I keep hearing the same question echoing around Twitter and the internet from women with PCOS or newly diagnosed with PCOS, “how do I survive this?” I found myself giving a generic answer the other day, “you take it one day at a time.” That statement puts my teeth on edge and here I was using it. Why? Well because I have found that it fits perfectly surprisingly enough.
When I was first diagnosed with PCOS I found I was always afraid of the future. Would I ever have kids? Would I ever feel normal? Do I really have to do this for the rest of my life? Will I ever be able to lose the weight? Everything felt so uncertain because you see, when I was first diagnosed, there just wasn’t a lot of information floating out there. Doctors were still unsure about PCOS and the internet provided not a lot of answers either. It wasn’t till years and countless hours of research that I finally got a grasp mostly on what was happening inside this body of mine. With that, I had a weapon, I could take each day as it came and fight PCOS with the arsenal of knowledge I had. It felt to overwhelming otherwise.
So though I stand by taking it one day at a time, I also know there are other tips and tricks I have learned over these last 17 years of dealing with PCOS. (Now remember, I am not a medical doctor and this isn’t medical advice. This is strictly my experience with PCOS and what works for my body only).
1. Find a good doctor: I mean it. Don’t be afraid to FIRE your bad doctor. I had a doctor I started going to when I moved from my small hometown to the city. He was decent enough but he was horrible at helping me deal with PCOS. He kept just bringing up me getting pregnant and even though that was a thought in my head, what I really needed was a way to lose weight and deal with the condition right then. He also gave me progesterone and it sent me into the worst month of my life. I am talking about the most intense pain you have ever experienced. I stuck with him for a lot longer than I should have and actually it wasn’t till I found a general physician that listened to me that I even decided to stop going to him. My general doctor now is amazing. She listens. She is knowledgeable. She makes it a point to do her research. She answers my questions thoroughly. She is the one who placed me on Metformin which has done WONDERS for helping with the weight loss and normal period side of PCOS I struggled with. She keeps on top of my blood work and calls me to check in periodically. I didn’t see the difference a good doctor made vs a bad doctor made till I went to a good doctor. So feel free to shop around and find a doctor who really fits what you are looking for.
2. Educate yourself on nutrition: Food is so strongly linked to PCOS. What I eat greatly effects my PCOS symptoms. It took me a long time to come to this conclusion and honestly I really wish I would have known it when I was 13 years old. Life would be so much easier right now. I can literally feel when I am over eating the carbohydrates. I have grown accustomed to recognizing the signs. It seems pretty drastic to most to do Paleo or reduce my carbohydrates down to less than 100 grams a day but my insulin resistance really prevents me from feeling good when I eat more than 100 grams a day. I still do a lot of experimenting with food. I try different styles and different foods to see how they make me feel. I really try to listen to my body. But remember, do the research or talk to a nutritionist. PCOS really means a lifestyle change, it sucks, trust me, I struggle with it every day but as the years have ticked on it has gotten easier to make the healthier choice for me because I feel better when I do.
3. Give yourself a break: I don’t know about you but I am BUSY most days. I work a full time job, I have 4 dogs and 1 cat to run after. I have errands to run. A house to keep clean. Friends to hang out with. Life is busy most days. I used to book myself completely solid and then crash so hard it wasn’t even funny after a few weeks. I have now learned to take at least 1-2 days a week to myself to rest. Unfortunately with PCOS one of the side effects is fatigue and I get it bad some days. Especially when I am running off of less than usual sleep or stressed out or eating junk food. I used to refuse to cancel my plans at all even if I felt off, which made me cranky and moody the entire day. It also made it hard to do my job during the week. So at some point I started saying no on the days that I felt horrible. Now if I wake up with a pounding PCOS headache and fatigue, I cancel my plans and take the day off. I remember that I am one person fighting this condition and I am going to have really bad days. I am not perfect. Dealing with PCOS isn’t perfect. I will have snappish moods, I will be fed up, I will be depressed but instead of guilt tripping myself about it or beating myself up, I give myself a break. The people who love you will understand. If they don’t, that is okay too, having PCOS is hard to understand unless you actually live with it daily. Just remember to give yourself a break. Give your body a break. You deserve it.
4. Stop obsessing and worrying: This one was a big one for me. It used to be every spare minute of the day was consumed by me thinking about PCOS. I still think about it a lot but these days I also remind myself to stop dwelling and freaking out. If I can’t have my own kids, I will foster or adopt, there are all kinds of family’s out there and far too many kids that don’t have good homes. I will work on making the correct choices with food and my health every day. I can’t take it all on at once but I can do what is in my power. But obsessing and worrying doesn’t do any good. Actually stress has been said to adversely effect PCOS in a big way. So stop worrying and obsessing. Do what is in your power and then place the rest on the back burner till you can deal with it.
5. Talk about it: This one was huge for me. I didn’t, for a long time, talk about it. I kept it all locked away like some dirty secret. I still don’t go screaming at the top of my lungs to my coworkers or friends that I struggle with PCOS (though this blog pretty much does that for me) but I am more willing to open up when I feel comfortable. I also read a lot of PCOS forums and make comments. I answer and ask questions on Twitter. I follow fellow PCOS bloggers. I talk to my doctor honestly about things that are going on. I work on not hiding my condition away because it never did me any good to hide. All hiding did was make me feel isolated and lonely. Now I still get a touch of loneliness, especially when pregnancy announcements happen or one of my friends dismisses my PCOS as easy to deal with. People are ignorant and I have been known to educate my friends/family from time to time. Talking about it won’t help you cure it, it will help you live with it though. This blog has helped me in more ways than I ever thought it would just because it is my space to talk about PCOS openly.
PCOS is a tricky beast. It can be exhausting and humiliating and frustrating. Living with it can feel hopeless at times. But live with it we can and fight it we must. The alternative is to keep suffering through symptoms that can knock you on your butt most days. As someone who spent a long time knocked on my butt, I don’t ever want to go back to it. Remember above all to laugh about it. Finding the humor in an otherwise crazy situation just brightens it up a bit. Hell, I laugh at myself all the time. The other day I tweeted that my chin hair grows faster than my leg hair. It can be so easy to go to the dark side of PCOS and live there. Dwell there. Curl up in a ball and stay there. Trust me, I spent a lot of time there but we have to fight it. There is a way to live with it and get through it, it will take work, it won’t be easy and at times you will have to sit down for a good cry. So do all that, dust yourself off and fight another day!!