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My Wish for Those With PCOS Who Feel Like the Doctor's Office Is a Battle Zone

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Until today I had never walked into a doctor’s office and been mentally ready for the visit. My doctor visits usually consisted of week’s worth of worry, preparation of all the anecdotes about why I am there and why I will not accept the same answers as before, and a general dragging of my feet as I enter the battle zone.

For anyone who doesn’t have a chronic illness or who isn’t overweight, you may not relate to this, but for some of us the doctor’s office is not a place of getting answers to our problems. It’s a space where we often feel unheard, disrespected and belittled.

To any critics out there crying “overreaction,” let me tell you a quick story. In 2016 I was the smallest I’d been in years but whenever I would try to up my cardio I felt like I was going to pass out. I was sent to a cardiologist to get tests done to see if my heart was to blame. The stress test didn’t show any issues, but I was shamed for not being able to finish it. As I sat there barely covered by the small robe, the cardiologist decided to sit and make small talk me as the nurse grabbed my charts. The cardiologist then proceeded to tell me that if I lost weight I would be sure to marry a man and be happy. This was completely out of the blue and I just gawked at him. How was that an appropriate thing to say to someone who is worried about their heart? Why did he think he had the right to assume I was single, comment on my weight and insinuate that my weight made me miserable all in the same few sentences?

I sat in the parking lot and cried. I had worked out for months, restricted my eating, said no to foods I loved and beaten myself up mentally for years, yet none of it was worth it, according to this stranger.

I wish I would have reported him. His comment added to a flare up of my eating disorder over the next few months which eventually led me to have to seek treatment later in the year.

This hasn’t been the only instance where my body was at blame. I’ve been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) since I was 15 and it took a decade for someone to finally tell it wasn’t my fault.

Ten years. Ten years of different diets, body shame, an eating disorder, countless horrible thoughts about my body, staring into the mirror and hating every inch I saw. Ten years of trying to use whitening lotion between my thighs to make the PCOS-darkened skin lighter. Ten years of feeling ashamed whenever I had to shave and pluck the hair on my chin. Ten years of wishing I could cut the fat from my body. Ten years later and someone finally told me it. wasn’t. my. fault.

I have been so lucky to have found support from my friends, my mother, and online. Now I have finally found a doctor who supports me too.

PCOS is a chronic illness that stems mainly from an imbalance in the pituitary gland. It affects different women in different ways. It can cause cystic acne, hair growth, high testosterone, hair loss, hair growth on the face, ovarian cysts, insulin resistance, difficulty with weight loss, and infertility. In summation, it’s nasty.

Women with PCOS may also experience depression, anxiety and eating disorders, much of which can probably be linked back to the PCOS. Since we live in a society obsessed with outward appearance, women with PCOS tend to feel ashamed purely from a genetic illness that they had no control over getting.

Having a doctor who understand PCOS beyond just its medical definition is priceless. PCOS is often treated with weight loss, which is a costly misconception. What women with PCOS need in balance, in all sense of the word. Having a doctor tell you that to fix your PCOS you need to lose weight is ludicrous on so many levels.

Focusing on weight loss at any cost means the body undergoes stress. Stress then raises the hormones and inflammation in your body and exacerbates the effects of PCOS. Dieting causes stress. Weight going down and then up causes stress. Eating disorders cause stress. Bad body image causes stress. The kicker is that weight doesn’t really affect PCOS. Women of any size can have it, so why do only plus-size women get told that their weight is to blame when scientifically that is untrue?

Find a doctor who can treat all of the different aspects of your body. Not just your PCOS, but also your anxiety, depression, eating disorder, or any other health issues. I hope that every woman who has PCOS can find a doctor like I finally have that will finally unburden you from the blame and work with you.

Organizations like Health At Every Size have been an absolute blessing to me. They give you support and they have lists of doctors and other professionals who have pledged to treat you as a human.

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Originally published: December 1, 2018
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