Hi! I’m Kathrin, I’m 37 and I was diagnosed with PCOS in my early 30s, which I consider to be quite late in life. My struggle with PCOS symptoms, however, started much earlier than that.
“I didn’t even know PCOS was a thing!”
For me it all started when I hit puberty. My skin got worse, I started to have a pretty elaborate hair removal regimen rather early on and my periods were anything but comfortable. I didn’t think much about it and was mostly busy figuring out how I could best hide my cosmetic imperfections and get through yet another painful cycle. Why didn’t I seek help? Well.. the truth is that I was far too embarrassed to bring it up. I didn’t feel comfortable talking about it with my friends or family, let alone a medical professional. In my mind I had just gotten unlucky, but never thought that my symptoms were related to a medical condition. I didn’t even know that PCOS was a thing! What followed were many years of struggles with self-esteem and social anxiety.
If you know me, you would be surprised to hear that. And the truth is that I spent a large part of my early 20s trying to prove my worth. Through academic achievement, through successes at work. Truth is that I felt like I needed to make up for my appearance. I don’t know how much money I spent over the years dealing with everything that I felt was wrong with my body. Hair removal specialists, dermatologists, diet books, fitness fads, make-up… I remember two occasions, when I brought up my issues – once with a general practitioner, once with my gynecologist. Both told me, that I just had to cope, and that there wasn’t much they could do.
“Test me for this!”
In my early 30s I decided I had had enough. Enough of spending tons of money every month to go through the whole ordeal and discomfort of waxing appointments. I was going to get permanent hair removal and to finally get rid of the problem once and for all. When I turned up for my consultation I had to wait for a bit and that wait was literally life-changing as I found an informational pamphlet in the waiting room.
“Certain conditions like PCOS, hirsutism or hypertrichosis can affect hair growth.” I read this sentence and then re-read it. I had never heard of any of these things. As one does, I started to google. You can probably imagine how big my eyes got, when I read up on what PCOS was and which symptoms were often associated with it. Had I had PCOS my entire life? Was it not just me? That night I couldn’t sleep and I kept re-reading definitions and blogs, joined all kinds of forums where thousands of women were discussing their struggles and I eventually decided that I needed to speak to a doctor. I was nervous and a little scared. I had read about all the terrible experiences other women had had. I figured, if I learned as much as I could and made sure I could ask the right questions, I’d have a better chance of being taken seriously.
“Getting Diagnosed with PCOS was bittersweet.”
I must have read every blog and article on the internet, when I was nervously sitting in my OB-GYN’s waiting room a couple of weeks later, and truth is that I somehow already knew. My periods had been off for a long time, my cosmetic struggles with hair and skin, the constant battle with my weight… and on this day 15-ish years after I’d first experienced symptoms I finally got my diagnosis: “Yes, you have PCOS.”
As said, I can’t say I was surprised. What was interesting for me though was that I was feeling a sense of relief. Finally I knew that it wasn’t just me, and that I wasn’t alone. On the other hand, I now had to come to terms with the fact that I had a chronic condition. Like many other women, I was put on birth control at first, which frankly didn’t really work for me. What did change for the better though was that I started to have more empathy for myself. I started to understand why certain things about me were the way they were and I became more patient. I’d spent my entire life being mad at myself. Why me? Why was I struggling? Having an answer was liberating. I now knew “the enemy” and while I knew it was going to take a while, I was determined to figure out how to live well with PCOS.
What helped me eventually was a combination of yoga, a mostly whole-foods plant-based diet and a lot of work on my mental health. Today I think I live a well-balanced life and my PCOS is well-managed, but it took me a lot of trial and error to get here. I had to learn a lot – about PCOS, hormones, but also about myself and my body. Sometimes I think what my life would have been like had I been diagnosed earlier and then I think about how crazy it is that I didn’t even know about PCOS until my 30s. Had I known earlier, maybe I would have been diagnosed earlier. And this is exactly why I am so grateful for Verity PCOS’s work and efforts spreading awareness for this condition that affects millions of women. Thank you for all that you do! I hope my story can add to destigmatising the condition further and contribute to bringing more attention to PCOS – in the UK and beyond.