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Here's How Birth Control Pills Are Saving My Mental Health

"I rarely ever went outside. If I didn't have to go to school, I wouldn't dare step out. When I made plans with people, I always canceled at the last minute."
ART Gab Gutierrez

Let me preface this by saying that I will not take the worst hit if birth control pills disappear. I might have it better than others in many ways, but at this point, no woman should stay silent anymore. No matter how seemingly insignificant your struggle is, it’s time to speak up for your right to live your life on your own terms.

I, for one, take contraceptives every day. I do so for medical reasons, due to a hormonal imbalance that's causing severe acne. I've only been on them for half a year, but the pills have already done wonders to my skin.

Already, you're beginning to see where this might be going. But let me wade you off that path right now and tell you that you're wrong. My taking a stand for birth control is not for the sake of being "pretty." Although I wish it were that simple, too.

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You see, I've been struggling with acne for almost 10 years now. I'm 21. It has been the bane of my self-esteem's existence since I was 13. I've had it for so long that I don't even know how to live without it anymore. And frankly, it has taken over my life, my mental health, in ways even I didn't think was possible.

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At its worst stage, I had cystic acne and whiteheads all over. Some were as big as a fingernail. They were painful when touched, and they were all over my face. They didn't grow one or two at a time, mind you. I used to have around 15 active breakouts at once: on my forehead, cheeks, chin, nose, between my eyebrows—basically everywhere. Almost all of them left dark marks and pitted scars that were impossible to fade.

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And because of that, I rarely ever went outside. If I didn't have to go to school, I wouldn't dare step out. When I made plans with people, I always canceled at the last minute. Whenever I did go out, I had my hair over my face 99% of the time. No skin care product helped. Makeup became somewhat a savior, but even that barely covered the bumps.

My family usually gets fed up by this, and I don't blame them. "Nobody cares about your pimples. Just go outside," they tell me. And the thing is, I know. I know that they probably couldn't care less. But I do. I unfortunately care a whole lot. The mere thought of people looking at my bare face was too achingly terrifying for me. I grew genuinely afraid of people seeing me. Because what they see, I had absolutely no control over, and it was frustrating. Every time I tried to have a conversation, I was always half-listening. I was too busy worrying about the zit on my nose or my chin. I remembering wanting to be a TV host at one point, but that dream died really quickly, for obvious reasons.

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The more I did about my acne, the more frustrated I became as well. I wash my face religiously, heck, I might even have a better skin care routine than most people in my circle. But I was never the one with nice skin. I have friends with great skin who wash their face with alkaline bath soap. Ironically, I was the one who told them to switch.

It didn't help that those who did see me without makeup were tactless either. Everyone suddenly becomes an acne expert when I entered the room. Asking me if I've tried this or that, naming every acne remedy they know. I've been greeted several times with "O, dumami pimples mo!" before a proper hello.

No one knew what they were doing to my self-esteem. Their attempts to "help" only told me that nothing could. They had no idea how pointing out what I was already aware of made things tougher to deal with. Imagine indirectly telling someone they're not good enough every time you saw them.

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That's why for a few years, hope really escaped me. My skin occupied most of my thoughts for many years. I was angry, insecure, and eventually resigned that I'll have acne forever. It wasn't fun.

Now doesn't that sound like an angsty teen movie? Because it sure does to me. The thing is, a trivial situation like that actually happens outside TV, and they have lifelong effects. Being in recovery, I have yet to step outside without makeup on. To this day, I still can't imagine doing it.

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I would honestly call myself out for exaggerating, too, if none of these were true. Call me whiny or petty, but the truth stands. Birth control pills are not only saving my skin, they're saving my mental health from declining as well. While my feat with acne is surely not over, having medication comforts me, assuring me that things can get better. These few months of undergoing treatment has been slowly restoring the self-esteem I forgot I should have.

However, it's not pity that I'm asking for. Not at all. Many people have it worse than I do in many ways. The point here is that contraceptives help people more than they do harm. Every woman's need, experience, and struggle in relation to it may be different, but under the law, we're one and bound together.

The government doesn't have to empathize to sympathize. They only need to acknowledge the hardships of their people and do something about it. What they don't realize with this TRO is that catering to the interest of a few will have a backwards effect on the overall welfare of women. But at the same time, the timing couldn't be more perfect. Challenging the freedom and rights of women in this era of empowerment only makes our force stronger. To all women—all Filipinos, rather, it's time to rise to the occasion. No form of oppression should be stronger than our claim to freedom.

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Sign the petition to lift the TRO for contraceptives here.

This story originally appeared on Preview.ph.

* Minor edits have been made by the Candymag.com editors.

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Katherine Go 4 hours ago

Cold Food

The most thrilling and delightful moment of any school day is opening up your baon during breaks. There is always so much excitement in unveiling your homemade meal and snacks housed inside matching heat-insulating containers. Because preparing packed meals is an age-old tradition of showing parental love, loved ones pour effort into curating a nutritious meal accompanied by a selection of side dishes, desserts, and beverages daily; it reminds us that we are being taken care of, even from far away.

Baon plays a significant role in a Filipino childhood. Almost every Filipino child comes to school with baon made especially for them by their parents or household helpers. Even Filipinos in the labor force continue to bring baon for varying reasons: to save money, recycle leftovers, cater to personal taste, or attend to special needs. Nonetheless, eating your baon is a heart-warming experience that allows Filipinos to bring a piece of home along with them wherever they go.

