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What It's Like to Be a Teenager With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

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Feeling self-conscious isn’t uncommon when you’re 17, but it’s made so much worse when you have a condition with symptoms that affect your appearance. A couple months ago, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), although I have had symptoms of it ever since I first hit puberty. The symptoms it causes are embarrassing and difficult to hide. Everyday things like looking in the mirror and being comfortable in my clothes are a struggle because, if I’m honest, PCOS makes me hate my body.

Having to shave the dark hair from my face and neck every morning makes me feel unfeminine and disgusting. I cover my face in makeup to make my skin look clean and hairless, but I still know it’s there. And each morning, it’s back. I am disgusted and embarrassed by my own body until I can shave the hair again.

If I don’t take birth control, my periods strike randomly — typically at an inconvenient time, like when I’m at a water park. Sometimes I can go months without a period, and then when it finally does come, it’s messy and incredibly painful. However, the pain isn’t just limited to when I’m on my period. Before, during and any time in between my periods, I can have cramps with pain ranging from annoying to excruciating. There have been numerous times when the pain has been so severe that I couldn’t move from my bed. This can be very difficult to deal with when I have school to attend and a job to maintain. It feels like I’m fighting a silent battle with my own body.

While it may not affect me right now, I’ve been told I might struggle to have kids. At the moment, because I also struggle with OCD, I am absolutely terrified of pregnancy. But what if someday I want to have children? I want to have that option. Knowing at such a young age that may not be possible in the future is strange. I am afraid for the grief it may cause down the road.

Trying to figure out my eating habits is a struggle. It doesn’t matter how much or how little or which foods I eat — it just feels like my weight will never be right. I watch other girls drink Slurpees and Starbucks without a problem, yet when I do the same, I feel guilty and angry at myself. I feel like my weight — and, in all honestly, all of my PCOS symptoms — are my fault.

Some of my symptoms can be taken care of with medication. It’s a pain to remember to take my birth control every night, but my period is finally regular and less painful. I’m incredibly thankful for that. However, that alone isn’t enough. I was supposed to take Metformin, but when I tried, it hurt my stomach so badly I couldn’t deal with it anymore after a couple of days. There’s an extended release version of the medication I can try, but I’m nervous it will cause the same side effects. And it still won’t fix everything. There’s a chance it will help my weight, but it won’t get rid of the hair. It won’t fix the fact that I feel different from everyone else. It won’t make me hate my body less.

I am grateful my PCOS does not put me in significant danger. I’m grateful it’s just something that’s frustrating, not life-threatening. I know it does not make me ugly or disgusting. I know it’s not my fault. But knowing these things does not make it less difficult. Knowing these things does not make it any less embarrassing when you’re in a situation where you have to wear a bathing suit around other girls your age, or when you’re at a sleepover and you have to run to the bathroom first thing in the morning to make sure the hair on your chin isn’t too visible.

I can only hope my PCOS will become easier to deal with as I get older. But for now, as I try to find the right treatments, it remains frustrating and embarrassing.

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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: December 20, 2016
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