Tonight I would like to share with you something that unless you know me personally you won’t have any idea about. I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was 17, this diagnosis came after my mum & I watching a medical programme and being able to connect with 1 big symptom of PCOS……
Hirsutism or in simpler terms, excess hair
I first started noticing excess hair on my neck and chin when I was about 16 after my periods had really settled in after a few years, at first it didn’t overly bother me and it is something other women in my family have and I just thought it was the norm. However, seeing other girls my age not having this excess began to bother me. I wouldn’t really talk about it to people and I didn’t know what to do to get rid of it.
During the time where I had just left senior school and had joined college I created a Piczo website, like most teens, it had lots of photos on there (which was the main aim of your site) I even had a few comment boxes….I remember logging in one night and seeing some really abusive comments on there regarding my friends and the most upsetting was about me and my excess facial hair. To this day, I have never really told anyone how upset I was about this and just how much it still upsets me to remember seeing that and trying to work out who had written it, as I didn’t have a big circle of friends at the time so it had to be someone who was close to me a) because you have to personally know me to see it’s there and b) to know what spot to hit to upset me!
I think when those comments were written, I had just been diagnosed from my GP, he basically told me I had to go on the pill to regulate my hormones, have blood tests every 3 months to check my hormone levels and the worse part….to lose 4 stone. I remember working in a local café at the time and being quite open with my colleagues about it and joking that there was no way on this earth was I going to lose 4 stone!
I think around this point, I started self-waxing which is awful! I would never recommend anyone self-wax, especially not a delicate area such as your neck! It is painful (to begin with) and building the courage up to rip that wax strip off is a struggle and because you can never get them all it ends up looking uneven and you have to pluck more than you probably wax!
After being diagnosed and given some suggestions on how to move forward, I went on to celebrate my 18th Birthday in 2006 & in February/March 2007 I went on my first family holiday to Indianapolis. I remember really eating well and just enjoying myself! Around the same time I lost a lot of friends, due to growing up and drifting apart. I was lucky that I had made 2 really good friends at college, 1 of whom I still speak to and see A LOT of and the other unfortunately we just grew in different directions! They were very much my 2 stable people in my life, I was working full time at a low level admin job and I wanted a bit more, I wanted to progress. I managed to get a new job in July 2007 and I can remember saying to my mum “this is a fresh start, I want to do something about my weight and I want to join a slimming club”. My mum’s friend was going to Slimming World at the time and said I could along with her that week and that was it, I lost 3.5stone in 6 months, in December 2007 I was a size 14 and weighed about 11.5stone, I had a new circle of friends from my new job and yes, people did stare at my excess hair but I noticed the more weight I lost the slower it grew back and the lighter it grew back. FANTASTIC! I had managed to find a cure!
2008 – April/May – I got made redundant and embarked on what I can only describe as a mad first serious relationship! Luckily I managed to find a job within a couple of months (where I still am to this day!) however I can’t say the relationship lasted that long…thing 2 maybe 3 months?! The plus for me was that I was maintaining what I believed to be a healthy weight between 11.5stone -12stone, the hair was still growing slowly and lightish. I had also been on 2 holidays that year with Steph (the 1 friend from college I still speak to) and I was confident in the sun in a bikini, something I thought would never happen. I remember the weight kind of sneaked back on and I stayed around 12stone for about a year. In 2009 I embarked on the next car crash relationship – looking back now I was a complete idiot, in love with someone that didn’t love me back. Whilst wasting 6 months of my life, I started having electrolysis, god knows why, it was painful and the effects weren’t long lasting. Basically, the beautician puts a hot needle into the hair follicle to kill the hair at the root. It’s great if you are working on a small area, but my excess hair is pretty much the whole of my neck and chin, so she would only be able to do a small block at a time. When you are going twice a week and paying like £20 a time you really need to weigh up is it really worth it! I think I stopped having this done around May of 2009 and went back to self-waxing!
2009 was a mixed year for me the first 6 months were a waste (apart from a 2 week holiday to America) but the last 5 months were fantastic, I met Matt fell and love and haven’t looked back since. When I was put on the pill at the age of 17 I was never good a remembering to take it. How I haven’t fallen pregnant is beyond me! In late 2011 I went to see my GP and asked about other methods of contraception, mainly the Merina Coil. I remember her taking my weight and doing some blood tests, she told me that I had a little bit more weight to lose before she would consider me for the coil – so I went back when I was in between 10.5stone and 11stone and my GP was happy that my hormones were level and that I had pretty much cured my PCOS – I have to say the excess hair had pretty much stopped and when it did grow it was really light. So I had the coil fitted and I haven’t looked back since.
One bad thing is that since I have had the coil fitted, my weight (not due to the coil) has increased. Right now I weigh 12stone 11lb and my excess hair is back! So we are back to people staring if I leave it too long between waxes (I have a beautician now), I feel uncomfortable when I know that it’s there, I don’t feel sexy of confident when it’s there and I struggle with my self confidence in general the heavier I am. The hair isn’t light anymore – it is to begin with but if I leave it too long then it’s darker. I am back at slimming world and I am exercising regularly to help reduce my weight and the growth of my excess hair.
You may be wondering why I am sharing this with you tonight, but I want you to know that I have struggled and continue to struggle with this aspect of my life. Unfortunately, my excess hair will always be a part of me. It doesn’t change the person I am, if anything it has made me a bit more thick skinned. I would rather people don’t stare and that they ask what it’s all about, but I can’t force people to make that decision! I would be pleased to tell them that this is the only major side effect I have of PCOS – I am lucky I don’t have acne as I think I would rather cope with excess hair than acne.
Maybe you are reading this and can relate to some of my story – here is some information I have found online about possible symptoms of PCOS:
• irregular periods or no periods at all
• difficulty getting pregnant (because of irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate)
• excessive hair growth (hirsutism) – usually on the face, chest, back or buttocks
• weight gain
• thinning hair and hair loss from the head
• oily skin or acne
So as you can see, it’s not a walk in the park for people who suffer with PCOS! Yes, as well as excess hair there is acne, weight gain, irregular periods and I may also suffer with difficulties getting pregnant. This is something my GP has discussed with me before, I have been advised that if I can maintain a healthy weight and don’t leave it too late in life that I should have no issues in becoming pregnant. To be honest with you after knowing at the age of 17 that the later in life I leave it I may never become a mum, I have got used to it – it’s not something that bothers me anymore and if I can’t conceive naturally then I know there are other options available.
If you think you may have PCOS then go and visit your GP, talk to them about your symptoms and ask to have a blood test AND an ultrasound – the ultrasound is the most important as this will show up cysts in your ovaries! PCOS is most likely to develop in your late teens/early 20’s, so if you don’t think something is right – get it checked out!
When I was first diagnosed, I found a charity called Verity http://www.verity-pcos.org.uk/ I signed onto their forum and for about a year, it really helped me and got me to a good place in my life. I don’t use the website anymore and to be honest because I don’t feel that PCOS is a bad part of my life, it is just part of my life, I try not to dwell on it and I think if I did log on and talk about things, I would be only talking negatively and I would bring myself down.
The one thing I would like for you all to take from this is not to judge people on their appearance. Just because they may have a difference in their appearance to you or what you feel is the “norm” there is no need to stare or treat them differently.
Everyone has a story; why not take 5 minutes to hear theirs!