I’ve battled with whether or not to share this. Why? Because I am a private person, and I don’t want pity. However, I’ve been increasingly convicted to share my story because I know I am not alone, and because the purpose of my blog is to use what I know, feel, and experience as a means of helping others; I want to be free of the burden of keeping these very real conditions in my life a secret, and this is something I live with on a daily basis.
For those unfamiliar, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a health condition that affects about 10 million women in the world. The exact cause of it is unknown, and genetic along with environmental factors are believed to be involved in the development of PCOS. It’s leading cause of female infertility and is responsible many symptoms that can affect the body physically and emotionally. And despite the name, women with PCOS don’t just cysts on their ovaries—it’s also a hormone imbalance. Hormones involved include androgens, insulin, and progesterone. Some symptoms of PCOS are fatigue, weight gain, unwanted hair growth, thinning hair, infertility, acne, mood changes, pelvic pain, headaches, sleep apnea, and mental health issues. Yes, mental health issues like depression and anxiety are definitely possible, especially when these thoughts and emotions stem from the insecurities that PCOS gives women.
In women with PCOS, the body isn’t as responsive to insulin as it should be, and it can lead to elevated glucose levels, causing the body to make more insulin; this can cause the body to make more androgens, also known as “male hormones.” Androgens are responsible for some of the symptoms like unwanted hair, acne, thinning hair, and irregular and painful periods. Their bodies aren’t as receptive to insulin, which makes it harder to lose weight and puts them at risk for diabetes, too. Women with PCOS also have lower levels of progesterone, which cause irregular and painful periods.
Although I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 17, the symptoms have been present since I was a preteen. My teenage years were full of issues like a patchy facial hair, depression, ovarian cysts, irregular periods, severe pelvic pain, and a rapid 100-pound weight gain—in less than a year.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t use PCOS as an excuse for being overweight—I definitely found comfort in food throughout my troubled childhood, and I have been a bigger girl my whole life. I will say that when I was diagnosed it definitely made sense; I would be on a strict diet for weeks and lost a pound, and other times gain two pounds back. I even remember going on the “Military Diet” when I was 15, almost starving myself every day and I ended up GAINING weight back. Heck, it seems like if I even smell chocolate I gained a pound.
Three years ago I was almost 100 pounds heavier, with high cholesterol, and was pre-diabetic. Since being diagnosed, I have taken medication along with healthy eating, exercise, and vitamins to help reduce my cholesterol and weight. It wasn’t until I moved out that I actually started going to the doctor, and when I was diagnosed with PCOS I was also told I had an under-active thyroid. I started Nortrel to help my period cramps and regulate my period; Adipex and Topamax together to help boost my metabolism, increase energy, and reduce headaches; and Pravastatin for my cholesterol. Since being diagnosed, I make it a priority to be seen at least every month or so, but it is so expensive, especially with all of the other bills I have.
So, fast forward three years after being diagnosed, I still have the same symptoms; the unwanted hair growth, ovarian cysts, and irregular cycle are the most annoying to me. I never know if I’m going to have a random period start in between my cycle so I have to be prepared. And as soon as I pluck or shave the hair on my neck it grows back almost instantly. Sometimes, I have two or three periods a month, and it’s gotten to where two periods a month is a normal thing for me. Period cramps are pretty moderate to severe, which I have gotten used to. The pain I have when I’m not on my period has been very concerning to me, but after being seen I learned that it’s just due to inflammation from the cysts.
Every woman with PCOS is different with different symptoms, and I am always finding out something new about mine and my body every day. I am thankful for the support I have, especially from my boyfriend who goes to all of my appointments with me! I hope you enjoyed reading, and if you have PCOS, I hope it makes you feel less alone—I know seeing the same posts definitely help me. If you have any tips, please leave a comment below!