This is not something I would ordinarily share on my blog, but I felt really compelled to post this after reading Andrea’s story over at The OG Momma. I highly encourage you to read her story as well.
This is my own experience with the Mirena intrauterine device. While Andrea’s story focuses on the Mirena crash, the onslaught of side effects and health problems caused by removing the device, my story deals more with how my body reacted to being on the birth control itself. Just as Andrea did, I will concede that Mirena can be a wonderful tool and has been for thousands of women. But for thousands of others like Andrea and myself, Mirena is nothing more than a ticking time bomb semi-permanently lodged in one of the most sensitive organs in the female body.
“Mirena” has become somewhat of a trigger word for me. Every time I hear it uttered by a woman considering it as a possible option for birth control, I am instantly thrown back in time to my own experience and then proceed to word vomit my entire experience as an attempt to warn her of the possible outcomes, pleading that should she choose to continue on with getting the implant that she become hyper aware of any odd changes in her physical and mental well being. All in an attempt to spare her from a similar horrific experience.
I got my Mirena implant in October 2014. Other than the excessive bleeding in the beginning, everything seemed to be going well. In January 2015, I noticed my mental state was declining. It didn’t occur to me that my IUD could be to blame because I live in England, and in the winter time many people succumb to Seasonal Affective Disorder due to vitamin D deficiency (because winter is a perpetual grey, bleak, wet mess and daylight only lasts six hours). We had been living in England for right at a year at this point so I was also still dealing with homesickness and general unhappiness in what I felt like I had been forced into by the military. At the time, I really didn’t think anything of it.
Fast forward a few months to March. By this time, the days are getting longer, the rain is becoming less frequent, and we are spending more time outside. Despite this and vitamin D supplements, my mental state is still declining. I have very little interest, if any, in doing much of anything besides sleeping and watching tv. I’m a homebody anyway but even for me this was at an abnormal level. I was always tired. I rarely got dressed and would often stay in the same pajamas for days at a time. Cleaning fell by the wayside and my house always looked like a tornado had come through. I was embarrassed to have people over, but in too much of a fog to do anything about it. It was then that I came to a very difficult realization that I was suffering from depression. The only thing that was more difficult than this realization was admitting it out loud to my husband. Words make things real. At least before saying it out loud I could still pretend that it wasn’t happening. I cried. He held me and assured me that I would be okay.
The summer was difficult. We were mainly occupied with fighting for my medical care in regards to my neutropenia; this was before I was taking Neupogen regularly, and it was only through a long, complicated fight with my doctor that I finally got it. All the while, my depression continued to worsen. Even after admitting it to my husband, it still took months before I admitted it to my doctor. By this point, it was difficult to be alone. Thankfully, I had a wonderful friend who lived two streets over. She was no stranger to mental health struggles, and we bonded over many things- God, our dogs, tea. I was free to be vulnerable and struggle in front of her, and she in front of me. We became inseparable. My doctor pushed anti-depressants, but I wanted to save them as a last resort. My friend encouraged me to stick to my guns and seek therapy. It took more fighting, but she (my doctor) finally allowed me to see a psychologist. I was officially diagnosed with moderate depression.
It’s about then that I noticed a voice in the back of my head that over time would become more and more malicious. It started by saying things that made me doubt my abilities, even in simple every day tasks. Things I once did without a second thought now became almost impossible. The worst thing was that it made me scared to speak. It would say things like, no one wants to listen to you; you’re being annoying; he thinks you’re faking, he’s just too nice to say it to your face; everyone wants you to stop talking; you can’t be helped. On and on and on, at all hours of the day and night. You see, that’s what depression does. It distorts reality. There was no amount of logic that could combat my intrusive thoughts. This is what made my depression so exhausting. I was always fighting back against that voice, like trying to close the door on an overstuffed junk closet.
