Wednesday 10 February 2016

#SpeakUp | Living With Long Term Health Conditions (PCOS)

#SpeakUp | Living With Long Term Health Conditions ( PCOS) thriftyvintagefashion blog lifestyle Uk

I think that on first glance this #SpeakUp topic may seem a really narrow, in the sense that it won't apply to many people, however, I don't think that is the case. Even though you may never suffer from PCOS or know someone that does, you are definitely not immune from all other long-term health conditions. I know I am not! I know many family members that suffer from long term health complaints and conditions. As well as this post being extremely interesting, to find out more about the condition. It was also extremely  insightful to see how someone deals with a long term condition and the process of diagnosis. Although maybe not an obvious choice of topic for the series, an important one nonetheless. You never know when a family member, friend or yourself will be diagnosed with a life-threatening condition, so I think it is important to raise as much awareness as possible of the emotional and phycological impact it can have. Today, Sophie is going to be telling her story of being diagnosed with a long-term health condition- PCOS. 

"Late last year, at the age of 19, I was diagnosed with PCOS. I probably should have been prepared for the news - it had been obvious for a while that something was not right with my body. But I preferred to believe that I was making something out of nothing, it was just the way I am and that things were totally normal. But subconsciously I think I have known for a long time that something more was going on. At, 15 I set up a spreadsheet detailing if and when my periods arrived. When I went on the pill I was consistently terrified about the damage I might be doing by adding hormones to my already erratic cycle. I guess you might call it ‘woman’s intuition’, either way I shouldn’t really have been shocked when the doctor dropped the PCOS bombshell.

So what is PCOS? Well, it stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and at it’s core it is a metabolic disorder that disrupts hormones. Typically, it will give a person higher than normal levels of certain sex hormones as well as insulin, which can trigger unpleasant symptoms including irregular periods (or non at all), acne, excess hair and weight gain. Fun! Another symptom may also be a number of cysts on the ovaries (hence the name polycystic ovaries).

After my diagnosis I experienced a whirlwind of emotions. In a sense I was relieved, I finally had answers to so many of the things that had been troubling me. I knew why sometimes I’d have two periods within a month while other times it would be weeks and weeks late, I knew why my skin never improved no matter what I tried, I knew why weight felt so impossible to shift. I wasn’t crazy. But inside I was devastated. To be told as a teenager that there’s an 80% chance I’ll have some sort of problem with fertility felt like a physical punch in the stomach. Like many young women, I have always dreamed of having children of my own one day.

I was packed off out of the doctor’s office with little more than a double sided sheet of A4, the only advice being to keep my weight down and not to Google too far into the condition, lest I find of wealth of fertility based PCOS horror stories (advice which I probably should have taken, but perhaps foolishly ignored).

Because like so many others in the same position, I am in limbo. There’s not a thing I can do to know how my future fertility will be affected by my PCOS, let alone anything I can do about it. Will I ever have my own children? Could I afford IVF if it came to it? What if I miscarry? Maybe I’ll be one of the lucky ones? Feeling out of control of my own fate is a constant mental battle and in honesty I’m still trying to figure out how to deal with that side of things. The process of having to re-understand myself in light of it has made me think about everything from my femininity to my self-esteem, my willingness to embrace change, my visions of myself as a mother, my fears about my future health, my ideas about relationships and what I want from life.

When Nicole launched #SpeakOut, I really felt compelled to reach out to young women who may be in a similar position to me, or even those who may be worried about things that are happening to their body. What I want to say to you girls is that PCOS operates within you, you do not operate within it. You are bigger than it, and it is so much smaller than you. See yourself for what you are, a whole, unique and complete person. PCOS does not define you or make you any less of a woman. As with so many other things in life, we cannot stop it, but we can control our own actions. While there is no cure, simply staying healthy, keeping active and looking after my body has helped me regain some sense of control. Giving my body the best possible chance to do it’s thing when the time is right feels very empowering. Another thing I would say is to get educated – the book featured in the photograph of this post has been a godsend to me. Knowing the facts is half the battle of coming to terms with and taking control of PCOS and this book contains so much useful information which I personally had no idea about.

I do hope somebody gets something out of this post, however big or small. I’ve been very nervous about putting it out there but with an estimated 1 in 10 women living with PCOS (whether they know about it or not), it can feel surprisingly lonely as a sufferer. If you think you may have PCOS, please do go and see a doctor, they are there to help you! If you have any questions or worries I’d be more than happy to try and answer them, I am by no means an expert but I know it can be comforting to speak to someone who genuinely understands what you are going through. Feel free to contact me through any of my social media links or use the comments section below.

Thank you for reading, wishing you all a very happy and healthy week!"

To summarise, whether it be PCOS or another long-term health condition- you are not alone! Nothing can prepare you for when you hear the bombshell news, trust me I have been there with my own family! The most important thing is, you stay strong! Things will get better, time will pass but it is extremely important that you reach out for help like Sophie said! Don't forget to look out for and support the family members or the friend too, you will mean so much to them! No one is immune- don't ignore it!

I hope you enjoyed this post! Thank you so more Sophie for writing such helpful and insightful post!

If you would like to contribute to the #SpeakUp series by writing your own guest post on a topic you think affects young people's health and wellbeing, that you have been through. You can find out more details HERE or drop me an email at and I will get back to you as soon as possible! 

I really hope that lots of you will be able to join in with the Twitter chat between 8-9pm using #SpeakUp where we will be discussing body image and accepting yourself further!

Are you suffering from a long term health condition? Or known anyone that has? How did it make you feel? What did you do about it? Let me know in the comments below! 

Thank you for reading, as always x 

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