how to eat crow?
October 26, 2011 10:12 AM   Subscribe

Ugh. I can't believe I'm writing this. I had a bad reaction to BC two nights ago and in my addled state I became really histrionic and had two huge fights with my boyfriend. I am now very afraid that I've irreparably damaged my relationship with him.

So in previous AskMes I've mentioned that a) I've been having a really hard time with HBC (which I need to stay on) and b) some issues with my BF which were largely resolved over the course of the last month. I finally got on a pill that I thought was really okay for my system, and my bf and I had a fantastic weekend recently and got back together, something both of us are absolutely overjoyed about. It's been really hard to be apart.

Unfortunately, I started my new pill pack for my regular HBC on Monday and while I was doing great doing the day prior to taking it, within an hour of swallowing my first pill I started having really extreme reactions to very small, stupid things. This has happened with different HBCs over the past 9 months and it comes and goes. When my BF called me that night to talk about our day, I overreacted to something he said and blew the thing out of proportion. I kept him up late and was ostensibly just venting my spleen at him. He was really upset and hurt.

Fast forward to yesterday, I'm mortified, and end up going to see him to make amends. We make-up, have a good time together, but I take my second pill and again, within an hour my whole attitude on things has radically altered and he and I have another big fight in which I became really intense and weepy and fatalistic. Towards the very end I suddenly got super lucid and realized what a shit I was being and began to be very scared, apologized profusely, etc. Long story short, he has asked for a lot of space and says I've screwed stuff up by acting the way that I have.

I don't know what to do. It was not my intention to pick a fight with him at all either night. I have no desire to break up with him again. How do you recover from something like this? I have scheduled two Dr's appointments to have myself checked out, but I cannot fathom how to make this up to my poor boyfriend. What happened to me? Why was I not in control of my emotions? I am lucid now and I am so ashamed and upset and scared.
posted by iLoveTheRain to Human Relations (35 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Call him up. Text him, whatever. Tell him its the birth control and you are stopping it and finding something else.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:15 AM on October 26, 2011

Assuming this is a reaction to birth control... I had the same problem. Really bad reaction to it, very soon after taking it. I also thought I'd wrecked my relationship.

If you think it is the birth control, why do you need to keep taking it?
posted by altolinguistic at 10:22 AM on October 26, 2011 [5 favorites]

Be honest with him when you're not on that pill, and tell him plainly: now that you are both aware of how you behave on this drug, you are dropping the birth control and he will have to use condoms, etc., until you can find something else that doesn't make you behave this way -- and that as committed partners in the relationship, you will continue your efforts to find something that doesn't make you behave this way, because it is bad for both of you, but you also expect him to be understanding and patient as you work through this medical issue.

If, in the face of having to be patient and supportive and wear a condom, he balks...then you don't have much of a boyfriend. Odds are, though, that when put in this perspective, any decent guy is going to understand.
posted by davejay at 10:23 AM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

We can't assume that iLoveTheRain is on BC for birth control. Many people have to take it for hormonal issues.

OP, just tell your boyfriend what you told us. You weren't yourself, and you're actively finding a solution, and ask him to bear with you while you sort it out.
posted by katillathehun at 10:30 AM on October 26, 2011

These things happen in any relationship of sufficient length. You're just getting it out of the way early! It's nothing to be ashamed of. Apologize and get on different medication. He'll get over it, and if he doesn't, he's not worth it.
posted by pjaust at 10:31 AM on October 26, 2011

Tell him its the birth control

Don't do that. You can always tell a chump by the talk about whose fault things are; the right question is, whose responsibility is it?

The pills didn't chew the boyfriend out. OP: Apologize, but don't make excuses; you've done something reprehensible; own it. Say that you think the HBC may have made it worse, but that there's no excuse (because there's not) for that behavior, and mean it. Then saddle up for two conversations about whether or not you are going to keep using it, one with your doctor and one with him.
posted by mhoye at 10:31 AM on October 26, 2011 [17 favorites]

Don't do that. You can always tell a chump by the talk about whose fault things are; the right question is, whose responsibility is it?