August and September were the scariest months I’ve ever experienced. The voice had become abusive, taunting me with the false security of self-harm as a means of escape. One instance I remember vividly. It was a Saturday. Dallas had plans to go play hockey with his friends. I didn’t want him to go, because I was afraid of being alone with my own mind. I didn’t feel safe. But the words to say so were caught in my throat. I wanted so desperately for him to just be able to sense that something was wrong, but he didn’t, and he left. I don’t fault him. There’s no way he could have known. Within minutes I was reduced to a heap on the floor, sobbing and fighting the voice. I don’t know how much time passed, it felt like hours although I’m sure it was only minutes. I managed to pick myself up and grabbed my phone. I called my friend and she was over faster than I could hang up. She stayed with me for hours, until I could tell her that I felt safe again. When he got home, I explained what had happened. It’s the first time I can remember seeing him cry about my depression. This time, he pulled me into his lap and held me against his chest, like you would a child. He assured me that I could tell him when I was struggling with abusive thoughts, and that we would make it through this. I’ve never appreciated him more.
By September, those thoughts were becoming regular occurrences. I couldn’t always vocalize it, but he learned my body language that suggested when I was having trouble. He always did his best to do or say whatever he could to reassure me that the thoughts were just lies and that he still loved and cared for me no matter what. I decided to get my Mirena removed. By this point I’d had it in around ten months, and the idea of having this device implanted inside me no longer sat well with my conscience. That same weekend, I reached the lowest point I’d been in my entire life. On Friday, my friend and I went to Cambridge to visit the Asian markets. As the day went by, I could feel a sense of dread weighing on my shoulders. It continued to get heavier as the hours passed. On Saturday, the abusive thoughts returned. By Sunday night, they were so harsh and loud that I felt like I was being screamed at. I felt paralyzed. I laid on the couch, curled in the fetal position grabbing fistfuls of hair. I couldn’t stop crying, and it was taking every ounce of strength I had to fight the urge to self-harm. The only thing I was hanging on to, by a hair, was the anxiety and fear of the aftermath if I followed through. If Dallas hadn’t been home, I’m not sure what would have happened. It was at this point that he realized this was beyond our control. After some time of trying to help me crawl down from my metaphorical cliff without success, with tears in his eyes and a tremble in his voice, he suggested we go to the ER. I panicked. I couldn’t go. I wouldn’t go. They won’t understand. They’ll treat me like I’m crazy. I’ll be admitted. They’ll send me to a center in London. He persisted. He wouldn’t let them take me, he tried to reassure me that they would help. I resisted. Then he hit me with the one thing I could never say no to. Trust me, he said. If I said no then he would think I didn’t trust him anymore and I couldn’t let the depression take that away too, so I agreed. I made him talk to the nurse at the check in counter, and at triage. They brought in a psychiatrist to assess me, and after several interviews (one with Dallas out of the room to assure this wasn’t a domestic abuse case) he decided that following up with the mental health clinic on base and seeing a psychiatrist regularly would be sufficient after care. I think the thing that saved me was that I wasn’t suicidal. I had a general feeling that things would be better if I didn’t exist, but I never actively thought of killing myself.
It would be six weeks before the psychiatrist could see me. In that time, I had spent 3-4 weeks letting my system reset and then started a new birth control (a regular contraceptive pill). By the time I saw the psychiatrist, my depression had disappeared as if the whole thing had just been a nightmare. After an hour of personal questions she saw no reason for me to be on anti-depressants or to even continue seeing her. She agreed with my own conclusion. Mirena had been the cause of my depression. It’s been a year and a half since I stopped using Mirena and my depression hasn’t returned.
It’s entirely possible that my weekend visit was a result of experiencing the Mirena crash, but given that I was already having these intrusive thoughts before having my Mirena removed I think it’s hard to say. It could be that the hormone withdrawal accelerated my symptoms. It still really upsets me that throughout this entire ten month ordeal, not one doctor I saw (and I was seeing quite a few during this time) thought to look at my list of medications for a possible cause. Hoards of medications have depression listed as a possible symptom, and yet it wasn’t until after I had it removed and the depression subsided that I realized that Mirena was the cause. I was the only one who came to that realization. Once I wasn’t suffering from depression anymore, my doctors lost interest and wouldn’t listen when I tried to discuss it.
After a few months back on the pill, Dallas and I opted to try natural family planning instead. It’s now been fifteen months since I’ve been on any kind of pharmaceutical birth control.
This is generally darker than what I prefer to have on my blog, but I can’t help the nagging feeling that it needs to be shared. This sounds cliché, but as long as one woman somewhere reads this and is helped then I have succeeded. Then this was worth it. If you have a similar story about your experience with Mirena, please share. The more women that come out, the more women we can help.