From Victim to PCOS Fighter
Going it alone meant changing my mindset. Up until then I played the victim and it sucked me into a vortex of misery. My family didn’t really understand my monthly agony; Dad still thinks it’s all in my head. Guys I’ve dated never understood it when I cancelled on them because I was so tired and mentally exhausted.
My fury and frustration were directed at my wayward period. I saw it as some kind of truant, a bratty teenager who ran away from home each month causing me to go into a meltdown. I felt like a hostage negotiator bargaining for it to come back, but it would just continue with the torture and turn up whenever she/it was damn well ready.
My fury and frustration were directed at my wayward period. I saw it as some kind of truant, a bratty teenager who ran away from home each month causing me to go into a meltdown.
But the negative self-talk was just making it worse! So I decided to take control. And at that very moment a little virus ran riot and we all went into lockdown. Shut indoors with no distraction I now had time to devote myself to this mission. Eighteen months in I see progress, a period that’s regular, still light and PMS symptoms are not so bad. Here is what I did, or as I call it my 3 Rs for tackling PCOS:
Back to basics reading and researching. A friend recommended Maisie Hill’s Period Power as a good all-round guide to women’s health. You learn about your cycle and what can make it go wrong. There were so many things I didn’t know about our menstrual cycle like 1) A period is personal and unique to every woman. This 28 days nonsense is just an average not a gold standard, so no need to feel like a freak should your cycle be longer or shorter. Secondly a regular cycle is one of the pillars of good overall health and that we are lucky to have a physical connection to our wellbeing. Thirdly PMS -something I thought was a natural part of having a period- should be absolutely minimal and can be controlled to a point where it’s almost gone. Finally, and this might sound a bit hippy dippy, there is a way to harness your cycle’s powers to align with your life goals- Yes I actually believe this. Another book that is good to read is Red Moon Gang: An Inclusive Guide to Periods by Tara Costello who is campaigning to end the negative stigma around our monthly bleeds- the reason I suspect women’s health isn’t prioritised in Medical care.
With some theory under my belt, I came across Tam Woods, an Australian nutritionist and former PCOS sufferer. She was offering an 8-week online course, The Hormone Harmony Academy (HHA), to relieve PCOS symptoms and understand our hormones using a holistic approach. The course is verified by Trust Pilot with positive reviews. It consists of 8 modules (to be done weekly but you can do so at your own pace) which are very bitesize but full of vital information and tips. One of the modules is dedicated to decoding your cycle. Did you know the colour, flow consistency, duration and types of PMS symptoms can determine what is out of kilter in your body? They act as a clue telling you what isn’t right. This is what changed it for me. Rather than see my irregular rebellious cycle as a punishment, it in fact was trying to help me.
You also get access to PCOS-friendly recipes and exercise workouts. This isn’t anything vastly unique, there are a lot of services out there that include one-to-one consultations with experts, tailormade nutrition programmes and treatments. What I like about Tam’s course is that it’s very attainable and affordable. Plus Tam is super nice and responsive to any questions you have. I paid £360 for the course and 6 months on I still have access to modules and am a member of the Hormone Hormone Academy Facebook group. These are brilliant resources and add to your PCOS defence arsenal.
Thanks to the Hormone Harmony Academy I learnt that one of the strongest weapons against fighting PCOS is to improve your gut and liver functions. I knew a certain diet suited PCOS but I didn’t realise why or how. The gut and liver are two organs that are fundamental in ridding your system of excessive hormones- once you know which one(s) are causing the notorious imbalance. By enriching your diet with healthy foods (greens, fibre, healthy fats, oily fish) and cutting out processed starchy ones you’re optimising your digestive system. Some prescribe following a Mediterranean diet but if too labour intensive, a good rule to follow is eat lots more leafy greens (spinach and kale), nuts and seeds (you must try seed cycling- it’s easy and makes your skin glow), oily fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel) and healthy fats such as can be found in olive oil and avocados. Herbal teas like Dandelion and Spearmint tea are great natural remedies for period problems and also support hydration which – while you end up peeing a lot- allows your body to regularly detox and rid excess hormones.
2) REACH OUT: Supporting the Cyster-hood
With everyone around you not getting it, PCOS became a pretty lonely path to tread. But thanks to social media, I’ve been able to connect with a like-minded community worldwide. And to be honest the proverb is true: a problem shared is a problem halved.
I already mentioned that the Hormone Harmony Academy offers its students access to its private Facebook group. It put me in touch with so many women who lend a kind supportive ear when you’re feeling low. In addition I joined message boards via HealthUnlocked – a social network for health- which has a PCOS group chat that allowed me to share tips with young girls who just got diagnosed and were scared about what it all meant.
But the support doesn’t end there. On Instagram I typed PCOS and came across lots of posts and accounts that take an in-depth look at the condition. I was blown away by the amount of information. These all came from women who were suffering or had suffered from PCOS. Many voiced my fears, anxieties and hopelessness. Others reached out just flat out frustrated with their doctors’ lack of sympathy, knowledge and concern. On the one had I was comforted; I’m not alone, it’s not just me being gas lit and abandoned by the medical world. Also you never realise just how relative your condition is until you read others’ experiences and symptoms, some of which were pretty severe in comparison. Relief on one side, but after reading one bad experience upon another I felt utterly incensed. Why were we being let down? Why are doctors on the frontline no help whatsoever? It’s just not good enough!
…you never realise just how relative your condition is until you read others’ experiences and symptoms, some of which were pretty severe in comparison. Relief on one side, but after reading one bad experience upon another I felt utterly incensed. Why were we being let down?