I disagree with this vehemently. Apologize for your reaction, sure, but you have to tell him the birth control played a major role so that he understands you didn't mean to behave that way, and that it can be fixed. It's pretty easy to say "You shouldn't have acted like that" when you've never experienced the effects of hormonal medication. I'm guessing mhoye hasn't.
posted by katillathehun at 10:35 AM on October 26, 2011 [24 favorites]

Are you absolutely sure that this is the birth control and not some other stress trigger in your life?

I say this because your story of the effects onset being only one hour after the pill is taken does not line up with the reality of the metabolism of the drug. Yes it is detectable in your system after an hour, but being on a consistent dose should not cause wild day-to-day, hour-to-hour swings in your mood. The dose doesn't even reach peak concentration in the bloodstream for several hours after you take the pill, and it should not be totally gone by the time you take the next one. This whole take pill and immediately go crazy, then you're fine, then crazy again thing you describe does not make biological sense.

That doesn't mean the birth control isn't making you overall more emotionally sensitive or volatile or susceptible to stress, but I'm saying you can not say that an outburst just after you take the pill is all the pill's fault. There is something else going on here, there is a more immediate trigger. Look for other problems beyond the birth control. Also, if you're an adult, no matter how weepy or crazy a drug is making you feel, you have control over how you express that. Own up to it, talk it out, check yourself and what else is going on in your life (good diet? sleep deprivation? other family stress? other physical illnesses?)
posted by slow graffiti at 10:39 AM on October 26, 2011 [42 favorites]

I think you need to talk with your doctor about this. If you have a reason you need to stay on hormonal birth control, there are many formulations (other pills) and a few different delivery mechanisms (ring, patch, shot, Mirena) that might still help with whatever reason you have to be on HBC, but could reduce any adverse reactions you are having. The ring, patch, and Mirena all deliver a much more constant level of drug than a pill will.

Even if it's psychosomatic (as per slow graffiti's comment that this immediate of a reaction seems unlikely)- if you switch to a method where you don't actively take a pill, it might mean you aren't reminded of whatever problem makes you stay on HBC.

What to do with the boyfriend? Tell him that you're very upset about how you acted, and you're taking steps to fix it. Tell him what those steps are (be they changing your meds or even just working on your anger control in a therapeutic fashion). You should understand that he might need some time to process your actions, and let him have that time; you can use that time yourself to get yourself in a better place, chemically and mentally, so that you reduce the chance of this happening again.
posted by nat at 11:05 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

you have to tell him the birth control played a major role

Without a proper medical and psychological evaluation, there is no way to know that HBC is to blame for OP's outbursts. In fact, it's more likely that OP is unconsciously using HBC as an excuse for volatile behavior. HBC can make you depressed, sure (I experienced this too), but not within an hour of taking the medication. Each pill is irrelevant; the steady stream of hormones in your system is what results in side effects over time.

For what it's worth, I get like this when I am experiencing PMS. For one day out of the month, it's an established rule in my house that any fights I pick or engage are mulligans to be forgiven the next day. Yes, I'm an adult and ultimately in charge of my own words and actions, but sometimes I just want to give in to my immediate stream of consciousness. The attention I get from this feels good and it's what I need when I'm feeling down, so I've learned to simply tell my husband I need some of his attention rather than make waves to get the same result in a more painful way.

OP, you should discuss your mood shifts with your boyfriend, figure out some ground rules for what to do when things go haywire, find a way he can be supportive rather than offended, and ultimately look into therapy.
posted by theraflu at 11:10 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

I disagree with this vehemently.

Respectfully, I am approaching this from the perspective of managing the relationship. The medical question is secondary, and it's not at all guaranteed from the information we have that the HBC was causative or that her reaction is something that can be medically "fixed".

I stand by my claim, that whatever the medical situation, owning the responsibility for the argument is the most important first step.
posted by mhoye at 11:18 AM on October 26, 2011 [6 favorites]

There is something else going on here, there is a more immediate trigger. Look for other problems beyond the birth control. Also, if you're an adult, no matter how weepy or crazy a drug is making you feel, you have control over how you express that. Own up to it, talk it out, check yourself and what else is going on in your life (good diet? sleep deprivation? other family stress? other physical illnesses?)

