Let’s talk about PCOS 💙
PCOS, PCOD, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Polycystic Ovarian Disease, Stein-Leventhal Syndrome…These are all names for a disorder that has impacted nearly every aspect of my life.
There are many misconceptions about PCOS. Some believe it’s “just bad periods,” or “just not having periods.” Others believe PCOS is a result of being overweight, or that losing weight will cure it. There are even those who believe that PCOS is only a problem when you’re trying to get (or stay) pregnant. And guess what? All of these people are just. plain. wrong. I am not insinuating that people who say/think such things are mean or malicious. Most of the time, they simply don’t know. And how could I expect them to? Many doctors don’t even fully understand PCOS.
****Before I get into the nitty-gritty of it all, I would like to make a brief disclaimer: I understand that things could be much worse. There are people in my sphere who have been through inconceivable amounts of grief, pain, anguish, etc…My health problems are inconsequential compared to such things. My health problems are also inconsequential in comparison to those dealing with issues like cancer, Alzheimer’s, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, lupus, even type 1 diabetes. I am, in no way, under the impression that having PCOS is the hardest thing a person can deal with. I am simply sharing my experiences in the hopes of bringing awareness to a disorder that impacts millions of women, but is rarely talked about, and receives virtually no research dollars.****
Despite the name, not all women with PCOS have cysts on their ovaries (although most do). PCOS is a hormonal disorder that is marked by an increase in androgens, a decrease in progesterone, and the body being less responsive to insulin. These hormonal changes can cause a vast amount of different physical, emotional, and mental symptoms.
No one knows exactly what causes PCOS (although there is a genetic link), and there is no known “cure.” However, medical, dietary, lifestyle, and herbal interventions can help with the severity of symptoms.
The difficult thing is that there’s been so little in-depth medical research on PCOS, and the research that does exist is conflicting. Doctors genuinely don’t know what to recommend to women. This is why “trial & error” ends up being the default for many women with PCOS.
A few of the most recognizeable symptoms of PCOS are ammemhorea (lack of periods), unexplained rapid weight gain, and severe pelvic pain.
When I was around 16, I started gaining weight rapidly. I had no idea why. I was a cheerleader, so I was working out in some capacity everyday. I didn’t eat candy, soda, or typical “junk foods.” I rarely ate processed foods because I was on a very low sodium diet. I was eating less than I had in previous years, but I was gaining weight. I can distinctly remember trying on my choir dress in my room and crying because it didn’t fit. I remember the humiliation and shame I felt when I had to get the dress altered. I didn’t know why I was gaining weight…. I felt so out of control.
Around the same time, I stopped having a period, and I didn’t have one for over a year. I began experiencing severe ovarian pain, that, on some days, was debilitating to the point where one side of my body would collapse and I could barely walk. On my birthday three years ago, I had uterine pain so severe that it sent me to the emergency room. I was chronically fatigued, my skin was awful, my hair was falling out, I was depressed, and I felt puffy & inflamed constantly. These are not all of my symptoms, but the ones I have discussed so far are the ones that have impacted me most.
I’ve had kidney stones twice. Something many people don’t realize is that having PCOS makes you more likely to have kidney stones. Women with PCOS are also far more likely than other women to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease, endometriosis, uterine cancer, and ovarian cancer.
Through the help of different naturopathic doctors, personal research, prayer, and a lot of hard work on my diet & lifestyle, I have been able to deal with some of my symptoms. I have a semi-regular period, my skin is mostly cleared, and my severe ovary pain is not as frequent as it used to be. But I do still get ovarian pain, although less frequently…I am still fatigued most days, my hair still falls out, I still have issues with my weight, and, when I do have periods, my PMS is horrible.
PCOS is more than physical, though. Mental and emotional health also play a role. Anyone who has ever been around teenagers in puberty, a pregnant woman, or a woman entering menopause knows that hormones can make your mind and emotions a little “wacky.” For me, this could look like crying for no reason whatsoever, feeling melancholy, or getting angry & frutrsrated quickly.
Women with PCOS often suffer from anxiety and depression. These are both things that I deal with in my own life. Sometimes I’m more depressed than anxious. More often, though, I’m more anxious than depressed. Some days, though, I’m neither, and I feel blessed to have those breaks. There are many women with PCOS who are in constant, unending states of anxiety and/or depression.
In addition to the chemical/hormonal ways my mental/emotional health is impacted, my emotions are impacted by the physical symptoms of PCOS. With PCOS, it’s easy to feel less than worthy or less than what a woman should be. It’s also easy to feel incredibly discouraged. I mean, working 4x as hard for a quarter of the results can be frustrating. Eating healthier than everyone I know and not looking visibly “thin” is kind of a bummer. I realize, though, that if I didn’t work so hard, my PCOS would get out of control. I’d be miserable, in frequent pain, morbidly obese, and, more than likely, have type 2 diabetes.
I thank God that He allowed me to discover I had PCOS, so I could change my life & health accordingly. I deal with my PCOS everyday, but everyday I also try to learn & grow, and take more and more steps toward better health. I don’t let discouragement or frustration get the better of me. I am able to keep my held high and trust that the God’s got it handled 😘
Do you have PCOS? Do you know someone that does? Did you learn anything from this post? Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments below or connect with me on Instagram/Twitter @girlgonecrunchy