Sixteen years ago, when I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), it was a term that I hadn’t heard before.
“PCOS is an imbalance in women’s hormones,” my doctor explained. I was surprised at how common this hormonal disorder is among us women.
Some of the main symptoms of PCOS are:
- Irregular periods or no period at all
- Oily skin texture & tendency to have acne
- Weight gain
- Thinning of hair or hair loss
- Psychological disorders (depression, anxiety, etc.)
I must have won the PCOS lotto because I suffered from all these symptoms.
Based on my personal journey, I can say that PCOS tends to creep up on you. I was too young to notice the symptoms. My head was too busy and distracted to see the shift in my personality.
My stress levels were too high to be considered manageable. The word anxiety was strange to me. Yet, I could feel how I changed from being carefree to feeling anxious.
I was growing up. My body was changing. So was the world around me.
Family issues, school, exams, uncertainties about the beginning of a new era, university life, and the very first heartbreak of my life. How can I forget that one? Emotions are nothing but troublemakers when you’re young and immature.
My whole being was struggling to adapt. Things were not making any sense at all. While trying to keep up with life outside, I was drowning inside.
The first thing I remember regarding my PCOS is that I got my period a bit later than usual. That was not the problem, though. The problem was it lasted almost 12 days. For 12 days, my bleeding had been unreasonably light. Moreover, the pain in my pelvis and my cramps were only getting worse each day.
After multiple tests and medical analyses, I was introduced to Polycystic Ovary Syndrome by a doctor whose calmness soothed me a lot at the time. So that was it. That was when I was told to take birth control pills for my PCOS. For the following two years, I took those pills regularly.
The acne on my face, disturbed sleep patterns, and frequent headaches were all gone within a few weeks. Furthermore, I had never seen my skin that smooth. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, that’s easy!”
Within a few months, my periods went back to normal. While many of my main problems got resolved, new ones began to emerge. My reactions were nothing like they used to be—I was way too happy or too moody.
One moment, I was having fun with my friends, and a few hours later, I would turn into this grumpy teen. Although my senses told me it was an unhealthy pattern, I ignored it. What’s more absurd is that I hadn’t even bothered to google my new health-related issues. I kept on postponing it.
Looking back, I guess it was how I was boycotting the change that was inevitable.
Every three months, I had to get my blood tested to check my blood glucose levels and liver function. I was doing what I was told without thinking and questioning. This cycle continued until my fatigue got to the point where I was so sick of feeling tired. So, I finally made the effort to read the pamphlet of my pills:
Headaches, nausea, mood changes, weight gain, chest pain, and bloating were some of the main side effects written on the prospectus.
Unfortunately, having taken the contraceptive pill for more than two years, I was experiencing every single side effect intensely.
The headaches I used to have due to not having my period had come back. My skin was flawless, but it had gotten dry, very dry, and itchy. Some days as I walked, I had to resist the urge to puke.
The birth control pills were absolutely working. They were curing the PCOS symptoms, but they were giving me further health problems to deal with.
This is not an article where I’ll be demonizing birth control pills. Rather, a friendly reminder to say: be fully in charge of your health and accept responsibility for choosing what’s best for you.
I decided to stop taking the pills.
Honestly, I had no idea what was waiting for me. I quit the birth control pills, thinking I could start taking them if my condition worsened. I started doing research. My doctor had informed me that nothing could cure PCOS permanently. Nothing could make my PCOS go away, and I was okay with that.
I began with small changes that were entirely in my control. I started eating healthier foods while letting myself occasionally indulge in ice cream and pizza. Because obviously, what’s the point of living if you’re not gonna eat pizza?! But I was learning to choose foods that were healthy for my body. I started consuming more vegetables and fruits instead of processed foods.
Every single day, I started going out for a long walk. Ah, how comforting and rejuvenating those walks were. I was too young and uninformed to realize what I had been longing for at the time. Now, I see how much I needed time and space simply to be me and let life show me why the change was necessary.
I was walking away from the restlessness at home, school, and my teen heart. With every step I took, I was getting closer to myself.
The decline in my mood swings had been noticeable. Then, I somehow found meditation, and something in me changed for good. Now, I don’t really take things personally. I don’t take life too seriously, and I try to lighten things even if they’re stressful. Connecting to the self, knowing that you can actually try doing things that are good for your body and your morale does wonders.
Having seen what stress could do, I concluded that even though it is difficult, it’s up to me to manage my stress.
The choice is mine to make.
What PCOS has taught me so far is that I must take action for myself and be conscious of my body, health, and diet. I have chosen to think of PCOS as an opportunity to get to know myself. And you can do the same.
I know that not all of us have the time and the chance to focus on ourselves freely, due to diverse responsibilities or issues, but we can still try. And the intention of trying is priceless. It makes you realize that you’re actually the first and very best friend of yourself.
Today, I am a PCOS patient with regular periods. This may either continue as it is, or it may change. It doesn’t really matter. From my experience, what matters is to accept what’s going on in your body and act accordingly. Don’t resist the opportunity to change.
“You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.”
—Mary Tyler Moore
Instead of saying “because of PCOS,” switch your mindset and perspective to “thanks to PCOS.” It is just one of many conditions that remind us to pay more attention to how we eat, live, and think.