How the contraceptive pill made me crazier than a rabid iguana

Me, just crazier.
Me, just crazier.

I guess I should have seen it as a warning from the universe when I told one of my best girlfriends that I was going back on the contraceptive pill and she said, wow, that pill makes me insaaaane. And this from a gentle, chilled out little Piscean who is about as not insane as they come. But instead of thinking, ja, insane could be a problem, I confidently assured her – as I myself had been assured – that this new generation of birth control pills is totally different from its predecessors of 20 years ago, and even if the ones from the olden days disagreed with you for whatever reason, these new low-dose numbers were a veritable stroll in the park, hormonally speaking.

So, as I swallowed that first small, pink tablet and sat on the couch waiting to have a thrombosis (the side effect they do remember to warn you about), the idea of going bat crazy was the last thing on my mind. Since they said it took seven days to be effective, I waited, and while waiting I monitored myself and how I was feeling – just in case – and up to day six, everything was pretty hunky dory. But then came day seven. This was also my daughter’s seventh birthday and, since I’m not good on not-enough sleep and as we were having friends arrive to stay that same day and it was going to be busy and hectic I asked her, the night before, to pleeeease try to wait till 6am before she woke us up.

But, she is seven and her birthday is the biggest event of her year, and 6am is a long time to wait when you’re that young, so it was still dark when her and her sister snuck into our rooms and announced that the gift opening was about to begin. Normally I would be a little grumpy but pull myself together, make a strong pot of coffee and get immersed in the excitement of her big day. Instead, I was a thundercloud. Rage doesn’t even describe the blackness of my mood. My family watched in surprise and bewilderment as I thumped about, furiously blowing up balloons, angrily icing the cake, going on a tidying rampage and then crapping on my husband for something he did six weeks ago. And still (duh) I didn’t put two and two together.

It took all the way till the following day, as I sat sobbing in the front seat of the car on the way to my favorite beach in the world on a perfect-weather Sunday morning where we were going to boogie board, play bat and ball and have coffee with Cremora and slap chips for breakfast (I mean, does life get any better?) for me to go, okay, hang on a dang moment – what the fuck is going on here? And then the penny started to drop as I realised I recognized this feeling – this odd, prickly and difficult-to-describe kind of malaise where you feel like you don’t belong in your skin and even though nothing different is going on you are madly on edge as, at a speed that stuns even you, wild anger gives way to tears and sorrow and sadness.

Because this is how I felt for most of my twenties on a triphasic pill which had me, towards the end of the month, wanting to rip my own hair out in chunks. And nobody presented emotional disturbances as even the vaguest possible side effect, so how was I to know it wasn’t just my personality? And I can be mad, don’t get me wrong, but my mad and I go back a long way and we are very well-acquainted. I know what it’s about and what triggers it (thank you, clever therapists), and for the most part – give or take the odd irrational moment (which generally happens when I’m tired and hungry) it doesn’t make itself known very often anymore. And my madness definitely doesn’t involve indiscriminate rage and absolutely definitely never ever does it involve depression. I get sad like everyone else, but my sadness is about something. For the most part I’m cheerful and resilient and upbeat.

That person crying in the car on Sunday morning? That was not me at all. And it’s just kind of weird that no-one warns you about this side effect. In fact, I was assured it was all psychological (a friend’s gynae told her her lack of libido since taking the pill was psychological, too. No, it isn’t, stjoepid!) The second I got home from the beach I went online, and I was astonished at the amount of information and stories shared by women who had exactly the same thing happen to them – going from (relatively) normal and together to stark raving lunatics, and the longer they took the pill, the worse their symptoms became. And they all describe it in the same way: they feel like they’re ‘going crazy.’ Then I read about how women on the birth control pill show activity in different areas of their brains to women not on the pill and how, in fact, studies indicate that they make different choices in partners than their non-pill-taking counterparts, foregoing thrill-seeking, adventurous men for quieter, more stable types.