Seconding this, just as an aside, as I have experienced what you've described (albeit without a convenient chemical catalyst to blame it on) and it was only once I acknowledged the actual root cause and did something about it that -- within a month or so -- I stopped experiencing this, completely, and many other things about my behavior improved as well.
posted by davejay at 11:20 AM on October 26, 2011

Can you take the pill at a time that is shortly before when you normally go to bed? I take mine at 10:30 PM. I'm both totally sympathetic to birth control making you crazy because two different kinds greatly amplified my depression, but I'm also skeptical that there would be that dramatic a mood swing an hour afterward as opposed to much of the other time... so it seems like taking the pill when there's little opportunity for mood swings soon after would at least be a good experiment.
posted by Nattie at 11:27 AM on October 26, 2011

How do you recover from something like this?

I know it seems like you may have irreparably damaged your relationship, but with a little time and some low-drama interaction with your boyfriend, things will smooth over. You know the saying "You can't talk yourself out of a situation you acted yourself into."? Well, your boyfriend will see through your actions that you care about sorting this out, and that you care about him. Like pjaust said, if he is a good guy, he'll come around.

What happened to me?

Your upcoming doctor appointments can help you figure this out. I think slow graffiti is on the money here about the metabolism of the drug, and it possibly making you more sensitive overall. I don't think you necessarily need to be thinking "OMGtherapy!" but see what your doctors say.

Cut your self a little slack and try not to feel ashamed. You've been having a hard time in more than one area of your life, and the stress and hormones can take over. In the future, it would be great if, in the moment, you removed yourself from the situation. It's okay to say that you're overwhelmed and need to finish the conversation another time, and get out of the house for an hour or three. Maybe discuss this tack with your boyfriend ahead of time, so he doesn't think you're bailing on him when things get hot.
posted by Specklet at 11:31 AM on October 26, 2011

Also, when I have had to apologize for hormonal stuff or anything else irrational, my husband is very understanding when I say, "I'm sorry I'm so upset, it's not your fault and it's not fair to you, you didn't do anything. I just feel really _____ and it won't go away." He is very sympathetic to this.

Of course, some people aren't, and most people are less sympathetic the more awful you were. I don't really make it to the awful stage anymore so it's easy for my husband to feel sympathetic toward me. You have to build a habit of catching yourself doing it, apologizing sooner and with utmost clarity, until you alert them beforehand and don't let yourself be awful. Others are correct that just because you feel bad does not mean you must act on it, and unfortunately it is difficult to get a handle on this even when hormones aren't pushing you. However, you are on the right track and you must keep trying; it should get easier to be decent even if your feelings still feel nutty. It's a good life skill to separate feeling bad from acting bad, and sometimes I am glad for my previous bad experiences with birth control for accelerating this. Tell your boyfriend you're working on this and that is your goal. Even if it ends up being too late to save the relationship, or you don't improve quickly enough for him to deal with it better (people have varying levels of patience and people hav varying levels of being mean when they feel hormonal) you still will have more practice at this.
posted by Nattie at 11:40 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Given that your last three questions were about communication problems, frustration and arguments, are you sure it's entirely the HBC? Have you tried therapy?
posted by desjardins at 11:41 AM on October 26, 2011 [7 favorites]

I don't think you can repair this right now because you're still in deep denial. Until you accept the fact that YOU treated him abusively (even if it was the version of you on HBC) you're not going to get anywhere. Otherwise, you're asking your boyfriend to accept being with an emotionally abusive person. Your focus here needs to be on getting yourself well and learning how to behave better; not how to get your boyfriend back.
posted by yarly at 12:03 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Honestly, I feel like I'm in perpetual PMS mode. The previous pill I was on had only two modes of being: zombie, or depressed. Now I have normal, happy, sad, and crazy psycho bitch. I recognize that it's possible something else is lurking underneath the surface and that this could all be a coincidence, but there is a marked connection between me feeling okay and awesome when I am on my placebo pills, and me being overly irrational and upset when I end or start a new pack (like I did this week). I have been hesitant to go off the pill because my hormones are out of whack as it is and I need the BC as well as the acne/painful period support.

