How Birth Control Affects Mental Health
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Health and Wellness

The Mental Health Consequences of Birth Control Need To be addressed

What the doctors don't always emphasize as much as they should...

The Mental Health Consequences of Birth Control Need To be addressed

Trigger Warning: Description of panic attack

About a year ago, I went on the pill to manage my periods. My cramps were slowly getting worse and worse, nausea was becoming a regular occurrence instead of a spell, and I was running out of coping mechanisms. I also had a few panic attacks a couple times on my period because of some maladaptive cognitions I was having.

My doctor didn't hesitate to prescribe me the lowest-strength dose of Aviane. She listed the common side effects: nausea, vomiting, headaches, bloating, weight changes, irregular periods, etc. My doctor warned me to pay attention to myself and tell her immediately if anything abnormal started happening to me.

I figured she just meant to watch out for if my regular period symptoms got worse. I could never have imagined what would happen instead.

The first month was largely uneventful as it normally is with birth control. The hormones in the medication take a while to have an effect on your body. (Later, I would learn the opposite is also true.)

Come the second month, my periods began to improve, my skin was clearing up, and everything seemed peachy. I could walk around almost as much as I wanted to without a heating pad on the first day of my period! I still remember calling my brother and gushing to him about how I was walking in the parking garage to my summer job without fear.

The pill was giving me everything I could hope for. But then things changed.

It happened slowly at first. A panic attack or two in a month became a few, but most of them had a cause I thought I could point to, so I didn't think anything of them. I was unknowingly adapting to the side effects of the pill.

The worst one I had was on a sizzling hot afternoon when I had to cover for a sick employee in the Pediatric department. I'd never worked there before and wasn't completely familiar with their policies and procedures. Most of the patients weren't complex cases so it was OK for a few hours.

And then it wasn't.

A high school freshman's guardian accompanied him to his appointment. She wanted him to get his vaccines, but the policy was that only the parents could provide written consent for vaccines. I didn't know this and I didn't know how to respond to her.

By the time my manager came down to help me, she was shouting about how the student had to miss his first day of class to come in for his appointment. We were compromising his education. We were the bad guys.

My face heated up so much I wanted to take my cardigan off even though it was always freezing in the hospital. I wanted to be anywhere but on the other side of the desk from the woman. It took everything I had not to have a meltdown in front of her and my manager.

When it was finally over, I was left alone again. I looked at the clock. 15 minutes to lunch. 15 minutes until I could run away.

I wasted no time getting outside and away from the building. My breathing became more labored the further I walked. It was not increasing in proportion to how quickly I was moving. I was power walking at best, but I inhaled as if I was running out of oxygen.

Then the thoughts that my body was trying to kill me came. I knew exactly what was happening. I was having a panic attack again, and this time there was nobody to help me.

I sobbed on the bench for 40 minutes. 15 people must have passed by me and nobody stopped to ask me if I was OK. The whole time my head was spinning as my lungs cried out for air.

And somehow I decided it was a good idea to try and go for a walk. I almost fell over so many times I had to lean against a wall to catch my breath. I stayed there for a good 10 minutes before I had the energy to trudge back to work.

I wish that was the last panic attack I had before I knew something was off, but it wasn't. I had plenty more over the next few months and my mood began to spiral as well. I was becoming as angry and sad as I was in middle school. The peak of my trauma as a bully victim.

The "breaking point" was when I started having panic attacks almost daily and I'd begun sinking into depression again. I thought I was developing a mental illness and was seriously considering therapy. Of course, I had another panic attack at the thought of that too.

My parents were less than a mile away from me and I felt completely alone. Once I collected myself, I called my mother and told her what was happening to me.

"Mum the panic attacks are just getting worse and I feel depressed. I think something's seriously wrong with me. What's happening to me?"

"Are you sure it isn't the birth control?"

I didn't respond. I couldn't bring myself to acknowledge the notion that my miracle pill was causing all of this suffering.

"We need to talk to your doctor. Stop taking that pill and send her a message."

In the end, my mum was right. The birth control was what was giving me all of those mental health symptoms. But if you think they went away as soon as I stopped, you'd be wrong.

3 months went by before I was back to normal.

Since then, I've made it a point to listen carefully to every side effect the doctor reads aloud. Even to the ones they insist are rare and only spend a few seconds on. Those are the ones you always have to watch out for.

I would encourage you all to pay special attention when you're in this position too. Yes you have a medical professional prescribing you this pill and they have these statistics to go off, but at the end of the day, you're putting chemicals you can't even pronounce the name of into your body. Things can go wrong. Things do go wrong. You have to be your own advocate because you won't always be so lucky to have someone else to do it for you.

I'm not sure where I'd be if my mum hadn't made me quit the pill.

Now I'm sure you lovelies are wondering how I manage my periods now. They have eased up a little on their own -- bless -- but I also amped up my period-coping arsenal, so stay tuned for that next week!

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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