September is PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) awareness month! In celebration of this important month which is near and dear to my heart, I wanted to have an honest conversation about this silent disease and how it impacts my life (ps- teal is the official color of PCOS). This is going to be a very personal post, so buckle up!
If you’re unfamiliar with PCOS, it’s an endocrine disorder that effects 1 in 10 women in the US, and causes symptoms like irregular periods, infertility, weight gain, anxiety, depression, insulin resistance, unwanted hair growth, and a whole host of other issues that quite frankly…suck. There is currently no known cure for the disease.
I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was 23 years old. On the one hand, I was relieved that I finally had some answers for things I’d been experiencing for YEARS, but on the other hand, I was terrified.
I had never heard of PCOS, nor had I known anyone who had it at the time, so I was feeling really hopeless, scared and alone. When you live with PCOS it’s really easy to focus on all of the negative things it represents, but today, I want to shine a light on the positives. I’m writing this post four years after my PCOS diagnosis, because believe it or not, my life has gotten better in so many ways!
Here are the 5 surprising ways my life has gotten better since I found out I had PCOS.
5 Surprising Ways My Life Has Gotten Better Since Being Diagnosed With PCOS
1. It’s helped me to be more self aware
Since being diagnosed with PCOS, I have become much more self aware and in tune with myself. Before, I never knew what the heck was going on with me (and neither did my doctors), so I internalized and ignored signs that something was off. This method was obviously not effective, and only amplified the side effects I was experiencing and made me feel defeated.
Now, I listen and take action (in life in general, too). If my sleep is off, I know that I need to cut back on the wine, dairy and gluten. If my cycle is off, I cut back on inflammatory foods and stress, and visit my acupuncturist. If I’m feeling amazing, I take notes of what I’m doing differently so that I can keep up the good results.
Thanks to PCOS, I am so in tune with my mood, attitude, mental health, weight fluctuations, breakouts and more. Being self aware is an amazing quality to posses in life, so embrace it!
2. It’s taught me the importance of self care
I’ve always valued self care, but PCOS has really shown me just how healing it is. Self care means dedicating time to take care of yourself. It helps keep you grounded, sane, confident, refreshed, and feeling like your best self, so you can be your best self!
Stress wreaks havoc on the body, and it’s so important to combat it and create balance. I make it a priority to practice self care at least once a week, and when I don’t, I feel it. If I have an extra busy week where it seems impossible to make any “me time,” doing something as small as 1 minute of deep breathing makes a huge difference.
3. It’s helped me live a healthier lifestyle
Growing up a gymnast and cheerleader in a household of football players, health was a constant in my life. Although I went through many “chubby” phases as a kid, I have always eaten relatively “healthy”, been active and done my best to lead a healthy life.
After being diagnosed with PCOS, I took my health to a whole other level! Cysters typically do not receive sufficient health care (due to PCOS being so under researched), so we have to take our health into our own hands and be our own advocates.
Over the last four years, I have immersed myself in education about PCOS (my favorite resources are PCOS Diva, this book and PCOS.com), and taken major steps to lead a healthier lifestyle. I eliminated meats (was vegan for 1 year and vegetarian for over 3) and started taking daily supplements (Ovasitol, Berberine and the Insulite System are some of my faves). I swapped my beloved candles with essential oils, cut back on inflammatory foods (like dairy, sugar and gluten) and cancelled caffeine (yep, no coffee). I drink alcohol (yes, including wine) a lot less often and have found forms of exercise that bring me joy (like yoga, pilates and cycling). I even traded my favorite unhealthy diet sodas like Coke Zero and Diet Coke, for more PCOS-friendly options like Zevia (the cream soda flavor is my kryptonite) and La Croix.
I use organic body, hair and skincare products, and avoid anything with phthalates, parabens or any other gross ingredients. I am obsessive about reading the labels for everything from snacks to makeup to body lotion. I see an acupuncturist and practice self care regularly.
These lifestyle choices help me look and feel my best, so although they may seem extreme, they work for me. Let me know if you’d like a dedicated post on this topic in the comments!
4. I’ve learned to be more compassionate
Compassion is such a powerful thing.
For me, being more compassionate means allowing myself to love my body even when I have rolls, stretch marks and soft spots (click here for more body positive content). Not punishing myself when I over indulge on the holidays or a weekend with friends. Not beating myself up when I make a mistake.
It means not judging other women based on their appearance or choices. Putting myself in other people’s shoes before painting them with a broad brush. Listening. Being present. Choosing ethical, cruelty-free brands. Choosing to view the positives in situations rather than the negatives.
5. It led me to acupuncture
Acupuncture has changed my life, and will forever be a part of my health-care routine.
As I mentioned, I never felt fully taken care of or understood by my doctors in the past. Physicians will often times tell PCOS patients that their options to feel better are to lose weight (which if you have PCOS, you know is very difficult to do), take a birth control pill and take Metformin (a diabetes medicine). While these may work for some, I knew there had to be more holistic solutions.
The first time I worked with an acupuncturist was the first time I ever felt like I was treated with respect and compassion in a health-care setting. Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine address the root causes of your symptoms, which is exactly what I, and women with PCOS, need.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are an amazing way to provide healing, and have helped me: have a more regular menstrual cycle, reduce stress, reduce anxiety, understand my body, develop healthier sleep habits, have better skin, and so much more. Head here to find an acupuncturist near you, and let me know if you’re in Los Angeles and need a recommendation!
*I must note that I am not a medical professional, and that you should always consult your medical team before making any health-related decisions.
If you’re feeling sad, down or unsure of what life after a PCOS diagnosis looks like, I’m here to tell you that you’re going to be ok. Heck, you may be better than ok- you may thrive! I know exactly how you’re feeling, and you are not alone. There is hope. Keep hanging on and doing your best, and know that I’m here for you (seriously though- send me a message, comment or email anytime).
What are some positives you’ve experienced since being diagnosed with PCOS?
Thank you so much for reading and sharing!
Love your fellow cyster,