I feel as bad as I do because I've had to switch BCs three times over the past year and it's been really hard on me and my boyfriend. I'm just not sure that he is going to put up with the shifts I have anymore and I don't know what to do with that except be so sad. I would not use this as a scapegoat. That's not who I am.
posted by iLoveTheRain at 12:04 PM on October 26, 2011

I would not use this as a scapegoat. That's not who I am.

Oh, girl ... that's the way these things work -- we don't do them knowingly; I'm sure that you honestly believe that the HBC is having this effect and that it is out of your control. But look, no matter what is happening, you need to admit it's something serious that you need to deal with. Either you have to figure out a way to deal with the HBC side effects (if that is what they are); quit taking them; or deal with the underlying issue. (Or, end this relationship that's causing you so much trouble.)
posted by yarly at 12:10 PM on October 26, 2011 [10 favorites]

I have been hesitant to go off the pill because my hormones are out of whack as it is and I need the BC as well as the acne/painful period support.

Oh honey, it's so not worth it.

Talk to your doctor about alternate ways of dealing with the acne and period stuff and alternate forms of birth control. You can be on medication for acne and get pain killers for periods and not be putting yourself and your relationship through this every month. I've been there before, and it was really pervasive, destructive, and did have a lasting impact on my relationship. I am SO much happy using condoms, antibiotics for acne, and painkillers for cramps. I feel sane, rational, able to deal with conflict. It wasn't like that before.

The pill just doesn't work well for some people, and you shouldn't feel obligated to keep trying because it's your easiest option.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:21 PM on October 26, 2011 [8 favorites]

How long have you been on a hormonal pill? If it's causing all these issues, why can't you simply quit cold turkey (at the end of a pack, to be safe)? Is clear skin really more important to you than your sanity? Seriously, just quit for a few months and see how you feel. By the end of my third month off the pill, my libido returned and my depression evaporated. Yes, I'm zitty, but there are creams for that. And marijuana during my period quells all cramps (I'm sure you can find a perfectly legal, non-hormonal alternative).
posted by theraflu at 12:25 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Look, if he's asked for space, give him space. It's kind of funny to me that no one has suggested you simply do what he's asked. Some people want space more than explanations, no matter how good they are, because they need to process stuff... by themselves, y'know?

Like, I don't know your boyfriend, but if he's uncomfortable with extreme outbursts and emotions (like I am), which is generally one reason for needing space, then prodding him with tearful apologies and explanations, fearful pleas, etc, won't help. "Lucidity" (for me) generally means a rational state of mind which does not include fear, for instance. So what you had achieved wasn't lucidity except in comparison to complete delusion. I say this merely to suggest that perhaps you too can benefit from space apart, collecting your thoughts, getting to a stable point, etc. Clinging to someone like to a life-preserver will only make both you and him more frantic, muddle-headed, and desperate, not good frames of mind to work with.

Try to use any time apart he takes right now to process to clear your own mind, hopefully find some balance with your medication, maybe even find some sort of healthy routine like exercise or meditation to learn to step back and clear your mind when you feel overwhelmed. Try to train yourself to pull back when you feel the emotional deluge begin, rather than jumping forward. Hang up if you have to. Just do not project this at other people, especially people who've not been successful at confronting the 'heavy stuff' in communication in the past (such as your boyfriend).

The reason you guys are so unbalanced is because of this super-emotionally-fueled desperation I sense-- at least in you. Any stable relationship needs a foundation of some rational communication skills, which isn't necessarily something you need a therapist for so much as lots of practice. You have to learn to sublimate emotion into reason, no matter how extreme the emotion gets, or it'll suck all the air out of a relationship (which leads to the other's need to 'breathe') or there'll be a blow-up (which it seems you've had in the past). Just practice stepping back and analyzing the situation as rationally as you can-- write it out. Make lists. Write letters you don't send. Whatever it takes to get things out but not verbally directly at the other person. This isn't just relevant to your romantic relationships, either.

