Mental Health Awareness Week: How birth control affected my mental health

I hesitated writing this post for a lot of reasons but not least that I don’t want this post to feel like it exits only because it’s mental health awareness week this coming week but sometimes moments like ‘mental health awareness week’ force you to have that little bit of courage to speak up.

So today, I want to talk to you about my birth control journey. Birth control is something I’ve always been hesitant to talk to a large audience about because it brings with it connotations and meanings. Although I know I should say ‘who cares’ because I’d advise other people of that; this is a subject I’ve always felt uncomfortable with.

However, I’m going to try to be brave and talk to you a little about birth control and how it affected me. The first birth control I ever went on was the nexplanon implant and I started this in the January of my third year of University (so about 2016). It appealed to me because after the procedure was over, you didn’t have to think about birth control and it lasted for three years. During the time I was on the implant I didn’t have a period, which was also a bonus to me (although I didn’t know 100% this would happen going in though I suspected as such because of how people close to me have described it affecting them).

The procedure itself was quite quick. A lot of people are squeamish about it because it involves you being cut into and I’ll admit I was nervous, as I know someone who wasn’t numbed 100% before it was put in. Luckily, the nurse I had checked and it turns out I wasn’t completely numb so she numbed my arm further. It was a strange feeling, as I felt what the pain should have felt like (like someone is stapling you) but didn’t feel the physical discomfort. Apart from occasionally touching my arm and being surprised when I came across the implant; I largely didn’t notice it was there.

Also, I just wanted to write a quick note about where to get this done. If you look up the nearest sexual health free clinic in your area (looking up ‘sexual health clinic and then your county usually works) you can usually either book an appointment (if you know what you want done this is what I’d recommend) or go into a walk in session and discuss the different options. I would like to note as well this advice is for people in England, I’ve only lived in the UK so I can’t advise for how to access contraception anywhere else in the world.

Before, I begin the next part of my story I think is important to note is that at this point in my life I wasn’t in a great place to start. One of these reasons is that for around 6 months at this point I’d stopped running (consequently I gained a little weight but not an excessive amount – I could still fit in 90% of my clothes). I debated mentioning this at all  but there was another part of my life that affected me that I’m not ready to talk about yet (sorry for teasing but it felt wrong not to mention at all) that meant I was not in a good place to begin with.

I didn’t notice much of a change in my life when I started the implant. In those few months when I started my life was a whirlwind of deadlines, extracurricular activities and work, as I tried desperately to get my life in order. The first thing I noticed was that all of a sudden I put on a lot of weight (disproportionate to the amount I was eating). I could tell I put the weight on fast by the way it looked on my body as well – my body just felt strange.

It took longer to notice how it affected my mood. All my pent up emotions and angst became amplified by 100%. I was angry all the time, hyper emotional. Although, I would describe myself as passionate and maybe of a Hermione in the way I approach my work; I’ve never been one to just react/ snap. I could see myself reacting to things and it was like an out of body experience. I knew my reaction was irrational but I couldn’t stop it happening. The spiral would get worse because in the lucid moments afterwards I’d be so upset about how I’d treated people (and for this I am still truly sorry for).

I knew deep down something had changed in me when I started the implant but I became so scared that if I took it out nothing would change and I was just trapped as this angry person now. It was that fear that stopped me taking it out until 2 years later, as I only removed it early this year. The effect on my mood within just a week after it being removed was ridiculous. It sounds silly but I felt like myself again. I could react like I wanted to. Something else I noticed as well was that my concentration went up and my focus on tasks. It felt like the time before my brain had been wrapped in cotton wool – if I managed to get a Masters when my brain was suffocating – what could I achieve now?!

I also started to notice my weight shifted easier as well. Also, in case anyone is wondering I am on another form of hormonal contraception now in the form of the mini pill (not every mini pill is the same though as there are different brands). It’s only been a couple of weeks, as I gave my body a break before I started anything else because I wanted to make sure I was myself again but I feel a lot better so far. However, I am experiencing an irregular period. Normally, my periods last 7 days and I am on day 9 now (however, I think it’s basically gone now, fingers crossed), if this continues I’ll go to my GP because a 7 day period is bad enough; I don’t think I can cope with much longer.

I accessed the mini pill from Lloyds Pharmacy. You can get this service through the NHS and not pay but I found this method more convenient as the process was quick and easy (and there is a Lloyds Pharmacy literally 2 minutes from where I live). It was also not expensive, as it cost £10.00 for a 3 months supply (and I think you save if you buy a larger supply).

The implant robbed me of a lot the 2 years I let it take over me. And all I can think about now is that I should have taken it out sooner. But I’ve had depressive episodes all throughout my life so I just thought it was a culmination of that. This may have been true in one way but although I’ve felt low since having it removed and unfortunately I probably will again feel low in the future; I have never felt so low as I did in those two years.

I’m not saying don’t go on the implant. Just listen to yourself and your body. If it’s not working try something else. Don’t let yourself think it’s you failing rather than the method itself if it doesn’t work for you.

It took me a long time to remember that I’m a fighter and that I always been someone who tries to do as much as possible (and doesn’t take no for an answer); I hope this post can help someone remember this too. If you suspect your contraception is making you feel low, please, please see if other options are available to you. Hormonal contraception is that is the way you chose is never going to be 100% fun and pleasant but please don’t suffer unnecessarily.

Remember you have the right to demand a break from it as well. For Mental Health Awareness Week that is the big thing I want to stress is trust yourself.

On another note, I know this period can be stressful. It’s great that more people are becoming more aware about mental health issues and have the courage to talk about it but sometimes having lots of voices talking about a subject can be challenging too. I know I find it overwhelming to read about people’s mental health problems sometimes because it hits too close to home. Also, don’t feel like because everyone is talking about their mental health that you have to talk about yours too. There is nothing wrong with sharing something if you feel like it could help someone going through the same thing or if because you feel it will help you to process everything; but you don’t have to share every part of your mental health journey.

Sometimes, sharing doesn’t help. It’s ok to keep it private sometimes. Keeping it private doesn’t mean you are not suffering.

I do not share half of my struggles on here because I am naturally a very private person. It has took me years to get used to social media. As a teenager I barely interacted on the popular sites at the time because sharing things that happened to be seemed so unnatural – my MSN messenger chat game was particularly terrible. Over time I’ve learnt through observing how to communicate more after witnessing how it can help me and how certain bloggers and Youtubers have affected me (for the better). However, there are times like this post where I feel like I can process the pain I went though and I want to talk about it because I wish someone had written something that would have talked about it to me.

So here is me talking to you about how my contraception had a very crappy effect on my mental health. If you’ve had a similar experience please comment below. If you have any questions about my experience I’d be happy to answer them. I’m far from an expert on the subject but I will be honest and try my best!

April (April is the Cruellest Month)

– Blog posts Thursday and Sundays- 

P.S. My friend Callie’s post made me remember that I should make sure I have resources at the bottom of this post for people who need them – please read her twitter thread as she says it better than me.

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