Which tells you that it is, in fact, having an effect on us, and given the complex nature of the endocrine system and how much the pill changes the way women’s bodies work the surprising thing would be if it didn’t do anything weird. And I’m not saying it has this effect on all women or that you should stop taking it if it’s working for you. I have several friends who take the pill very happily and love it. But I also have a handful who won’t touch it with a barge pole for the same reasons as me. I stopped right away, and today is the first day I’m really feeling 100% myself. And I think this potential symptom should be presented as a real possibility and not swept under the rug by medical people who don’t believe it/think it’s exaggerated/haven’t encountered it personally because this type of meltdown, when you’re not prepared for it, is actually really pretty scary and horrible. And life for us chicks is weird enough as it is.

So, if nothing out of the ordinary is going on in your life, but your recent switch to the pill has people removing their children to a safe place when they see you coming you might want to consider that it’s not working that well for you. We’re all different, and some of us are more sensitive to hormonal changes than others. That’s just the way it is. You know your body – listen to it. If it’s not good, stop and find another way. The convenience just isn’t worth it.

30 thoughts on “How the contraceptive pill made me crazier than a rabid iguana

  1. That and the headaches from every single pill I’ve ever tried put me off them… and resulted in my 3rd son!! Of course, intelligent people (ahem) are aware that ”natural family planning” is a little… shall we say… hit and miss (or shoot and score maybe?), and many of those intelligent ladies – who don’t want to go down the snip / tube tie route, find happiness with the mirena loop. I was umming and ahhing about getting one when I felt a familiar boob tenderness and a sickly, hungry feeling, but had I bothered to use my head, I’d have gone down the Mirena route!

  2. I became as cold as stone on the pill, years ago, when nobody were warned that their libido might change. I even mentioned it to the gyne, who remained completely silent. It took a serious car accident that took me off the pill( who thinks of contraceptives while lying in hosp with concussion and a scull fracture?) to discover that life is much much more fun without the pill.

  3. Birth control is one of those life experiences that affect a woman for her entire life no matter what choice she makes. Or maybe I just make too much of a big deal of it!

    I have a serious aversion to “the pill” since I knew what contraceptive was. No specific reason for it other than the fact that I did not like the idea of putting something in by body everyday for the rest of the my life which will effect me in ways that have probably not yet been discovered. No thank you!

    (Feel free to ignore the hypocrisy in my mass consumption of alcohol, recreational stimulants and junk foods over the years – having limited standards is a personal thing and often doesn’t make sense in the bigger picture of things).

    Being one of those awkward teenagers (in the days before the internet) I didn’t have anyone else to turn to for advise (MY MOTHER WOULD HAVE KILLED ME). I think this is one of the primary reasons why I was one of the very few girls who stayed a virgin until I was 19.

    My first method of contraceptive was “the poke and choke” method. No explanation needed!!! Lets just say either God was looking down on me or he realized that this imbecile should not be reproducing but somehow this method worked until I was married at which point I got a loop fitted. Worst experience ever.. gyny was creepy.

    I was married for 7years (which is how long the loop lasts). I had only ever seen a gyny once when it got fitted and never again – eeuw!!!

    When I go divorced I remained celibate for 2 years after my divorce (so that I didn’t have to get it removed) and then eventually searched the telephone directory asking each gyny’s office if the gyny was female. I would only go to a female. My next loop lasted me 7 years. Actually longer. I kept it past it’s use-by-date and had it removed the week before my 2nd wedding, 5 years ago at the age of 36. STILL NO PILL

    I fell pregnant on my wedding night…. with twins.

    After the twins I was very broody and my hubby was very scared. So scared in fact that he offered to get the snip. My gyny (who is a man and DIVINE!) talked us out of it in case we changed our mind.

