I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) back in May 2022 and endometriosis in July of that same year. These are two conditions which manifest in painful physical and mental symptoms as a result of hormonal imbalances.
Both PCOS and endometriosis affect around 5-10% of reproductive females. As one of these women, I have decided to document the rollercoaster that was discovering my health condition.
Just to preface, this two part series is not scientific nor educational. It’s a very personal account of how these disorders affected my life and individual security, along with the journey of finally understanding why my body and mood were transforming in uncontrollable ways.
TW: this article contains experience with disordered eating.
How it all started
Despite constantly battling with bloating, fatigue, stomach issues, irregular periods, and more recently, weight fluctuations – it took me three years to finally discover what was wrong.
So, let’s start at the beginning.
Back in 2019 I was living in Rome training to be a professional dancer. When I moved there in September, I weighed around 53kg. Fast forward to December of that same year – I’d gained 7kg, despite training 5 days a week for around 4-6 hours a day.
Noticing this weight gain made me dive into a sea of self-destruction. Food started to dominate my thoughts. I became restrictive with my diet, ending up in a cycle of restriction and bingeing.
I think this was the lowest point of my life.
I was constantly anxious and fatigued. My mood swings were drastic. I was growing body hair in places I never had before. It got to the point where I would hide at the back of the class because I couldn’t face the sight of myself in the mirror. (This sounds dramatic, but that’s what happens when your hormones won’t comply).
Besides the normal social standards of beauty, I was dealing with an industry in which thinness is not just an asset, but a requirement. Therefore, I couldn’t accept the way my body was changing. I eventually ended up hating the way I felt when I was in class, which was hard for me since dancing was the only thing that made me feel myself from a very young age. Eventually, I quit.
I don’t regret that decision, since there was a lot more than weight gain that dictated it. However, I do wish I knew that the changes in my body were not entirely my fault.
2020 rolled in. I moved back to Malta in March because of the pandemic. That’s when I decided that it was time to see a doctor for the various issues affecting my day-to-day life.
The first stop was a gastroenterologist who diagnosed me with IBS. He told me to “stop stressing out”, gave me some medication which helped, and put me on the low FODMAP diet. I’ve dipped in and out of the diet since this diagnosis.
The episodes of stomach cramps were intense. There were times where I’d be curled over for days, struggling to walk the few steps between my room and the kitchen.
At this point, it’s May 2020. I’m 19 years old and have just discovered I have IBS. It was now time to figure out why I’ve never had a regular menstrual cycle in the entirety of my pubescent life. It was June when I finally visited a gynaecologist.
The appointment was short and quick. I explained that this was my first time seeing a gynaecologist, I told her that I was experiencing irregular periods. I asked to go on birth control, because I was tired of never knowing whether I was actually PMSing or just perpetually moody.
The gynaecologist gave me exactly what I asked for. They prescribed Yaz, an infamous combined hormonal pill.
After starting the birth control pill, I quickly began losing weight. I was less bloated and belched a lot less. I experienced far fewer cramps – only mild symptoms of menstruation. Overall, I started to feel more confident in myself. I even got rid of those few yet pesky upper lip hairs that were also a side effect of my, at this point undiagnosed, PCOS.