Why is this happening to me?
I think PCOS can be a lonely experience, but I want you all to know that you are not alone in this. This is why I kindly invited the lovely Michelle from Mimi’s Apothecurry to share her PCOS story. Her words resonate with me profoundly, and I hope it also resonates with the reader who submitted this question and all of you who are reading. I would highly recommend subscribing to her blog, as her posts and writing are very touching.
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In December 2022, I was officially diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which since then, I’ve learned is quite common among women.
My symptoms had, however, started 13 years prior to that, and I had at the time suspected that I had PCOS after researching my symptoms online, but you know what they say, don’t trust the internet, don’t self-diagnose, don’t be a hypochondriac, so I did the right thing and went to my doctor.
Several blood tests later, I was told I don’t have PCOS, but my hormones were out of whack a little, and so, to alleviate some of my PCOS-like symptoms, I was put on a contraceptive pill.
At the time, being young and naive, I happily agreed and faithfully popped this pill for the next three years, and it seemed like my symptoms had somewhat ‘healed’, so I decided to stop taking the pill, unaware of how the pill worked to start with.
In the years preceding, I turned to Chinese medicine, an elimination diet and ignored my symptoms until last year, when my body decided it had had enough of me just ignoring it.
My symptoms began to worsen, and I felt more and more like I didn’t recognise my body.
I was constantly tired, my period was irregular, the acne had a flare-up of epic proportions, and let me not even get started on the brain fog, just to name a few.
I decided enough was enough, and it was time to go back to the doctor and try to get some answers.
More blood tests, more scans of an invasive nature and finally, once again… inconclusive results.
Figuring it out
The beauty of getting older is that you really do become a little wiser. With a condition like PCOS, sometimes it can feel like you’re being let down by the healthcare system or that nobody cares enough until you decide to conceive. It seems that the only answer is a band-aid solution of taking the contraceptive pill rather than getting to the root of the problem because as my doctor so eloquently told me “we don’t know what causes PCOS”.
It’s so easy to feel lost, confused, overwhelmed and alone, but over time, I have found so many helpful resources through the internet and come to know people personally whom I have been able to bond with over this mutual condition, Francesca being one of them, who has devoted herself to the work of getting to know this condition better and help others through science-backed research live an easier life without the confusion and chaos that can sometimes come with a diagnosis like PCOS.
Following the stories and research of people like Francesca has also helped me learn to get to know my body a lot better than the average person; it has also taught me about nutrition and steered me in the direction of prioritising wellness for myself. A huge part of that has been advocating for my health when I have known or felt that something hasn’t felt right in my body.
It has helped me be open to other modes of healing when traditional Western medicine failed.
PCOS, like any other life-altering condition, is not an easy thing to live with but it has been, in many ways, a blessing.
When Francesca first asked me to write this article and share my story, one of the first things that came to my mind was:
“If I could tell my past self something to make my life a little easier what would it be?”
Here are the four things I would tell myself:
You know your body best.
You live in your body every single day, and what might be normal for you might not be normal for me, but you know what your normal is and you know when that balance has been tipped, don’t let anyone talk you out of how you feel, not even a doctor, keep advocating for yourself and don’t stop until you have the answers you deserve. It can feel a little disheartening at times, but you deserve to live a life of abundance and health, and only you can give that to yourself, especially if you’ve had good health before, you know how it feels like to not wake up tired, to have energy throughout the day, to have mental clarity and focus and not feel nauseous every day.
Make nutrition a priority.
Whether or not you have a condition, I think health should be everyone’s priority because, as cheesy as the old adage is, it is true, ‘health is wealth’, and without your health, you can’t do anything. Over the last thirteen years, I have learned over and over again about the importance of nutrition, how food is code and what we feed ourselves determines how we age, how much energy we have, how well our gut is functioning and managing inflammation in the body. Food really is medicine, but sometimes it can get a little confusing and overwhelming when there is contradicting information on just about everything; one-day fat is bad, the next day it’s good; one day, you should be drinking alcohol in moderation for good heart health, the next day it is demonized. The way I’ve been able to cut through this noise is to try and make sure that I am focusing on feeding myself dark leafy greens, colourful vegetables and a variety of legumes, nuts and seeds. Of course, this a working progress, and there are times when I overconsume processed food and fuel my body with sugary snacks because they’re more convenient, but I’ve also learnt that self-care isn’t sheet masks and bubble baths (although it can entail that) most of the time, self-care is staying consistent to habits that are going to make you feel better, which brings me to my next point.
Your mental strength is about to skyrocket.
Often when ‘bad things’ happen, like a PCOS diagnosis, it can feel like life as you know it is over, but after crying and wallowing, I have discovered that things that seem like a setback can often help you discover your path or at least help you strengthen your mental ‘toughness’ muscle.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle requires preparing food so that you are not tempted to pick up a chocolate bar instead of fruit. It requires exercising because you know it will feel better in the long term, even though waking up when it’s cold, dark and rainy doesn’t feel good.
It is practising good sleep hygiene and putting your phone away even when it’s easier to scroll on social media for another two hours. It is showing up for yourself when motivation doesn’t show up.
I feel like if anything is ever going to make you mentally stronger, it is having something like PCOS, which is a blessing in disguise.
Be kind to yourself.
This is a new journey; you’re rediscovering everything about yourself and your health. As I mentioned several times, it’s easy to become frustrated with your doctor, the overwhelming amount of information etc., but you’re learning and growing, so treat yourself as you would a friend going through this.
I’m so grateful that Francesca has given me a chance to share my story and the thoughts surrounding that, which I share in my weekly personal newsletter, Mimi’s Apothecurry. Subscribe to it to follow along my journey and other thoughts I have about wellness.
I hope that this resonates with someone who might be feeling a little lost and alone so that it serves as a reminder that you are never lost or alone, and there is always help and answers for the greatest mysteries if you look hard enough.