My Experience with Mental Health and Birth Control
Updated: Nov 13, 2019
Girl talk time.
About a year and a half ago, I decided to give birth control a try. I tried getting an IUD, but I still had so much PTSD from being assaulted and having a SANE kit that I almost kicked the nurse in the face. Yikes. So, I decided to go with the arm implant (Implanon). And after about two months, I noticed my general mood declined from mostly happy to pretty streamline depressed. And I noticed that the obsessive thoughts from the OCD were elevated. Even more so, I began to notice that panic attacks only happened in the few days before my period started. When I told my psychiatrist this, he helped tailor my medication to my emotional state.
And after that, outside of the two weeks of my pre-cycle and cycle, I was totally fine. No OCD thoughts, no panic, just peace. But during those two weeks? Oh buddy, someone better watch out (especially my poor boyfriend). There was NO TELLING how or who I would be. I would wake up in panics, have to leave work early, become paranoid my boyfriend suddenly hated me, bloat like a daggom whale, feel like I was drowning in intrusive and obsessive thoughts, and crave sweets for every meal.
The thing about birth control is that for many women, it remedies one anxiety (pregnancy), but causes or catalyzes twelve other anxieties. That has been me for the past year and a half, and it had gotten to the point where my cycle was the only time my boyfriend and I argued. And I can honestly say that 90% of those arguments were caused by hormones. I mean, I would take something completely mundane like him not texting me back for 30 minutes and translate it in my mind into him not loving me anymore. Meanwhile, if that had happened while I was not on my cycle, I would not have given it five seconds of extra thought.
I have been tossing around the idea of removing the implant for about 4 months now. And after this last period being extra heavy, I just decided to go for it. I made the call, and had it removed. And as I am writing this, it has been three days since that stupid little plastic rod came out of my arm. To be quite honest, I almost cancelled the appointment at the last minute. I had spent so much time with my psychiatrist tailoring my medication to my current state with the birth control, that I was almost overtaken with fear that my OCD might spiral out of control without the hormones. But after some weighing of pros and cons, and reassurance from my significant other, I decided to go through with it. And I would not trade that decision for anything. I knew in my gut that my body needed a break from artificial hormones. And my worries were assuaged by remembering I have an incredibly supportive psychiatrist who will work with me hand in hand to stabilize my medication if something should go awry. I have also scheduled an appointment with a therapist so I have extra support.
So far, things have been normal since having the implant removed. Yesterday was the only rough day I have had so far. I began to feel a little down and sluggish, and before reacting, I realized it was probably due to the hormones exiting my body. I decided I would give myself a day to rest, watch my favorite movies, and eat anything I was craving (instead of getting angry at myself for feeling off from my normal happy self). And it worked. I woke up this morning and felt that I was in control of my thoughts, and filled with hope that these imbalanced-hormone induced feelings would continue to pass as the remains of the implant exited my body.
I learned some very important lessons during my experience with caring for my mental health and living with a birth control implant. The most important?
1. Have grace for myself and be confident that hormone induced feelings will always pass, the clouds will clear, and I will be able to see and think clearly in a few days. I just need to stick it out until that happens.
2. Do what is best for me no matter what anyone else thinks or what fear tries to tell me. I knew deep in my heart that it was time to move on, and that hormonal birth control was not healthy for me. But fear that I would become mentally unstable almost deterred me from taking care of myself. I mean, from what I described about my cycle, was I not already living with mental instability for two weeks out of the year? And it was time to move on from that. I decided to trust in myself, and in my support system to help me through it.
3. Keep pursuing what makes me smile, albeit playing with Cooper for a few minutes in the morning, meditating and learning to stay present, working out on the beach, or giving my significant other a few extra kisses before he leaves for work. I am responsible for my own health and my own happiness, and I must continue finding the best ways to keep myself joyful and healthy.
I feel like mental health and women's’ hormonal health are not typically spoken about in tandem with one another, but they should be. I have only just begun learning how the two are intertwined! I started learning when I read “The Female Brain” by Dr. Louann Brizendine. I would HIGHLY recommend it! It helped me learn to differentiate “period thoughts” from my thoughts, so that I could learn to discern between reality and hormone skewed site.
I am curious – what has your experience been with birth control, hormones and mental health? Have you spent any time thinking about how the two intertwine? How do you take care of yourself in those two realms?
ALL thoughts welcome, Queen!