When I was in my mid-twenties (which, I admit, was not too long ago at the time of this blog post) I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
I had gone to see my gynoocologist because my body hadn’t done it’s thing for 5 months, and almost 12 months before that. She ran a few labs, did a ultrasound, and found that my testosterone levels were slightly elevated and it appeared I may have multiple follicles on my ovaries.
“Do you notice abnormal dark hair growth on your body anywhere?” she asked.
“No.” I answered.
Her follow-up question: “How about any increase in acne?”
“Well yea, a little, but I think it’s related to last week’s cheese overdose.”
I had also chalked this up to going off the birth control pill and my hormones being a mess.
“Well, although you don’t have the ‘typical’ PCOS presentation, I think you do have the syndrome. Since there is no cure, the best answer is for you to go back on birth control to control your symptoms until you and your husband decide it’s time for kids.”
I stared at her, astonished. I have PCOS? This must be a mistake. Me, who only stayed home sick from school 1 day in my life (which I think I faked, by the way. Sorry Mom!) was being diagnosed with a syndrome?” On top of that, she wants me to go back on the medicine that I was adamant about not taking anymore. I felt lost. Confused. Angry. A few days passed and I started to notice recurring thoughts reinforcing this label I was given.“I have PCOS.” Life seemed duller. Although nothing else had changed - I was still playing soccer, having fun with friends, doing a job I love - I somehow felt like I was less now that I had been labeled. I felt out of control of my life, my future, and my health.
I considered going back on birth control but couldn’t stand the thought of it. It was against what I wanted for myself in my life for various reasons so I decided to do some research. As it turns out, PCOS (like all diagnoses, by the way) is simply a label for a collection of symptoms: amenorrhea, acne, hair growth, multiple follicles on an ovary, weight gain, etc. Most people are “non-typical” and don’t have everysymptom but they all still fall under one umbrella - PCOS. I started to change my self-talk. Instead of branding myself with the label of PCOS, I started to break it down into the symptoms I was having - amenorrhea (lack of a menstruation), elevated testosterone, mild acne. I knew that the amenorrhea was likely caused by the imbalance of hormones so I decided to see a practitioner I believed could help me naturally, Dr. Marlene Merritt. She surveyed my symptoms and helped me establish a program with a variety of natural supplements that would help my ovaries, pituitary, and thyroid all get back on track. And they did. Shortly after my cycle returned and normalized. My acne started to clear as well. If I had taken the diagnosis of PCOS for face value and approached it as something that was outside of my control I would have never hopped back in the driver's seat of my life and I’d likely still be where I was sitting in that office: labeled and feeling hopeless.
The point of my “Dear Diary” story is not so that you know all of my medical woes, but to illustrate one point: “Parkinsons Disease” is a label that is issued to someone who exhibits a collection of symptoms: slow movements, rigid muscles, tremor, impaired balance, shuffling gait, freezing... the list goes on. Each person is different and may have some but not all of those listed above. The medical community only functions on labels. Doctors are not able to prescribe you medication or perform any tests without issuing you a label. My challenge for you is to stop looking at that label as something to be fought. You won’t win if you fight the label. Why? Because the label cannot be fought. However, you CAN target your specific symptoms because they are measurable.
Each day you have the ability to take massive action against your symptoms. By implementing a better sleep routine, eating more vegetables, avoiding processed foods, drinking more water, or doing 5 minutes of deep breathing or meditation, you can start to observe the effects of your actions on your symptoms. This will help you regain the feeling of control over your life and allow you to start erasing that label imposed upon you by the medical community. Parkinson’s should not define you. You have the power each day to take action towards health and healing and get you back into the driver’s seat of your life.