Life after Birth Control – Sydney Schwichtenberg

By Sydney Schwichtenberg

In the operating room inside Goddard Health Center, then-freshman Brynlee Handy laid down on the soft leather cushion of the examination table and stared at the fluorescent lights above her head. Around her, a gloved doctor prepared Mirena, a popular form of birth control known for its longevity, to be inserted. 

Despite her doctor’s insistence the procedure would be only uncomfortable, Handy worried about the pain. 

“My mom told me it was worse than childbirth,” Handy, now a professional writing senior, said. 

Offered no pain medication other than the suggestion of taking Aleve or Advil an hour before the procedure, Handy said she experienced the worst pain in her life as the IUD was placed in her uterus. 

“The after-pain was almost as bad (as insertion) because it was like rolling waves of equal parts pain and nausea for three or four days,” Handy said. “(As if) someone was constantly punching you right in your uterus.” 

Mirena, which is a soft, flexible piece of T-shaped plastic, contains the hormone levonorgestrel. The birth control thickens cervical mucus to prevent sperm from entering the uterus, and its popularity is due to its promised five years of protection against pregnancies.

“Long-acting reversible contraception methods like IUDs and Nexplanon are popular and highly recommended because they have zero percent user error,” Katie Qualls, a health educator at Goddard, said over email. 

Although Mirena has done the job of preventing pregnancy, Handy’s experience with the IUD goes beyond just physical pain of insertion. Since the procedure, it’s her mental health she worries about most. 

“They gave me a little pamphlet and said here’s what can happen and here’s this tiny, size eight font of stuff that will happen,” Handy said. “I obviously threw that away.” 

Inside OU Health Services’s brochure for ‘Types of Contraception,’ there are no listed side-effects outlining possible mental health issues. 

“Discomfort during insertion, can become dislodged in rare cases,” the brochure states. 

Handy had no idea how her mental health would be negatively affected in the coming months, as medical professionals from Goddard failed to tell her about possible side-effects. 

“I feel like ever since getting the IUD in, it’s like the highest highs and the lowest lows,” Handy said. 

Some patients feel may need over-the-counter painkillers or heating pads for cramps after getting the IUD, according to the OU Heath Center brochure. There is no mention of how mental health can be affected. 

“You may experience cramping during and after the insertion,” the brochure states. 

This wasn’t the case for Handy. Handy laid down on the operation table for several minutes, hoping the pain would pass. After a half-hour, with pain still rippling through her, Handy grabbed a one-day doctor’s note and spent the upcoming week curled in her bed. It’s been years since Handy received the implant, she said she still feels the “knife-pain” in her uterus at spontaneous times throughout everyday life. 

“If your symptoms do not pass within 30 minutes after placement, Mirena may not have been placed correctly,” Mirena’s website states. “As a follow-up, you should visit your healthcare provider once in the first four to six weeks after Mirena is placed to make sure it is in the right position. After that, Mirena can be checked once a year as part of your routine exam.”

Goddard made no mention of a follow-up examination, said Handy. 

“We encourage patients to follow up with their provider if they have questions or concerns,” Qualls said. 

Handy isn’t the only one who has experienced worsening mental health since being prescribed birth control. 

Heather Ortega*, an OU athlete, said her life has changed since receiving her Nexplanon implant the summer before she left for college.

The Nexplanon is a tiny birth control implant that provides three years of pregnancy prevention. The estrogen-free plastic rod is inserted in the patient’s arm. Like Mirena, there is no mention of mental health side effects listed on the product’s website

Ortega had no idea it could cause anxiety or depression, but according to hundreds of threads from online forums, countless women share her same experience. 

Ortega researched the side-effects, like sudden anxiety and depression appearing out of nowhere, and believed those were simply extreme cases. She said she never thought they could happen to her. 

“(My doctor from home told me) some things that could result in this is weight gain,” Ortega said. “You’ll sweat more, but she said ‘we don’t really see other side effects than that.’” 

Over the course of two years, Ortega’s mental health slowly depleted. Ortega believes her negative experiences are a direct result of the implant. 

Ortega said her friendships and romantic relationships have been affected by her birth control. 

