I went off birth control when my relationship ended two months ago, after being on it for over three years. In the weeks that followed, school started up again, I did some freelance work, socialized with friends and family, and basically just went about my life as usual – with one key difference: for the first time in three years, I felt 100% happy, well-adjusted, and sane.
When I started flooding my system with artificial hormones in April 2011, I was about to go through some major life changes: starting school, getting into my first sexual relationship with a cis dude, enduring the deaths and mourning of a few people I loved, and falling out of touch with some of my high school friends. So when I started to feel sad, antsy, isolated and irrational, I thought it was just the circumstances of my life transforming me into a different person. I thought, I guess this is my personality now. I wasn’t thrilled about it but I didn’t think it was fixable.
I’d have bad anxiety days, when I’d show up at school and have the unsinkable sensation that everyone around me was staring at me and whispering about me. I’d have bouts of depression so bad that I had to call my city’s distress centre and sob at them over the phone, or lie in bed all day staring at the wall. I’d get irrationally upset at things my boyfriend said or did. I’d look at my body in the mirror and absolutely hate what I saw. My creative output all but stopped and I knew I needed to write and make music but it just didn’t happen, no matter how much I tried.
In short, I had turned into a nutcase. I could see that it had happened, but, again, I thought it was just the new state of my life and that I couldn’t do anything to change it.
Since going off birth control, I’ve felt sunny, excitable, flirty, creative, juiced up, carefree, and ambitious. I’m taking six very challenging courses with heavy workloads at school but I’m breezing through them with excellent grades and not giving a fuck what my classmates think of me. I wake up every day excited to put on a cute outfit, skip to the streetcar stop and go on a new day’s adventure. And my creative output is up up up.
As happy as I feel… I also feel kind of angry. Angry that I had no idea how much birth control was messing me up. Angry that the side effects of birth control are so often misrepresented or downplayed when they can actually literally transform your life. Angry that my doctor told me I should continue with hormones when I asked her to give me a copper IUD instead. Angry that I lost three years of my life to lunacy and turmoil.
Sure, there are some downsides of going off BC – my skin is a tad spottier, my periods will be unpredictable when they start back up, my sex drive is once again high to the point of almost being unmanageable, and my weight loss has slowed right down – but I think mental health is way more important than any of those things. I’ll happily be a zitty, chubby, horndog version of myself if it means I get to be outgoing, cheerful, productive and creative. That trade-off is a no-brainer.
I’ve spoken to a few friends who have corroborated my experiences, and now I’m wondering: did this happen to you? Do you know people who’ve gone through this too? Do you consider your mental health when you make contraceptive decisions? Are you as pissed off as I am that you didn’t know about this sooner?