5 Things PCOS Has Taught Me
If there’s something to know about a chronic illness diagnosis, it’s that life does change, and that life needs to change. But that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.
After I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome in October last year, I had to seriously alter every aspect of my life. Since PCOS stems from a hormone based disruption in the body, every single thing I had been doing up to that point needed to be analysed and changed.
Coffee? Nope, I couldn’t drink that anymore.
Disregarding sleep? Nope, I couldn’t do that anymore.
Allowing stress to seep into the cracks of my life? Nope, I couldn’t do that anymore!
There are so many life changes I had to make after my PCOS diagnosis, and while I don’t want to discuss them in this post, I thought it would be worthwhile to discuss what this disorder has taught me, because it has taught me a lot.
AS MUCH AS I WOULD LIKE TO BELIEVE IT, I AM NOT INVINCIBLE
Before I started to experience symptoms of PCOS, I would work myself to the bone. Working three jobs, disregarding the importance of sleep, and relying on coffee to get me through the day. This resulted in daily migraines and a total breakdown of my sense of self. I felt weak, and I believe that has a lot to do with the belief us women hold that we must ‘do it all’, you know, have a family, a career, a social life and be constantly doing.
PCOS taught me that it’s okay to be gentle with myself. After experiencing amenorrhea [lack of menstruation] for an entire year, I finally got my cycle back after six solid months of serious self-care and sleep.
I quit my job, lessened my study load, and took time off when I needed it, and saw positive results from doing so.
PAYING ATTENTION IS SO IMPORTANT
This lesson is kind of in the same vein as the first, but PCOS taught me to really pay attention to myself and my mental, physical and emotional state. It’s easy to put all of our focus on those around us, but sometimes we really need to focus on ourselves.
Paying attention is hard to do – because I would often disregard how I was feeling to meet a deadline or cover someones shift at work, but you really need to pay attention to how you’re feeling. If you’re not 100%, say no. Ask for an extension.
If you don’t pay attention, you’ll allow things to get to the point of complete and utter breakdown, and then the mess will be much bigger to clean up.
EVERYTHING IS LINKED
This is major, and something I think all women should know. I only really learnt this lesson post diagnosis, but in the female body, everything is linked.
Oh, that painful spot on your jawline? It’s most likely hormone related. Dark circles? You may have allergies.
But it goes way, way bigger than this.
Western medicine will tell you that it’s absolutely normal to skip a period or two. It’s not.
After I stopped taking the pill, I didn’t have a period for 8 months. Despite my countless trips to the doctor, I was assured that it was totally normal, given a pregnancy test, and sent on my way.
I had also told the doctor that I was experiencing migraines and severe acne, but was assured this was normal for my 23 year old self. It’s not.
If you’re not sleeping, there is a reason. It’s not ‘just happening’ or ‘normal’. Acne, while common, should not be considered ‘normal’. There’s obviously some imbalance there.
The same goes with random stabbing pains in your lower pelvis. I was told that was normal too, but actually, that pain was the 18-20 cysts in each of my ovaries that went undiagnosed for years. Everything is linked.
YOUR BIGGEST CRITIC IS YOURSELF
Obviously PCOS is characterised by a hormone imbalance in the body, ovaries full of cysts, and an absence of menstruation. Along with this comes with symptoms, a bunch of them, and every woman experiences this disorder in different ways.
I have personally experienced almost all of the tangible symptoms of PCOS, including hair loss, weight gain, lower collagen levels in the skin a.k.a. stretch marks, acne, hirsutism and acanthosis nigricans. Obviously, the massive change in my physical appearance has left me with some… confidence issues.
Putting it lightly, 6.5 out of 7 days, I fucking hate the way I look.
And I tell myself this! I speak to myself in such a horrible way, some of it out loud – which Harry always pulls me up on – but about 95% of it goes on within my head… and it’s disgusting. I don’t just speak this way about my appearance. I also tell myself I’m stupid, incapable, and worthless, and it’s so damaging.
Do you guys do this too?
Something I’ve learnt is that we are our biggest critics, and the dark things you think about yourself are only thought by you alone. Don’t ever convince yourself that everyone else feels the same, because I can promise they don’t.
STRESS IS TOXIC
I didn’t realise how stressed I was until I realised how stressed I was. Ya feel?
I thrive on stress, similar to how I thrive on coffee, until it’s three days later and I’m questioning every aspect of my life while picking at my skin, chewing my nails bloody and pulling clumps of my hair out. Stress is toxic.
And it manifests! If you allow it, of course. It’ll take over and control you.
The ways I’ve reduced stress in my life over the past year or so include: saying no, prioritising sleep, quitting jobs that made me have an existential crisis every day, and quitting coffee [sob]. I also try not to take too much on as I know I can’t handle it, no matter how much I say I can.
Have you ever learnt anything from being ill? Share your thoughts in the comments below.