    So I had the myrana fitted (scuze spelling) which aggravated the fact that I got painful cysts on my ovaries. Eventually I had it taken out and hubby booked for the snip (I was still broody, he was pale and nervous). A week later I hemorrhaged so badly I had to be admitted into hospital. My doc insisted the only way to control this was to go on to the pill. I VERY reluctantly did this for about 4 months and I felt like I was poisoning myself everyday and was always ready to kill someone… motive not necessary, just opportunity and I would have been in there!!!!

    I just couldn’t do it. I went off the pill, my cycle stayed normal. We reverted to the poke and choke until my hubby was cleared and confirmed that he was shooting blanks. 4months of the pill in 41yrs was more than enough for me.

    And now we all live happily ever after. Although I do like to occasionally remind my hubby that by having the snip while I am broody didn’t resolve the problem…. it’s just made him replaceable ;-)

  4. Whatever you do, don’t go on Yasmin or Yaz. I had a deep vein thrombosis and clots in my lungs two years ago at the age of 33. I was immediately taken off the pill and had extensive genetic tests a few months later and the results were that my deep vein thrombosis was from Yasmin, as blood clotting is not in my genes. It was a VERY scary and expensive experience. I am now fine and only wear a compression stocking when I fly, although I will need to be monitored during pregnancy. I had been on Yasmin for several years. So yes, it can happen to you. Please steer clear of Yasmin and Yaz. And thanks Susan for sharing your experience and providing a platform to talk about this and warn others so they can learn from our experiences xx

  5. I am not surprised. I will never take ANY medication without reading up on it with as much information as I can get on it. Every tablet in whatever form or illness seem to have more side-effects than fixers. No exaggeration. I don’t believe the medical profession, even if I have one in my immediate family. The big pharma companies are responsible and once you get reading on what they do and hide, you would not even want an asprin, even if that is almost the only thing I take daily for a number of reasons. One per day.
    One of the worst meds one can take is the statin for cholesterol. And every doctor will advocate this, but its side effects are dangerous; cognitive, slows you down and have a terrible effect on the muscles. But ask any doctor that, and they will insist it helps…why? Because they have nothing in its place to recommend. But there’s is always the ‘correct’ diet.
    My late hubby also took the snip after our 3rd son and that made me ever more sane. I was also often on the rampage on the triphaisal.
    I have decided to change my doctor even if I liked him at first, (fam one is young), he does not listen to me and I think its arrogant, and they should. They get paid. With so much info now available we don’t have to be just grateful that we have a doctor.
    Oh and while on the subject of meds and now doctors, why are they the only profession/business in the world who think they can keep you waiting, often for hours, as if your time is less important. Should they over-book? What’s with them? Arrogant or out of touch?

    Sorry, might sound like a vent, but its a good thing you read up on it and that we have the info now available.

    1. I asked my doc for a stronger sleeping pill to alternate with the milder ones I usually take (this was done telephonically via his nurse).

      The pharmacist acts strange when I arrive to collect it, only to discover that Doc has prescribed me ANTI-PHSYCOTIC tablets which are used to treat schizophrenia and manic depressive bi-polar conditions. The side effect is that they make you drowzy. She very reluctantly gave them to me and told me to go and see him about the script because it did not sound like the correct treatment.

      Desperate for a good night’s sleep (and it was too late to see him at this stage), I took one. OH MY WORD… I had the worst night of my life – and NO SLEEP. I agree with you Trisha… NEVER take anything you haven’t researched.

  6. So recognise myself in what you have written! Without the pill I feel like that 1-2 days before my period. With the pill it was the whole month…. Haven’t taken anything since the minipill after Ben was born. Now to talk my loved one inte the snip…. ;-)

    1. Darling, I think Per and Fredde need to get together for a small chat as that conversation is large in our house at the moment :-) Thanks for sharing your story – if someone as chilled and cheerful as you had a problem, you know it’s a problem. lots of love from Kaapstad to you all in Sverige xxxxxx

  7. Oh wow, the gynae just put me on the low dose pill for perimenopausal symptoms and I have been on it for 5 days so far. I am hoping it will smooth out the almost bipolar hormonal ups and downs rather than make them worse – guess I’ll see in a couple of days! I must say, after a break of 10 years without the pill, I am quite curious to see what effect it will have. It better be good or into the bin! I agree totally about the lowering effect on the libido, wish I had known about it 20 years ago when i first took the pill.

