Thursday, 16 June 2011

My Story

Hi, my name is Shirley. I'm 31 years old, and have just recently emerged from 8 months worth of severe depression and heightened traits of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I'm sure many women out there can relate to being in dark emotional places from time to time, but there is something a little bit different about my situation. As it turns out, my 8 month nightmare was caused by a Birth Control Pill (BCP). Here is my story:

In the summer of 2010, I went to see my family doctor (who I had only been seeing for about a year at that point) to get a refill of my prescription for BCPs. He advised me that the BCP I was on, Triquilar 21, was outdated (I had been taking it on and off for about 15 years) and that there were much better BCPs that had since become available. So, he reached into his cupboard to see what free samples the pharma companies had given him, and gave me some samples of Yaz. During my first month on that pill, I gained 8 pounds, and before that cycle was up (for obvious reasons) I marched right back to his office demanding a different pill. He then reached back into his sample cupboard and gave me a few packs of Tri Cyclen Lo (TCL).

I didn't experience any of the more commonly-known side effects of TCL. Meanwhile, TCL was doing damage behind the scenes, eventually allowing both severe depression and heightened BPD traits (including suicidal and parasuicidal behaviours) to somehow take over my life. By September 2010, I was so severely depressed that I could no longer work and had to go on sick leave (which also translated into a significant loss of income), and by December 2010, my incidents of self-harming were increasing at an alarming rate.

I recently read the insert for TCL, which included the following warning:
"Be alert for the following symptoms and signs of serious adverse effects. Call your doctor immediately if they occur: severe depression"

Calling my doctor when I became depressed was exactly what I did. Never did he mention that perhaps we should change the BCP that he prescribed for me. Nor did any of the other 7 doctors and psychiatrists I saw over the course of this ordeal. Instead, they prescribed one anti-depressant after another, and various sleeping medications to help counter the side effects of the anti-depressants.

In April of this year, someone very close to me suggested that perhaps it was this new BCP that had been causing all these issues. (For reference, the BCP change happened around June/July 2010, and I began to fall into a deep depression in Sept 2010.) So, we made the decision to hold an "experiment" of sorts by taking me off TCL and all other prescribed medications (including the anti-depressants). Within 2 weeks of stopping it, I was 80% better. 80%! My depression is virtually gone, and I am now left with working through various BPD behaviours that have sadly become a part of my life.

Let me be very clear about my concern: In my view, the problem is not so much that hormone pills can have serious mood altering side effects. The reality is that any prescribed medications, including hormone medications, pose the risk for both mild and serious, even life-threatening side effects. The problem is that not enough people know about the perhaps less-common side effects or how severe they can be, and not enough doctors are identifying BCPs as the possible cause of such symptoms. There is a clear lack of awareness that needs to be corrected.

What's even more shocking and enraging is that I've been doing a lot of online research over the past few weeks, and have found that so many other women have gone through virtually the exact same experiences as I have, on various different BCPs. Most even reported the same result: when they went to see their doctors about the sudden onset of severe depression, the doctors responded by prescribing (you guessed it) anti-depressants.

Still, I suppose my story has a happy ending. All I have to show for my 8 months in hell are rows of scars on my arms, a bunch of ruined relationships, and a significant loss of income from my inability to work since September of last year. But there were many days and nights when I was suicidal. I could have lost my life because of this. How many women out there weren't so lucky? Which is why I feel I have to speak out. In fact, it makes me want to run through the streets screaming about this to everyone, in hopes of saving other women from having to go through the experiences that I went through.

Please pass along this message to the women you know, and share your own story if you like. We should all be made very aware.


  1. I got your comment on depression haven with the link to this. We have to get in touch and talk about this. You are so right- it isnt the fact that the BCP can cause these and other problems, its that the doctors make BCP sound fine and then tell us we are crazy when something goes wrong. My doctors did the same things- put me on BCP, then with side effects came up, made me sound crazy and put me on all kinds of stuff, then got upset when I didnt want to take more meds. Email me as soon as you can and lets talk-

  2. Thank you Linda :)

    Alisalynn, I will email you...

  3. Thanks so much, Shirley. My daughter is in the middle of a similar experience: after the first month on a new BCP she attempted suicide. Her gynecologist suggested she take a 1-month break to see if it helped, but it did not. How soon after you stopped the BCP did your BPD symptoms subside?

  4. Stephanie's Mom, I'm so sorry to hear your daughter can relate. No one should have to go through that. In my case, I felt a bit better within 2 weeks but it took about 3 months for me to really get the pill out of my system. It also took me 3 months to start feeling the negative side effects, though, so your daughter's situation sounds quite different in that sense. To be honest, I'm still not fully recovered. It's as though a pandora's box of some sort was opened when I started taking the pill, and now that these issues have been released (in all likelihood I was suppressing them quite successfully up until that point), they have to be dealt with the hard way...with lots of patience and therapy.

    I am also dealing with a lot of anger and frustration these days. If the pill brought out all these issues in me, then why are they not gone now that I am off the pill?? Unfortunately I don't have a clear answer to that. One the one hand, I am so impatient to get "my life" back on track, but I think what I need to accept instead is that my old life may very well be gone for good. What I need to focus on now is letting go of the past and building a new (hopefully better) life instead.

    I had taken a break from blogging about my BPD, but am getting back to it now. If it helps you or your daughter, please follow me at

    1. It's all so painfully true, what you have written here. I've been trough the very same thing, except it happened when I was 17 (I'm 20 now). Actually, it all started around the date when you published this post. I was taking BCP for about three to five months, when I started feeling slightly depressed - without a single clue what was happening to me in the beginning, the depression slowly increasing, until I developed every single symptom of BPD I could possibly get. It seemed like opening a hidden trapdoor, never able to close it again.
      I'm still trying to come to terms with the fact that my life will never be the same as before, and that the old me doesn't exist anymore. It's all about accepting the fact and building on top of that acceptance. Learning to live with these newly - acquired nuisances which make every day a huge battle, which we often loose.
      Every time a woman I care about at least a slight bit tells me she's taking birth control, I feel like screaming 'stop' at the top of my lungs. And often I do, only to be considered overly dramatic, anxious, bothersome even.
      Of course it is very individual and depends on a lot of factors and the BCP only kick - starts something that would most probably have occurred in your life anyway, (me myself I'm actually quite happy it happened to me at this early age, because I can still rely on the financial support of my parents - if nothing else - and also I believe that the more life you have built up for your self at the time you burn out, the farther your fall is)
      The recipe for this is very individual I believe, but the only real way is to take things slow, as if you were learning to walk again. One little step at a time. There's no other way than to take your time, even if it seems unbearable.
      I wish you all lots of luck with your recovery

  5. I am diagnosed as ADD, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Clinically Depressed and am on Abilify and Risperdal. Some side effects I've experienced are weight gain, extreme fatigue (sleeping 9-11 hours a night), and slight hair loss. Does anyone know how to manage these side effects while not going off the medicine completely? I've found it near impossible to lose weight while on these medicines especially.

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