This post will be the first in a series devoted entirely to PCOS and the fight against infertility. I could post everything I have to say in one shot, but you would most likely be here the rest of the day, so I felt it would be better to deliver my messages in pieces. Thank you!
Disclaimer: First of all, I just want to address and clarify something…I am not a medical doctor. I am not a licensed nutritionist, psychologist, gynecologist, fortune-teller or super-hero. I am simply a woman who has had an experience that I feel justifies sharing with others in the world. The content of this blog is not intended to push women away from the medical providers or to provide an easy solution for women suffering from PCOS. This blog is entirely devoted to reaching out to a community of women who are in pain (both mentally and physically) and to inspire them to push on. I hope that something in the words of this blog post will change the life of at least one of its readers. I too have felt completely alone, depressed and unworthy at my darkest moments and I want to be a friend for you in your similar moments. Sincere good luck to all who read this, and I hope your journey has a happy ending just like mine.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” – Soren Kierkegaard
Let’s rewind several (several, several) years into my past. I was a relatively healthy young woman in my teenage years. I started my journey into womanhood around the normal time that most girls do. I had regular cycles and my body was changing just as it should have been, whether I wanted it to or not. I struggled with my weight and always considered myself chubby, compared to other girls my age. In High School I struggled with depression, mostly due to grief from losing friends and family, but also because of normal teenager drama and difficulties. At one point I was thought to have had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but looking back I think it was mostly the depression that affected my energy levels. At first it wasn’t obvious that anything else was wrong, but when I had gone four consecutive months without menstruating I brought it up to my Mom.
She was seemingly alarmed and her first question was whether I thought that I may be pregnant. I scoff at the thought and assure her this is not the case, and so she sets up a doctor’s appointment for me. I vaguely remember this appointment, but mostly I remember being incredibly nervous. I wasn’t sure what to expect or whether they would be doing any physical exams and that had me feeling tense. I do recall the doctor asking me if I thought I could be pregnant. Again, I find myself laughing internally and thinking that if I were, then this may be the second coming of Christ. Of course, the doctor seems skeptical and conducts a pregnancy test anyway, just to be sure. After a series of questions and confirming that I was not in fact pregnant, the doctor prescribes me birth control pills; “Take these pills regularly and it should regulate your periods and help with your acne”, she says. This sounds like a great plan to me, since I have had problems with my skin for years, and people at school might think I’m pretty cool when they find out I’m on birth control pills. So, I happily accepted my new prescription and went on my way.
I did as the doctor prescribed: I took my birth controls pills regularly and they in fact did regulate my menstrual cycles and helped with the acne. I continued taking the pills when I became sexually active and well into my 20’s without ever batting an eye. I never even really thought much of it and it was second nature to wake up and take my pill each morning prior to starting my day. This pill was seemingly a miracle drug. The pill helped with my skin, it made my periods lighter and my cramps were nearly non-existent. Aside from a little weight gain (which subsided shortly after moving out of my parents house at the age of 18, and not having regular access to delicious food) the birth control pill was amazing and I told all of my friends they should be on it. Hell, I even felt like it should be provided over the counter and that women of all ages should be able to access the pill at any time.
It wasn’t until after I was married and my husband and I, after much discussion and planning, had decided we were ready to “stop preventing” pregnancy. I talked with my healthcare provider and after 10 years of taking this medicine every day, I stopped. It was such a relief at first, not having to worry about whether or not I had taken my pill that day. I didn’t have to pay the co-pay to get it filled every month so I was saving money. I thought maybe the hormones in the pill were keeping me overweight, so I was excited to see if my weight would come down when I quit. So far, so good… let the baby-making commence! Or so I thought…Like most women who come off of the pill, I figured that I would be pregnant in no time, without any problems. I mean, most women that I knew got pregnant without thinking twice and some even got pregnant while taking the pill, so why should I be any different?
It didn’t take long for me to realize that something was wrong. Not only was I not having my period, but my entire body seemed to be protesting my decision to come off of the pill. Within three months of quitting, I had acne like a teenager again, my hair was starting to fall out and I had gained nearly 30 pounds. That’s right… read that again… 30 pounds! Something was very wrong and that was when I went to see my doctor for help. She asked me a lot of questions, mostly regarding my symptoms and then she unofficially diagnosed me with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, otherwise known as PCOS. I had no idea what this meant; no clue as to what this syndrome was or how I came to have it. I knew nothing and I seem to remember leaving the doctor’s office and still feeling like I knew nothing and feeling scared. All I knew was that my body was completely out of whack. It was fighting against me and making me feel terrible. I felt like I had no control over my own body and no sure course of action to take.
I had an arsenal of medicines and I was ready to take them and get back to normal. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy, and as I would learn over the next several months and even years, this was going to be a battle. I quickly tired of the prescription drugs and their God awful side effects. I was never this moody, angry and depressed in my life and my physical appearance was not getting any better. My libido was dying and my self-esteem was in the toilet, and so I decided that it was time to get educated.
After that initial doctor’s appointment in 2007, when I first heard her utter the PCOS four-letter-word of evil, I didn’t really think much of it. She has a plan, I thought, and she sent me on my way with a few different prescription meds to start taking. Over the next several months I found myself getting incredibly depressed. In fact, I felt downright shitty and exhausted. My hair was still falling out and my skin was riddled with acne. My weight seemed to be escalating, but not as quickly since I was trying to regulate my caloric intake. My mood was terrible and I felt anything but attractive. My husband and I were supposed to be starting some new and exciting chapter in our life, we were supposed to be making a family and having fun in the process. That wasn’t happening…
I was diligent with my new medical treatment. I had metformin to treat the weight gain and regulate my blood sugar levels. I was taking a potent prenatal vitamin to ensure that my vitamin intake was sufficient and I was starting to change my diet by eating less carbs. I felt like this plan had to work. Occasionally, the doctor would call in an order of Progesterone to kick start a menstrual cycle, because according to her it was dangerous to go too long between periods. This process seemed to go on forever and the changes, if any, were not good enough for me. I needed more information and unfortunately, at this point, I didn’t feel like I was going to get in a doctor’s office.
Please subscribe or check back for Part Two, where I will be talking more in depth about what PCOS is and the battle that is happening daily inside our bodies. Thank you so much for reading!