“I used to be more open to friendship and a people’s person,” Ortega said. “Now I pick and choose who I want to spend time with.” 

According to Qualls, picking the right birth control differs with each patient.  

“There are a variety of factors to consider before deciding which method is best for a patient,” Qualls said. “Efficacy, hormones, reversibility, side-effects, lifestyle… convenience.” 

The Danish Sex Hormone Register Study,  a nationwide study that includes all women living in Denmark, revealed that the risk of suicide was triple for women on birth control. The IUD had the second highest risk for suicide attempts. 

Use of hormonal contraception, especially among adolescents, was associated with subsequent use of antidepressants and a first diagnosis of depression,” the Danish study states. “Suggesting depression as a potential adverse effect of hormonal contraceptive use.

In an OU Health Service brochure explaining the patient’s rights and responsibilities, it states patients should “expect reasonable continuity of care and be informed by your health care provider of possible continuing health care requirements.” 

Handy said she was blindsided by Mirena and its side-effects.  Handy’s life pattern isn’t corresponding with her current endeavors. As a senior ready to take on the world with success as a cosmetologist and an intern for the Brides of Oklahoma publication, Handy believes her worsening mental health is due to her birth control.  

“For a long time, I thought that this was normal,” Handy said. “We are strong women so we just tough it out. It never occurred to me that wasn’t how it was supposed to be, that you’re supposed to live a normal life while not having children.” 

*Name changed in order to protect true identity 

Abigail Hall – The Glory Days

The Glory Days is a piece for Crimson Quarterly written by culture editor Abigail Hall. In the story, Hall uncovered Norman’s musical past, which featured household names like Jimmy Buffet and Willie Nelson. Through the use of the Lloyd Noble Center and Campus Corner, the ‘70s and ‘80s overflowed with “freaks” searching for good music. Unfortunately, concerts and music festivals came to a halt as property owners wanted less trouble. Although concerts and music festivals still exist in town, Norman has shifted away from the vibrant music scene some alumni remember. Hall created an interactive timeline that dates back to 1977, when Kiss performed, to 2016, when the Newsboys came to town. Hall also sourced photography from different outlets such as Facebook and OU Daily files. 

Hall chose this piece because she is enamored with music. This is not the first story Hall has written over music, and it won’t be the last. For Hall, she believes the narratives prominent in music transfer easily into news-worthy stories. Hall finds music unique in many instances, from the way thousands of strangers share the experience of a live performance, to how music can speak and relate to her community and audience on a personal level.  

For Hall, the best resource in her work is the people around her. From her professor and OU Daily adviser Seth Prince to her OU Daily editorial board, Hall finds support and consistent collaboration from every direction. Hall isn’t afraid to ask for help and believes writing gets better with edits and consistent practice. Hall carried this love for storytelling throughout her childhood from fond memories with her grandfather. He would always read the newspaper, and she liked the way the paper felt beneath her fingers. As she grew up, she read obsessively, but that wasn’t enough. Hall moved onto creative writing and discovered an unmatched fondness for her new hobby. Despite traveling the world, Hall came back to Oklahoma knowing she needed to continue writing.  

The editors at the Daily are the main reason why she found one of the most prominent sources in her story, Mark Watkins. With their encouragement, she posted on several social media pages and soon, sources flooded into her inbox. Originally, Hall was asked by the Crimson Quarterly editor to write the story, and her work quickly turned into an intimate look into Norman past. Sources like Watkins helped paint an even more vivid picture for her audience as he uncovered Norman’s past of the Watermelon Feed Festival and Oklahoma Sound Rush. With Watkins’s recollection, Hall created an opening to her story that outlined what a night in 1974 looked like for the music junkies of Norman.

Unfortunately, Hall learned the darker side of journalism in this piece as one of her sources, omitted shortly after his interview ended, sexually harassed her while she questioned him about the Norman music scene. Despite the unfortunate experience, Hall refused to let her source ruin her memory or love for the story, and continued writing after taking a break to heal. Hall’s newsroom was supportive in standing by her side as she came to terms with her experience. 