If you develop this tactic of emotional redirection, then you'll find you can better handle yourself even when there's a sudden emotional emergency, such as the one precipitated by the pills. As I said meditation (such as the guided, non-spiritual 'Open Focus' program for instance) helps this whole clarity regimen, as does a practice of mindful writing, exercise, and forcing yourself to physically leave or disengage. When your instinct while you're emotional is to reroute rather than blindly express, you can say you trust yourself around your loved ones no matter what.
posted by reenka at 12:31 PM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

Your hormones are effed up from being on 3 types of pills in 10 months. Give your body a break! Let it go back to "normal." If there is an underlying issue (endometriosis, thyroid condition, other cyst-type issue) get thee to a better doctor and get this under control!

You can never get this time back. Stop wasting it on a prescription "solution" that isn't working for you.
posted by jbenben at 1:15 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know someone who had to switch BC methods several times before finding one that did not turn her into a zombie or homicidal moodswingy maniac.

Nth everyone else: Talk to your doctor again. Not 'I need a new scrip', but a discussion about exactly what symptoms you're having, why it's NOT acceptable, and what alternative methods might be better. If your boyfriend is comfortable attending, consider bringing him so he can potentially better understand your situation. That's what my friend did. If this doctor doesn't feel right to you, consider going to another doctor. Women's low-cost/PP clinics have been very sympathetic in my opinion. Any reproductive doc should be VERY concerned about your having a healthy sex life.

If he is interested in continuing the relationship, you may still end up having to give him space. Don't give up, though. Apologize, yes, offer to meet as friends instead of as a couple if that will help a further discussion (particularly if he's not comfortable going to the doctor with you). Communication is key; mention that you started a new regimen and are seeing how things go with it. (Perhaps if/when you start a new method, you could step back for a few days until you know how you react?)

Good luck. Don't forget to breathe. Do take a step back if you think you need to. Above all else, communicate.
posted by Heretical at 2:06 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're going to stay on the pill, consider looking into mindfulness meditation. It's a pretty easy thing to get started on and it helps you be aware, in the moment, of the thoughts and emotions flying through you. It can really help you to keep calm and objective even when it seems like there's a festering stew of emotions in your chest that just really want to be put into words. It can give you the objectivity to acknowledge that you're feeling out of whack and about to act on it, and thereby supply you the moment you need to say, "I'm feeling kind of explosive for no apparent reason; give me a minute (or an hour) to get a hold of this."

But I, like others above, strongly encourage you to get proactive about looking for alternatives to the pill. The pill is a dream come true for those whose bodies handle it; but it's not the only way to deal with acne or painful periods. By the way, has your OB-GYN taken your complaints of painful periods seriously? Has s/he done a hormone panel, and an ultrasound to make sure there's no obvious cause for the pain? For instance, if you've got fibroids (reeeeally common, you'd be surprised), hormonal birth control isn't going to remain effective for the pain forever, anyway.

The pill is more often than not the go-to "cure-all" foisted on us ladies who find our monthly cycles vexsome. But that doesn't make it right for everyone; it just means you'll have to get educated and be more outspoken in requesting that your doctors work with you to find a better solution.
posted by artemisia at 3:06 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Trust yourself. You know yourself. It sounds like you know it was the birth control. You are in the best position to know because it's your body and your experience. Just because it hadn't reached maximum levels in your bloodstream yet doesn't mean that you couldn't be having a negative reaction to it. There are as many individual medication reactions as there are individuals, and that goes double for hormones.

I have noticed that hormones (or depression, or other garden-variety mental illnesses) usually just amplify pre-existing emotions. They don't make us invent problems out of whole cloth. There is usually something real and valid bothering us at the core. So I'd advise you to look again at what made you flip out on him, and see if you can find some insight.

As for mending things with the boyfriend: The worthwhile people are willing to go to the dark side with you, and they understand that putting up with a few crazy days and nights are the cost of admission to a relationship with most women or, really, anyone.
posted by gentian at 4:20 PM on October 26, 2011

First I want to say I believe that you're not crazy or scapegoating. I can draw clear connections between being on HBC, and being angry/weepy/needy/jealous/etc etc etc. (I switched to non-hormonal BC several months ago for this reason)

Here's what I've learned from having very similar outbursts with my boyfriend. A lot of girls are REALLY crazy. For no reason. Especially in dating. And guys, in general, have a really good tolerance for that. They almost expect it from time to time, even if you're normally pretty down to earth.

