I am not going to talk about the technical details of PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). A friend of mine once described it as the “21st century’s gift to womankind.” I think that is the best definition out there. In short, it’s a condition which affects women for no good reason, is usually exacerbated by stress and leads to insulin resistance, which in turn can cause annoying, embarrassing and agonizing issues like weight gain, trouble losing weight, irregular periods, early onset diabetes (Type 2), fertility issues, facial hair etc. It’s what some would call a pain in the ass.
The doctors have a sophisticated way of consoling the PCOS gang of women. They’ll typically say things like –
- There’s no treatment, but it can be managed
- Exercise regularly and manage your diet. That’ll solve most of it.
- Stay away from all things white – white rice, white bread, sugar. (White men are okay. It is a truth universally acknowledged that nothing and no-one in this universe has anything against white men)
- Lose weight
For women who have PCOS, losing weight far more difficult than it is for others. (Unless they have other gifts, such as thyroid issues which make things much worse) You can work out for months and still lose no more than a kilo. One slice of buttered bread may be enough to ruin weeks of workout. And if you’re prone to stress or anxiety, then your everyday life is like mountaineering.
It’s okay. Shit happens. Everyone is dealing with problems of their own and PCOS is one that’s becoming more and more common on the list of problems for young women.
Now here’s the issue(s) –
- It’s difficult to talk about. When you say you have PCOS you are also admitting to potentially serious fertility issues, perennial problems with weight and the need for an upper lip wax every now and then.
- It’s not life threatening, so people don’t take it very seriously
- “Stress” is invisible. When there is no “physical” cause, the problem is easily attributed to some wrong action (or inaction) on the patient’s end. That increases stress. Stress worsens the problem. Vicious cycle.
- Stress is also perceived as relative. A teenage girl’s boyfriend problems may be seen as less important than say a major career issue that troubled an elder woman. But to that girl, her problem is just as real and grave. And the stress will mess with her hormones just as it does for the other woman.
- Fat girls are almost never offered the benefit of doubt. They have a personal journey to cover in coming to terms with body image, but society will mostly not give them a chance. This may even be okay for slightly older women to deal with, but makes things especially hard for teenaged girls battling PCOS.
I hate thinking about my teens. It wasn’t fun, and I didn’t look forward to my days. It was less because of my weight and more because I felt that I was somehow responsible for my misery. That perhaps I ate like a pig and sat around like a rhino.
I cannot believe I put myself through that.
I’m over that. It is thanks to my family and some wonderful friends and a great deal of selective reading on the internet. One of the first posts of Humans Of New York I noticed was the portrait of this brave young lady and her online movement for body acceptance. Here is the link to her story.
The struggle is different for each individual and the solutions will depend on that. But I do believe the first step is acceptance. Of many things –
- Accepting the problem
- Knowing that it isn’t your fault, no matter what your parents or the bullies in school say
- It isn’t a problem with a permanent solution. You’ll have to live with it and deal with it on a daily basis
- You will have to exercise even if you much prefer staying in bed and reading all day. And sugar is the hot-but-bad guy. One night stands ONLY. Nothing long term.
- PCOS isnot the end of the world.
- It doesn’t have anything to do with your worth as a person or your happiness.
Also – if a man can’t deal with the occasional bit of hair on your chin, he can go to hell. In sickness and in health, right ?
The very last thing I wish to do on this blog is preach. But this subject is just something I feel very strongly about, and I’ve realized it’s pointless waiting for acceptance from the outside. The only way is for it to come from within. It makes you not give a damn about what others think. That’s an awesome feeling.
I still care about what others think. Of course I do. We all do. I just don’t care what they think of how I look or weigh.(Well, at least most of the time) I love myself enough to say no to sugar not because it will make me fat, but because I want to live a full life without diabetes for as long as possible. (Again, most of the time. There are days when I just sulk. Or gobble a brownie and THEN sulk.)
No one deserves to have PCOS. And no one should have to feel ashamed about having it.
Hashtag PCOS. Because I am that well versed with Twitter.
PS – Just to clarify, I have nothing against “healthy” habits. I do think there has to be a positive motivation behind it, not self loathing and peer pressure.
PPS – I really do love lists