For Hall, this piece is one of her proudest moments in her career of journalism. For the young reporter, she felt as though she uncovered something forgotten in the Norman community. Through the collaborative work through small snippets of interviews, social media posts, and help from her newsroom, Hall’s story turned into what she said was “almost a community project.” For Hall, unearthing Norman’s musical past felt like something much bigger than her or her career. 

Preserving Oklahoma’s Graveyards through Electronic Archives – Sydney Schwichtenberg

By Sydney Schwichtenberg

With a camera in his hands and his wife close behind, Glenn Shroads raises his lens up to a gravesite in Woods County, Oklahoma. Although the cemetery is still spotted with silk flowers and the grass remains neatly cut, Shroads records the gravesite with a quick click of the camera’s shutter-button. 

After he photographs a thousand gravesites, Shroads and his wife load back into their car and drive three hours to get home. They plan to return for another 25 days, or at least until they record all of the county’s undocumented grave markers. 

“From sun up to sun down,” Shroads said. “We have to drive 150 miles to get to a cemetery and 150 miles to get home.” 

Shroads, 77, and a retired airman, spends his retirement volunteering for Oklahoma Cemeteries website, a non-profit organization dedicated to documenting Oklahoma’s graveyards. A year ago, he documented all gravesites in Woods County. Now, he spends four hours a day recording obituaries.

The volunteers with Oklahoma Cemeteries are connected with local cemeteries and newspapers in order to keep their archives continuously updated with new burials and obituaries, Shroads said. 

“We are not reporting the news,” Shroads said. “We are reporting a burial after the burial.” 

Shroads said there are only two options for cemeteries and both are inevitable. 

“Stop and think for a moment, what is the final destination for every single cemetery in the world?” Shroads said. “One of two things… graves are being dug up and the bodies, the remains, are being thrown in the garbage to be replaced by new graves because there is no more land. The second thing that happens… there is no longer a cemetery because they’ve been overrun by the clock.”

Matt Files, Oklahoma Cemeteries coordinator for Cleveland County, believes that Norman cemeteries face the same disrepair Shroads warns about . 

Files said the Oklahoma City restaurant Johnnie’s Grill was once home to one of central Oklahoma’s pauper’s cemeteries, a gravesite for those that couldn’t afford a traditional burial, and a popular resting place for the people of Norman. 

“Reports state that the plots were moved to what is today, Norman IOOF Cemetery, but not all were moved,” Files said. “Families couldn’t afford to have their loved ones removed so they left them behind.” 

Files said some people buried where Johnnie’s Grill stands were unknown without grave markers, with the restaurant as their final resting place. Files said in the parking lot of Johnnie’s Grill, a plaque honoring those left behind stands. 

Files believes that Oklahoma gravesites are documented to help others gain accessible information on those who have passed. 

“Our mission… is to provide family researchers and historians of all levels access to free information on cemeteries and those who are buried there,” Files said in an email. 

Files said 98% of Oklahoma Cemeteries operates solely off of volunteer work from fellow Oklahomans or those who have ties with the state. 

“Our structure is set up so that anyone can assist us,” Files said. “No set hours required, no special skills, small groups or an individual are more than welcome to join us. We don’t conduct meetings or anything but are always in contact with other team members and our leadership chain.”

For volunteers like Shroads and Files, who document thousands of grave markers, they are running against the clock to record cemeteries before they are abandoned. Shroads said cemeteries say they have perpetual care of the burial ground but that simply isn’t true. 

“Perpetual care runs out when the money runs out,” Shroads said. “What’s the source of income for a cemetery? The source of income is a burial and not many people are being buried anymore.”  

With the volunteer work of Oklahoma Cemeteries, there are over one million grave markers recorded online.

“We are making an electronic history because that will never be erased,” Shroads said. 

Jim Woodruff, an Oklahoma Cemeteries volunteer for central Oklahoma, recorded 109,000 grave markers in the area before he left the state for Florida. Over 30,000 of those were collected from Cleveland County. 

Woodruff said his favorite cemetery is Rock Creek Road Cemetery, established in 1933 and the old burial place for the Central State Hospital. Woodruff discovered the grave markers were made out of concrete blocks and nearly all of the dates were unreadable.  In his observation on Oklahoma Cemeteries website, Woodruff asked for ancestors of those buried in the cemetery to replace the markers. 

