"Excess" body hair, weight gain, acne, dandruff, and oily skin — read any conventional women's magazines and there are "remedies" and tips for all of these "problems." For a lot of people, these are just some things you'll deal with at different points of your life, proceed to get them under control and then stop worrying about the whole shebang. If you live with all of these in tandem for the majority of your life — things deemed "problems" — then you can probably imagine that feeling beautiful might be a bit of a challenge. Unfortunately for me and the approximately five million people in the U.S. dealing with polycystic ovarian syndrome, these are just some of the physical symptoms we deal with on a regular basis — and they are only the appearance-based ones. Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol and lipid abnormalities, metabolic syndrome, infertility, depression and anxiety, abnormal uterine bleeding, cancer of the uterine lining, and painful periods are just some of the other physical symptoms that I currently endure or could endure at some point in my life. Not very cute, body.
PCOS is a syndrome that doctors and researchers still don't know the cause of. There are some obvious links to heredity, and researchers suspect it may be genetic, but there are still no answers regarding exactly why we get it. PCOS means more than just cysts on the ovaries, which many people with ovaries get — it's an endocrine disorder that effects many basic functions of the body. It also makes ovulating really painful. I was first diagnosed in Malaysia when I passed out from the pain that my doctor had just told me was "bad cramps." It was actually a cyst on my ovary bursting. And yes, it felt as totally excruciating as it sounds. One of my friends who has ovarian cysts said this burst was worse than giving birth for her. So, yeah.
I think you'll probably understand how difficult it can be to be in my body some days — it's pretty often I shake my fist at the sky and curse these ovaries that I was born with. Not only am I in pain and constantly worrying about potential complications that might show up later, but it's pretty understandable that there are some instances when the symptoms make me feel downright beastly. Seriously, ridiculous beauty ideals are hard enough to conform to but when you feel like your body is actually turning against you and making it impossible for you to feel beautiful — it's hard. However, thanks to my PCOS, I've become even more dedicated to being body positive and making sure others feel the same way: Regardless of what reason they may not have to dig their bod.
I wouldn't call it a blessing in disguise or anything (my life would be way easier without the hospital visits and pain), but dealing with things beyond my control affecting my body has definitely been an exercise in mindfully being appreciative of it. Here's how I beat the body blahs:
1. BE MAD AT IT
It's fine to feel whatever way you want about your body, but chances are that if you're reading this then you probably don't want to be holding a grudge against it forever. To stop feeling bad about it, I have to consciously feel bad about it first, though. When you understand why you're upset or where your hangups are coming from, it makes it easier to combat those gross feels.
2. GRIEVE FOR WHAT YOU'LL NEVER HAVE
Yes, this is just like the stages of mourning over a person and it might sound cheesy, but stick with me. It's okay and even important to acknowledge the things you wish you had but probably never will. This is basically a way of getting closure and being able to let go of unreasonable ideals in order to accept that your body is how it is.
3. REMEMBER THAT IT'S JUST A BODY
Put things into perspective and remind yourself of that thing that we're all supposed to know, but usually forget: It's just a body and the way that it looks or even functions does not give or take away your worth. Cliche? Maybe. Important? Definitely.
4. BE GRATEFUL FOR EVERYTHING YOUR BODY DOES FOR YOU
While it is just a body, there are probably a million great things about experiencing life through that body — even when you're dealing with a chronic illness. Does it let you sleep in on the weekends, help you swim and stretch, let you experience pleasure, feel good snuggling up to your sweetheart, take your dog for walks, allow you to listen to music or see your favorite TV shows? All positives worth celebrating.
5. REALIZE THAT HATING ISN'T HELPING
You can't be loving and tender and take care of something that you don't even like. Think about how disposable the things you're not interested or invested in are to you: Do you want to feel that same way about the thing you rely on to carry you through this life? To take the extra care your body needs and to feel that tenderness for it, you're gonna have to eventually not hate it.
6. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
Doing whatever you possibly can to minimize the symptoms that are making life difficult for you whilst taking care of your body is going to help it work better and help you feel better in it! Whether it's getting enough sleep, moving your body however you like, going for acupuncture, working with a doctor or other health professional, going to get sugared, getting facials, finding cute "period panties," or concocting recipes for whole, fresh food that you enjoy: Find things that make you feel good and do them often. No one else is obligated to care for you and no one else can live in your body — it's up to you to do what it takes to make yourself feel as comfortable and as "at home" as possible there.
Images: Author; Giphy