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Recently Diagnosed with PCOS? Here’s What I Wished I Knew at 16

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at San Francisco chapter.

All periods are normal. Period. Heavy flow, low flow, no flow at all. It doesn’t make anyone less of a person for having one or not having one. It is a normal part of life, and no one should ever feel ashamed for having one. It took years, lots of doctor visits, medicine, and one diagnosis to realize that regardless of my period cycle, I am still me. 

Let’s talk PCOS. Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, in short, is a hormonal imbalance caused by an overactive pancreas. In even shorter terms… I haven’t had a ‘normal’ period since the 8th grade. At 15, I knew something wasn’t right after I had my first ever period at the age of 14 and then nothing for almost a year and a half. After being diagnosed with PCOS at 16, I was put on birth control for about five years. For three of those years, I never actually had a ‘flow,’ and for the other two years, when I did have a flow, I just didn’t feel right. Plus, it was worsening my PCOS symptoms. Whenever I did get my period, off BC, it was the most excruciating pain and symptoms I had ever felt. I was in a lose-lose situation.

Only about 10% of the female population has PCOS, and since this is such a recent ‘discovery’ there’s not a whole lot of information that exists. On top of that PCOS acts differently for everybody. Sometimes birth control works, sometimes it makes things worse, sometimes doctors don’t even know anything about PCOS and simply provide band-aid solutions. They’ll say things like “diet and regular exercise should fix this, so I’m not going to bother looking further into this.” (Yes, a doctor said this to me. Which is an issue in of itself for women.)

For some people it’s simply just an irregular cycle, but for others it could mean anything from cystic acne and hair loss to weight gain and a slow metabolism, low Estrogen and high Testosterone, or… you can be like me and hit the jackpot with just about every single issue known to PCOS (yay me!)

Just like how everyone experiences different symptoms, PCOS looks different on everyone. You could be overweight with PCOS, have no acne or all the acne, have luscious hair or thinning, feel constantly bloated not bloated at all, or even not have any visible symptoms. PCOS isn’t just a body issue, it’s a mental one too.

To this day I have moments where I think ‘How come this is happening to me? Why do I have to watch what I eat? Why can’t I just be normal?’ The worse part about having PCOS is, there is no easy path to success, there is no cure…(yet.) Every day I constantly struggle with cravings, fluctuations, anxiety, depression, so on so forth.

But you know what? There’s also this whole world within PCOS. I can be here to help others. I can be the one to raise more attention to this. I can tell you what I wish I knew at 16: PCOS doesn’t define you. It may sometimes be an inconvenience when all you want to do is go out with your friends and eat but you have to be the one to say, “oh sorry guys there’s nothing on the menu for me,” but there are ways to go around it where you can somewhat have your cake and eat it too!

For me, it was an opportunity to start making lifestyle changes. Through continuous trial and error, I found things that work and didn’t work for me. I bulked up on the foods that did help and minimised the intake of foods that didn’t. That way I didn’t have to give up eating out with my friends. When I am at restaurants, I always try to order something I know I can eat, but if I have those days where all I want is something I have been craving… I have it! In moderation of course, but I still have it! Regardless, making these changes are reminders that I am doing this is to better myself. I want to be happy without having to feel guilty if I stray away from my path. And guess what: it’s working!

Even today, I just discovered a new thing called the Mediterranean diet which seems like it could work! Which only proves even though I have been dealing with PCOS for almost 6 years, everything is always changing. The goal isn’t to stick to one thing, it’s to try new things until something works for you better than something did before! I am healthier, happier, and every day I am learning to be more confident and comfortable in the body that I am. Hopefully by reading my story you too, will know you aren’t as alone as you think you are. 

🫧💖Hi everyone! I'm Olivia the senior editor for this chapter of HerCampus! I am a business major, hoping to enter the hospitality and tourism world after graduation! I love to travel and meet new people!💖🫧 Follow my socials! Instagram🪬 @oliviakernerr