“Since then, someone has replaced the old concrete blocks and someone has photographed the new stones,” Woodruff said in an email.  

A traditional burial is now being traded for a cheaper decision: cremation. It’s simple economics Shroads said.

“Would you take a $10,000 bill and take it out here to [the] cemetery and bury it in the ground?” Shroads said. “What sense does that make? So you take $1500 and put it in an urn and put it in a 2-foot hole in the ground.”

As time goes on and people continue to choose the cheaper route, Shroads said, cemetery funds will run out and gravesites will be abandoned. 

According to the General Counsel Opinion 2000-6 by Cherokee Nation, an abandoned cemetery is defined as an area “obviously a cemetery,” where no person has been buried at in the last 25 years. 

Despite the changing economics in burials, Shroads said he believes it’s paramount to remember the people of the past by conserving history through electronic files. 

“The bottom line is really rather simple,” Shroads said. “When you forget history, you will not remember the future. Period.” 

An Ode to Satan – Taylor Gambill

By Sydney Schwichtenberg

Taylor Gambill runs to his car in the Timberdell parking lot with a black gig bag in tow. 

Inside, Gambill’s prized possession, his bassoon, waits to be played in front of hundreds, joined by the OU Symphony Orchestra. Gambill works as a graduate teaching assistant in OU’s music department, through his job he earns the opportunity to perform. 

Gambill, dressed in a black suit and tie, combs his hair back for the event. He unlocks his 2000 Lexus, a car he has driven since he earned his license at 16 years old. 

In bold print, his license plate reads, “BASSOON.” 

“I did have to wait for someone to die to get that,” Gambill said. “It took two years, but I got it.” 

***

Music can be found anywhere in Taylor Gambill’s life, from the years spent in his middle school band, to his current position as a teaching assistant to music students, and to his satanic beliefs. 

Gambill, an Arkansas native, spent most of his life running away from the Bible Belt. 

“One of my brothers is an accountant and the other is a dentist,” Gambill said. “I’m a satanist.” 

As an 18-year-old, Gambill attended his first satanic ritual ten minutes outside of his hometown of Jonesboro, Arkansas. In a rented-out gymnasium, Gambill, dressed in a black robe, stood in a circle of men and women as they surrounded a makeshift altar. 

In his hand, Gambill held a glass of wine. 

“It was box wine,” Gambill said. “It was all going to waste anyway, so the price didn’t matter.” 

In front of him, three naked bodies of willing participants danced together. Gambill, along with the strangers around him, threw gallons of wine over tangled, bare limbs at the word of the priestess. 

***

Inside the Reynolds Performing Arts Center, Gambill’s closet-sized office sets on the third floor. When Gambill stretches out his arms, his fingers scrape either side of the wall. Dressed in a flannel and cargo shorts, Gambill fails to resemble what most would imagine as a practicing satanist. 

Each day, Gambill spends at least three hours inside of the tiny, sound-proofed office practicing his bassoon, a woodwind instrument. Since middle school, he dedicated thousands of hours to his music.

“People don’t start out on the bassoon, they’re switched to bassoon,” Gambill said. “It’s sort of a complicated instrument and not many people play it. My band director asked three of us to try out the bassoon, I’m the only one who kept going.” 

Gambill grew up in a Pentecostal home located in what he describes as “the middle of nowhere.”

“Lots of rice fields, mosquitoes and mud,” Gambill said. “That’s pretty much where I come from.” 

After high school graduation, Gambill stayed close to home. A ten-minute drive from his hometown of 75,000, Arkansas State University was Gambill’s first steps into his professional bassoon career. 

“I picked a very specific field and it just lucked out,” Gambill said. “I just so happened to be lucky enough to live right next to a really big reed nerd.” 

Back in Jonesboro, Dale Clark, a bassoon professor at ASU, grew Arundo donax, a type of cane, in his backyard. Through years of perfecting his craft, Clark created a small business of reed-making. 

Arundo donax is the cane used to make the mouthpiece for the bassoon. According to Gambill, the bassoon is not like most woodwind instruments. Instead, it requires a skilled hand and multiple hours of work to create the mouthpiece. 

