In May, I started taking a new birth control pill – the generic of Yaz. I talked about why I started taking birth control again after a three-year hiatus here.
Hindsight is everything. But at the time, I hadn’t linked two really crucial happenings in my life –
1) Starting to take Yaz birth control pills.
2) The start of the worst anxiety spiral I’ve ever experienced, eventually leading to multiple daily panic attacks and suicidal thoughts.
My Experience with Yaz
I had been a bit worn out and experiencing some chronic pain flares in May but was also coming off birthday month – for the entire month of April I celebrated the big 3-0 – so I hadn’t thought much of it. I was tired, but I still felt like myself and was able to process my emotions in a way that was normal for me – calm, balanced, able to maintain perspective, and able to remove myself from situations if I felt like I needed to take a break.
By late June/early July, I started to feel off. However, because it was a continuation of the fatigue I felt in May, it didn’t feel different ENOUGH to raise my alarms. I thought it was a continuation of *me* rather than anything different being introduced. Continue reading Yaz birth control made me suicidal.
It’s been really interesting to watch how some people react to the idea of being sick, particularly when it comes to mental and chronic health issues. Having a body that doesn’t quite work the way everyone else’s does isn’t weak. It’s the most normal damn thing there is.
No one’s body works the same as anyone else’s. Some of our quirks are a little more pronounced than other’s, sure. But the same way someone has freckles, my pancreas doesn’t produce insulin. The same way someone has a thumb that bends all weird (you know what I’m talking about), my brain doesn’t produce enough serotonin.
On Saturday, April 8th, my friend Abeku Wilson, in his mid-30s, was fired from his job and in a fit of anger, stormed back into the gym in which he was previously employed as a personal trainer, shot and killed two people, then committed suicide. Two days later, on Monday, April 10th, an acquaintance from the same group of friends, Abeng Stuart, in his late 30s, died of a heart attack while he was driving.
The depth of grief felt by our friends, by the families of both men, and by the families of the people Abeku killed is one that I cannot begin to quantify. For us, the University of Miami community who lost two of our own back to back, the breadth of anger, confusion, shame, shock, sorrow, emptiness, and more is not one I think I will be able to describe. Sometimes there are things I just don’t know how to unpack so I’m not going to try. These were things that were things. They were dark and unfathomable until they happened.
One of the most important tools in the understanding-my-brain arsenal is pure science. It makes it all more manageable for me if I know why something is happening on a basic bodily function level.
In a previous post, I talked about having a chronic mental illness called dysthymia – it’s a chronic form of depression that I’ve had since I was 12 in which my brain doesn’t produce enough serotonin. I used to manage my body’s ability to produce enough of it – since it affects feelings of well-being, mood stabilization, and digestion (your body produces serotonin in your brain and all throughout your digestive tract) – with medications called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). Continue reading That tricky little bastard, serotonin.
The most common comment I get since moving to New York City a year ago is that I am too positive for this city and that it will change me. My response every time is that I have worked too hard for my joy, and it isn’t going anywhere.
But I realize that people probably don’t know what that really means. That, when people see me being positive, they assume it’s an inherent trait – one that exists just because it’s who I am.
They don’t realize that I actually have clinical depression – dysthymia, specifically. That the chemicals in my brain are not wired for me to feel okay and that when I say I’ve worked hard for my positivity, I mean it. Literally how I eat, my exercise, my daily habits, my alone time – not only are they built to support my physical health, but my mental health too.
My happiness, my positivity is a choice, but it’s one that I had to learn how to make over years upon years of work, not only personally but with the help of doctors, clinicians, counselors, nutritionists and, at times, medication. Because – just like how my body does not make insulin, it doesn’t create enough serotonin, the chemical that helps contribute to feelings of well-being and happiness. Everything can be going right but without serotonin, my brain does not have the ability to recognize it. Continue reading I’ve been depressed since I was 12.