I’m not a writer. This isn’t literature, this is advocacy.
I’ve been putting off finishing this blog post for a year. Why? It isn’t easy to write. A lot of what has happened to me has been shoved to the dark basement of my mind as tragic memories I don’t want to relive through writing. I am going to write it though. Why? If this blog post can change the direction of one woman’s battle then it’s beyond worth it to me in ways I can’t put into words.
The bold choice of the word “kill” in my title might have you still reading, and that’s great. Or optimistically, it was the word “Mirena” that lead you to this page, which is even better. Mirena is a hormonal IUD that is sometimes painfully inserted into the uterus and works as a more effective than the pill form of birth control for 3-5 years. One uncomfortable insertion of a little plastic thing and I’m good to go for several years? Sounds perfect. Until it tried to kill me of course.
Just a little background on my battle with depression: I knew I felt off in high school, but assumed I was just a normal teenage girl with raging hormones and depression was just one of those overused words we used for feeling a little sadder than we should sometimes. In my senior year of college I lost an ex. He overdosed on opioids and I internally fell apart. I went to a psychiatrist for the first time in my life. She asked if I wanted to try talk therapy or just get on some meds, and I chose the later with no problem. I started on Celexa and felt no change, so she added Wellbutrin. A couple months later she bumped the doses and I found myself feeling like me again. This lasted 1.5 years until the Mirena nightmare began.
I had it inserted in November 2017. Some women hardly feel the insertion, others scream out as if they’re giving birth. I had the later reaction. All was jolly and bright until December when it all began.
I didn’t notice the suicidal thoughts immediately. They were in the back of my mind and would creep into my awareness so passively and seamlessly that I didn’t even know to question them. I trusted my mind. I had been happily medicated and felt my depression was perfectly under control for years. I wasn’t suicidal. I didn’t need to talk about it. That just wasn’t me.
Unfortunately it was me. Considering I wasn’t acknowledging the thoughts as an issue myself, I had no way of explaining to anyone that I was in trouble.
I was miserable and there wasn’t anything anyone could do to change that. I was fighting an internal struggle that I didn’t understand myself. There wasn’t anybody on this planet that could fight my demons and make me okay. I told my boyfriend I’d work on “being better,” whatever that means. I was seeing things that weren’t there, I was hearing voices. It had to get worse before it got better.
It got worse. I cried and drank and lost my mind one week night. It wasn’t the first time I googled for a plan. I knew every pill bottle I had in my house, every count of each bottle and which ones would have an adverse reaction if taken excessively or in combination. I knew what to do, I knew how long it would take and I knew I had the means to build up liquid courage. I toyed with these thoughts and my plan the entire night. Around 4am I passed out and woke up the next morning to text my boss I was under the weather and not coming in. The drinking continued, and now it was time to begin the pills. I popped a few oxys and muscle relaxers. It was all very simple. Keep taking the pills, keep sipping the whiskey and soon enough it’d all be over like it had to be. There was no questioning of my thoughts or actions, I trusted how I felt and what I knew to be true. I knew this was going to happen. I knew I would end my life that morning.
I was on the blue couch for a while, but knew if God forbid somebody came to my house, they’d be able to look through my kitchen window and see me. I moved to the green couch after shutting the blinds so that I was now unable to be seen from any window. I reached over for pills. There was the oxy, muscle relaxer, Wellbutrin, celexa, tylenol, and some cheap liquor I got from the liquor store.
I did this all day.
I don’t remember anything after that. Apparently my boyfriend had his roommate come check on me since I didn’t show up at work the next day. He banged on my door to no response. My best friend came to try and get in and it just didn’t work because I was out. She called EMS. They beat my door down. I woke up a little bit thinking someone was breaking in. I said sorry to her. They sat me down and asked what I took and I just pointed at all the bottles. Not sure what happened after that.
