Buckle up, y’all. This one’s a bumpy ride. For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you may already know that I got off birth control for the first time in almost 7 years in early February. I’ve read studies and listened to testimonials from other women that felt profound emotional differences after getting off birth control and it’s immensely improved their mental health.
This was my main reason for getting off of it: I wanted to know if it was making me depressed and anxious (or if I’m just naturally depressed and anxious). It’s been so long since I’ve known myself without hormones, so I wanted to see what my baseline is these days. What is my emotional life like without birth control?
Update One: It’s been about a month since I got off birth control and so far I’ve only been feeling the side-effects that I anticipated. I lost my appetite, my emotions have been all over the place, I’m super horny (lol I know you’re here for the honesty), and at one point had a bizarre panic attack about my apartment building falling down.
Clearly, it’s having an impact on my emotions and anxiety, but I don’t feel any greater access to my feelings at this point. I have heard it takes about 2 months for things to settle down and for your body to adjust, which makes sense, so I’m just sticking it out for now. Like it hasn’t been awful, but definitely hasn’t given me the results I’m looking for yet.
I’m very nervous to get my first period off the pill, though. I remember when I wasn’t on birth control I had really bad cramps and migraines, so I’m hoping those won’t be coming back. Fingers crossed.
Update Two: Greetings from month two! I’m about to start my second period since getting off birth control and this month has been wayyy more low key than last. No weird panic attacks, no rollercoaster of emotions, but no real difference in my anxiety levels, either. I’ve had a few nights after my first period that have felt particularly mellow (I get most anxious right before bed), which gave me some hope, but since then things have basically gone back to normal.
I was super worried about my period being really bad because I remember it being crampy and heavy before getting on the pill, but it was like totally light and fine like it usually is. So, basically at this point I feel the same as I did before getting off it.
I’m curious to stick it out longer and see if I feel any major changes long term, but it also makes me nervous being off birth control in Trump’s America, you know? I’ll see how I feel in a month and decide from there.
Update Three: Alright, well this experiment is over, y’all. I took a terrible turn in the last week and am seeing my doctor to get back on the pill. Remember that bizarre panic attack I had before my last period? Well, I had THREE in the last week and my anxiety has been absolutely out of control. I finally got my period yesterday, so I’ve calmed down, but oh my god was that not worth it.
I’ve done a little research and it turns out there’s something (aptly) called Post Hormonal Birth Control Panic Attack Disorder. Basically, getting off birth control causes you to spiral into panic attacks that aren’t based in reality. This is exactly what has been happening to me. It’s as terrifying as it sounds and apparently I get them the week leading up to my period.
All things considered, I’ve been keeping it pretty well together and I’m really proud of myself for that. This last week has hands down been the toughest week for my mental health ever. I’ve never experienced anxiety at that level and now understand how completely debilitating it can be. At this point, I just need to get back to normal. I have a doctor’s appointment coming up to talk about getting back on my birth control and will be seeing a behavioral health physician while I work through the next steps.
I’ve heard about so many people who’ve had great experiences getting off birth control and have felt liberated being off hormones (and that’s so awesome!), but that absolutely was not my experience. I’ve never been more afraid of my own mind before. I just kept asking myself “what is happening to me?”.
I don’t know what will happen from here (and I’ll keep y’all updated), but I know I’m done trying to be off the pill. Of course I could keep pushing and things might even out after a while, but it’s just not worth it to me to go through all of that again. I’m hoping the transition back on to birth control will be smoother, but I guess we’re about to find out. I hate feeling beholden to a drug like birth control, but I can only do so much.
To anyone is struggling with anxiety and panic attacks, you are unbelievably strong and my heart is with you. If you’ve had a really negative experience getting off birth control, you’re not alone. I think the more we talk about these things, the more we understand about birth control and its side effects, which have been historically dismissed. We just have to take care of ourselves and each other in the meantime.