Romper

Why I Won't Go Back On Hormonal Birth Control

Courtesy of Gemma Hartley

My body has never accepted hormonal birth control well. The first time I went on the Pill, I started projectile vomiting and shaking. I was dizzy and my heart was racing. I thought I was going to die. I had my friend drive me to the college medical center where I promptly threw up all over the waiting room before being escorted to a room where a doctor told me it was "all in my head." He assumed I was hungover or had food poisoning from eating at the campus cafeteria. "Birth control doesn't do that to you," he said.  

I stayed on the Pill because of that doctor's recommendation, and soon I was suffering from anxiety, depression, and a terrible lack of sex drive. Clearly, he was wrong. But every time I tried to explain what was happening to me, it felt like my doctor couldn't have been less interested. So a few months later, I quit taking hormonal birth control. I knew my body well enough to know it couldn't handle the Pill. I couldn't afford anything other than the generic pill without insurance, so my husband and I went back to using condoms until we were ready to have a baby.

Courtesy of Gemma Hartley

After my son was born, I immediately felt done having children. I went through a hellish year of postpartum depression, and then ultimately made the decision that I needed to go back on birth control. I needed something more reliable than condoms because I couldn't risk having another baby and dealing with this nightmare all over again.

Once, I ran out of the house in the middle of the night after my son was asleep, circling the block a few times, staring blankly at the highway beyond the church before reluctantly coming home to lay with my horrible thoughts through the night.

So I tried a form of hormonal birth control that only required a shot. Then I started bleeding, and continued bleeding one month into the next. I bled the entirety of the shot's effective time-span. Far more troubling than my three month-long period, however, was plunging into depression and having no way to "quit." I was seized by suicidal thoughts. I cried behind locked doors every day, trying to hide the fact that I felt I was rapidly growing crazy. Once, I ran out of the house in the middle of the night after my son was asleep, circling the block a few times, staring blankly at the highway beyond the church before reluctantly coming home to lay with my horrible thoughts through the night.

I felt like a terrible mother and wife. Good days were rare. I wasn't myself, or at least that's what I told myself in the beginning. But as weeks turned into months, I started wondering if maybe this was just me. Maybe the hormones had nothing to do with it. However, when hormones started to leave my system I began to feel normal again. By the time it was time to get my next shot, I could see clear as day that hormonal birth control had been the source of my depression.

When I went back to get my next shot, I told my doctor about my mental breakdown and excessive bleeding. He said that wasn't normal. I must've belonged to some obscenely small percentage. "Birth control doesn't do that," he reminded me. He suggested I go back on the Pill, switching over to a non-generic brand that might help keep me more balanced. He told me it was probably a good thing I was getting off the shot if I wanted to get pregnant in the next year or so, stating that the shot would likely keep me sterile for another six-to-nine months.

I got pregnant the next day.

Courtesy of Gemma Hartley

I hadn't even gone through a single month's worth of pills before I took a positive pregnancy test. I was gobsmacked. How? How did this happen? How did every damn thing my doctor told me about hormonal birth control somehow not apply to me?

As I began to talk openly with friends about my experiences with both the shot and the Pill, a pattern started to emerge. That crazed feeling that I developed every time I was on hormonal birth control? I wasn't alone. The constant bleeding? Every friend I knew who had been on the same shot had experienced it, too. The unexpected pregnancy on the heels of the shot's expiration? Yeah, even that. But more damning that their anecdotes about hormonal birth control was the fact that their doctors had reacted the same way: telling them it "wasn't normal" and brushing off their concerns as invalid.

My experience with hormonal birth control didn't empower me, it robbed me of feeling in control of my body.
Courtesy of Gemma Hartley

Even if I was a tiny blip of failure on the massive success that is hormonal birth control, my concerns should have been addressed more thoroughly. The side effects shouldn't have been pushed aside because they so rarely happen. I shouldn't have been treated as if my very real physical and mental symptoms were the product of a wild imagination.

I feel most in control of my choices when my body isn't overtaken by hormones, when I feel like my mind is clear, and my decisions are my own.

I don't feel like I was provided with facts. I don't think I'm some tremendous exception. When I think about the way my doctor brushed aside my concerns each time, I wonder how many others have experienced the same blasé attitude. Could I have fought harder to find what worked for me? Probably, but I was so scarred from my experiences that the thought of trying again and again until I found a solution that worked was too overwhelming. I had a child and a family to think about. Instead of working with me to find an option I was truly comfortable with, my doctor brushed aside my needs. My experience with hormonal birth control didn't empower me, it robbed me of feeling in control of my body.

Courtesy of Gemma Hartley

So no, I don't use hormonal birth control anymore. I never will again. It isn't worth the risks I've already experienced to try to find a "better" option, especially when I don't feel I have the support I need from my doctor. Is there a type of birth control out there that would suit my body's needs? Maybe. Is there a better doctor I could find more suited to meet my needs? Yes. But would I find both before the search for the right birth control destroyed my life or caused me to commit suicide? Again, maybe, but I'm not about to take that chance.

Birth control works really well for some women, but obviously hormonal birth control isn't right for me. And I'm sure that there are plenty of other options out there that would be better for my mind and my body. But I feel most in control of my choices when my body isn't overtaken by hormones, when I feel like my mind is clear, and my decisions are my own. After depression, three-month long periods, and an unplanned pregnancy over my 10-year journey with hormonal birth control, I'm done. I'm taking my body back, and I'm never relinquishing it ever again.