Since getting my period at 11-years-old and being banished from doing flips on the monkey bars, I’ve always had a pretty volatile relationship with my menstrual cycle. You see, we never saw eye-to-eye; It was inconvenient, disruptive, embarrassing and intrusive — and then one day, it just didn’t come any more.
As a 19-years-old college sophomore, making it out of bed became a challenge. Walking to the train meant brutal pains in my lower abdomen and legs. One day things got so bad I ended up in the emergency room with fluid in my kidneys. No one was able to diagnose me, and for the first time ever, I truly missed my period. It had been six months too long.
That next year was filled with many pelvic exams and sonograms that didn’t give me any answers. Doctors suggested that I was stressed out from school and probably just needed to find better ways to relax. I wasn’t crazy; I was in pain. Finally, after insisting that my doctors do something more to find out what was causing my period to go on vacation, my gynecologist did some blood work and discovered that my androgen levels were three times higher than the average woman. She told me that I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, a common endocrine disorder and potential fertility disruptor affecting one in ten women. While there is no known cause for PCOS, my gynecologist’s first response to the discovery was to immediately prescribe me birth control pills.
I acquiesced because what else was I going to do? I was given no further information on the disease: how to manage it or whether or not I would have to remain on birth control pills for the remainder of my life. I was told to “Google” the disorder — a complete waste of my $20 co-pay and $300 doctor’s office visit, but I digress.
I walked away that day with a diagnosis but no information on how to heal myself.
I wasn’t planning on taking birth control pills for the rest of my life, and I wasn’t keen on the idea that it was a short-term solution to a life-long issue, so I “googled.” What I found changed my life forever.
Symptoms of PCOS may include: irregular periods, frequent pelvic pain, infertility, weight gain, severe acne, and enlarged ovaries containing numerous small cysts. While scarring myself silly reading article after article of women suffering with infertility and long-term PCOS effects, I stumbled upon the online support group Soulcysters, which provided a tremendous resource of women sharing their stories of managing PCOS as well as many natural remedies for treating the disease.
Through acupuncture, diet, and exercise, I found that I could turn around my symptoms and get on the road to recovery. And I did just that. Between classes I attended acupuncture sessions and worked with my acupuncturist to promote balance in my body. I was prescribed several different herbs and a diet that eliminated processed foods, sugar, and dairy and instead focused on lots of green, leafy, vegetables and raw meals. I had also joined a gym and broke a sweat at least three times a week. The process was slow and daunting but worth the commitment because three months later my “friend” returned. I rejoiced.
Six years later, I’m grateful that by being proactive about my health and continuing to press my doctors for answers I was able to find and create a wellness plan for managing my PCOS. If there’s anything I learned in this experience it is to never let the end be the end. There’s always another resource, lifestyle change, or fitness routine that can get you back on the road to recovery.