Health

Living With PCOS

awareness

In a brightly lit room with a circle made of folding chairs, a dozen or so women are at the refreshments table. They’re filling their plates with finger foods and grabbing a drink before going to socialize. Each woman has a blue sticker nametag with their name written in marker. Whether these women are using their actual names or not, isn’t the issue.

After chatting for a few minutes, another woman with a clipboard comes out of another room and sits in one chair. The crowd goes silent as each woman sits in a chair, ankles crossed. After everyone has settled, the woman with the clipboard looks around with a smile.

“Hello, ladies. I’m Amanda. Welcome to the PCOSA.”

Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome Anonymous.

I am one of these women. I begin.

“Hi, I’m Ellie and I suffer from PCOS.”
“Hi, Ellie!”

Whether this group exists or not, I don’t know. I’ve never looked into it. But if PCOS support groups DID exist, I imagine them to either be like AA meetings or a little more personal.

My journey with PCOS began when I was 13. I’d gone 9 months without a cycle. I was terrified, thinking I was pregnant. However, one thing stood in the way of this: I was still a virgin. I was in 6th grade. Boys were SO off-limits. At least the ones in MY school. I didn’t socialize outside of school at that age because there wasn’t anything to DO. All the friends I had at church lived in different areas and had their own friends.

In high school, I remember my mom plucking something out of my chin. It was hair. At some point, I noticed hair growing on my abdomen. I shaved it, but it was back with a vengeance in 24 hours. So WTF was going on?

I wasn’t bothered by it until my mid-twenties. I was with my second fiance’ and hadn’t had my cycle. I thought I was pregnant. Went to the OBGYN and was asked the classic questions: Do you have hair that grows on your chin? Yes. That was the only question I remember. That was when I was diagnosed with PCOS.

 

 

what is pcos

PCOS is a hormonal disorder where cysts grow on the ovaries.  This can cause problems for young teens in terms of discovering their cycle and planning appropriately. Nowadays, you have phone apps that predict this. Back in 1995, you had notebook and pencil. I used Microsoft Excel to make a tracker. From 1995 to about 2000 or so, I tracked ALL my cycles. Looking back, it’s blatantly obvious something was up. I’d go several months without one, several days WITH one. My longest was a month and a half, while my shortest was less than 24 hours. I never knew when it would start or how heavy/light it would be, so I stocked up. I had heavy, light, medium pads and tampons.

For women of childbearing age, this can potentially cause serious problems. Especially if you want children. Mainly because this causes infertility. Now, I’m not saying that women with PCOS CAN’T have kids. All I’m saying is it may prove to be more of a challenge than for women WITHOUT. My knowledge regarding fertility and pregnancy is limited because I am still single and have no intentions with having children. I made this decision in my early teens. Mental issues began to rise and I realized I was a late bloomer. I never dated. The boys I was around weren’t interested in me. That was fine. I wasn’t interested in them, either.

I was in my early twenties when the hair began. It was black and looked goatee-ish. It was long enough that I could pluck it with ease. I tried shaving it, but I had embarrassing stubble. I never let anyone get too close. I then discovered plucking. It took forever, but lasted longer than shaving.

Then I had my first ovarian cyst rupture. Wasn’t that long ago. I was laying in bed, and felt this EXCRUCIATING pain in my right inner thigh. I lifted my leg back and it hurt REAL bad. I thought it was just cramps. But then I got up and realized I couldn’t stand. I went back to bed and realized no matter what I did, the pain wouldn’t stop. I decided to get a heating pad. It was just by the grace of fate that my youngest sister had JUST come back from West Virginia earlier that day. She and her then-boyfriend were leaving. I asked her to get the heating pad. Mom heard the commotion and came out. She thought I had a ruptured appendix. We had to go to the ER. My sister had to help with my shoes because I COULD NOT MOVE. We didn’t get home until 3am. I called into work and spent the rest of the day in bed with a painkiller that made me more nauseas than anything else. I went back to work the following Monday and was gone within three hours. This was when I realized how stupid my management was. I was CLEARLY in pain as I could NOT stand. My manager told me ‘the doctors note said you could come back.’ I CLEARLY CAN’T STAND! Apparently word from authority meant more to them than what they actually SAW. What they SAW was the fact I was in pain and unable to stand. What they BELIEVED was what my doctor had said.

