Tag Archives: birth control pill

Migraines vs. depression

So, during the psych evaluation, an interesting idea was floated by my doctor:  that the birth control pill I was on might be wrecking havoc with my hormones and that might, in turn, be exacerbating my depression.

Okay – I can hear the chorus – “but Laura, why are you on birth control if you’re all gay and such?”  Certainly it isn’t due to all the rampant boy sex I’m having (frankly, it’s not due to ANY sex that I’m having these days…).  No, I started using birth control pills a few years back to control hormonal migraines (not nearly so entertaining, I know).

I had been on birth control pills for a bit back in the old days when pregnancy was a possibility (being gay in my head didn’t count as long as I was still dating boys), but had stopped taking them when I stopped pretending to be straight.  Even though I tolerated them well, and had loved how they made my cycle so regular, I wasn’t all that keen on taking hormones.

For a few years, I went the natural route.  I never had much issue with my period (other than the normal annoyance of it), but when I look back, I can see the pattern of headaches when it started shortly thereafter.  It didn’t get bad, though, for probably another year or two — at that point, the pattern became quite clear:  every month I would lose about 1.5 weeks to headaches.  And of those 10 days, I would suffer through about 2-4 days of debilitating migraines.

When I discussed the issue with my gynecologist, she put me back on birth control pills.  And they helped a little bit, though I was still having issues every month — just shortened the time because my period was shorter.  So, then we moved to a period-every-three-months birth control pill, and that was better — it limited my symptoms to only 4 times a year.  So, this past time around, we went full hog and I’m on a birth control pill where I never get a period.  And this? Wonderful!  I feel like I’m no longer a slave to my cycle.  I never have to worry about time of the month (or 3 months) and over the past 6 months I’ve not had even one hormonal migraine.  Victory!

I did try controlling the migraines with migraine medication, but that worked only some of the time.  I’d get a migraine, take pills for it, it would help some of the time, but then the next day I’d get a rebound headache so bad that it almost wasn’t worth it to have treated the first migraine.  Went through a series of a couple of different migraine medications (though I’m sure there are more out there to try), and never hit on anything that entirely fixed the problem.

So, now my psychiatrist is recommending that I talk to my gynecologist and go to a “less progesterone-y” birth control pill (her words, not mine)… meaning, one where I’ll still have periods.  She thinks that we might be fighting a losing battle with the anti-depressants if I’m still on the same birth control pill.

I’m torn.

It’s a quality of life issue:  not having migraines has been life-changing. I wouldn’t wish migraines on my worst enemy — and I know that I don’t even get them as bad as some people do (mine generally only last 5-8 hours).  Let me put it this way:  when I get one, if I had the choice I’d choose to be put out of my misery than have to suffer through one more minute of it.

But – of course – the depression is also quality of life.  And it’s sneakier because depression doesn’t manifest itself as an ice pick being stabbed into my brain over and  over and over again.  Which makes it seem like depression is easier to deal with.

But is it?

I’m not sure.  I’m loathe to give up my period and headache-free existence. But if that’s one of the reasons that I’m miserable and lonely and utterly disinclined to enjoy life? That’s something I need to consider.

I look back, and it’s possible that there’s a connection between my depression getting worse and when I started on this particular birth control pill.  Was I depressed before that? I think so. Did the birth control pills cause me to spiral further down?  I’m not sure, but, maybe.  I will say this, though:  I believe now that I’ve been dealing with depression on some level or another for a good chunk of my life.  This isn’t new, it’s just worse.

So, I’m still thinking on it.  Trying to gather some information, see what I can find. I can go back to one of my previous birth control pills, see if that helps with the mood.  Maybe it won’t make a difference and I can go back on what I’m on now?  That’s a possibility, of course.  I just hate the idea of migraines. Absolutely hate it.  But I also hate the way I feel now.  What to do, what to do…