After that first attack, the feeling of anxiety kept coming back--furiously--and without warning. One minute I would be enjoying myself and the next I was overcome with hot flashes and then came the sickness in my stomach, the wonky room feeling and all the rest. The panic was palpable and I began to fear the fear itself.
For years, I struggled with the betrayal of my own mind and body...which is what anxiety basically feels like. Sometimes there was a reason for an attack--stress being the biggest one. Other times there seemed to be no rhyme or reason for the panic at all. It was an unpredictable beast.
Being the problem solver that I was, I began to tackle the issue head on. Therapy and close work with my doctors taught me how to manage my anxiety, but it was just that--management--and it wasn't being solved. This was never more evident than when life was practically devoid of stress, and yet, I was still having panic attacks.
Over the years, my doctors had "stepped" down the amount of estrogen in my birth control. It was never talked about in conjunction with my anxiety, but all at once, like a light bulb turning on, I realized something funny about the stepping down that had occurred. Each time they lessened the amount of hormones I was talking in my birth control, I would be fine for a few months (free of anxiety) and then, once my body adjusted to the new birth control--BAM!-- anxiety would rear it's ugly head again.
Armed with new knowledge I went to my OB/GYN and told him I needed to get off of birth control. I was sure, I told him, that it was the cause of my anxiety. This was how the conversation went:
Him, "You wanna get pregnant?"
Me, "No, but--"
Him, "Then stay on the birth control. See you in six months!"
I was shocked. I made an appointment with my primary care physician and broke down hardcore in his office. I was crying, telling him I knew it was my birth control and explained to him what happened with my OB/GYN. My doctor looked me in the eyes and said, "This ends today. Don't take anymore of that birth control." Essentially, he gave me permission to stop taking the pill.
It has been almost a year and a half since I got off the pill (which I was on for 12 years). I am happy to report that I have been virtually anxiety free since then, and contrary to what my OB/GYN had said, I am not pregnant and have no plans to become pregnant in the near future. (They have these things called condoms--they tend to work.)
While I am not advocating every woman go out and ditch her birth control, what isn't being discussed is the link between the hormones in birth control and panic attacks. I know this to be true because since I have been off of birth control, I've been talking to a lot of women who have been experiencing the same symptoms as me. None of their doctors have brought up the link between birth control and anxiety.
So, tell me, are you are birth control? Have you experienced bad side effects as a result of longterm use on birth control. I want to talk about this with my readers and I hope that women looking for answers will be able to benefit from a healthy discussion. Don't be shy--share your experiences in the comment section below!