To make a long story short, I went to the ER three times and was out of work for a month. It was two and a half months before I was back to normal. That was when I went back on the pill. I’d taken some samples a few years previous, but they messed me up. I wasn’t really worried. Cysts never crossed my mind.

Fast-forward about five years later to present day. I’ve had three more cystic ruptures and the last one slipped through the cracks. My theory is that the cyst was already growing. Then I went back on the pill for a few months, then missed a few days due to bad timing. Once I got back on, that was when the rupture occurred. So it had all that time to grow when I WASN’T on the pill, then the few days of bad timing was just the tip of the iceberg. I knew what to expect when I suffered a small rupture around Mother’s Day of this year, just to have a really BAD one a week later. I had an idea of what had happened when I’d had my cycle so bad I had to toss my pajama bottoms.

As for the side effects, I’ve never had trouble with the acne. It’s been hair growth. I found a pill that I love because it didn’t slow the facial hair, it stopped. Well, as much as can be expected. But I also discovered taking a hair, skin and nail multivitamin helps with this. The HSN vitamin fills in what the PCOS hormones can’t. So not only do you lose unwanted hair, your natural hair grows faster, as do your nails. Win-win, I say.

So to get rid of the facial hair, I pluck as needed. The heavy stuff was still there. I’d expected it to fall out. But it didn’t. Took me an hour and a half to get EVERY HAIR OUT OF MY CHIN. That was a few months ago. To this day, sparse hairs grow back and they’re mostly white. The shadow I had on my chin has healed and there’s zero indication that there was ever a problem.

As for the weight, I’ve tried the ‘normal’ stuff. Eat correct, exercise. Nothing. I’ve always known with my issues, I’m not in the ‘normal’ realm of ANYTHING. So why should I think I can DIET normally? Nope.

At first it was denial. You want to be like everyone else, even though your body and mind are telling you NO. The more you ignore, the worse it gets. So I believe I have found my OWN solution regarding weight loss. Remember, my goals aren’t the same as everyone else’s and everyone’s body responds to different situations.

I meant to have this posted yesterday, but due to some scheduling hiccups, it obviously didn’t happen. For the next few weeks, my posts could be either on Fridays or Saturdays.

-Have a great weekend!

-Ellie

Health, self-esteem

Body Shaming in Today’s Society

fat shamingBefore I begin, I want EVERYONE to know, this may be a sensitive story for some. I do NOT approve of body shaming of ANY type. I don’t even LIKE the word ‘fat’ unless it’s directed towards healthy fats. I’m not the tiniest woman in the world, whereas my mother and three younger sisters are on the heavier side. In this article, I’ll be exploring the world of body shaming in it’s entirety. What I’m going to do is post a picture and give a generalized background and how it affects women. Why, you ask? Because I am a woman and this is geared towards women. So, without further adieu, let us begin.

Our society views heavy people as ‘unhealthy’ and ‘lazy’. While this MAY be true for ‘some’, it isn’t the case for ALL. Mental illness, lack of resources, medication, environment, genetics, etc play a role in this. For this case, I am going to pull in the experiences my younger sister had growing up.

She had bad anxiety as a kid. She was put on Ritalin. Her mental health slid BADLY and a few issues with depression landed her in the hospital. She moved to Lawrence to get away and things got worse from there. I hadn’t seen her for awhile; so when she came to visit, I didn’t recognize her. All I saw was this heavy-set woman sitting in the living room. It took me a few minutes to realize she was my sister. She’d gotten so big and puffy that I didn’t recognize her. It turned out the Ritalin had screwed up her metabolism so badly that EVERYTHING was out of whack. Once she moved back, she began to eat healthier. The alcohol was replaced with actual FOOD. She’s lost a few pounds since coming back, but she still gets shamed. It’s sickening to know that people look and my sister, and other women in her position, and automatically judge. It goes without saying that individuals who shame large people have issues themselves. If you think shaming someone will make them change their lifestyle, think again. If they’re already depressed, it just makes them feel worse. If they don’t care, then other opinions won’t matter.