Even other cultures practice making packed lunch. In Japan, mothers create bento--Japanese meals in partitioned boxes. Because of the popularity of bento, trends have emerged, such as the Kyaraben, or character-themed bento. Naturally, Japanese parents and students began competing for who had the cutest and tastiest bento, and this is similar to what I have witnessed in my own childhood. I remember seeing my classmates sharing their snacks and lunches. They would compare and boast about their parents' or yayas’ cooking. In my case, I never had the chance to join in the competition or indulge in homemade cooking. Up until this day, I have never brought any baon to school.

For a long time, I envied others. As trivial or petty as it may seem, not having baon became a problem for my grade school self. During that time, I had to sit in a separate cafeteria away from my friends because the kids who bought food were assigned to sit elsewhere. You could consider me spoiled, but I wanted to experience something most kids did. I had food at home, so what made it so hard to bring some with me to school?

Now that I am on my final year in high school I have come to realize the benefits of purchasing my own food. Since I spent on food everyday, I learned to budget my allowance at a young age. Over the years, I learned to practice self-control whenever I wanted to eat more greasy fries and drink sweetened beverages. I have tasted the strangest viands at the school cafeterias, and I have repeatedly satiated myself over my latest delicious discoveries. Despite the struggles, I am thankful that I have never had baon because of what I have learned. Not to mention, I never had to experience eating cold food.

Choosing between dreams and practicality is never easy. My CETs season just ended with the release of the UPCAT results. Anxious as I logged on the website, I started to think about what would happen if I didn't pass UP. Ever since I was six years old, I fixated on the idea that I will become an iska, serving the country and studying at my dream school, which is UP. I strived and studied hard for the UPCAT, sacrificing a lot of things like hang-outs and gala weekends for reviews.

Throughout my CETs journey, I started seeing myself studying only in UP, and while there were no results yet, my friends and I already started planning our lives around the fact that we're gonna study in UP. It was a big deal for me, my friends and my family that I get the chance to study in UP since it's so far from my hometown which is Benguet, and better yet, it's a very well known university.

January 2020 came and universities started releasing CETs results. I was expecting my DCAT and ACET results that month. I passed DCAT but brushed it off because even though I liked the school, I never really saw myself studying there. Same thoughts with Ateneo, since it never really crossed my mind that I might study in ADMU. In fact, Ateneo was never really a choice for me, I only took it just to have another choice in case I failed the UPCAT. I also applied for financial aid not because I was really planning on studying there, but more of "para lang sure na may college ako". I know it's a bad thing but they were just my back-up schools because my main goal was really UP.

One Friday afternoon, ACET results came out. I passed, managed to get a scholarship, and in that moment, my plans just started to crumble.

Seeing that I got a 100% tuition and fees discount, free dorm fees, and an additional book allowance got me into considering studying to Ateneo. Suddenly, I got torn between UP, my dream school, and Ateneo, which offers so much more.

As the months passed, and after talking to my parents, my plans and decisions got more jumbled and messy. I still wanted to go to UP even if there were no results yet but Ateneo offering so much would mean a lesser burden to my parents in terms of finances.

Even though my parents told me that they'll support me no matter where I choose to go, the practicality that Ateneo offers in terms of finances was not an easy thing to waive. Sometimes I would laugh at the fact that I'd spend less on a private school than on a state university. Talking to my friends helped somehow, but they also have various opinions about the two universities. I managed to tell myself to hold off the problem until UPCAT results get released, and so I did.

UP released the UPCAT results and seeing that I passed made me scream and cry, literally. At that moment, all I was thinking was that I passed my dream school and I'm officially a QC college student.

My parents were so proud of me even though they got scared because I screamed, but ultimately, they were happy for me. The next day, I sat down, stared at my UPCAT and ACET results, and told myself that I needed to decide. This was the hardest part. I tried deciding using the pros and cons method but it didn't really work. Talking to my parents also didn't help because they'd support me either way, so their judgement was not a factor at all. I also had the same course in both schools so that wasn't a big help. I was 99% close to letting go of my dream university and decide to go to Ateneo.

I weighed options and Ateneo was the cheaper and more practical option. I also started to see myself studying as a blue eagle, roaming around the campus etc. And financially, I didn't need to worry much except for food. At that point, I started to really like the idea of going to Ateneo more than studying in UP. But then, as the weeks went by, the Ateneo Plan started to lose my interest.

I realized that studying in Ateneo would be a great opportunity, but not something that will really make me happy. The finances and all would be so much better but I wouldn't be happy and content, and I felt that Ateneo couldn't give me everything that I wanted and needed. Then a light bulb lit up.

As I was imagining myself at UP, I ultimately felt that happiness and content that I didn't feel with Ateneo. I realized that, if I didn't study in UP, I know later in my life, I would regret it. I would regret not choosing my dream university because I didn't choose what would make me happy.

In short, I chose my dream over practicality. I know that I would be successful in both tracks, but I simply chose my dream because it is where I'm happier and more content. Besides, we can make our dreams practical but not all the time can the practical choice equate to our dreams. So to those having a hard time choosing between dreams and practicality, weigh it out and always remember to put yourself and your happiness first. And of course, choose the choice that you know you'll not regret later on.

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