I upped the ante on stress and pressure when I was 18, after I didn’t make it to Olympic Trials and felt even more like a failure (but didn’t think I should share that with anyone). I thought I needed to be thinner, better, more perfect. So I pushed.
And then my period stopped from low body fat and intense training.
Now away at college, birth control was recommended to restart my period. I didn’t question it. A medical professional had said it was the way to go and you don’t question a medical professional. At least I didn’t.
Nine months and a rapid spiral downward into what would be diagnosed as depression-later, I was prescribed antidepressants. And thus began a hugely rocky decade.
I watched an interview this morning from Marie Forleo: Dr. Kelly Brogan on Naturally Dealing with Depression to Reclaim Your Health — I found it thought-provoking and would highly recommend it, if you’re looking for some health-related food for thought.
In one segment, Dr. Brogan touches on birth control and the risk of depression/antidepressant use in teen girls, noting one study suggests an increased relative risk of 80% for those taking birth control over teen girls who did not. I searched a bit and came across the following links on this study.
Study info: http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/article-abstract/2552796
One view on takeaways from this study: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/body/massive-new-study-links-birth-control-to-depression-for-the-first-time/
Another view on takeaways from this study: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/10/09/497087838/does-some-birth-control-raise-depression-risk-thats-complicated
The third is more of a devil’s advocate look at the findings, though notes the importance of looking at such a study and considering what you know about yourself before making a decision/taking action:
“’You need to know yourself and be really informed,’ Monk says. ‘If I were of an age and reading this article right now, I would want to be thinking, [italics mine] Who am I? Am I someone who has moodiness around my periods?’ She notes the importance of each woman considering these findings in conjunction with what she knows about her own body and her own circumstances.”
For me, do I think my spiral into depression was related to taking birth control? Yes, I do. I also think it was related to my change in diet when I headed off to school — heavy on sugar, processed foods, and diet soda (Dr. Brogan also talks about the impact of food on mental health in the interview, which I could relate to). And were there other things too, like the way I was feeding off of (and creating) more and more stress in my life? Yup, absolutely.
Now, is this intended to be some blanket statement about birth control, depression, and/or other lifestyle choices? No. I can’t speak for anyone except myself. I don’t know what another has gone through and experienced. What I do know, however, is what worked and what didn’t in helping me feel better (or not). And really taking a look at the medication I was taking, what I was eating, and other lifestyle choices (and quitting blindly following outside direction) was huge for me.
Whatever choice we make (whether it be taking a medication, the foods we eat, whether to exercise or not, or anything else) is like pulling on a strand of a spiderweb. We can’t pull on one thread, hoping that only it will come out. When we pull on one strand, the whole web will move — it’s all interconnected. (Thank you to Dr. Brogan for this analogy). Our bodies and lives are interconnected. Making a move or a choice in one area will result in change in other areas too, whether we like it or not (and beneficial or not).
On my end, fast forward 17+ years. Now off birth control for 7+ years, antidepressants for 15, more mindful of what I’m putting in my mouth and on my body, and paying attention to what leaves me feeling good versus what doesn’t (and doing more of the former), perhaps one of the most critical things I’ve learned is to listen to my body. My body doesn’t lie.
If something is feeling off, wherever in my body or thoughts, I’ve got to pay attention to it. Something, somewhere along the line needs to be tweaked. Ignoring it or worse — sweeping it under the rug by whatever means seems easiest (shoving in food, drinking, blindly taking a medication, or the like) — my body will just speak all the more loudly (which generally means I’ll feel worse and worse) until I start listening.
The second biggie is that I need to be my own health advocate — I can’t outsource this job.
I’m learning to trust myself. I know myself best. Doctors of all sorts, other health professionals, and medication can be necessary and helpful at times. However, if I want to have the best outcome, I need to partner with the health professional, and not just take any advice hook, line, and sinker without considering it in the full context of me and what I’ve experienced. No one knows me better than I know myself. I didn’t see this before, but I really know it now.
Alrighty, a few thoughts for today. Yes, this stuff is stuff I feel very passionate about. I’ve been down in the pit and know what it’s like to hate life. Seeing what’s possible on the other side when I’m thinking for and taking care of myself? Absolutely mind blowing.