Next thing I know I feel like 10% of my body is conscious. I recognize the sound of my parent’s voice, telling me that it’s okay. I feel their hands holding and squeezing mine, desperate for any type of response from me. I can’t speak. I can’t move. They tell me to keep resting. They used Narcan to revive me for moments until I passed out again, they shot more into me later on.
I wake up later and feel 20% of my body is conscious. The doctors ask questions and I can’t respond. I make mumbles. One of the scariest parts for my parents is when the doctors asked me to squeeze their fingers, just a little. I can feel their fingers in my hand and I tell myself to squeeze. They keep asking me to squeeze, apparently my brain was not connected to my physical movements at this point. My parents jump in and beg me to squeeze their hand. I mumble that I am trying but my hand does not move a muscle. Was I going to be paralyzed? The same was true for my eyelids, which scared me the most. I’d try to open them and I couldn’t. It was like I was screaming at them to just open and they could not hear me. My eyelids were unresponsive. I fell back asleep.
They did every test possible to make sure I didn’t fall and hit my head. CAT scans, MRIs, the whole lot. Everything checked out. I eventually woke up. Lots of crying, anger, disappointment, care, and love all filled the room immediately. I was put on Effexor to try and tame the mania. I refused to eat much, but took small bites of toast and grits when they demanded. I had a sitter. If you don’t know what that is, it’s when a suicidal patient has to have a nurse watching her at all times. This includes using the bathroom. I couldn’t be trusted in a bathroom to take care of business alone. It was just awful.
The doctors came and told me they’d be relocating me to a psychiatric ward. I didn’t even care at that point. I liked the idea of my own room. I liked that my parents could only visit a few hours a day. I wanted some space, some time to think. That’s what I was telling myself. I really had no idea what I wanted or needed. The new medication made me feel weird.
That psych ward was a nightmare. It was honestly right out of a scary movie, where the psychiatrist is this nasty overweight man with suspenders and flannel pants. Goofy glasses and caterpillar eyebrows to match. I hated him. He kept me on Effexor and added a bunch of vitamins. He gave me something to help with sleeping and I never knew what exactly it was. Then there were the other patients. They were characters. One was a writer, I bought her book when I got out. Another said her mother birthed her in that ward. Amy was my favorite, simply because she provided a blip of entertainment in an otherwise shattering world I was in. She claimed to have a boyfriend and would tell everyone he was coming each day. She’d call him on the phone and scream at him to bring her Dove soap for her acne. She’d end every phonecall with “I love you to pieces.” She was a sweetheart at the root but that root was buried by a truly crippling psychosis.
Another character was the man who sat down for lunch and took his bread and threw it across the room without saying a word each day. Another man died one morning. The EMS came in slowly and just took their time getting to him to carry him out. It felt completely wrong.
The worst part was that there was this one very long hallway with a flickering light that led down to a secret door. I was concerned at first, and frightened when I figured out what it was. I saw a guy, no more than 30 years old, go down there one day. He was a very quiet guy, kept to himself and I really don’t think I ever heard a word from him. He seemed a little spaced out. That was nothing compared to how he was when he came out of that room. They were doing electroconvulsive therapy on him. He’d come out a zombie. Walked and mumbled like one out of the Walking Dead. He may as well have been dead.
Well I got out of there, staying on Effexor. My best friend moved in with me. I started telling my boyfriend what happened. That I was truly very sick and that I had been internally trying to suppress this sickness for several months. What I didn’t know was that I wasn’t better.
Round 2. I don’t even know how it happened, it was as if something took over my body and did it for me. I woke up in a hospital again. Same drill. Parents obviously much more freaked out because now it felt like this couldn’t be controlled. Biggest concern was my Tylenol level. It was near 400 (healthy level is under 20). They told me there was no medical reason for me to be alive. When the doctor came in to tell me I’d be going to another psych ward I yelled. I argued. I was livid. I was using every ounce of energy to convince him that was the last thing I needed. He didn’t budge. Luckily he sent me to a different ward, and little did I know that would change everything.
