There’s nothing normal about PCOS … yet it’s the only normal I’ve ever known.
My first period occurred shortly after my 12th birthday. From the very beginning, my menstrual cycles were irregular, occurring at varying intervals with no rhyme or reason. Initially, my cycles were two or three months apart, but soon were stretching with periods of fifteen to eighteen months in between in each one.
For reasons I personally cannot define or put into logical terms, I never once told anyone of my dilemma. Deep shame, perhaps. Embarrassment. Confusion. Fear something was terribly wrong with me. The terrible knot of inner turmoil consumed me, but I suffered silently, alone with the weight of my concerns. No one knew, or so I thought.
I learned to live with the inconsistency that was my secret life. Menstruation came without prior warning. I never could follow any sort of hormonal clues to give me the advantage of preparing for it. For this reason, I never left home without feminine necessities, always prepared. Yet, to my dismay, my stash of supplies was rarely used.
Duration of my menstrual cycle was also without pattern. Some cycles the bleeding lasted only hours. Other times it would go on for weeks before it went away. During college dorm life, I did my best to hide the oddity of my strange cycles. I prayed none of the other girls would notice I had been carrying pads with me to the bathroom for three weeks in a row, or that for the entire rest of the semester I didn’t need them at all.
More than anything, I wanted was to be like every other young woman in those dorms … bleeding every twenty-eight days for five days. A regular menstrual cycle seemed like such an irritant to every other female of reproductive age that I knew, and yet it was my heart’s biggest desire.
At the end of my sophomore year of college, I was 20 years old. I finally mustered the nerve to take myself to a gynecologist. It was then that the official diagnosis was given. I had PCOS: Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. The demon, which had haunted me for eight long years, had a name.
Unfortunately, naming the problem did not make it go away. I still had the extra weight, which I couldn’t seem to lose no matter how hard I dieted or exercised. There was the problem of unwanted facial hair, as well as thick masculine hair growth in other places such as my back and arms. Of course, my menstrual cycles remained completely out of whack. My body simply didn’t work as it should and having a diagnosis didn’t remove the shame I felt about that.
In my own struggle with PCOS, it’s been the emotional component of the disease that’s been harder to deal with than the physical parts. Medically speaking, my gynecologist is able to assist me in dealing with many of the physical symptoms. Over the years, I’ve taken prescription medications, herbal supplements and followed specific diet plans in order to ease the affects of PCOS on my body. I’ve been able to conceive and give birth to children. Doctors have helped me lose weight, laser away the unwanted hair, and even through pills force regular menstrual cycles upon my body. Yet the thing my doctors have never been able to do over the years is help me with the emotional aspect of the disease.
This blog is dedicated to that purpose. My desire is to provide encouragement to women who live each day with PCOS, reminding each one that her femininity is still intact even when the body wants to deny it. I hope this will be a place filled with hope and inspiration to face the challenges unique to women with PCOS.