How many emotions can one person experience in just 10 minutes? Approximately five. I say “approximately” because I basically blacked out, so there could’ve been another thrown in there. I consider myself to be a fairly level-headed chick, but when my doctor (who is no longer my doctor after an embarrassing birth control-rage-induced incident) prescribed the pill from hell, I became a monster.
I swear that I’m normal when I’m not on the pill. Let me start off by saying that I didn’t start taking the pill after a bad breakup or during the hormonal teenager stage of my life. When I started my first pack, I was in my mid-twenties, crushing it in an exciting career and comfortably settled in a happy relationship. I don’t have a history of depression or anxiety and there isn’t a wing of the loony bin named after my family (that I know of). I was normal. So, when I started to feel off, there was no doubt that the finger should’ve been pointed towards birth control.
The first thing I noticed was the rage. I first noticed that something was off when I was on the phone with my mom and was SO MEAN to her. I knew that I was acting like a monster but I couldn’t control it. I was possessed by the anger. To ensure that I wouldn’t land in the same scenario, I was intentionally avoiding anything that would trigger the rage: rush hour traffic, the DMV on literally any day of the week, that annoying friend that has her life together at all times and, most importantly, loud chewers. I basically had to become a recluse.
I cried uncontrollably over absolutely nothing. There were no ripe avocados at the grocery store. What am I supposed to put on my toast in the morning? This grocery store doesn’t even care about my needs! Cue the tears. This was the worst side effect for me. Sure, I’d feel guilty about screaming at some poor old lady in a fit of rage, but I couldn’t have a conversation with anyone without tearing up. Imagine a single tear rolling down your cheek while talking to your boss about the staff meeting agenda. He was confused and I don’t blame him.
The mood swings had basically reached asylum patient status. One moment I was practically dancing on clouds and the next I was on the floor demonstrating a toddler-style tantrum. It wasn’t necessarily triggered by anything, which was even more infuriating. It was as if Stephen King’s “mist” crept into my personal space, but instead of containing murderous monsters, it was filled with mind-numbing madness. I was the moron you see in the movie that walks obliviously into danger.
Everything in my life felt dismal. Nothing cheered me up. Not even a marathon of Pretty Little Liars re-runs or a Reese’s cup. I could deal with the occasional rage-fest, but this had become an all-encompassing depression. I didn’t feel up for the gym or a night out with friends. I couldn’t face my parents because I dreaded the questions gauging my happiness level. None of my friends on the pill were feeling this way, but I couldn’t be crazy, right? I mean, depression IS a potential side effect listed on the sleeve of every birth control pack.
My poor boyfriend didn’t know how to handle me. When I would walk through the door at the end of the day, he’d pause to see what type of mood I was in before approaching me. Would I break down into tears or storm past him in a rage? I was SURE that he was cheating on me and if he wasn’t, he had to be getting tired of dealing with the 10,000 women living inside of me. Then I remembered that I shouldn’t just feel sorry for him. What about ME? He can close the door and leave the room. I couldn’t escape myself. I was a hostage to my emotions.
Switching to a different pill didn’t help. I know what you’re thinking and no, it didn’t help. I tried three different brands, some even claiming to have low doses of hormones, but they all led to varying degrees of madness. I finally decided that it wasn’t worth the torment. I’m not recommending the “pull and pray” method to anyone, but it was definitely a tempting alternative.
Within a month after getting off of it, I was back to feeling like myself. Who knows if the relief of coming off the pill was completely in my head, but it was a seriously magical shift. It was like I stepped out of a black and white movie and was finally experiencing color. My boyfriend stopped shaking in his boots when I came home and I feverishly made plans to make it up to the friends I bailed on (or yelled at) during what I call the “dark ages.”
There’s still no strong scientific evidence proving that birth control causes mood changes or mental health disorders. Seriously? Since its introduction in the ‘60s, there has been controversy around the possible mood effects of oral contraceptives. More than 50 years of use and there still hasn’t been a solid answer to the debate. Aren’t there female scientists in a lab somewhere having their own psychotic breakdown from the pill? Wouldn’t they love to prove to their cocky male counterparts that it’s easy to focus on Bunsen burners when you don’t have crazy emotions lurking in your brain? This should be a priority, you guys.
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