Hello dear harmony visitors, so we’ve been sharing some feel-good vibes with our Wednesday wisdom series and spreading the PCOS awareness with the other information available on the site for a while now so I felt it was time to share a bit of my own little world with you so you can put a face to the harmony with PCOS name and understand more about why I created this blog.
So how did I first discover PCOS? It all began during that wonderful time we all fondly remember as puberty, from the age of 12 I begun to experience all the typical signs and symptoms of a regular period but with none of the physical release that would mean a ‘normal’ menstrual cycle. In addition to this I had terrible acne all over trying various medications, homeopathic and over-the-counter remedies to shift it with little to no effect. Personally I have been lucky and did not experience issues with hirsutism (excess hair or facial hair) growing up however how my mother and I survived my mood swings over the following years still baffles me! As you will know from some of your own experiences the incontrollable nature of imbalanced hormones can leave you feeling on edge, ready-to-snap or burst into tears at any second and irrational beyond belief – then throw in teenage mood swings and hormonal challenges and you’ve got one hell of a party!
After several turbulent years pushing myself and my family to the edge, with no understanding of why, my mother having done some research herself started pushing the doctors to look at the prospect of there being something bigger behind all of this. So eventually at the age of 16 the doctor agreed and arranged for me to have an ultrasound along with some blood tests. I’ll never forget feeling nervous waiting for the ultrasound; not knowing what to expect, needing to go to the loo desperately and getting lots of judgemental looks in the waiting room as people saw a teenage girl in her school uniform waiting for an ultrasound. Well this confirmed it all and I was formally diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome much to the relief of my mother and I – finally we knew why I was going through all of this!
My mother was so pleased to have had a formal diagnosis of this and it confirmed her own experience of living with PCOS too as she had gone through her entire life with classic symptoms but had been left to feel as if it was all in her head. It was finally acknowledged, but now the question became what do we do now?
The first thing was research, lots of searching online and tracking down books in the library on women’s health to try and find anything that mentioned PCOS specifically. As was, and unfortunately still is the case for many, in the UK the doctors didn’t have any real information about PCOS, no advice, treatments to offer us so we were left to work it on out for ourselves… I’m pretty sure most of you have found yourselves in a similar boat trying to track down any information about the condition following frustrating conversations with medical professionals.
So not really any wiser about polycystic ovarian syndrome as a condition, the doctors simply prescribed me the contraceptive pill ‘dianette’ (initially I ended up working my way through many different types) and I just carried on as normal working my way through school getting my GCSEs, my A levels and heading off to university. All of a sudden as I turned 17 my weight started to creep up and this time it wasn’t shifting, by the time I was at university I had gone from being a UK size 10/12 (that’s a six 6/8 across in the states) to a solid size 18 (and over 200 lbs) without really noticing.
For many years since my weight and clothes size has fluctuated around this point, for me it was a sad time when I found myself buying a few items sized 20 and cutting the tags out quickly so no one would ever know – thankfully I’m 5”7 so to many people seemed a little overweight but in proportion…but I was overweight, trapped in an ongoing battle with food that I couldn’t escape and felt totally miserable about it all having a horrible attitude of hatred for myself and my body.
At university I continued to exercise – I have always been a dancer; in fact when I was 15 I’m pretty sure that dancing for several hours every day was the only thing that kept the weight off – so I carried on becoming an integral part of the university dance society and rehearsing whenever possible, but the weight just did not shift, my skin and my moods were getting worse with my periods only arriving as they were forced to by the pill, without that they were non-existent.
Years passed with what I suppose you could say was the ‘typical’ PCOS struggle with weight, food cravings, emotional eating, mood swings and decreasing self-confidence whilst at university as I managed to dress myself in layers, baggy outfits that covered me and managed to make me invisible struggling in silence.
A blow came out of the blew in 2007 only a month before I was due to go into my final year of university – I was taken to hospital with a posterior astrocytoma brain tumour and underwent neurosurgery quickly. Due to this my balance has been permanently affected (affecting my professional dancing and performance aspirations) and I had to learn to walk on my own again. Safe to say my stint in hospital saw my weight drop, probably due to my constant vomiting as a side effect of the surgery and medication, but as soon as I was able to keep normal food down the lack of movement during my recovery meant I ballooned once again and continued to feel pretty crappy.
Over the next 7 years I struggled to regain a sense of normalcy following this surgery, working through my recovery and coming to terms with the label disabled as I experienced falls, problems walking (albeit with a fabulously sparkly walking stick) and standing for any period of time, depression became a prevalent force and the PCOS weight/mood shame cycle continued on throughout…
It has only been over the past 2 years that I’ve managed to undertake more exercise and try to get my life back in order – it’s hard to lose the weight if you can’t really walk to workout. I’ve managed to use swimming and slow rehabilitation gym sessions to help my progress, so much so I’ve been able to begin dancing again, taking Zumba classes and have been getting to a much better place with myself, my body and my PCOS. I’ve finally got to a point where after 10 years on the pill I’ve got my menstrual cycle working in a more regular (not quite like clockwork) manner which for us ladies with PCOS is a big deal!
Trying to stay active, be aware of my diet, trying to cut down on those naughty things, eat more healthy foods and shift to a more positive, self-loving, go get ‘em attitude has helped. Even though it may be only small steps, I’m already feeling the benefits and want to share the cyster support and love as I live with my condition and work to manage it hopefully inspiring others to do the same or to share your own stories of life with PCOS.
Remember – you’re not alone with this; stay strong and be positive to make your life better.