The short version of my depression story is this: After being off my birth control for not quite a full month, I am feeling like myself again. While I am still digging out of a hole, my hope and happiness have returned. The negative voices in my head that had been dominating have been silenced.

I am thankful for all of my friends and acquaintances for their encouragement, thoughts, vibes, prayers, and support through the last few months as I journeyed through the darkest days I’ve ever experienced.

The long version: Last August I started on birth control. By September I was experiencing panic attacks, migraines, and a slide into a depressive state.

I was blaming the weather for the migraines and depression, and it is likely that was a factor. I was blaming an overbearing client for the panic attacks, again, also likely a contributing factor. I had two clients, including the one stirring my anxiety, yank the rug out from under me in October, causing financial strain. In six years of working for myself, I have experienced this before, but rebounded quickly. But this time, all I could see was my failure. And on top of this, I was seeing a guy who was distancing himself from me, leaving me feeling even more lonely and desperate. I was wrestling with feelings from strained family relationships. Then, add on some car problems that left my car parked in a garage for over a month.

I could see all of these things crumbling down around me but felt unable to do anything about anything.

I felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders and there was no one around to support me. The narrative in my head was always about how alone I was. How no one loves me. How no one was there to help me. How much I just desperately needed someone to hold me and tell me it was all going to be okay.

I would have emotional breakdowns that were unpredictable. I was barely leaving my house because I never knew when a random crying spell would take me down. I remember nights just thinking how I had no fight left in me. Knowing I had been fighting so hard for so long to keep my head above water. But here I was, out in the sea, and my fight to just tread water was waning. I had no fight left to try to swim. I was sinking. This darkness seemed to keep dragging me down deeper and deeper.

It seemed there was no one in sight to rescue me. And then… those voices I had spent years and years working to silence, had all come back… with a vengeance. Voices that told me I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t worth, I was fat, old, ugly. A failure.

One day in January I had my worst breakdown. I was on the floor unable to stop crying. Unable to stop the thoughts of how unloved and unwanted I was. How alone I was. For hours.

I finally got the nerve to reach out to someone. But the first “friend” I reached out to was with someone else and not really available, which only intensified the feelings that were drowning me. It probably took me almost another hour to reach out again. This time, to a friend I didn’t know as well, but lately we had been talking more often.

He got on the phone and talked to me the rest of the evening. I don’t know how long we were on the phone, but it was hours and hours. He told me story after story. Finally, my crying had stopped. He had given me reasons to laugh and smile. At one point he did stop and ask what was up with me. My voice cracked as I told him that I didn’t want to talk about me. I just asked him to tell me another story. He didn’t press me, and continued to talk and distract my thoughts for a while longer.

I had survived the darkest place I had ever experienced. I don’t believe I was suicidal that night. But it was dark. And this friend saved my life in a way he will likely never fully understand.

Looking back, I can see now that there was something clearly not firing like it used to in my brain. After some conversations with different people about depression, I decided to stop my birth control before seeking out other possible medications to help boost my mood.

Here I am. Almost a full month off of birth control. The light has returned. My brain seems to be firing on all cylinders again. I have more energy and motivation with each day. My work seems to come more naturally and isn’t leaving me feeling stuck and frustrated. I am embracing my inner warrior! I feel like fighting my way out of the financial hole I am in rather than just sticking my head in the sand and giving up. I am taking my power back!

I look back at where I was even just a month ago and I am sad for that girl who felt so alone and helpless – and knowing now that, while some of it might have been circumstantial, the majority was coming from hormones out of whack from birth control.

I do believe there are some life-changing things that will come out of this experience. I have deepened relationships with some special friends. I have slammed the door shut on what now looks like a toxic relationship. And I am working to continue to reach out to friends and connect in more meaningful ways. I am still doing a lot of soul searching and working to gain understanding from this experience.

And to the ladies, if you’re going on birth control, or changing birth control, or coming off of it… please take this advice. Tell a few people closest to you what is going on. Ask them to monitor your emotions and to look for differences in your behavior. If they see anything concerning, let them bring it up to you and talk to your doctor about it. Our hormones are powerful and do effect the way our brain functions and processes the world around us.

All of the circumstances I was facing last fall all likely played a part in my slide into a depression. But the effects of the birth control left me feeling powerless to do anything about my situation. Everyone who knows me in the slightest reminded me how powerful and strong I was. But I couldn’t tap that part of myself. Not until I had stopped the birth control and gave my body time to balance out the hormones to normal levels.