Now, let’s start connecting the dots. The first time I was in the hospital I explained that nothing had changed with my meds or health besides the IUD. No problem they said. The second time in the hospital they said they’d look into it. After researching, they said no problem. It was my best friend who stormed into my hospital room with a stack of studies she’d printed at work that all led to some correlation between IUDs and mental health. That led to my parents doing some digging, and sure enough I was not the only one in the world to get an IUD and lose myself.
Once in the second psych ward I begged them to let me out of there and get the IUD out. I begged for someone to come in and take it out. I thought about attempting to take it out myself but realized I had no idea where the cervix really is. I had to wait to take it out, and they needed to keep me for around 10 days.
The real turn in my recovery was when my psychiatrist put me on Lithium. LITHIUM? myself and family thought when they told us. That’s for crazy people. That’s a hard drug. True. But it worked. The thing with lithium is that it works overnight. It makes you feel a bit hazy, tired and thirsty at first. My best friend and boyfriend would visit me and I’d struggle to pay attention to what they were saying. It’s like half of me was somewhere else. That part went away though. And amazingly enough, so did the suicidal thoughts. Lithium saved my life and I’m not ashamed to admit that. I needed it.
I got out of that psych ward and the next day had my IUD removed. I stayed on Lithium. I am currently a year past that happening. It has kept me stable. I am finally able to start weaning off of it and onto Lamictal, a more long term solution. I hope to have kids in the next several years, and you have to stop Lithium over a year before you start trying. Not that I will be trying in a year, but just that fact makes me feel not great about how harsh on the body it is for you.
I’m okay. I know the signs. I have a safety plan. I am honest about what’s going on inside my head, since nobody can see that. It’s not a bruise on an arm that someone can ask you what happened. It’s my responsibility to monitor my own mental health, and I know that it can get to life or death before I even recognize it.
The fact is that this was entirely caused by the Mirena IUD. Doctors should warn you that there’s an extra risk when you have depression and get an IUD. I wasn’t warned. I went into my doctor’s office and asked if there was an alternative to remembering to take a pill everyday. She said the IUD is great and popped it in. It took months to even make the connection. Like I said, I’m a year out and I am entirely okay. I feel like myself.
Another thing that happened in the second psych ward is that I was diagnosed with BPD. I didn’t believe it at first, thought that disorder wasn’t real. A year later I see that I’ve always had it. It explains so much of my life. Not keeping romantic relationships, not keeping friendships, experiencing high highs and scary low lows. Lamictal brought me to stability. This was a good thing that came out of this that I am grateful for.
If you’re reading this far, please be warned. Please be warned that anything hormonal that you’re putting into your body comes with risk. Please be warned that your mental health isn’t as in your control as we like to think. I thought I had it under control, I thought it was crazy to think that I would completely lose who I am just from having a tiny plastic piece in me. I was very, very wrong. Please be warned that your mental health can consume you. It can take over. It can make you hear and see things that aren’t there, and you will not be able to recognize that as a sickness. You’ll trust yourself.
The fact is that mental health should be taken just as seriously as cancer. It sneaks up on you sometimes. You can’t see it’s coming. With cancer, you have screenings to detect it, and with luck catch it early enough. With mental health there are no screenings. However, both mental health and cancer can end in death. I don’t want that for you, so please let my story sink in. I was a normal, healthy girl. Great job, homeowner at the age of 24, supportive friends and family, dog mom to the sweetest good boy. I felt in control of my life and looked forward to a beautiful future.
The Mirena IUD tried to take everything away from me. It made me sick and almost cost me my life. Do your research. If you do get one, let people close to you know. Especially if you have a mental illness. Don’t do it alone. Let them know to check in on you and ask how you are. Most importantly, be honest. It’ll consume you faster than you think possible if you’re not.
Share my story.