I know that this really goes against my normal content, and stereotypically, I should be typing away about finals or the end of the school year, but I just thought this story was more important and one worth sharing. I wish someone would have told me their story earlier. Sunday, April 13th, I took my first birth control pill. I had previously gone to my “lady doctor”, had a routine checkup, and been prescribed the pill after being assured that this was the most common and easiest method of birth control, so I never even thought to ask questions about it. It was supposed to be easy. The perfect solution, but it wasn’t.
April 15th, just two days after starting the pill, I had my first major breakdown. I had a statistics test that night at 7 pm, and I was stressed to the max, but why? I had received A’s on the past two, and I hadn’t changed my study pattern or attendance rate. Nonetheless, my mood plummeted; my boyfriend (all too knowing) asked about my mood change. “I’m not okay”, I texted back through my jerking sobs. My mood had taken on something new, and it was far more than just the typical college stress. Tyler called me then, having skipped his next class to talk, but I couldn’t say anything reasonable. I think it went something along the lines of: “I don’t know anything. This practice test looks nothing like what we learned. I don’t know anything. I’m going to fail. I’m just so stressed out. I can’t do this. I can’t do this” (mumbled together through sniffles and tears and almost too fast to comprehend, of course), and he sat there, listening to me, somehow not coming to the conclusion that I was a crazy person but blaming it on the stresses of the week. I hung up and let him eat his McDonalds.
For the next few day, I continued to complain about not being able to eat due to nausea. I mentioned several times during Skype conversations with the aforementioned boyfriend that I was dizzy and felt like I was going to pass out. It still didn’t occur to me what was going on though. Looking back, I wonder how I had been so dense.
April 18th, 5 short days after taking my first pill, the whole situation blew up in my face. I woke up early before class (which I normally do) in order to finish a paper due later that day. It wasn’t something to stress over. I was almost done; I had less than half a page left to type, but I couldn’t do it. I could barely get out of bed. Something must have clicked in my mind then as I lay there hopeless and unmotivated, and after I managed to take a shower, I dug through my baskets for the birth control warning/instruction sheet. There were all of my symptoms listed out in front of me: depression, nausea, and dizziness. I called my mom immediately, not sure where else to turn. I was already crying before she even answered the phone. I don’t think I had ever cried so much in my life? I have always been an emotional person, meaning I emphasize with other people’s emotions greatly and easily, but I was never emotional about nothing at all. “Mom, I think I’m having side effect from my birth control. I just don’t feel like myself,” I explained, trying to down-play the situation. My mom supported me the best she could in the middle of a busy work day. She encouraged me to stop despite the fact that she was the one who encouraged me to start and regardless of my pleas that I could get through this and that it would get better. I still couldn’t help but feel that she didn’t understand the severity of what I was feeling.
I sat down at my desk in an attempt to try and work on my paper with a now closely approaching deadline. I sobbed quietly, fully aware of my sleeping roommate. In that moment and all of the moments since I started this pill (but especially in that moment), I WAS NOT myself. I was helpless. Lost. Severely depressed and sad. I typed nothing. Instead, my heartbeat quickened and my body temperature spiked. I was having what I now have recognized as a panic attack, because I was afraid terrified of myself and how I would make it through the next fifteen minutes let alone the next day. My thoughts were so heavy and dark that I wanted to crawl out of my own skin. I stood up, paced the room, trying to find a way out of my own mind. This was it, I thought. I have lost it. “Someone please come and sedate me”, I thought, “Someone get me out of here”. I was trapped in my possessed body with nowhere to run. I was afraid of my own actions.
Through a series of desperate phone calls and trips to the doctor’s office, I made it through that day. I never took another birth control pill after that, and I have returned to my normal, cheery, optimistic self.
I started doing research, and I was amazed at the number of women that had had experiences just like mine… if not worse. Blog posts like Jessie’s My Birth Control Gave Me a Mental Breakdown shocked me. Comments and health forums were overwhelmed with concerned and confused women. I wasn’t alone. I could’t help but wonder, however, why hadn’t I heard these stories before? Sure, there were side effect warnings on the instructions, but I had never had problems with side effects before. There was a 1/10,000 chance I would get them, right? That was my mentality, at least… I never in my whole life imagined that I would be complaining about every single one listed on the packaging.
For me, this experience was horrifying, and it will greatly change the way I approach medications and the idea of putting foreign substances into my body in the future. I am not, however, trying to discourage anyone from trying birth control pills. There are college girls and others around me everywhere that take it and rave about the convenience and ease of use. It just isn’t meant for everyone. As for me, I will be trying another brand soon enough after giving my body a short break. A large part of this process is trial and error. Just a warning to all: know your body, know your mind, and don’t settle for anything short of happiness.