Hello readers! So I am super excited to announce that starting in February, I'll be starting a series, titled, "Loving Yourself Through the Struggles". Every Monday in February, I will be sharing stories of guest bloggers and their journey of self-esteem and self-love with the struggles they deal with. I want to make February the month of my blog to not be about romance or love, but love for ourselves. Now, I know it isn't February yet, but I wanted to give you all a sneak peak of what this series will look like. Today, I collaborated with the amazing Kayla. You can find her on her Twitter here.
Kayla and I both are diagnosed with a disease called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS for short. It's a hormonal disease that has many definitions online, but it affects the ovaries by having small cysts, as well as having a higher amount of androgen. We both agree that with being diagnosed with it, and living with this disease, it has affected our self-esteem, however, it won't break us down.
It started with pain. I can remember the moment vividly, because pain like that often easily stays with you. I was fourteen years old, talking to friends at in-between classes. My lower stomach felt like it was twisting itself up. The pain that shot through my stomach area was something I had never experienced before – quick, sharp, unyielding. As a young girl, I was disappointed that womanhood was so painful. Whenever I complained, older women would tell me that period cramps are common. When conferring with friends they admitted they had pain too, but it didn’t seem as if their pain was as severe as mine. I did not trust my own instincts and tried to live with the pain. I followed all medical advice by my physician, but it seemed as if I was missing something large going on inside my body.
Fast forward, I’m 21 and at a doctor’s office seeking a prescription for alternative medicine for my pain. I never imagined I would be searching for answers for this long. I had tried large doses of ibuprofen, birth control, exercise, diet changes, and antibiotics but found no relief. I had frequent cystic acne problems on my face and neck that were distracting and painful that stuck around for long after my pubescent years. My doctor was an older woman who had a dog in her office and was eating trail mix. She spoke with me for about ten minutes about my pain, and then took out a slip of paper and wrote down four letters, “PCOS”. She handed me the slip and said “You should investigate this, you have symptoms consistent with polycystic ovarian syndrome. Please speak to an OBGYN.” I thanked her and left. A quick Google search of PCOS at home quickly lead me to believe that this was the answer to why I was having so many health problems.
I would like to say that getting this diagnosis was easy – but it was not. I had to stand my ground and fight for the tests. The doctor was extremely doubtful I had PCOS. She explained that I was not overweight enough, did not have enough long dark hair on my face or arms, and for some reason she kept inquiring about who the woman was that suggested I had PCOS was. She wanted a name and she wanted to know what medical licensing she had. It was all scary, and very confusing. Luckily my gut told me to insist on having the tests anyways. Eventually I was given an ultrasound and a blood test. Both were uncomfortable (I hate needles) but proved essential in determining my diagnosis.
The next day I received a message from my doctor saying all my tests were consistent with PCOS. I had finally found my answer. I finally knew why my diets weren’t working, why I was in so much pain, why I had such terrible cystic acne. It has been a year since my diagnoses, and I thank the universe every day that I pushed for those tests. Knowing the cause of my symptoms allowed me to tailor my treatment with my doctor and granted consistent results. I can happily say that after just one year of my treatment plan, my cystic acne is nearly gone, and my pain has been reduced dramatically. Do not let self-doubt steer you away from your instincts, because if I had listened to that doctor and had never gotten those tests, I would still be suffering at a much larger scale. If there was one thing I would encourage people to do it, it would be to advocate for their internal health. This experience helped me overcome my self-doubt. I learned to trust in myself, and ever since my confidence has been soaring.
Throughout my whole life, I've always struggled with losing weight, I just seemed to always gain weight easily, but had trouble losing it. When I was around 9 years old, I got my period for the first time, and as being a 9 year old bleeding, I was freaking out and confused by everything. Around middle school, I noticed I just stopped bleeding. It was weird, but I wasn't phased by it. Once I entered high school, my mom brought up to me this article she read in a magazine about PCOS, and told that I show a lot of signs of having it. I just shrugged it off because I just thought, 'Yeah right, I don't have that'. My mom was persistent about me getting checked up to see if I have it, so she took me to a OB-GYN doctor to get it all checked out.
I remember being in that office, having the doctor weight me, ask me a ton of questions, specifically about my menstrual cycle, and checked to see what's going on inside me (TMI, I know). After all that, the doctor looked at my mom and me and told me, "Yep, you have PCOS". Being a teenager, this whole discussion was so brand new to me. I didn't really think much of it or what PCOS was. As I got older, the symptoms and the real affects of PCOS took a toll on me mentally and physically. Many women that deal with PCOS have different signs and symptoms, and it's scary to even talk about mine, but being vulnerable shows that I can be open with my struggles, and possible help anyone that has what I have.
For me, the lack of a period is the biggest symptom. I honestly can not have a menstrual cycle unless I'm on birth control or some sort of pill. Other signs are mostly physical, such as dark thick body hair (which is embarrassing to even admit), acne (many of it being cystic acne), struggle to lose weight/easily gain weight, and the one that has been affecting me the past few years, hair thinning on my head. Every day, when I look at the mirror to brush my hair, or when I take a shower and notice clumps of hair falling off, depression hits me hard. I hate seeing constant acne on my face, I hate looking at my head and seeing how much hair I've lost to the point where I can find bald spots, and I hate having to pluck my chin every day so people won't give me dirty looks.
Although I say I hate these things, I still love me. PCOS can't, and won't, stop me from loving who I am inside. If anything, PCOS has driven me to work on myself and love who I am, even with my struggles. I'm still beautiful, I'm still witty, I'm still caring, and I'm still who I am; I just have something that affects me physically. When it comes to a disease, like PCOS, or anything, don't let those struggles defy who you are. You're not ugly, you're not weak, and you're not your disease. You are beautiful, strong, powerful, and amazing. Self-love comes within, and with these struggles, our journey may be long, but I promise, the end will make it all worth it.
Thank you all so much for reading, and also a special thank you to Kayla for sharing a very personal story. I'm very excited for this series, and I hope you all are too. Next Monday, you'll be reading a new story from another blogger, and this will be going on every Monday in February. As always, thank you so much for reading. Like, comment, share, and subscribe!