I just got off the phone with my doctor who told me to stop taking my hormonal birth control immediately after I confessed to her the explosive rage and frequent self-harm compulsion I’ve been having over the last week. I’d been off the pill for eight months due to my surgery but had to go back on it to control my endometriosis, a mass of cells the size of an almond squatting on my ovary and causing shooting pain. The high levels of estrogen I’d been on in the previous year made it practically disappear, but after being hormone-free for so long, it’d grown back, so back I went.
I wasn’t prepared for the hurricane of side effects.
Conditions I’d assumed were “normal” for me after taking the pill for over twelve years suddenly reared their heads as massive problems. I gained 15 pounds. Couldn’t get enough sleep. Felt alternately deadened and hyper-sensitive. Broke out like a teenager. Totally lost interest in sex. In the people I love. In my heart’s work. But those seemed dealable. I suspected my lowered, darkened mood and weird physical issues of the last month were linked to the influx of hormones, but I didn’t realize how profoundly it impacted me until this week.
The thing that made me pick up the phone, what told me something was fucked the fuck up was/is the intense, almost seductive desire to plunge a pencil into the soft flesh of my inner wrist and drag it up to the elbow. To shear the excess fat from my middle with kitchen scissors. To punish my body for my spirit’s weakness without regard to the pain – perhaps because of the pain. The need to hurt myself ripped through me like a hurricane for a day, for two, for three.
That scared me into asking for help.
This morning, I gave voice to my 99%-certain conviction that the birth control was doing these evil things to me. And fortunately, my doctors (all of them), agree.
With the immediate cessation of the pill, things will get easier/better soon. The demons will back down and let me retake control of my ship. It’s just a matter of time, patience, awareness, and self-care in the meanwhile.
There’s no need to be too concerned for my safety, my loves. I promise. One of the things I’ve discovered in the crucible of depression is that I’m too big a coward to actually follow through on any of those fantasies. My sense of self-preservation is mercifully still greater than my self-loathing.
Before I go, I just want to say this: I’m only one story, ongoing and, in many ways, fortunate. I know many of you out there fight this self-harm battle. I know that talking about it is difficult because there aren’t words to describe the fury and shame. I know that it’s not always as easy to dispose of as throwing out some pills. I know advocating for yourself can be harder than picking up the razor.
But you can do it. And you don’t have to do it alone. Talk to someone who understands. Reach out when you think it’s impossible.
- Call 1 (800) 273-8255 for the National Suicide Hotline
- To Write Love on Her Arms
- A.F.E. Alternatives
- Befrienders Worldwide
You have your own fights to win. You are the hero of your own story, and you are stronger than the compulsion that haunts you.