PCOS, like many other hormonal conditions that affect women, is often difficult to diagnose. Or should I say, get diagnosed.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is characterised by the following hormonal symptoms:
- excessive hair growth
- thinning hair
- irregular periods
- difficulty conceiving
- weight gain
- mental health problems
The trouble is that if you’re a young woman and complain of any of the following, it’s easily dismissed as adolescence, birth control, diet, lifestyle… it HAS to be your fault.
Acne? Just try antibiotics. Lot’s of them. They didn’t work? Well I’ve just heard about a new antibiotic that might…
Weight gain? Shall we set you up with a dietician? Even though you’ve seen three already? Are you sure you only eat 1500 cals a day? Are you lying?
And, of course, mental health problems. I knew I wasn’t thinking or feeling quite right as young as nine, but sadly I struggled for a diagnosis from a psychiatrist up until 16.
Invisible illnesses as are painful in that they’re frequently invalidated for their lack of physical symptoms – leading to suspicion from employers, doctors, friends, and family, eventually causing you to wonder “What if I am making it up?”
With PCOS, they’re all symptoms that might be cured if you were a little more disciplined, productive, clean, hygienic.
Sometimes I feel the need to apologise to others and explain “I shouldn’t really look like this, I’m very sorry but my body is just doing this. It’s not me.”
Eventually my abdominal pain got so bad I thought I was dying and made my mum drive me to the ER. An ultrasound of my uterus confirmed early stages of pearl-like cysts growing in my ovaries.
The existence of cysts is one thing, but the state of hormonal imbalance and inflammation that exists inside my body is a war unto itself.
I’m lucky that I’m only 24 and can still salvage my fertility if I bend over backwards to avoid gluten, dairy, high blood sugar, insulin resistance, adrenal fatigue, sleep deprivation, cortisol spikes, and stress.
I haven’t had an ultrasound since my diagnosis, and I doubt I will unless things take a sharp turn south. The best I can hope for is the absence of excruciating pain that signals a cyst has burst, the gradual release of abdominal bloating, and the flushing of my skin subsiding.
To me, that would be a small miracle.