listened to so many podcasts, I read so many books, I bought that book Taking Charge Of Your Fertility, even though I actually don’t want kids. But I just wanted to learn about my fertility and what it means and how it worked. So, yeah, I would say that was a huge revelation, an education for me. 

Le’Nise: That’s so interesting what you said about wanting to learn more about your fertility, but not wanting kids. Because what I see, and also from my own personal experience, is that I only started learning about my menstrual cycle and ovulation and all of that in more detail once my husband and I decided that we were going to have a baby or we’re going to try to have a baby. And then this whole world opened up for me. So hearing you talk about wanting to learn more about your fertility, but not in the context of trying for a   baby, is so interesting and I think there is a lot of power, as you talked about, in knowing about your menstrual cycle and almost divorcing it from this concept of having a baby, because it’s much more than that. 

Kat: Absolutely. I mean, like I’ve said, my hormones speak to me and they, like my cycle, tells me so much about where I am at in terms of my health and wellbeing, how much I’m taking care of myself. And yeah it is a lot deeper than just like I know it’s the modern day but it’s still seen as you know, it’s still seen as this one thing with this one specific outcome, which is you’re a woman, you have a period so that you can have a baby. But I think when you look below the surface of that, it’s so much more powerful and amazing whether you want kids or not or whatever stage of life you are. 

Le’Nise: You’ve said that your cycle speaks to you. And what kind of things does it tell you? So if you’re speaking to a listener who is on the beginning of the journey that you’ve been on, so wanting to learn more about their period, what kind of clues does your cycle give you and what should they be looking out for? 

Kat: So I’m no expert on this I just want to say and everyone is so different that if you feel that you’re experiencing abnormal side effects through your period then obviously that’s something to look out with a health professional. For me, I think or for everyone, I think it’s all about understanding what your normal is and what is normal for you. Same with, you know, we talk about, let’s say thrush or, you know, some sort of infection. Some women might think that there are certain things going on down there that they think, oh, is that an infection? But, if we start to notice and understand what is normal for us, what, you know, feels normal for us, what smells normal for us, what looks normal, all those kinds of things then that’s where you hopefully should be in that if anything changes, then you’ll notice. 

So a big thing for me is flow and the heaviness of my flow. So I know what a good period looks like in terms of, yes, it’s always going to be heavy at the start but if I’ve had a particularly bad one, it’s really heavy. Same with cramps, yes, I am going to experience cramps because my uterus is literally squeezing out the excess but, should I be like keeled over and unable to work without taking, without, you know dosing up on tons and tons of painkillers throughout the day. No. So they’re two big ones to me and I also think mood. So one of the big reasons I came of hormonal contraception was I really struggled with my mental health taking it and I felt like I was out of control of my emotions. I felt like I was depressed or definitely going in that direction and now my cycle has evened out a lot more and I feel a lot better day to day. Likewise, I know what is good for me and again, when you’re having PMS, you’re going to be more tired, you’re going to be more short tempered, you’re going to probably need a bit more space but if you’re feeling really, really, really down or really, you know, snapping at everyone, or you notice that around that time, you just experience a lot of mental health side effects. Then again, that is a marker that something potentially needs looking at. 

 So, yeah, I would say they’re the big, they’re the main ones for me and I think for a lot of women listening, they are having really, really heavy periods or really abnormal. I hate that word. I shouldn’t say word, really, really harsh and debilitating side effects from their period and that’s not good. But you don’t know that until you know what is healthy and then you can be like, oh,  it’s not really healthy that I can’t work when I’m on my period. 

Le’Nise: And that’s a really interesting way of putting it, because I do talk about, in my practice, what’s normal and what isn’t normal and debilitating pain, as you mentioned, isn’t normal. But just coming back to what you said about understanding your normal. I think one of the issues that we have in our culture is that so many of us think that period pain is normal and having mood swings is normal. So when you tell people that it’s not normal, they’re really surprised because that’s what we’ve grown up with this expectation, you see, when women talk about their periods on TV or movies, it’s always in connection to, ‘oh, I feel terrible’  or they’re with a hot water bottle or they’re being really bitchy so kind of unpicking that idea of understanding your normal also with a bit of education, I think is really important. 

Kat: Yeah, definitely. 

Le’Nise: You have listed three areas that, so your flow, your mood and any pain you’re experiencing as markers for you of what you look out for in terms of if you’re going to have a good period or if your period isn’t going to be as good. Do you think that your period has changed over time? So if you think back to when you started to where you are now? 

Kat: Definitely. So when you say started, do you mean physically started having periods? 

Le’Nise: Yeah. 

