Then one day, I noticed my clothes didn't quite fit any more... and my hair lacked its usual thick, and straight gloss. I was changing, and almost literally overnight. My neck, knees, and joints, became darkened and velvety, and my parents daily lectured me about brushing my hair properly, showering properly, and about being on a diet. I became... a virtual shadow of myself.
|Myself, at 5 years, 6 years, 8 years, and 11 years old.|
Throughout the years, I've lived with a lot of guilt; I've thought that somehow, as a child, I did this to myself... Even though my eating habits never changed, even though I never had a chance to sit inside and play video games all day, even though I was one of the most active children that I know. I really didn't understand that I had one of the most common, reproductive, endocrine illnesses, that can affect women. And how could I? I was just a child...
With time, I completely lost myself. I lost my energy, and became depressed and prone to anger fits; I became extremely angry at myself, my family, school, and others. I became a virtual empty vessel, laying on the sofa most days, with no energy to move, not even to change out of my school uniform. As typical, my parents attributed this to laziness... while I tried to convince them that there was something wrong with me. Many fights ensued.
It was not until I was 15 years old, when my oldest sister became a Medical Technologist, that she (someone in my family) noticed the changes within me, and decided I needed some follow up blood work. I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism, and after never quite receiving a consistent period, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
I was not told much about these conditions at all, by the medical community. I was mostly told that I needed to take medications, forever... and different types of medications depending on whether or not I chose to have children, some day... and that I could "easily" lose weight, if I wanted to do so. I was certainly not told that they could lead to Type 2 Diabetes. My parents moved on, didn't look further into any of it, still blamed me much for my situation, and considered my conditions just another thing... Another excuse for me not to do what I needed to do.
In short, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (or PCOS) is a condition suspected to be triggered by hyperinsulinism. It is not known what causes this hyperinsulinism. New studies suggest a genetic association. Basically, the pancreas produces excessive amounts of insulin, causing massive weight gain (in most women), eventual insulin resistance (if you have the predisposition for it), reactive hypoglycemia, Acanthosis Nigricans, and enlargement of the ovaries. The ovaries, will in turn, produce excessive amounts of androgens, or male hormones, and struggle releasing eggs during ovulation periods. Many women develop small cysts where the eggs got stuck, and failed to be released. Infertility is often a consequence. The symptoms vary greatly among women, and no two women are completely alike. This is a condition which makes it extremely easy to gain weight, and extremely difficult to lose it.
Suffice it to say that I have never been fully successful at controlling my weight, my emotional binge disordered eating fits related to my lack of self esteem and guilt issues, and my depression, and fast forward to 2007.
I had a very successful job at a local manufacturing company, as a Senior Human Resource Assistant. I loved my job. I loved being busy, constantly; being a perfectionist, and bringing the best of ME to my work. I had taken a position that had been left a mess and shambles by a predecessor, and turned it into a thing of beauty. I had a crazy work environment, with power crazied individuals all around me, but I really didn't mind much because I got to do what I loved. Then one day, when the amount of my stress (and company political nonsense) increased to a new unprecedented level, I had a major panic attack at home.. and was not able to return to work. I became severely clinically depressed, and unable to function properly, care for myself, or keep going. I was put on a crazy course of strong medications, and developed high fasting blood glucose numbers and a fatty liver, eventually... even having a seizure at work. My employer, after I exhausted my Family Medical Leave, tired of having to "support" me through my ups and downs, and my inability to be at work... let me go. Still, through all of that, my medical team did not tell me I had anything wrong... or that I needed to change anything. Ironically, the owner and founder of the company passed away, recently, from Type 2 Diabetes complications.
It wasn't until 2009, when my symptoms became so drastic and obvious (chronic yeast infections, sleep apnea and narcolepsy, as well as abscesses, blurry vision, and general malaise) that an RN at the local Planned Parenthood discovered my Type 2 Diabetes, on a hunch. I credit that nurse for saving my life when doctors just ignored me. Type 2 Diabetes runs on the male side of my family, only; only males have ever had it... but now, thanks to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, I have it, too.
I dedicate my efforts now, to helping others understand the need for stopping the blame games, the seriousness of this disease, the need for proper care, and for finding resources for the needy, especially those without insurance, or going through unemployment or undermployment, like myself.
My story may, or may not be like yours... But I hope it helps you find your place, and know that YOU can do this.