Living With PCOS by Chloe Devine
It has been over 3 years now since I found out that I have a complicated systematic hormone imbalance called PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome). I know, thats a mouthful. It was a diagnosis I received after missing my period for over a year.
For most of my late teens and early 20’s my period was irregular, and I never stayed on birth control because it only made it more irregular, especially because I’m not the type of person to remember to take a pill everyday. So when I was 25 and came home from traveling and made the calculations that my period hadn’t come in over a year, I finally brought it up to my family doctor. She told me “there could be 1 million different reasons a woman doesn’t get her period so don’t worry about it too much.”
Thankfully I didn’t listen to her.
I had just come home from three months of working and living at a yoga ashram and I was ready to understand and love my body in a new and real way. So I didn’t give up after the failure to be heard by my MD and I went to see a Naturopath.
My Naturopath actually diagnosed me with PCOS on my first visit. It only took me tell her about my symptoms, but to confirm her diagnosis she had me do blood tests and an ultrasound. The ultrasound showed that I have many cysts on my ovaries - also known as the classic “string of pearls.” These cysts are actually 12 or more follicles that have stalled in their development and accumulated in the ovaries rather than going through the fallopian tubes (ovulation)'; it is these specific types of ovarian cysts that classify a woman as having PCOS.
In my opinion, a diagnosis can be a psychological kiss of death. I found myself overwhelmed, anxiety ridden and depressed as I began to read about my new diagnosis. Apparently, 10% of all women suffer from some form of this systemic hormone imbalance, so how had I never heard of it?
Symptoms of PCOS include but are not limited to: weight gain, hirsutism, not ovulating and ovarian cysts, as well as insulin resistance and infertility. Some of the books say “it never goes away, it is something you will deal with forever.” This is something I wish I never read and now choose NOT to believe.
As a vegan and/or vegetarian for 3 years and I have eaten organic food quite seriously for the past five years. I would consider myself someone who is on a healing journey and who is knowledgable about living a healthy lifestyle. Even so, I wasn’t having a regular period and it took me years to admit that there could be something wrong.
I feel that if I was walking around for over a year with an undiagnosed syndrome causing me to have missing periods with the potential of causing major health risks in my future…. there must be other womxn out there as well who may be suffering and not know why.
And the reality is that I am lucky I sorted this in my 20’s instead of later on; finding out that you have PCOS later in your life means it is much harder to deal with and much harder to suppress the symptoms.
For most of my teenage life, I had been telling everyone I would do everything in my power not to be like the other women in my family:
I would NOT have children in my early 20’s. My great grandmother, grandmother and mother all had their children by the ripe age of 22. I was determined to “break the cycle” of women in my family, a specific phrase I often used. I was literally telling my body that it was not safe to be fertile. That month, I meditated on my beliefs about my fertility, and kept telling myself that is was now safe to be fertile. I got my period that month for the first time in over a year.
I started talking to my mother and grandmother about their health and pregnancies. I found out my maternal grandmother did not ovulate when she was young and had surgery to remove cysts on her ovaries. Also, that my mother had gestational diabetes when she was pregnant with me and over ate which causes high levels of testosterone and stress for the fetus - me!
I spent about a year working with my Naturopath and got my period to come back after a couple of months with supplements, sauna therapy, a new balanced diet (including animal products) and lots of exercise. Since then it still disappears for months at a time, leaving me feeling … abnormal and unhealthy… unbalanced, unnatural and just plain unattractive.
The way I see it, the women with PCOS are just MORE sensitive to EVERYTHING. It is said by some that we PCOS gals will “suffer” with weight gain, acne, hair loss, unbalanced energy, depression and slew of other unhappy symptoms forever, and that we should freeze our eggs! It causes depression, lethargy, male pattern hair growth…
But eventually I decided that the terrifying diagnosis was actually just a call to listen and respect my body’s needs; to understand that exercise and rest are equally important, and that the menstrual cycle is sacred ebb and flow. That year and every month and everyday I will be a little bit different.
Despite all of the health issues and the still vague understanding of this complex syndrome called PCOS, it is because of this diagnosis that I have dived into a deeper relationship with myself, my hormone cycle, my body’s needs and boundaries, my mother and my grandmother, and many other women who also struggle with their period and fertility.
I know that I am not alone, although health issues always seem to make us feel lonely from time to time, I work to remind myself that the blessing and lessons are here as I find myself connecting more and more to the depth of womanhood every day.
Written by Chloe Devine, founder + editor of The Blood Book Zine, a quarterly printed art journal aligned with the phases of feminine earthly cycles including the female hormone cycle, the major phases of the moon and the four seasons. The journal features womxn artists whose work exudes themes associated with the energetics of the four phases.