Kat: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And I’m sure many women will relate. I just think when you’re younger, it’s just worse. I don’t know why. I don’t know the science behind it. But it is worse when you’re younger; in general, it was like that for me. It’s been like that for a lot of my friends. So I don’t know whether that’s your body getting used to it or your hormones are just like erupting you’re a teenager anyway. So that’s having a lot to do with it. So, yeah, definitely had a few horrendous periods when I was growing up. But I’m 25 now and yeah, it’s, it’s evened out a lot more, it’s very predictable, which I think is another key thing to look at. So I know like the day that it’s coming which hasn’t always been the case and I’m sure many women can relate to that not being the case. So I think as I’ve got older, I don’t get any surprises, which is good. And I generally know even things like how long it’s going to last, what I’ll need.  So if I’m headed out the house and I know I’m starting my period, I know roughly what I’ll need to take with me to make sure I’m covered, things like that definitely happened more over the years. No leaks or embarrassing clothing ruining stories. Like, I’m sure many of us have from when we were younger.

Le’Nise: The white jeans moments. 

Kat: Never. Never. I mean, I would never risk that anyway, even now. 

Le’Nise: So you have a really healthy relationship with your period. From what you’re saying, it seems like you use it to really inform everything else that’s going on and really gain a deeper understanding of what’s going on with your health. I just want to go back to what you were saying about coming off of hormonal contraception. Can you talk a little bit about why you went on it? 

Kat: Yeah. So, I mean, for most people I went on it because I had a boyfriend and I wanted to have sex. I think when you’re growing up, it is just drilled into you that if you don’t want to get pregnant, you have to take contraception. And to be honest, like, thank God I did because I didn’t have a clue how I got pregnant or how that would even happen. So, yeah, I definitely would have been that girl at the clinic taking a pregnancy test if I didn’t go on contraception. So that was like over about 10 years ago. So I was on it for a while and in terms of coming off it, do you want me to talk about that? 

Le’Nise: Yeah, would be great. 

Kat: Yeah. So I think when I was younger, my hormones were mad anyway, as a 15 year old. So I didn’t really notice any particular side effects or anything that was a side effect of the pill I wasn’t experiencing any way, mood swings, you know, maybe a little bit of anxiety or being difficult to be around sometimes, that kind of thing. But definitely as I got older and I got into my second relationship, which is my partner now, things started to come up that were signs that it wasn’t normal and something needed to change. So I was taking the combined pill and I remember we were just arguing all the time, I was so moody. I had such low confidence. I was like a rollercoaster. And I was difficult to be around because one moment I’d be so happy and laughing and then the next moment I would be hysterical, crying, screaming like starting an argument. And I remember my boyfriend at the time and again, I don’t know why I said boyfriend at the time, cause we own a house together so it all worked out but at the time I remember him saying something like I think you need to come off this pill because it’s like it’s changing you and it’s making things really difficult for us and we’re arguing a lot and essentially was like, if something doesn’t change in you because it’s not fair to be in a relationship with you, if something doesn’t change, we’re going to have to split up, essentially. 

And that was obviously a wakeup call for me. So that started this whole journey of trying to find the right hormonal contraception. I went to the doctor, talked about mood swings, tried a ton of different types of combined pills and then settled on the progesterone only type. So I had the injection for a while and then I had the implant and that was that and I think because of the change in the structure of it, it did help some of the side effects. I almost describe it as it was like the best of a bad bunch for me and my body. So I wasn’t completely hysterical, crying, screaming all the time, just maybe like a few days out of the month. So it was less, but it was still there and there was still like the depressive episodes and just really, just really not good side effects. So the thing with the implant, as you’ll know if anyone’s ever taken it or had it in is it last for three years. So I actually had that one in my body for five years. So I had one for the full three years and then I got a second one put in and I don’t know whether it was because it was the second one it changed things for me. But again, I just started to notice something isn’t quite right. I’m not feeling myself. 

And then obviously I was learning, stumbled across all this fertility stuff on the Internet. I was like, oh, maybe it’s because my body’s hormone levels aren’t operating normally and healthily. So I remember thinking, what have I got to lose? I’m just going to get it taken out and try and just see what happens. I thought I can always go back on it, you know, I think it can feel like a really scary decision but condoms exist, they work, and you can always go back on it if you think, OK, my cycles come back, I want to go back on it. So that really helped. And then obviously, I came off it and I’ve never looked back because it felt like a weight. It felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. It was crazy. 

Le’Nise: How long were you on the pill? And then the implant and injection in total? 

Kat: Probably about seven years. Six to seven years. 

