I am Sonia Polzella, 29, I’m a full time Marketing Coordinator for ABB, a robotics and industrial technology company. In my spare time I’m also a part time blogger for my own lifestyle blog and I volunteer as a group leader for the Verity PCOS group in Gloucestershire. In support of Verity and anyone suffering with PCOS I want to talk about my journey with PCOS and discuss how I manage my symptoms in the hope that it will help you take charge of your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
‘Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is the most common female hormone condition and manifests differently in each individual. It can be incredibly devastating to a woman’s self-esteem and quality of life.’ This is a quote from the Verity website which sums up how I feel about PCOS. My symptoms, when left unmanaged, hugely affect my wellbeing and self-esteem. Being diagnosed is a different journey for everyone and happens at different stages of life. My early 20s were a difficult time for me. I’ve tried almost every type available but my body did not react well to contraceptives, which many women find extremely useful in suppressing PCOS symptoms.
I started taking the progestogen only pill, Cerazette, at the age of 17 in 2008 but suffered from a number of difficult side effects. I then tried the injection, the implant, the IUD non hormonal coil (but had this removed due to six months of non stop heavy bleeding), I tried the IUS hormonal coil then two types of the combined pill, Yasmin and Microgynon. None of these agreed with me, they all gave me awful side effects which were hard to manage and affected my daily life. Every type of contraception I have tried has intensified my depression and mood swings, I didn’t feel like myself whilst I was on any of them. I decided to come off contraception all together in 2015 when I was 24 as it clearly wasn’t right for me. Stopping birth control brought all the symptoms of my PCOS to the surface as they had been suppressed by contraceptives for so many years.
It took a long time for my GP to diagnose me with PCOS. I used to complain about my inability to lose weight, tiredness, irregular menstrual cycles and excess hair in unwanted places but my doctor seemed to keep going in circles with “let’s test your thyroid”, “what about a blood test?”, “do you eat well enough?”, “do you exercise?”, “It’s your hormones”. “It’s this/that, try this/that”. Nothing worked. Finally, after changing location and doctor, I was listened to and was referred for a scan which confirmed I had PCOS. This was back in 2012.
I was immediately referred to a PCOS specialist in London, who confirmed everything I had already learned through the Verity charity and online blogs, having researched excessively as soon as I was diagnosed. I found that the level of support for people dealing with PCOS was very minimal. Help and support is so important as it can determine how a person will accept and manage their diagnosis which is why Verity is such an important source of support for those who have been newly diagnosed. After finding out I had PCOS I saw countless doctors, specialists and trainers who all came to the same conclusion that “it’s just not that simple” and “you just have to live with it”. That’s when I decided to take control of my own PCOS symptoms and manage them in the best way I could for me.
I have learned that self love and care are vitally important when you have PCOS. After years of intense exercise/ training, bad eating habits, Keto diets, eating barely anything at all, the one thing I have come to realise is that restricting food and doing too much exercise did not make me happy. I’ve never been a skinny thing, but equally, I have always been blessed with an upbringing of a mediterranean diet – so I love eating a nutritional varied diet. However, like most, I also love chocolate, cake and cocktails! For me, going gluten-free and cutting down on lactose and sugar changed the way I felt and gave me much more natural energy. I still eat what I want, when I want, but I am mindful about the effects it’ll have on me now and in the long run. Don’t get me wrong, I have the occasional cocktail and cake binge!
I have spent too long worrying about calorie counting, weighing out my food and inputting the info in My Fitness Pal. For me the keto diet has been the most successful of the lot but let’s face it, it’s not sustainable and is boring after a while! I try my best to fit in any exercise I can but I do not put pressure on myself. Some weeks I’ll do a mixture of zumba and yoga, other times I’ll go for a swim or a really long hike. I do it for me, and because I want to be the best possible version of myself with lots of energy and good health. I do my best to have as many moments of pause and meditation as I can, at my desk, in the bath, or in a comfy armchair. Sometimes I need assisted meditation through Headspace or Calm apps.
In terms of beauty and products I have tried and tested so many different things. Personally, I swear by Neal’s Yard Remedies. I have found that medication and supplements can be difficult to manage and get right. Although there is no scientific evidence of their benefits for PCOS sufferers I am still mixing up my supplements and have been for several years. I try to maintain being as healthy as possible, as naturally as possible. For me, the most successful of the lot has been a daily dose of myo-inositol, it lowers my insulin levels, and I find that it balances my hormones.
Everyone with PCOS is different, there isn’t a one size fits all when it comes to supplements, diets and products. It takes time to find what is right for you. A lot of trial and error is sometimes needed. But this is what seems to work for me. I hope you find what works for you, just remember to be kind to yourself!
Love Sonia. x
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