5 Reasons I'm Grateful for My PCOS Diagnosis
Five years ago, when I was first diagnosed with PCOS, I cried in my doctor’s office.
I’m talking fat, angry tears and heaving sobs. I’m sure my new OB/GYN thought I was mentally unhinged, but in the middle of our over-my-head conversation about low progesterone and high androgens—and let’s just throw thyroid dysfunction in the mix, too—I couldn’t stop the years-long emotional build-up of stress and confusion regarding my health issues from manifesting into a full-blown physical meltdown. (Yeah, embarrassing.)
Not only was I livid at the doctors and medical professionals who came before her for not being able to provide me with any sort of helpful guidance (and frankly, leading me further down the rabbit hole of hormonal dysfunction), I was furious with myself for allowing this to happen in the first place.
“But I thought I was doing everything right,” I bawled. “I practice yoga, try to limit sugar, and have a perfectly normal BMI! So why are my hormones this fucked up?”
Needless to say, there was so much I didn’t understand about health, hormones, and—obviously—humility. But the point is, even though I left my appointment that day feeling more relieved than I had in ages (finally, some answers!)… I also felt bogged down by resentment and self-pity. Why me, God? I lamented all the way home, as if He had maliciously hand-picked me out of a lineup of women to undergo this particular kind of misery. (Pathetic, right? If I could go back in time, I would seriously tell that girl to get a grip.)
Little did I know then that my diagnosis would go on to work wonders in my life, ultimately shaping my future and opening me up to a whole new world of knowledge, opportunities, and purpose.
September is PCOS Awareness Month, and since a whopping 10% of us ladies struggle with this fairly modern condition (no small thing, considering PCOS is the leading cause of infertility in the U.S.), I wanted to write a post calling out the good things that have materialized from my personal battle with PCOS. I know it can be tough to stay positive when you’re dealing with any sort of health complications or issues, but sometimes, it’s the not-so-fun stuff in life that leads us closer to the core of who we actually are.
So, without further ado, here’s what my PCOS diagnosis did for me:
It provided a much-needed wake-up call into my health and habits.
When I finally stopped to take a good, hard look at how I was living, it became very obvious that there were so many areas of my health—both mental and physical—that I could improve. This post on how I healed my PCOS goes into much more detail, but without my diagnosis, it might not have occurred to me that I desperately needed to break free of my disordered eating patterns, lower my insulin, and prioritize stress management (the biggie!) to lead a much more fulfilling life. I doubt I would have ever sought out or started seeing a functional medicine practitioner, and as a result, getting pregnant could have been a thousand times harder—if not impossible. And without the insight I’ve gained throughout this whole journey, you can darn well bet I wouldn’t have been mentally or physically equipped to encounter that hurdle.
Regardless of what I thought, up until two years ago, my health was not being prioritized (and probably still wouldn’t be) were it not for the red flags of SOS my body kept sending me. And chances are, if those signs hadn’t turned into full-blown PCOS, it would have been something else, possibly worse, down the road.
It connected me to inspiring women going through the same thing.
If there’s anything that can unite a group of people, it’s suffering. While PCOS is not a death sentence (far from it!), finding solidarity with women who were currently in the trenches of it—or had successfully dug themselves out—gave me the comfort of knowing I wasn’t alone in my struggle, and that it didn’t have to last forever. Many women I spoke to and leaned on for support had beaten the odds by reversing their diagnosis, and listening to their stories gave me the determination I needed to quit the pity party and get through the worst of it, one day at a time.
Still to this day, there’s nothing I find more fulfilling than connecting with women of all backgrounds who are fighting similar health battles—one of the big reasons I decided to go into holistic health coaching.
It led me on a spiritual and mental journey of figuring out who I was, what was most important to me, and what I needed to let go of.
Even more than my physical health, my mental health was in the crapper. Up until then, I had never thought of myself as someone prone to anxiety or depression, but if I was 100% honest about it, I had been struggling with some form of these on and off since high school. The depression showed up as a lack of motivation mostly, or occasionally, a sense of gloom that would hover above my head for days at a time for no reason at all (more than likely a side effect of my hypothyroidism). And the anxiety was all internal, making it seem on the outside that I had my shit together and was totally even-keeled, when in reality, I couldn’t escape the fear of disappointing both myself and others—a burdensome and self-obsessive mentality that burrowed its way into my subconscious and slowly bred resentment, culminating in sporadic (but frequent) bouts of irritability.
While some of this could have been a byproduct of chemical and/or hormonal imbalances, I was forced to face the fact that I wasn’t in a good place, spiritually or emotionally. My husband, my own parents, and even my FM doctor picked up on my perfectionistic tendencies and encouraged me to turn to prayer, meditation, and positive affirmations to get back in touch with my core values. Through this process of contemplation and self-analysis, I became closer to God and more comfortable with myself, reaching a point where I was finally able to shed my own limiting thoughts, as well as the unnecessary weight of society’s impossible expectations.
When it comes to physical healing, I now know that the mindset and inner state of a person is everything. As long as we’re holding onto something destructive—whether it be resentment, sadness, fear, or in my case, the idea of perfection—our bodies will suffer the consequences.
It opened my eyes to the extreme need in this world for more (and better) education on women’s health.
Over the course of the last five years, I’ve come to recognize the lack of accurate information, education, and resources available in the way of women’s health. It’s quite sad, honestly, that in 2019, women are still being treated like we’re of less importance—a statement that may seem a bit dramatic, but isn’t so far-fetched when you take into consideration the long-term exclusion of women in clinical trials, or most states’ tax classification of tampons as a “luxury item” (while Viagra goes untaxed), or the complete lack of education provided to women on reproductive and hormone health by schools and health institutions alike.
To elaborate on that last point, most women aren’t ever taught the basics of tracking their menstrual cycles (to avoid pregnancy, for instance), how to know if something is “off” with their hormones, or even informed of the risks of birth control—until it’s too late. And to top it off, when she does start asking questions or experiencing symptoms (like low libido, fatigue, thinning hair, heavy periods, etc.), she’s likely to be prescribed a band-aid medication and sent on her way without any investigation whatsoever. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a lousy excuse for “women’s health” to me.
Okay, this is not a very positive point—but, it does lead me to my next one:
It paved the way for a new career (and personal calling) in holistic wellness.
Knowing what I know now about the state of women’s health in this country (as someone who unfortunately had to learn the hard way), I’m determined to do my part in improving it for future generations of girls and women. Becoming a holistic nutritionist was only the first step in accomplishing my main goal to learn as much as I can about hormonal health and share the knowledge I gain in hopes of making the health journeys of others easier to navigate (read: less lonely and frustrating) than my own.
I may just be one person, but the list of women warriors on board the holistic health bandwagon is constantly growing and evolving—and together, I have no doubt that we’re capable of changing the world of women’s health for the better. (They’re already doing it!)
All this to say, like many before me, I probably wouldn’t have even thought to entertain a “calling” in wellness had it not been for my own health struggles leading me down this path. And while there are some days that my PCOS is the last thing I want to think about (because, you know, life is overwhelming enough), I can honestly say that it’s for this fifth reason alone that I do not regret my diagnosis. It’s a part of me now, surely, but it’s what I choose to do with it that ultimately defines me. The same goes for you, too, sister.
Have you let your diagnosis define you—or have you used it instead as a catalyst for change and taking charge of your life?