Le’Nise: And so how long have you been off of it? 

Kat: About three. Three, four. Yeah, that’s about right. Maths lesson of like calculating back the years of like, how old am I now? When did I come off it? 

Le’Nise: How long did it take for your period to come back? 

Kat: I am really lucky. Mine came back after maybe like two months. So after about three, four weeks or so, I got a withdrawal bleed. Because again, when you come off hormones and the first bleed you have isn’t always going to be a period because you might not have started ovulating yet. So I had that withdrawal bleed and then from then my cycle kicked back in and I remember like feeling ovulation for the first time. I was like, oh, I can’t even remember this feeling. Yeah. So I was quite lucky. Some people obviously it takes can take a year or so, which is obviously frustrating for them. 

Le’Nise: So go back to what you said about feeling ovulation for the first time. Can you describe that for listeners who might not be showing what you’re what you’re talking about?  

Kat: So again, if you’ve taken contraception, you’re not ovulating, so you don’t know what it feels like. And obviously, you have two ovaries and the weird thing about ovulation is you always ovulate from one or the other, each month. So you can physically feel on one side of your body, it’s almost like a little pinch and it’s in a really like small, localised area. And if you could, like, take your skin off and see, all your organs underneath, you could see that it was coming from your ovary. And it’s like, the funniest thing. I remember thinking, oh, what is this? And then obviously, thankfully, I had all these resources on fertility awareness so I knew what it was. But yeah, I think some women think like something’s wrong or they’ve started their period. But yeah, it’s just your ovary popping an egg out.

Le’Nise: If you could say one thing to listeners who are thinking about coming off of hormonal contraception, what would that be? 

Kat: I couldn’t say one thing. I would probably say, you know, all you can do is try it and see, it’s not a final decision if you don’t. If you decide to go back on, you can. But you’ve not really got anything to lose. If B you, please go and buy some condoms if you don’t want to get pregnant. Because I think that’s another thing that, your body is amazing and it can surprise you and it could literally bounce back like that. Please don’t go thinking that, you know, you can just have unprotected sex if you don’t want kids, but equally, I would say, again, if you want kids and you’re thinking about coming off to start trying. I would buy them. I’ve heard from a lot of friends that they have had surprises in terms of I didn’t realise how quickly it would happen. And they almost have said it like I wish it happened in the next year or in the next three months or in six months’ time. 

And I just think, don’t underestimate your body. It’s amazing and it works. And if you’re having sex without a condom, then your body might surprise you, even if you’ve not ovulated for years. So, yeah, I would say I’m such an advocate for condoms and I think once your cycle kicks back in and you can learn about it, you can obviously make the best decision for yourselves whether you want kids or not. But yeah, I think having that adjustment period where you just wait and see what happens and getting to know that cycle as it kicks back in. Just like take your time and let it happen, but use condoms if you don’t want kids. 

Le’Nise: So that a really powerful message. Taking your time, listening to your body, letting it happen and it’s almost countercultural in a way because we hear these messages like go, go, go, it has to happen now and this idea of waiting and listening is something that, you know, a lot of people could really benefit from internalising that. 

Kat: Definitely. And I would also add to that, being really present with the changes that happen. So not only in your physical body, but any other side effects that you’ve been experiencing on contraception just be really present with how you feel because things might stick around, but they also might drastically change, which was luckily my experience. So to note, to recognise that as well and to link the two together. I feel better because this isn’t in my body anymore. That’s great too. 

Le’Nise: So is there any last bits of information or advice that you’d like to leave our listeners with? 

Kat: Good question. I think I’m just going to reiterate what I’ve just said if that’s ok. I know I sound like a broken record, but I just think listening to your body and learning to listen is so powerful because not enough of us are doing it. You know, we are taking this pill or we’re doing this, you know, we’re having this period. And just because it’s normal to you doesn’t mean that it’s OK or doesn’t mean that, you know, you should be able to choose, you should have to put up with it forever. And I just think so many women are not taught to listen to their body and they’re completely out of touch with what’s going on internally. And if we could just pause in a moment in our day, in our busy lives to just check in with how we’re feeling and how things are changing, then we would be in a much more empowered position to make the best choice for ourselves. So just pausing and listening. 

Le’Nise: Thank you so much for coming onto the show, Kat. Where can listeners find out more about you? 

Kat: Thank you so much for having me. I’ve loved this chat. You can head to my website, which is kathorrocks.com and I’m always hanging out on Instagram, which is @kat_horrocks so I would love to chat on there as well and continue the conversation. 

Le’Nise: Thank you so much. 

Kat: Thank you. 

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