Here is Amy’s second blog post. Enjoy!
I believe there are days of real significance in my life, “markers” if you will. These can be brilliant or terrible, but they always teach you something. November 11th was one of the latter.
To fill you with a bit of context, I had recently completed my Masters in Multimedia Journalism, handing in my much loved and equally loathed dissertation at the beginning of October. I left Manchester quite unwillingly (you can read more here), but brimming full of hope and optimism for my future. I had decided to move over to Sheffield to live with my sister, a temporary solution to my economic post-Uni woes, a decision which seems to become more and more permanent as the months pass.
At this point I had been unemployed for two months (something which stretched on for, give or take some temp work, another six). I had spent one month locked in my room writing my dissertation, the other I had been frantically looking for work. Now without wanting to go on for too long about my unemployment woes instead this is about my health, something which I felt quite on top of up until to this point.
After still being signed up to a doctors in Manchester, for my first few months in Sheffield I had to visit the Walk in Centre to get one months’ worth of pills, a frustrating and lengthy experience. So after finally committing to being in Sheffield more permanently than I wanted, I registered at a local practice; I made an appointment to get my pill subscription expecting there to be no problems.
As I discussed in my previous blog, weight control is one of the difficult factors of PCOS and something I have always struggled with. However, since being put on the combined pill, I have actually lost weight. I can’t be completely sure that this was purely because of the pill, but I felt I had more control over my cravings and my emotions. I always imagine it like the hormones in the pill balance me back out and I gain an inner equilibrium.
I had never really had a problem with my pill being subscribed. This time however I was faced with confrontation. Unbeknown to me and probably due to the stress of moving and having to write an 18,000 word dissertation, I had put on some weight and my BMI was now over the “safe” zone of when they can prescribe the pill.
Now there are of course medical reasons why the pill is unsafe for women who are over-weight, although I do have problems with the BMI system and I felt my situation was different. I explained my history to the GP, that being on the pill had changed my life for the better, that it had helped me control my diet and in turn helped me slowly lose weight. I explained that the reason why I was on the pill was because of my condition and it made little sense to me to take me off it because how would it be helping me?
But they weren’t moving. It was frustrating because for the first time I felt I was not believed. I felt belittled. I was faced with a professional who had to do their job, but this was my body. It felt wrong that I was having to fight for something that I knew had helped me for years.
So I left there pretty frustrated and walked to meet my sister at a local open mic night. I had been struggling to keep it together, my self-worth and confidence was already low and this felt like a real kick in the teeth. Then a young man got up and sang a rather impressive rendition of Empty Chairs at Empty Tables and the tears just started to roll (a sad song but also had the shock factor because he sang it in the Dove and Rainbow). I walked home, put on Etta James’ At Last and cried myself to sleep. What I didn’t realise then and why I see it as such a significant date to me, was this was only really the beginning of a “bad patch”.
Due to my long ingrained attitude to prove people wrong and scratching away all year to find a very strong person hidden underneath all this hair, I lost the weight I had gained (I ate a lot of salads) and I started running. But during these months I had to deal with problems of coming off the pill; I was spotting every day for 6 weeks which, as well as being frustrating in practical terms, really tired me out. But worse than this I had to deal with my body experiencing hormonal changes which, at this very low part of my life anyway when everything seemed to be going a bit wrong, proved very difficult.
I remember telling someone that in the space of a day I felt I had experienced the scope of emotions I would normally feel over a month. I recently asked my sister how I was over those months and she bluntly as ever put it: “I thought you had gone mental.”
I did find my way out of this “bad ebb” and have now got an amazing job where I laugh every day, but what the experience shed light on is something I have been contemplating ever since. It has never been so blindly obvious that due to my condition the pill is pretty essential to my personal up keep, mentally and physically. Why was this not translating over?
There was a blog I read recently on Upworthy and I actually cried when I read this because it was so comforting to read someone else who had the same trouble as me. It is part of the reason I thought TOTM would be such a rewarding thing to set up. But what was also stood out to me were the comments left by women underneath. Many felt the condition was not taken seriously. Many felt this was because it was a hormonal endocrine condition, some because it only affected women.
There are of course physical symptoms to PCOS; plucking unwanted hair from my face, chin and chest is becoming part of a weekly routine. Although tiresome, I can deal with it. But the weight of my natural hormonal imbalance was something I had never really contemplated until I no longer had a choice but to suffer with it.
Now I have realised it, I am filled with a complex mix of fear and frustration that society seems to belittle the significant impact hormones can have on a person. I can only hope that through discussing it and writing about it, this will change in the future.