Clark saw Gambill as a rising star in the bassoon world. 

“Taylor took any suggestions I made and tried to make it work,” Clark said. “He was very easy to teach. This didn’t mean that he had no initiative. Taylor is a very creative thinker.” 

Gambill’s bassoon lessons with Clark started when he was 14 years old, but as a junior in high school, he realized he wanted to learn Clark’s reed-making craft. 

“I would go to his house after school and make reeds for him,” Gambill said. “I wasn’t good enough to work for his company until I was a freshman in college.” 

Creating reeds for the bassoon is tedious work, but required for playing the instrument. According to Gambill, Reed-making is a practice career bassoonists must learn, unless they would rather buy expensive reeds. 

 “I spend fourteen hours a week [making reeds],” Gambill said. “It takes a lot of time. That’s why people don’t do it.”  

Through years of crafting, Gambill’s reed-making is what earned him his graduate position at the University of Oklahoma. But, according to Gambill, the process is much different. 

“Here, at Oklahoma, I buy tubes of cane,” Gambill said. “In Arkansas, [Clark] had a field specifically planted to get our own cane from. That’s the only cane field I’ve heard of in America.” 

As Gambill’s talent with the bassoon grew, so did his curiosities about religion and belief. 

“I went to church about three times a week growing up,” Gambill said. “I saw a lot of things happen. They’re very intense people, getting filled with the Holy Spirit and having outer body experiences. I would witness this with my eyes weekly, but in the seventh grade, I was sorta like, I’m going to church, doing the same thing these people are doing every week, but I don’t feel what they feel.” 

Because of his disconnect with the Pentecostal church, Gambill questioned what he truly believed in by researching. 

“First I started with what I could find at the library, which was ‘Buddhism for Dummies,’” Gambill said. “Then I found the Vedas from Hindu text, and so on and so forth with other religions. Just enough to get acquainted with them, and just sorta of figured out in my own head, that they’re all doing the same thing, convincing themselves of things to explain what they can’t explain with science.” 

According to Victoria Pulliam, Gambill’s fiancee and a substitute teacher in Norman and Moore, Gambill’s nonconforming lifestyle is what attracted her. 

“Taylor allows his mind to wander, to think, and to question in an intelligent way,” Pulliam said. “I love how he was interested in wanting to learn how all religions worked and intertwined.” 

Gambill’s curiosity is what spurned his interest in LeVeyan Satanism, the only religion he thought grasped his beliefs. 

“I’m a big fan of satanism,” Gambill said. “The reason why we’ve chosen Satan as our image is because he’s kind of the perfect human. He embodies all of the natural qualities humans try to elevate themselves above.” 

According to Gambill, contrary to the title of satanism, most satanists fail to believe in a spiritual or supernatural world. 

“That’s the point of this whole religion,” Gambill said. “It should be scary, but it’s not– because it’s just a story.” 

As a teenager, Gambill was inspired by the satanic movement in black metal music. 

“Going to a black metal concert looks like a black cathedral,” Gambill said. “The candles, the chanting, the sage.” 

Experiences like this are what tied Gambill’s love for music and his beliefs together. He found a religion which celebrated music, a skill he has loved since middle school and a career he plans to last his entire life. 

“I would say music as a whole is one big ode to Satan,” Gambill said. 

Abigail Hall, beyond the editor

By Sydney Schwichtenberg

Inside her pocket-sized kitchen, Abigail Hall pours a can of beer into a wine glass and throws the aluminum into her recycle bin. 

In the safety of her apartment, Hall, a journalism senior, forgets about deadlines and instead, focuses on her vegetables roasting in the oven. According to Hall, she isn’t the biggest fan of change. That was why she spent the last week surviving solely off of carbs. 

Hall works as the culture editor at the OU Daily. In the newsroom, Hall is dedicated to her stories and keeping her desk on track. 

Hall struggles with anxiety and depression, two mental illnesses that can work against her career as a journalist. Through years of therapy, Hall has learned how to understand her own needs. 

Sydney Schwichtenberg: If you had one word, how would you describe yourself? 

Abigail Hall: One word to describe myself? I mean, fucked up is two words so… I guess the real word would be anxious. We’re going to go with that. 

