In early August I was told that the powers that be were discontinuing my birth control pill of choice, which meant I had to switch to something else. My Dr recommended a pill by the same maker for two reasons; it was in the same family, which was appealing since I had used their other option for so long, and it had a lower hormone dose, which was a plus, because in a perfect world I’d like to limit the amount of chemicals and hormones that go into my body. So I agreed, filled the prescription, and didn’t give it another thought.
Summer was an exceptionally busy time in my life. I was settling into a new job, just moved in with my fiance, and unexpectedly had to junk my beloved little car, the Voldsmobile, which was not an Oldsmobile at all but a tiny black two door Hyundai (Protip: Do not name your car after a nefarious fantasy villain unless you want it to die in the most dramatic way possible. Like on the highway at 5:15 pm.).
While life happens quickly, depression sneaks up slowly, so that you never are quite sure when it came into you to begin with. You do notice you’re a little more tired one day, a little grumpier the next, but you blame it on the move, or the commute, or the weekend of scouring used car dealerships. You don’t really notice that your bad days are stringing along into bad weeks that are in turn, starting to blur together. You start fantasizing about quitting your job, the one you worked so hard to get, and you feel guilty. You start to think that maybe you’re not cut out for this type of thing, maybe you were never meant to be in this role at all, maybe your mind can’t handle the work or the commute or the wake up time or whatever else. You start fantasizing about a parallel universe where you are free to lay in bed all day and stare at the ceiling.
Somehow you have gone from zero to sixty and you haven’t even noticed until you start sobbing halfway through the second presidential debate because you’re all going to die anyway. Hell, we may as well vote for a rock, we may as well go live under a bridge somewhere or curl up and wait for the earth to swallow up back up because there is literally no point. And your fiance is just sitting there like “I know Trump is bad and all, but… are you ok?” And that’s when you realize you’re not ok. You likely haven’t been ok for a while.
When I realized what was happening I duly accepted it as a fact of life. I had had entanglements with depression before, so I figured this would be the same; a few months of existential despair and then a slow ascent back into normalcy with no real rhyme or reason why it had even happened in the first place. It had first happened like that when I was seventeen, over a year before I had even thought about starting on birth control, so the idea that something could have caused this was alien to me. My question was not why had this happened, but how do I make it go away as fast as possible.
It was a happy accident then that two days later I was scrolling the headlines on google news and spotted something saying a study had been published linking BC to a higher rate of depression. And while overall the percentage was small, it made me wonder if I could be one of those people. I did some research into the side effects of my specific medication and found a warning embedded in the fine print of my prescription information. “Talk to your Dr if you experience new or worsening depression when starting this medication.” Well. Ok. I still wanted to be sure, so I hunted down a few reviews that seemed to match what I was experiencing. I called my dr the same day and had my prescription switched to something more hormonally similar to my previous pill within the week.
While in recent weeks women have been taking to social media with their own stories of mood swings and depression in response to both the Danish study and the highly publicized male birth control study, I do not remember anyone ever talking about the connection beforehand, including medical professionals. I do remember that when I wandered in for my very first prescription, I was a solid month into a major depressive cycle that would last almost a year. I do not remember having a conversation about the two interacting- unless you count my therapist saying the pill might even be beneficial (the pill can be used to treat Premenstrual dysmorphic disorder, a kind of mega PMS that can cause depression). However, I recently found out depression and mood swings have been on the list of side effects of all three birth control pills I have used. Now, the pill clearly didn’t start the episode back when I was nineteen, but did it prevent me from recovering as quickly?