I wasn't exactly "devastated" after getting the diagnosis, there was a sense of relief in finally knowing what was wrong, but also a quest to find a way to fix, or find ways to cope, with the side effects because there's no real way to cure PCOS.
Here's a list of the normal symptoms/side affects of PCOS (according to womenshealth.gov):
- Infertility (not able to get pregnant) because of not ovulating. In fact, PCOS is the most common cause of female infertility.
- Infrequent, absent, and/or irregular menstrual periods
- Hirsutism (HER-suh-tiz-um) — increased hair growth on the face, chest, stomach, back, thumbs, or toes
- Cysts on the ovaries
- Acne, oily skin, or dandruff
- Weight gain or obesity, usually with extra weight around the waist
- Male-pattern baldness or thinning hair
- Patches of skin on the neck, arms, breasts, or thighs that are thick and dark brown or black
- Skin tags — excess flaps of skin in the armpits or neck area
- Pelvic pain
- Anxiety or depression
The ones in bold are the ones that I have/had to deal with. Some are easier to control than others, but it's still weird. Additionally, it's now thought that the easy weight gain is caused by an insulin resistance, and have a hand in high blood pressure, high cholesterol and/or diabetes mellitus (high blood sugar).. two of which I have. The most common treatment is to start a birth control regimen, as that regulates your hormones and for a lot of people, to start taking Metformin, which is a diabetes drug that helps regulate your body's insulin.
Here's more good news:
- More than 50 percent of women with PCOS will have diabetes or pre-diabetes (impaired glucose tolerance) before the age of 40.
- The risk of heart attack is 4 to 7 times higher in women with PCOS than - women of the same age without PCOS.
- Women with PCOS are at greater risk of having high blood pressure.
- Women with PCOS have high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
- Women with PCOS can develop sleep apnea. This is when breathing stops for short periods of time during sleep.
Insane right? This isn't even all of it. There's not enough research done, but I've found a few different sources that say that PCOS could be linked to regular ovarian cysts and in untreated cases, endometrial (uterine) cancer. Guess who has a history of both of these things in her family!? Yeah, this girl. My aunts and cousins have had cysts (all benign so far) and my grandma had endometrial cancer. (This is also why I have such an issue with the whole pink ribbon business.)
Insulin resistance is turds, let me tell you. For anyone who knows people who have taken Metformin, you know it does a number on your body. According to the Mayo Clinic, "if you have insulin resistance, your ability to use insulin effectively is impaired, and your pancreas has to secrete more insulin to make glucose available to cells. The excess insulin might boost androgen production by your ovaries." Either way, your body isn't doing what it's supposed to, and a lot of times, you have INSANE cravings (cake, cookies, chili cheese fries and pizza for me). I take Metformin twice a day (if I remember), after I eat lunch and dinner. When you're first getting used to taking it, for at least the first 2 weeks, don't eat fibery veggies or a big salad after about 6pm because you'll be up all night. You'll be nauseous, you're mouth will taste like metal, you'll have hot flashes, you'll have night sweats, you'll smell weird, and you'll just be uncomfortable... but after that, it evens out and you (usually, and not everyone) start feeling a little better.
It's one of the least painful things that my body has gone through, but it'll probably be the longest lasting one. I don't really tell people I have it, and when they see me take the Metformin at a restaurant, I just say that "it's because I don't work right," which is mostly true. I've forever been self-conscious and weird about my self-image, a lot of it coming from weight issues. I've never seen myself as "pretty" because no matter how hard I worked, it was never enough to garner results. Never. Imagine yourself at 19. You're eating annoyingly healthy, you're running about 20 miles a week, you don't drink or smoke, you walk a ton (because you're in college) and you're an athlete who has 4-6 hour practices EVERY SINGLE DAY. But when you weigh yourself, you've maybe lost half a pound or maybe nothing at all. There's never a significant change no matter what you do. You start to tell yourself that it's "muscle mass" and that, in fact, it weights much more than fat does. Okay, but your body shape isn't changing at all. Well, that's because unknowingly, you're prone to abdominal weight. Just fat, chillin all up in your midsection and thighs. I've never liked wearing shorts, you'll rarely see me do it. I'm so good at layering that you'll rarely know how self conscious I am about my torso. You find ways to hide it.
All in all, it comes down to one thing. Your body, is doing it wrong and there isn't much you can do about it.
Being more prone to anxiety and depression makes a hell of a lot more sense now than ever before. I get down really easily, convincing myself that, yet again, whatever I do is never enough and I'm too good at convincing myself NOT to do something because it's terrifying. I've just gotten to the point where I can drive down a street with one or two other cars on it nine years after I was in a car accident that flipped me across the 91 freeway. NINE YEARS. Every part of being in a car still bothers me. There's about 100 other things I could list that give me anxiety for no reason, but that would take too long. In short, I've slowly decided to start dealing with some of these fears. I've come closer to being able to drive in the last year than I have at any point before then. I've traveled across one of the largest bodies of water and made it home in one piece. Most importantly, I've stopped trying to stay disconnected from people and I've started to be nicer to myself on a more consistent basis.
Slowly but surely, right?
I haven't gone yet, but it was mostly because I had to wait til payday. It worked out though, the studio posted a groupon in the mean time for an unlimited month. YES.