I remember when I worked at Walmart several years ago. I was a fitting-room attendant. A middle-aged woman came out of a room wearing a shirt that was a size too small. She asked me if she looked fat. Those were HER words, not mine. I told her it looked a little snug and may want to consider going up a size. Her sigh of relief told me she’d been called ‘fat’ when asking that question. I was the first to word it differently. It sickens me to know that society thinks this is acceptable.

 

skinny shaming

Believe it or not, skinny shaming exists as well. From what I can tell, the shaming comes from people who could be jealous. This situation stems from the same area as ‘fat’-shaming. I have a friend who has a thyroid problem. She’s been a size-zero ALL her life, even after having four kids. She’s VERY hyperactive and was diagnosed with ADHD early in life. Some people work hard to be skinny, or as I refer to it as ‘thin’ or ‘fit’. I experienced this several years ago. I went to Lane Bryant with my sister so she could find bras. I saw a pair of earrings there that I liked. When I went in the next day, the saleslady gave me a look of ‘what are YOU doing here?’ She didn’t say it, I could SEE it. I bought the earrings and left. Later, I told my sister of the experience, and she said ‘welcome to my world’. That was when it hit me.

But in this case, maybe the jealousy comes from people who, for whatever reason, WANT to be thin but CAN’T. Again, medication and environment play a role. If you’re suffering from undiagnosed depression, life is going to suck. I had undiagnosed depression AND anxiety for over 20 years. As a result, when I got anxious, I’d throw up to relive the anxiety. My appetite was VERY come and go until about four years ago. As a result of this, I AM thin….but at a price. My metabolism is screwed and I have difficulty eating. I’m so used to NOT eating, that it’s out of habit. A habit that is VERY difficult to change.

Certain illness: such as thyroid issues, PCOS and depression can make you either pack on the pounds or lose weight to the point that other medication or a special diet is needed. Hormonal imbalances ALSO play a role. If things aren’t going well on the INSIDE, then things aren’t going to be going very well on the OUTSIDE.

excuse

Remember this? I can’t remember where I first saw it, but it pissed me off. I’m not a mother but this was, and still is, inappropriate. At least to me. In this picture, a mother with a fit body and three kids is basically telling other mothers ‘being a mother isn’t an excuse to be fat’. This caused a GIANT uproar. My mom is on the heavy side. She’s lost a few pounds over the years because my dad’s health is messed up and she’s eating the same food as he does. She’s adopted, so there’s no telling what her biological family is like or her genetics. My mom had four kids, between 1982 and 1990. This was the era of ‘Weight Watchers.’ The budding diet food industry, if I remember correctly. My mother performed as she saw fit for a housewife; taking care of the kids, house and husband. Though I’m betting having 1950s influences, in addition to being raised in a southern household added to it.

Not all mom’s see being fit as a requirement or a necessity. Society tells mother’s ‘your family comes first’. But in an era where some gyms offer daycare, getting fit is attainable, only if you want to. But I’m not a mother and my knowledge is limited, so I’m going to give my two cents worth and back away.

equal beautyWhat it comes down to is this: Love yourself and everything will fall into place. Nobody should tell you what to think of yourself. In an age where social media is the norm and we’re bombarded with scantily-clad women, it’s very difficult to find peace within ourselves. I read that depression is on the rise since the advent of Instagram and Facebook. Not just with looks, but lifestyles. What needs to be remembered though, is it’s usually ALL for show. Unless the person is a celebrity of some type, rest assured that the individuals’ life is most likely the same as yours and they’re just making it seem more interesting.

The bottom line? If you like how you look and feel, NOTHING can change that. If you want to improve, then DO it. I used to have low self-esteem. I’ve changed that by doing the following: have a team. I’ve developed my team by following women who have the physique I desire. I want to be a fitness model. So I follow the likes of Jennifer Nicole Lee(who is the poster child for weight-loss motivation). Why? Because her story starts out as an overweight housewife who is disgusted by a picture of herself and decides to do something about it. She’s used this experience to motivate other mothers to become healthier. Her motto is, more or less, ‘just because you’re a mom doesn’t mean you can’t be sexy.’ Much more uplifting than the mom of ‘what’s your excuse’. I recommend looking Jennifer up online when you get the opportunity. She’s turned her name into a health and fitness sensation. JNL Worldwide.

Have an excellent day!

-Ellie V.