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So You Have PCOS?

Whether you have just been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or you’ve been living with the condition for years, it can be a shock to your system - literally and figuratively.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, is a hormone imbalance that can cause cysts to form on ovaries, but can also take form in some frustrating side effects: Irregular periods, male pattern baldness, weird hair growth patterns, and weight gain are all common symptoms. Currently there is no cure for PCOS, and that alone can be overwhelming, sometimes weighing you down more than the condition itself.

I was diagnosed with PCOS at the age of fifteen. I had no idea what it was other than it made me gain weight, grow coarse hair on my chin and neck, and almost never have a period. At the time (almost fifteen years ago), there was less information available surrounding PCOS than there is now. I felt so alone in a sea of culminating odds. The only solution I was given was to 1) lose at LEAST 50lbs, and 2) stay on birth control for the rest of my life.

So what’s a girl to do when she finds out she has PCOS? Here’s a list of things I wish I could tell my 15-year-old self:

1. Find a Doctor You Like

I’ve found that many doctors don’t know much about PCOS, which made me feel helpless and frustrated. Don’t be afraid to doctor shop until you find a doctor that is willing to work with you and find solutions that you’re comfortable with.

Birth control made me sick (I was on seven different types over the course of twelve years), and I finally found a doctor who recommended controlling my PCOS through diet and exercise. For other women I know, birth control works like a dream in controlling their symptoms. There is a lot of trial and error that goes into managing symptoms and every body is different. Keep searching for methods (and doctors) that help you!

2. Build Your Tribe

This can be a little intimidating since it requires vulnerability. I’ll never forget the first time I confided in a friend that I struggled with PCOS and my body was doing weird things that I had little control over. Or worse, when I told my boyfriend (now husband) that, if left unattended, I could probably grow a beard. Those were some scary moments; putting it all out there and being extremely vulnerable to people I loved and was afraid wouldn’t love me back for my flawed body.

Fortunately, love conquers all - including PCOS. Seek out support from those around you: parents, best friends, siblings, and other women who can be a support to you while you navigate this part of your life.
I’m not saying you have to tell all, but the simple act of sharing your diagnosis with someone you trust can make a world of difference. Not surprisingly, most women I’ve shared my diagnosis with have come back with a, “Me too!” PCOS is a common condition, and more often than not you can find a fellow traveler on this journey to help share your burden. Use those around you to build your tribe and help you up when PCOS gets you down. 

3. Take Control

One of the most difficult aspects of PCOS for me was the fact that I felt out of control when it came to my body. At the time, I cloaked myself in the victim mentality, (“Poor me,” “Life is hard,” “Why do I have to work harder than everyone else?”), and waited for my situation to change.

It didn’t change, so I finally started to take ownership over my life and take back control. Did I cure myself?


Do I still struggle?

Yep. However, I was able to find small areas of my life in which I could regain control. I was able to cultivate ownership over my condition.

The first area I attacked was my exercise regime. I could go to the gym daily. I could walk, which turned into running, which turned into lifting weights, which turned into being a competitive athlete. I didn’t rush into an active lifestyle; I baby-stepped my way into a healthier relationship with my body one day at a time.

Once I had built my habits around exercising, I moved to my eating habits. I took ownership of what I was putting in my body. I took back control.

As you can imagine, I haven’t stopped at just eating and working out - health is much more than that. I am constantly working towards taking ownership of my life and not allowing PCOS to own me. There are many facets of my life that I can work on improving daily, and I hope that I never stop searching for ways to make myself better despite any physical limitations that come my way.

If you’re reading this and feeling burdened by PCOS, please know that you’re not alone. There are others who are walking this journey, and we’re here to help. This diagnosis does not have control over your beautifully unique life; only you do.

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