Well-Being//

PCOS: The Journey I Did Not Choose, but Travel Everyday

It cannot be predicted who will be the victim of a disease but our reaction to handling it can make all the difference in our lives.

Photo by Schantalao/ Freepik
Photo by Schantalao/ Freepik

My journey with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) may have begun long before I knew it. The 25 March 2020 marked a year since I discovered that my body wasn’t really doing very efficiently what it’s supposed to do in the first place. But who am I to blame my body when every choice was mine in the first place.

I was advised to visit a dietician, and so I did, of course only after being prescribed a contraceptive pill to help balance out my hormones. For more context, you’d probably want to read my previous blog.

On 6 April 2019, I began my first ever diet in 23 years (it’s officially a year). I’m not one to be ever bothered about my weight, I never cared about a perfect figure or anything like that. I’ve always eaten to my heart’s content. But the scare of PCOS, and what it could entail in the long run, saw me switching over to an all new lifestyle.

For the longest time I thought that my weight caused me PCOS. It wasn’t until recently that I got to know that PCOS causes much of the weight you have on. And so began my journey with a travel partner with whom I share a love-hate relationship.

The biggest challenge, I thought, was the diet. My dietician checked my BMI and advised me to lose 13 kilograms, I was 75 kg at the time. So she prescribed a high fibre, high protein, low-carb diet which said that I would have to eat almost six times a day, of course, smaller portions than I generally had, and much healthier alternatives in comparison to what I had been eating all the while. And most importantly, they were allotted a time of day. She was strict about the fact that I shouldn’t miss a meal.

Now how do you explain to your doctor that your job (digital advertising) doesn’t care whether you had time to have your sabja and milk?

She also told me that I needed to have 30-45 minutes of cardio every day. I thought I’d start running but it wasn’t something I completely enjoyed as much as I used to. That’s when my friends suggested swimming and that was it. I enrolled at a public pool and swam every day for the next nine months.

My diet, which was first a challenge, finally became a success thanks to the cooperation of my family. My mom suddenly had to prepare more items, she had to stick to timings and she had to (very painstakingly) control the quantities she put into my dabba; goodbye ‘have some more, baba’. Suddenly, my entire family was eating healthier, thanks to me!

I lost 5 kg in the first two months of my journey. And then, I made a mistake that every human on this planet is bound to. I rewarded myself for it by going a little easy on my diet. And that’s how I put on mostly all the weight I had lost. By September, I was a little disheartened, not sure if I’d be able to lose the weight again. And it was important to me for the first time because I had experienced what it felt like to lose the weight. Everything in my body had changed, not only on the outside; I felt more active, more positive, more energetic, so much more healthier, I would sleep better and wake up fresh, I could focus better and be more productive. I had to start over again, because now it was not just about fighting PCOS but also about living my best life.

And so I restarted my journey. Now you know how stories pick up from here: the character tries, succeeds, drastically fails, tries again and is applauded for picking themselves up and then succeeds better this time? Well, wait till you hear the plot twist. I was faced with something so unfamiliar to me, a sudden awareness of my ‘feelings’. I think this was the first time I was paying attention to them, because after months of ignoring them, they were suddenly waving their hands in front of my face. What I’d like to call the most teary-eyed phase of my life turned out to be a turning point for me.

I couldn’t put a finger on it, was it depression? Was it anxiety? Was it something new altogether? So I spoke to more women, women who were also dealing with PCOS—my tribe, and three out of four told me I needed to get off the contraceptive pills. They were shocked that I was taking them for so long in the first place.

I did do a psychoanalytical test and a few blood tests to understand what was going on in my mind and body better, after consulting with a psychiatrist of course. And it did point out a vitamin deficiency that was affecting my nerves, thus explaining the anxiety. But the test also showed multiple shortcomings of my mental health that needed attention, from me.

At this point in my journey, I wasn’t so sure about my partner—PCOS. I had mixed feelings about it as I could do very little about it. So I did what I could. I started taking my vitamin supplements (prescribed by my Psych), which three out of four of my tribe were also taking. Some days were tougher than others, where I needed a support system, friends and family to help pull me out of the black holes I’d find myself in; like the day I cried uncontrollably (without any explainable reason) in my bedroom until my sister found me. Some days were easier, I pulled my own socks up, and decided to do it all myself.

I soon joined a yoga class, because swimming was not an option in the winter. This helped me in so many ways, physically and mentally. I felt like a new person altogether. Shout-out to Varsha Perera from Mahim who is so dedicated to her practice and her classes.

I was going through a rollercoaster of emotions before Yoga, but I was still not ready to let go of the contraceptive pills, believing that they were helping my body in some way, balancing out hormones as my gynaecologist said.

Until the day I revisited my doc (after six months) and she said I had to continue the meds. That was the day I decided I wouldn’t. I couldn’t anymore.

And so I didn’t.

Over a year since I was diagnosed with PCOS, I currently weigh 69 kg, 6 kg lesser than when I started off and 10 times healthier now and a lot more at peace with PCOS.

This is not to say that I’m completely in control of what’s happening to my body every day, but I’m finally in control of how I react to it. I’m finally in control of how I judge myself. I’m finally more accepting of every flaw, every set-back (COVID-19 included) and every challenge that the journey entails. And I think that is what has helped me find strength in my every day.

If you’re someone who’s also going through something similar, I can’t advise you about your medication, not only because I’m yet to discover how it makes a difference but also because everyone experiences this differently. What unites this tribe though, is that we all GET it, we understand each other, we’re able to share stories from daily life that all of us have experienced at some point or the other and that’s what makes getting through this easier.

And the friends who get it even though they’re not going through the same things, they’re gold, keep them! They’ll hold you up when you can’t do it yourself. They’ll be your shoulder to cry on even though they don’t completely get it and they’ll be your rock when you can’t find a solid footing.

But mostly, never associate your condition with yourself. You are not your PCOS. You are you and your PCOS is just a tag along. You either learn to get along or have a very unpleasant journey. I’d say, try befriending it, it isn’t as bad as you think.

I’m in a better place mentally now. I’ve begun a ’21-days of abundance’ practise, of meditation and healthy daily tasks. I’m choosing things that are not only better for my body but also for my mind, heart and soul.

I don’t know if it gets better here onward, but I sure do hope so.

(Originally posted on https://theshutterlife.com/)

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