Sunday, May 23, 2010

Living with PCOS in HS

So it would be unreal for me to write a novel all at once about my battle with this less then silent condition. But I can write chapters.

I was diagnosed with PCOS in 1993. I was 14 years old. To give the girls who know of this condition and its history back then it was just starting to be known as PCOD - Poly Cystic Ovarian Disease. We know now that the condition is not a disease but a syndrome. A very confusing distinction which is this, as I understand it: a disease is a condition in which may be life threatening, a syndrome is not life threatening in itself but may be a catalyst to some diseases.

There is controversial studies on what causes PCOS. Whether it is hereditary or a condition imposed upon the body by hormone inefficiencies. I'm not a scientist I really can't debate.

So this post is really about how PCOS effected my high school life. Bare with me this is a long time ago. But it was the start of how I would learn to deal with PCOS on a daily basis and how my attitude would change as I became more comfortable with myself and my symptoms.

The first symptom I had was very frequent menstrual cycles with severe and heavy cramping and bleeding. I used to beg my parents to let me stay home from school. The only position I was comfortable in was the fetal position with heat on my back. Back when I was first exhibiting these symptoms there was little known about the condition and the fact is my parents just did not understand. They can not be blamed - they just did not know.

So here I was going into the already pressure filled social environment of high school in complete pain. I must have been a joy!! Actually, I can tell you that I was not a joy to be around at all. Living with extreme pain makes it very hard to pay attention, to develop relationships and to keep a "cool" head. But the pain would not be my only problem caused by this condition.

Shortly after the pain began I had the joy of experiencing severe mood swings. Baring a temper that was very hard to control. I imagine it must have been hard to be friends with someone who one minute was sweet and understanding and the next minute baring teeth so sharp that running was the only option. The tears - I was able to keep those to myself most of the time. Finding a space behind stairs or in a closet - or eventually my car in the parking lot.

It was hard to find friends - much less friends that understood. Looking back now I realize that it was not that people didn't want to be my friend, it was that it was just too hard to be a friend to someone whose attitude was so harsh most of the time. An evil kid - it must have seemed like I was an evil evil girl.

Then the worse thing that can happen to a HS girl happened. I began to gain weight. Now do not let me disillusion you, I have always been a big girl but in HS I was becoming enormous - or at least in my eyes. I had significant weight gain anyhow. To give you an idea: when I started HS I was a size 8 when I graduated HS I was between a 16 and 18.

Lose weight, lose weight, lose weight. It's what my parents said, it's what my classmates said and more important it was what my doctors said. This did really well for the self esteem. But the truth of the matter is I was not eating any worse then any other of my classmates. And in most cases did not eat at all because of the weight gain. I walked for hours, even started going to the weight room available at the HS I attended after hours. But the weight continued to pack on.

Shortly after, I began to grow hair, where I definitely did not want it. It began to grow on my chin, on my belly, becoming more thick on my arms and legs. In a teenage girls mind I was becoming a monster. Now let me first say that I am writing this from a teenage girl's view which are always a bit over exaggerated. But the truth be told it is how I felt. I started going for the 2 week waxing sessions and still had to shave on the off time.

Then my menstrual cycles started to become infrequent. I would maybe have one every 4 months - but they would last close to 3 weeks. The GYN decided to put me on birth control at that point. Remember those mood swings I was experiencing?? Well times them by 10. That is what happened when I was put on BCP. During HS I was put on 4 different BCP and all of them I had adverse reactions to.

This was the most depressing time in my life. High School girls always have self confidence issues, I don't care how confident they act. There is always that self esteem issue lingering. It's what makes them part of this group or that. I have only met a few girls who have been true to themselves throughout there life. I was not one of those. Who I was in HS - that person no longer exists. I learned through my complicated HS life and for that I am thankful.

Things have definitely changed for me, friends have changed, moods have changed, happiness level have changed. I can be true to myself. I can deal with PCOS on a whole other level. PCOS doesn't make me anymore - I have grown to be above it.

Yes, it is still there. I am reminded on every blood work result, the pills I take every morning to control it, the hard time I had getting pregnant with my kiddos. But it no longer defines me. And in a sense it has made me stronger. I can live with this. I can control it. PCOS may always be part of me but it will never define me again.

If you believe you or one of your loved ones has PCOS please visit:


  1. I'm sorry for everything you went through, Melissa. One of my biggest regrets and 'wish-I-could-go-back moments from my younger years is that I was friends with some people who picked on you, and that I didn't say anything. I hope you can forgive me. I am so sorry for any pain they/I caused you... how awful to have gone through the hard teen years with PCOS on top of everything else. You are a survivor.

    It's funny (not the ha-ha type), but I had a half-sister diagnosed with PCOS when I was in college, and I thought one of my friends had it, too. But I didn't know how to tell her - I mean, really, do you want to be told by a friend "I think you have this syndrome, because it causes weight gain, hair growth, mood swings, etc" - umm, not so much! But when she started having trouble conceiving after she was married, I brought it up. Sure enough, PCOS... I had never been so sad to be right in my life. She did go on to get some mild treatment and they were able to conceive on their own, their beautiful daughter is 6 years old. :)

    You should be proud of the journey you've taken, who you have become as a result, and of sharing your story. Lots of hugs.

  2. Marliena - I learned from all my experiences in HS. In fact, a lot of those kids who teased me in HS became party friends of mine after HS (a learning experience in itself!) But the truth of the matter is that it made me stronger. It made me love a little more and trust a little less - which is not always a bad lesson.

    I am a true believer that what we live through and experience only makes us stronger and more wise. We learn how to teach our kids and what morals to live by all on how we grew up, our ups and our downs.

    Other then PCOS being my worst enemy I had a blast in HS. I met my best friend for life (other than my husband)and I learned how to live. I rebelled and partied, which made me more content with being a grown up later.

    And the teasing?? All of that is part of growing up. Yes, I won't lie and say it didn't hurt at the time. But to tell you the truth I can't remember most of the teasing now. Nor those who did the teasing. And the absolute truth is that I teased just as much as I got teased. And I know there are those I should apologize to, its an unfortunate part of HS.

    I am sorry to hear about your Half sister and your friend. It was hard to deal with being diagnosed at a young age but I imagine it must be harder diagnosed later on in life. There is so much more known about this condition now than there was then. I am a big advocate for getting an early diagnosis. 10-12% of women have this syndrome in the US alone. New statistics in the UK are showing an even larger % of women are being diagnosed.

    It is very sad.

    Thank you for reading my stories.