I was 17 when I first started taking the contraceptive pill. It cleared up my skin, and I lost a fair bit of weight. I was delighted. I continued on the same pill, Yasmin, up until I was 22, when I was advised by a doctor to try a POP pill due to suffering from migraines. There is a link between the risk of stroke and the combined contraceptive pill for women who suffer from migraines with aura. But as I don’t experience aura, this advice simply wasn’t suitable for me.
The POP pill wreaked havoc on my skin and cycle. Pimples appeared all over my back like a rash, and my confidence plummeted. After some time, I went back on Yasmin for around nine months. Unfortunately, the damage to my hormonal balance was done, and it ended up being the worst nine months of my life. I’d never been depressed before then, but I was low and anxious most days. I stopped taking it two-and-a-half years ago and my mood returned to normal.
Then, at the end of last year, I was experiencing some hormonal acne, and entered a new relationship. I felt confident and happy. I was my usual warm, bubbly self. I loved life. I thought I would give the pill one last go, in the hope that I’d given my body enough of a ‘break’. I didn’t want the worry attached with some other forms of contraception, and I wanted my skin to clear up.
The first few months were plain sailing, other than some debilitating migraines. But I’ve always suffered from migraines, so I continued to take it. It was around six months in when that dark cloud of doom started to emerge on the horizon again. I tried to ignore it, but I couldn’t. Soon enough, I felt like a different person.
I was numb and an emotional wreck simultaneously. I was disinterested in the things I normally loved to do, but also highly-charged and fidgety. I didn’t want to do anything, but felt like I was missing out on life. I could cry at the drop of a hat.
I was irritable, snappy, argumentative, and far more sensitive than normal. I felt isolated from everyone else, like no one in the world could possibly understand what I was going through, even though I have read countless stories of women going through the same or similar things.
I felt like I was pushing away my boyfriend because I didn’t want him to be around me when I was in a bad way, and I didn’t want to be around other people in case I brought the mood down. I spent the night of my birthday crying in bed because I felt so depressed and tired from putting on a brave face. The migraines were worse than they’ve ever been before, and I was sick frequently.
My skin was clear, but my brain was clouded constantly, and I could feel my personality ebbing away.
My experience on the pill was so awful – more so than anyone ever really knew, because I didn’t want to keep talking about it and trying to explain it. I felt like I was going mad in all honesty. I looked at the teeny tiny pill in my hand every morning and thought, ‘surely this can’t be causing me such distress’. Contraception and mental health are touchy subjects, and I found it hard to understand my feelings, let alone express them. Although I didn’t feel depressed every moment of every day, the low mood was always lurking beneath the surface.
So many women take the pill for years – because it works for them, because it’s all they know, and because it is the easiest option available to us.
But so many women are deeply affected by the way it pushes our biology into the backseat and takes control of the wheel, affecting everything from our emotions and energy levels to libido and even the way we ingest nutrients.
I’m not writing this to tell women to stop taking the pill. For women in the 60s, it was revolutionary. It allowed them to take control of if and when they got pregnant, and for some people, it works wonders. But I’m writing this for anyone like me who has suffered, to remind you that you’re not going crazy, and there are other options. Don’t feel forced by your GP or anyone else to take it if you don’t want to. Listen to your brain and your body and search for the thing that is best for you.
I wonder, looking back over the six or seven years in total I spent popping that little pill every morning, how much of it I spent as my true self? The anxiety and insecurity I felt at times could’ve been teenage angst, definitely, but it also could’ve been attached to a bigger problem.
Either way, I’m just looking forward to a future where I can reclaim my brain and my body without fear of the next mood swing. I won’t feel amazing every single day, my skin might break out again, and I might have to think more about contraception than other people, but at least I’ll know that I am me.
There is a growing movement of people who are sharing their experience with the pill. Here are a few articles that made me feel less alone when I was at my lowest.
Remember to take care of yourself and put your health first every time, because you deserve to be the best you.