I went on the pill for health reasons. After years of struggling with painful and irregular periods, my gynecologist explained how I had a hormonal imbalance. The hormonal imbalance was causing a small benign cyst to grow in my uterus. If left to grow, the cyst could become dangerous, and the hormonal imbalance affected my chances of having children in the future. My gynecologist explained how taking the pill was my best chance to make the cyst smaller, prevent future cysts, and increase my chances of having children in the future.
I was hesitant to go on the pill due to cultural reasons. Zimbabwe has one of the best-incentivized birth control programs in Africa. Birth control is quite affordable and easily accessible. However, there is a lot of stigma surrounding the pill. Young unmarried women are discouraged from getting the pill and are shamed for choosing to protect themselves. As a result, I wasn’t comfortable with the idea at first (I mean, what would my mother think!). However, I realized that taking the pill was the best way to take care of my reproductive health, and I had to ignore what society had to say.
The nurse at my university’s health center quickly breezed through the pill’s side effects and how it would take time for my body to adjust. I knew that birth control would affect my mental health, but I didn’t spend time thinking about it because my mental health was stable at the time.
I did not suffer from any severe side effects from the pill. If anything, I felt so much better. For the first time in my life, my period was regular, and I didn’t suffer from excruciating cramps.
I was emotionally stable when I was on birth control. My mood swings were under control, and my anxiety was less heightened. Considering how much pressure I was under as a college student, the pill made stress management easier. Using the pill as a hormone regulation tool worked well in my favor. After three years on birth control, the gynecologist told me that the cyst was almost gone, and my body could probably regulate hormone production by itself. The pill had done its job, and it was up to me to continue with the program.
Getting off the pill was one of the most nightmarish experiences I’ve ever been through. My period was regular, but my cramps were worse than ever. It felt like my body was punishing me for getting off synthetic hormones. My mental health took an even bigger hit.
I went through a depressive episode within a month of quitting birth control. My anxiety was through the roof, and there were days where I could barely get out of bed.
I sought help, and my therapist explained how quitting birth control probably played a role in my mental decline. She explained how my body relied on the pill, and I was now going through heavy withdrawals. I considered going back on the pill, but she offered a more holistic solution. She encouraged me to wholeheartedly commit to therapy, do the work, and then see if there were any changes. If there was no change in three months, then I was free to go back to the pill.
It has been six months off the pill, and I am now much happier. I feel better than I have in years. I’m not sure if it’s the therapy that helped or if getting off birth control is what I needed all along. I’ve figured out that birth control is what my body needed at that time, but I have now moved past it.
I may not know whether birth control improved or worsened my mental health, but it was a necessary personal journey. I am happy that I took a chance on the pill, and now I know what contraceptive method would (or rather wouldn’t) be best for me.
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