    Thanks for the interesting article!

    1. It might do, you never know. After I wrote this I got a DM from a good friend telling me she’s freaking crazy OFF the pill, so we’re all different. I hope it works out for you! Lots of love and good luck xxx

  8. I could have written this! Know exactly where you are coming from!!
    Very glad I eventually figured out that it was the pill that caused the horrible despair and general grumpiness that I felt all the time.
    No pill = sanity for me!

  9. I’ve also had similar experiences with Triphasal, also I was ravenous from morning to night..I turned into a whale and an angry whale at that! ;-) Just wanted to pass on to the lady talking about cholesterol medication..there is a tea called Pu Erh (3 grades = Pu Erh, King of Pu Erh and Emperor of Pu Erh) that has been clinically proven to drastically reduce cholesterol. I’ve googled it and the reports are excellent. Just wanted to pass this on, as its natural, and dad takes it and he says its very good. Sorry couldn’t be of help on the pill question though :-)

    1. It was actually Minesse, which is one of the new, low-dose versions. I can’t believe how much better I am feeling since it’s worked its way out of my system! Seriously – a different person. I’ve heard bad stuff about Yasmin. Thanks for sharing! x

  10. Thank you so much for your blog and so much for writing this particular one! I thought I was just being silly until I went off the pill for the very first time to fall pregnant! After going back on the pill later I realised that it must have been the pill that made me feel so terrible before! Tried it again recently and am back off it, I will never touch it again… People who don’t have problems just don’t believe it though. Greetings from a fellow South African living in Germany x

    1. Thanks for writing and sharing!! It’s amazing how we just accept feeling terrible for so long. I am back to my normal, cheerful self and everyone in my family is very relieved :-) All the best to you xxx

  11. I am convinced that the pill is what triggered my autoimmune thyroid disorder. Also, it made me a psycho bitch from hell for years and I never put two and two together until, after two babies, I went back on the pill and one day found myself locking myself in the bathroom and phoning my husband to come home NOW if he still wanted to be a father when he got home… That shit is evil.

    1. Wow, I relate. And they hand these things out like smarties with no follow-up. And most gynaes simply don’t believe you when you describe your symptoms. They think it’s psychosomatic. Sheesh.

  12. I became a different person while being on Ginette after a year I just lost my desire to clean or exercise I became insecure, then I went on Yaz, I became bonkers. Cried, played out in my head how my boyfriend would cheat on me, cried for everything, lost temper in a second.

  13. Oh my word wow!!!I’m happy I read these comments.I was on the mercilion pill and I used to get a constant white discharge.I stopped it for almost two months and I just had a sudden bleed 12 days after my normal period came.i went to the doc again and so doc recommended I change the pill to minesse as I had tiny cysts in my womb.altho the tiny cysts are nothing to worry I used minesse for a month and again started experiencing the discharge as well as horrible terrible mood swings and yes I can relate to the crazy-in-my-head-wanting-to-kill-somebody type of feeling.I have now completed one month of using minesse and I am sooo stressed as to continuing or stopping usage of it as I hate hate hate these side effects.But I have two kids at the moment and don’t think I’m ready to be pregnant again,,I few like a wreck tho I’m glad I read this article.

  14. Hi Susan,
    Just wanna say I have been on Minesse for about 6 years now and I haven’t had any terrible experience except that maybe once in a month I might get a migraine, I do have a low libido, but overall it has helped with my heavy periods and I dont even get a period now . It must be taken at the same time every day not a second later. I have another 10 years to go till im 50 years so lets hope something better comes along. I do know the feeling of having the pill take control of your life but I managed so far. I did take Yasmin for about 4 years and it was giving me terrible headaches so my gynaecologists put me on Menisse. Good luck to everyone.

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