Tonight I want to talk some more about PCOS and fat acceptance. I suffer PCOS, and for some years have been quite active in the "cysterhood". Finding women out there that knew all the things I was going through was a hugely healing and strengthening process for me, as prior to being welcomed into the cysterhood, I had always felt inadequate and somehow less than other women. Mostly because I didn't fit what was sold to me as normal for a woman physically. Not just in my body shape and size, but because my body didn't do things that other women's bodies seemed to do naturally. And as my fellow cysters know all too well, sometimes our bodies do extra things that other women's bodies do not do.
To start with, it was nightmarish for me to get a diagnosis of what was wrong with me. In hindsight, I first presented to a doctor with PCOS symptoms when I was 12 years old. I was first officially diagnosed an astonishing 20 years later! Can you believe it? For 20 years I went to doctor after doctor after doctor with all of these things that were happening to me, only to be either misdiagnosed or fobbed off.
And of course, the most common response from doctors in that 20 years was "Lose weight." With no explanation of what losing weight would actually do (other than make me thin) or what was wrong with me. I can remember at 19 going to the doctor after having bled heavily and been in pain for 18 months straight and his treatment? "Go and lose some weight and find yourself a bloke, when you're ready to have babies, we'll look at it all."
How this is not grossly negligent, I do not know. But it was indicative of most of the "treatment" that I got over that 20 years. PCOS sufferers often suffer debilitating depression as a result of the vast amounts of hormones flooding their bodies, but can you imagine what this kind of treatment at the hands of the medical profession does to women who already have low self esteem, feel unfeminine and who often live in vast amounts of pain?
However, at 32 years of age, I finally got a diagnosis. With a very good doctor who was, and is, the most sensitive I have ever encountered and I've been her patient ever since. However, her first treatment was to get me losing weight. Being the good girl, I followed her advice, and we tried a LOT of things to get me to lose weight. From food diaries to Metformin to the worst of them all... duramine (legally prescribed speed - EVIL stuff).
I joined a lot of PCOS groups and forums online. I met literally hundreds of amazing women, some of whom I am now lucky to call my dearest friends, all over the world. But the entire culture of "fat is evil" is rampant within the cystersphere, from high profile cysters who have their own boards who promote boot camps and radically restrictive diets, which I believe are projections of their own fat fear and self hatred, to the high promotion of weight loss surgery, diet fads that come and go, and many frightening medications that make cysters very, very sick with their side effects (oh that duramine!)
As per my last post, I did lose weight, a LOT of weight (though not with the duramine, that shit nearly killed me) and guess what? My PCOS symptoms got worse. And I fell apart, emotionally, mentally and physically.
But as hitting rock bottom often is, it was the push I needed to start swimming to the surface in my life. The fabulous GP referred me to a psychologist who specialises in cognitive behavioural therapy. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.
It started with finding some confidence. Not being so hard on myself. Building up the self esteem. I started reaching out to other cysters the way many had reached out to me, because I want to give back and the feeling of seeing a new cyster friend hit that moment of "Oh my God I am NOT a FREAK!" is just wonderful. I started pushing back gently with my GP about the weight loss thing, and amazingly, she has responded positively. I gave up the Metformin (which I will admit, did give me a clockwork cycle if nothing else) and found the fat acceptance movement. I stopped obsessing about food and exercise and my body and focused on feeling good, inside and out. And I feel healthier than ever right now.
I really feel that we cysters are put through so much. To start with our bodies aren't like "normal" women's bodies, and that not only causes us pain and low self esteem, but it worries us as well. Then we go through the whole cycle of doctors telling us we're too fat, lose weight and our troubles will go away which is so often simply not true. Then they shove us through all kinds of invasive, painful and humiliating medical procedures and drugs to try to get us to lose weight. Let alone the ones they foist on us if we want to have babies, which so often just don't work either. Finally they wash their hands of us once we either finish our breeding or decide not to breed. As though the value of our health is only valid when we are breeding. And finally when we do reach menopause, they ignore the fact that it is more likely for us to have traumatic menopause because of the different hormone patterns.
If you're a sufferer of PCOS, leave me a comment, tell me your experiences. Particularly around fat acceptance/discrimination with your PCOS.
I want to connect cysters up within the fatosphere, without all of the fat hatred and the "You must lose weight or you're never going to survive PCOS" schtick. I want to connect up the single cysters, the lesbian cysters, the very young cysters and the older cysters, the cysters who have chosen not to have children or who have reached the end of that fight. I want it to be about who you are as wonderful, strong, resilient women, not about your body shape and breeding abilities.
Most of all, I want cysters to find their self esteem, to learn that they are awesome women and that the healthiest thing you can do is learn to love yourself.