SS: Tell me about a moment when you completely embodied ‘anxious.’ 

AH: I think a lot of my life experiences have been in anxious moments. It’s just been a perpetual state of my life. 

SS: So, do you have anxiety? 

AH: I do, I’m diagnosed with anxiety. 

SS: What does that adventure look like for you?

AH: I’ve always kind of been in an unstable situation, just moving everywhere. I never knew where I was going to be the next year. I was constantly losing friendships because I was constantly moving. And so, I delved into books and stories as a way to stay away from change. That really defined my childhood.

I was homeschooled until the seventh grade. In the seventh grade, my parents decided to move us to the great land of Oklahoma. I was put into public school. That’s when my social anxiety came into play– trying to be cool. We didn’t have money and I was trying to wear Aeropostale, American Eagle and Hollister. I wanted to fit it in with all the girls. I never did. My mom always encouraged me to “just try, go up to them and just insert yourself into their lives.” I would do that. And they would ignore me. It left me wondering what could go wrong at any possible moment. And there are so many things that go wrong at any given moment.

That thought definitely developed into extreme depression and anxiety. It’s more natural for me to be anxious than not to be anxious.  I’ve come to define the world around me through that lens.

SS: What does healing look like for you? 

AH: I’m at this point where I have been through years of therapy, done all the journals and voice inflections, all of the “I can do this” while talking to yourself in the mirror. Becoming OK with it helped. Saying, it’s OK and it’s OK to talk about it. It’s OK to say in my place of work, I’m having a panic attack and I need to go home. I’m just learning to take care of myself through it, instead of being ashamed of my anxiety or actively avoiding it.

SS: What are some things that help your anxiety?  

AH: Well, one thing I had to learn, and that’s through years of going to therapy and talking about it, sometimes you are going to be anxious and you just have to go through it. There are times when I can avoid anxious situations, but the career path I’ve chosen means I have to interview a lot of people, there are a lot of deadlines, there is a lot of chaos. I have to be OK with that. Even though it might be better for me to go to bed really early and have a lot of sleep to help my depression and general ability to connect throughout the day, there are times where I have to cover things in the evening. There are times where I have to push through anxious feelings and go interview someone or work on an approaching deadline. There are times where I have to say, “It’s sucks that I’m feeling this way, but I have to do this anyway.” I think, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a good thing to say, “I understand my mental health and know what I need.”

Although I like being social, there are some limits. Sometimes, if I’ve had a hard day and already said I’d do something, I’ve become a lot better in the recent few years saying I can’t do that right now. I know that I said I would. I hate disappointing people. It’s very hard for me to say I’m going to do something and change my mind.  There are times when I just say I’m going to take care of myself first.

I think we make this whole twitter joke about all white girls needing therapy and wine and face-masks. Those things really help. They’re not fixing the whole problem but they do allow a certain amount of emotional release and relaxation.

I usually rewatch some funny show that makes me feel good or reminds me of another time when things were easier, or the person I watched them with. If I’m really missing my boyfriend and I’m anxious about that, I’ll watch “The Office,” because we watched it together. He had never seen it before and I remember all those moments. It’s usually like that, and taking my medicine every day.

SS: Where is your boyfriend?

AH: He just got into med school at OU in Oklahoma City, we are only thirty minutes away but sometimes it feels farther.

 SS: Has he helped you with your anxiety?

AH: He does. There were a lot of days last year where I was not able to do things. I would have interviews, and think that I could not leave this house. I would have panic attacks. He helped talked me down from a lot of things. It was also hard, because there were things he didn’t understand.

He would say, “Well, yes you can go and do that. You may not want to, but you can do those things.”

When you are in an anxious moment, that’s not very helpful. I talked to my therapist, and together we found ways he could be supportive.

He wants to help, but sometimes people who aren’t therapist don’t know how to help. Sometimes when they say things they think are helping, it doesn’t feel like help to you. It’s been a learning process for us. 

SS: What is one word you hope to embody in the future?

 AH: The only words I can think of right now are really inappropriate… but I guess… happy. I don’t know, the word circumcised kept coming to my head and that’s definitely not what I mean to say.  But, yeah, happy.