I lay wide awake tossing and turning trying to force myself back to sleep. The clock blinked 3:52 AM. Enough time to sneak in another cycle of REM sleep but only if my mind would stop churning….and I knew it wouldn’t.
My anxiety fulled sleeplessness was due to a doctor’s appointment I had in the morning. An appointment I had put off for months until the pit in my stomach finally became loud enough I couldn’t ignore it anymore.
I was going to the doctor because I hadn’t gotten my period for 8 months. Pregnant? No, I had packs of pregnancy tests to prove otherwise. This irregularity had happened before so I wasn’t too concerned initially. Except those past times had only been 3 or 4 months, and this felt unnervingly different. But as happens with most ailments I wanted to wait it out – convince myself this is nothing to worry about. Plus I had plenty of other things to fret over like comprehensive exams, dissertation proposals, manuscript submissions! So of course this hormonal imbalance was related to stress. That pesky grad school stress that influences everything I do. It must be the culprit. Once summer comes all will be adjusted and my hormones will realign to their necessary levels. Yes, of course this is the answer.
Yet it was August and my period did not return. I had taken relaxing vacations, reduced my work load, and fell into a healthy diet and exercise regime. One thing that was remaining were intense stomach pains. They came in waves, pinching my insides until I was doubled over in agony. These aches would last all day and then disappear the next morning as if it were never there.
The doctor’s office was a blur. The words just spilled out of my mouth as I sat there endlessly waiting for her to report something, anything back to me. And with that she said, “Based on your blood levels it appears you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS. It’s very common. It’s the #1 reason for female infertility.” I couldn’t even memorize the title or let alone understand what this means, but that word infertility was already burned into my memory.
I somehow didn’t cry in front of this woman. I just stared blank face as she told me what I needed to pick up from the pharmacy. I thanked her and told her I would keep her informed of my symptoms via the highly impersonal electronic messaging system. I stepped outside and biked the rest of my way to school, sat down in my office and started working. I sent emails, I finished reports, I ran statistics. My mind was on automatic pilot – no emotions, no panic, no sadness just the dull hum like that of a robot who was programmed to dutifully complete an assignment.
And then it happened 2 whole days later. I cried, and cried, and cried, and cried until I couldn’t feel that never-ending sadness anymore. I cried for my stupidity in thinking nothing was wrong. I cried for genes I was gifted with 27 years ago that would lead me to this very point in my life. I cried for being defected like a toy with all the wrong parts. I cried for my husband who may not ever be gifted with a child who had glittery blue eyes just like his own. I cried for all those years of dreaming and planning just to be smacked in the face years later. And I cried for the innocence I lost after those words trickled out of my doctor’s mouth.
All those tears somehow forced me to create a lifeboat. I wasn’t going to drown in this misery, this feeling of ineptitude. So I picked up my sorry self, packed up my pride, courage, and sense of humor, and set out to find myself once more, or perhaps for the first time. But before I could navigate my way into this new world, I stopped and prayed. I prayed for the first time in my life (if I’m being honest I was faking it all those years before). I asked God, Allah, Buddha, or whoever was listening up above to gift me with compassion, patience, and kindness for myself.
This inner emotional turmoil was actually the catalyst for me to start writing this blog. I wouldn’t have linked the two events at the time and would have adamantly denied wanting to use social media as an outlet for my inner frustrations. But yes it’s true, I wanted to say something, say anything to anyone who would listen. So I thank you for listening, reading, commenting. Helping me process any and all of this confusion and chaos life grants every single one of us.
I wanted to share this personal story because I find the more I talk about this the more I realize how many others it affects. Not necessarily just people who have PCOS, but others who have difficulty getting pregnant, have used alternative pregnancy methods, or those who never had children of their own. It is not an easy journey we tread down. And I think I have every right to say, “this fucking sucks.” I’m allowed to feel angry, frustrated, emotional, discouraged, sad, and even hopeful at times. I refuse to ever let someone convince me I should just get over it because it will all be fine. This feels like something because it should feel like something….and this is the wonderful benefit of being alive.
Lastly I want to thank my friends and family who unknowingly gave me the courage to write this post. I cannot ever repay you with the confidence and compassion you all bring into my life.