Hi! My name is Sophie, I’m 23 and was diagnosed with PCOS when I was 15 years old. I was experiencing acne and irregular periods when I was sent for a scan of my ovaries. After many tests doctors confirmed that I had PCOS but they insensitively said that I was still young and didn’t need to worry about it. They then mentioned that it will lead me to having difficulties conceiving when the time came and I would face a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity. This was devastating to hear as a 15 year old girl. I felt very confused (during an already confusing time!). My acne started getting worse a year on when I was 16, so I went back to see the doctor who put me on the Dianette birth control pill which masked my symptoms and gave me an artificial ‘period’ every month.
Fast forward to being 18, I had just started university when I decided to come off the pill. I had moved from Hong Kong to the UK and was in a new environment, with new people, and no family around me. I felt really alone. Coming off the pill during this time really affected my mental health and my body. A week after coming off the pill my acne came back with a vengeance, I developed sugar cravings and started late night binge eating which was related to my declining mental health. I started gaining weight and then my periods stopped. I tried Roaccutane, a drug prescribed to me for my acne, but it made my skin inflammation even worse! I spent every night looking for answers and for reasons why I was suffering in this way. I then remembered I had PCOS and that the whole time the pill was wreaking havoc on my hormonal system. It was at that moment that I realised I had to deal with the root cause.
After much research I turned to alternative functional medicine and found a way to manage my symptoms through the use of traditional Chinese medicine, my skin cleared up and I got my periods back. This of course was not the ‘cure’ as I had just managed to take control over the imbalance of my body. I still struggle with acne and my ovulation occurs much later in my cycle. It takes a lot of time to uncover what diets, skincare, supplements are likely to work for you as everyone is different. This approach will not work for everyone but I believe it can work for a lot of people. To this day I am still trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t (it’s definitely a journey). Some days I feel bright eyed and energetic, other days there’s nothing but lethargy and only my bed will do! I have been to see a body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) therapist to uncover my anxieties around my skin and didn’t realise how much your mental state is reflective in your menstrual health too. I have learned that healing, both mentally and physically, is not linear and having PCOS is not easy, we have to take things day by day – cycle by cycle.
What keeps me going is knowing that I am not alone. Through my online research into PCOS I found Verity! Reading the community posts has really shown me that PCOS is individual for everyone and joining Verity has really helped me to understand that. My boyfriend has been an amazing support system, never have I ever met someone (especially from a younger male audience) so understanding and comfortable around the idea of female health. He gives me hope about the future generations and how we can turn PCOS and women’s health into a less controversial topic. My mum also has spent a ridiculous amount of time taking me to see the chinese doctors, posting medicine from Hong Kong to me and translating all sorts! Without her I really don’t know what I would have done. I feel really grateful for the small wins and huge favours that people do to make my days brighter and more ‘normal’. Whether it is my boyfriend telling me to not feel guilty about eating outside of my diet or my mum coming with me to an appointment, it really is the people who you surround yourself with that can make this journey easier and a lot more fun! (hello new recipe testing with the family!!)
I believe everything happens for a reason and without PCOS I wouldn’t have started my journey to study as a holistic health practitioner so I can learn to help empower and reframe the thinking around PCOS. The universe never gives you a hurdle that you can’t overcome and I believe us PCOS sufferers can overcome this together <3