I have wrinkly fingers. Not all the time, but, for the past two months the tips of my fingers have been dry, itchy, pruny, and peeling. Though it is a great look, I decided to do some of my own investigating on the internet with my mom. I came to one of three conclusions, either I needed to get out of the bathtub, as WebMD suggested, or I have an autoimmune disease. Specifically, one of the diagnosis that came up was hypothyroidism.
Last year around this time, I was seeing a functional psychiatrist for my depression and anxiety. Before she prescribed medication, she had me get my blood drawn to see if their might be any imbalances in my vitamins and hormone levels before deciding it was simply a chemical imbalance in my brain. One of the things she had tested was my thyroid levels. At the time the test results showed an elevated TSH level, basically the level of thyroid hormones in the blood. On its own, it didn’t mean much, hormones fluctuate all the time. I was meant to go back three months later to have my blood retested to see if it were still an issue. Life moved on, though. I never followed up.
Now, a year later. The question of my thyroid was appearing again. I spent two days pouring over literature about symptoms of hypothyroidism. I even went to an urgent care to see if they could order blood tests for me. They politely told me that my problem was not, in fact, urgent, sending me away to panic for another several days. I, finally, was able to get to the doctor two days ago, actually a nurse practitioner, who listened to my symptoms, asked me several follow up questions, and, tentatively, diagnosed me with PCOS, not thyroidism.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, is basically a problem with the hormone balance in your body. I am no doctor. I have done lots of research, and I could bore you with talk of all of the different glands and hormones in your body that cause PCOS. Bottomline is that it is heterogeneous, meaning there isn’t one cause of it. Most likely, there are several glands not doing what they are supposed to do, and they all are affecting each other.
A few of the symptoms are irregular periods, issues with weight gain, acne, more hair than is normal for a woman, depression. All of which I have (if you’re wondering, I have sideburns Elvis would be jealous of). There are many different ways the problem can manifest, you may not have all of them. You may only have one symptom. It comes down what your blood says. Ya know, whether your hormones are all in the levels they’re supposed to be. You may not even have cysts on your ovaries, as the name suggests.
I had come across the term PCOS randomly, two years ago on YouTube, when a woman I subscribed to explained that she was diagnosed with it. As she explained her symptoms (acne, irregular periods, problems with cellulite, depression), I wondered to myself if I may have this same issue. Not wanting to be a hypochondriac, I wrote it off, and went on with my life.
Even when my functional psychiatrist suggested it, I wrote it off. I was focused specifically on my depression, because, let me tell you, it was the worst bout of depression I had gone through. To keep it short, I wasn’t getting out of bed, much less attending my classes or even showering. As if I cared if I had some hormone imbalances.
Now, here I am a year later. Staring down the barrel at this possible diagnosis. In typical Ellie fashion, I have already done my research, on top of lining up a holistic doctor and endocrinologist for my second and third opinions on the reading of my blood tests. Here’s the thing, I haven’t even gone to get my blood drawn yet. And here I am ready to accept a life with a syndrome I might not even have.
How am I handling it?
This possible diagnosis has been hell for me for the last forty-eight hours. I can feel my anxiety coming back, something I had said goodbye to pretty soon after I stepped off the plane onto Hawaiian soil two months ago. But, now, I have spent my past two nights sitting up in my bed reading forums, peer-reviewed articles, and wikipedia pages about PCOS and all of the different glands it effects.
My parents asked me if I was relieved. In some ways, yes, I am. I know there’s something wrong with the way my body is functioning. Except, I always knew I had these issue. I’ve always been overweight, had an abnormally heavy period, and struggled with depression. Being diagnosed, or possibly diagnosed, doesn’t change any of it. There’s no cure for the syndrome. I can’t take a magic pill so all of my glands will fall in line. If anything, it’s telling me this isn’t just a faze in my life. I can’t just say, things will be better in a couple years. These symptoms will be ever present with me. I’m staring down a rabbit hole.
The littlest things can set off my body. Something that is not just a side effect of PCOS to me, but has been in my life since I started puberty. Regardless of whether my doctor diagnosis me in the end. I will always have to be overly controlling with what I put in and how I treat my body. If I eat anything inflammatory (cheese, white bread, etc.) I’ll be bloated for the rest of the day. If I want to go out and drink with my friends, I’ll be in bed for the next three days, depressed as shit. This maybe-diagnosis only highlights the fact that I’ll never really know what my body needs until it’s too late. I’m going to be in a constant state of hyperawareness and playing catch-up with myself.
So, yes, it’s nice to maybe put a name to all of things that I have struggled with since I was thirteen, but the way I’ve had to live my life doesn’t change. If anything it gets even more strict. And that sort of sucks. I could have it worse, and I know that. I’m grateful for being in the health I am in. But, I have to be able to process my emotions. Writing it out is my favorite way to do that.
So, no, I’m not dying. But, this will effect my future, and that’s a lot to absorb.