I was 17 when I had my first proper boyfriend and so I went on the pill. I was excited to actually be taking control of my life as well as making sure that I didn’t get pregnant in my teens which was much more common at that time than it is today.
The first pill I was prescribed was Microgynon and it made me bleed constantly for a month. After that, it settled down but the relationship didn’t last so I came off it.
When I went to university I decided that I didn’t want to go through my pill experience again so I had the contraceptive injection. This turned out to be an even worse nightmare and I bled for 7 months due to the massive dose of hormones. I ended up with a cervical ectropion which required treatment and my constant bleeding was stemmed by a shaman, yes, really.
So it was another contraceptive fail, so to balance the hormones from the depo injection I had to go back on the pill again. I took Yasmin over the summer and for most of my time in South America until I ran out of pills and started bleeding again (that’s where the shaman came in but that’s another story).
I felt like I had got on okay with Yasmin compared to Microgynon so when I returned to the UK I decided to go on the pill again. I started my Master’s degree and I wanted to start dating again. The spanner in the works was that I lived on my own and spent all my time studying so it was not a fun time for me.
Towards the end of my MA I got together with my boyfriend and then I had a rough 18 months working on low-paid short-term contracts and doing work experience which was pretty demoralising. A lot of factors contributed to the fact I felt depressed but I never thought of the pill as part of that.
After a lot of graft, I managed to get a stable job and I moved in with my boyfriend. I went to the doctors to reorder my pill and he said that to reduce my risk of strokes I should try a different pill. I said ok as I hadn’t thought that much about the side effects and I was under the impression that all pills were essentially the same.
It says a lot that a male doctor decided to change my pill without asking me about my history with contraception. It had taken me a long time to find something that I was happy with and he took it away from me, even though I was in my twenties with no family history of a stroke. I didn’t even question his judgement.
I started taking Gedarel and the panic attacks began. I’ve always been a panicky person and I’d had mild panic attacks before but never a constant feeling of anxiety. I am an anxious person when in anxiety-inducing situations but this was all the time. I got promoted at work but I felt awful all the time. I went back on anti-depressants for a while and tried to find practical ways to make the constant fear go away.
I went to counselling which didn’t particularly help. I then went to a psychologist for CBT and he diagnosed OCD, something which had always been within me but the anxiety awakened it and allowed it to take over.
I went to work on a live news show for six months but within my mind, I was in hell. I moved back to work in children’s TV and the news about the problems with the pill came out in the media. I was at the end of my packet so I took it as a sign.
I stopped taking it over a year ago now, after four years on Gedarel. My OCD has calmed down, my anxiety has lessened and so has my panic attacks. I’ll never be problem-free but at least my mental issues are at a more manageable level which is all I want.
The major drawback for me is that I now have heavy periods which made me severely anemic. It was stressful to feel so ill but I’m feeling better now.
Sometimes I consider taking another pill but I just can’t sacrifice my mind again. My mental health has always been difficult for me, and those are flames that I don’t wish to fan. In the meantime, I am planning on getting the copper coil in the hope that it will finally be the contraception method that works for me and my mind.