More importantly, with my boyfriend at least-- if something like this happens, he doesn't want to talk about it. He doesn't want you to talk about it. He doesn't want to dwell on it, he doesn't even want to think about it. If you start explaining it, apologizing over it, crying about it, all he's going to think is "oh man here we go again."

So my advice? Just. drop. it. We want to talk about it, we want to get it out in the open, we want to be really clear that we're really not like that. But seriously, he's not looking for an apology (see my first point). He's just looking for you to be YOU and get back to normal. The sooner you can do that, the sooner you'll both forget it ever happened.
posted by ista at 4:35 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

He said he needs space. So, give him space. I would do that and also tell him that you think you had a bad reaction to birth control and you have concrete plans to talk with your doctor and to go off the birth control you're on.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:13 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

The problem is not that you were not in control of your emotions, it's that you weren't in control of your behavior. Big difference.

From your previous posts this seems like part of a larger pattern of behavior beyond just a once or twice off eruption. It also seems like you have a lot more going on emotionally than just HBC - though I don't doubt at all that this a big issue.

He's freaked, he's probably pissed, hurt and feeling very off-kilter. Give him his space. Let him come around when he's ready. When he does, acknowledge the instability. Let him tell to you how it effects him. Resist the temptation to explain the pills or anything else. The moment the explanations start is the exact moment when you start chipping away at fully acknowledging how freaked, hurt and pissed he is. You didn't mean to pick a fight - but you did. You didn't mean to wig out - but you did. With him, do not focus on intent or causes, just on effects. Actions usually impact people more than intentions. Focus on that - your actions and the impact they had.

Just let the dude tell you what is going on with him when you wig out. Don't promise to never do it again, because right now you can't. Clearly you're struggling against some fierce currents within you. I think part of the process of getting a handle on this will be learning how to control yourself despite huge emotional fluctuations I hope you're still with a therapist - you shouldn't have to try to sift through this by yourself. Good luck.
posted by space_cookie at 8:53 PM on October 26, 2011

Also OP,

It's good to have a handle on your base-line good mood even when you are having physical difficulties. Often you can stop in the beginning and say to yourself, "Hey! i don't really feel like this!"

I had endometriosis, taken HBC, suffered anemia after surgery, and had a brief thyroid condition. Oh, and I was pregnant last year!

Awful moods could and have swept over me. Hell, I've noticed I get REALLY cranky the day before a flu or cold hits.

You gotta get control of yourself while you pursue physical health. It's not anyone else's fault that you feel crappy, for whatever reason, and it is GOOD to make that distinction in your head once you can identify the patterns that precipitate an outburst.

Just saying.
posted by jbenben at 10:25 PM on October 26, 2011

Response by poster: Sadly it doesn't matter anymore. He dumped me. To make matters worse, my mother suddenly dumped me too when I told her. She thinks I'm stupid.

I've got nothing. Thanks all.
posted by iLoveTheRain at 12:14 AM on October 27, 2011

Hey, wow, iLoveTheRain, that fucking sucks. I'm sorry about the boyfriend. And your mother broke off relations with you because he broke up with you? That is -- w o w.

You do NOT have nothing. You have a zillion billion moments of opportunity ahead of you. Moments that will not be fucked up by mood swings, because you will get this sorted out by the medical profession, one way or another. Demand assistance from your physicians. Do not be satisfied with your care until this problem is resolved.

As for your mom -- if you called her and set forth what you said in the thread plus the news he broke up with you, and she told you that you are stupid and does no longer want a relationship with you -- she is abusive. You should not depend on her for things.
posted by angrycat at 4:40 AM on October 27, 2011

Sadly it doesn't matter anymore. He dumped me.

I'm sorry to hear that. But it matters just as much as ever to figure out what's going on with your body.
posted by guessthis at 5:47 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, now it's time to figure out this problem for *you*; the last time I got dumped was in similar circumstances, but it did give me a very good reason to fix my emotional instability (which yes, did involve a switch in b.c.).

It *does* matter. You've got yourself to take care of, and now you've got all the time in the world to do that in.
posted by nat at 10:53 AM on October 27, 2011


I am very sorry to hear it.
posted by small_ruminant at 7:19 PM on October 27, 2011

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