We live in a world where beauty standards are everything. Corporates make money out of vulnerable people by selling them products they don't really need. Advertisers convince buyers that one product can transform their life. At 16, I was sold models on glossy magazine covers and cosmetics in alluring packaging. I was terrified of body hair and was obsessed with ripping it out, root by root. I hated pimples and whenever I got a spot or a blemish, I would spend my entire day thinking about it. I always imagined the perfect woman I wanted to become.
One random ultrasound was all it took to shatter my self-confidence to such an extent that I refused to look at myself in the mirror for a long time. I had always been a petite girl and for reasons that I am now ashamed to admit, I took pride in being so. I loved my thin waist, my skinny legs, and my narrow bone structure but all that changed drastically because of this syndrome, and it also changed the way I viewed myself.
My periods were regular, I didn't have acne on my face and my body hair growth pretty much stayed the same. But when you're used to viewing yourself through the lens of your body, even small changes matter a lot. I stood on the weighing scale and watched the needle soar and as a reaction my self-confidence plummeted.
I did it all--stopped myself from eating, challenged myself to survive on water for a week, and cried every time I ate an unhealthy meal. I started doing my research on PCOS and realised it's far more common than I thought. But the research on it was relatively negligent.
The more I got to know about the syndrome, the more worried I was. Even though it isn't life-threatening, it can drastically change the quality of one's life. Studies suggest that one in five women suffer from a hormonal disorder called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome aka PCOS. That makes it 20% of the population. It can lead to obesity, unwanted male-pattern hair growth, irregular periods, infertility, and you have an increased risk of miscarriages. Women with PCOS are also at a high risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, and other health complications.
Reading all of this, I spiraled into a dark hole of self-loathing and self-hate. I constantly told myself that I wasn't worthy of romantic love, that I couldn't and shouldn't show my body in public, and that I should rethink my entire wardrobe now that I was heavier in weight.
Every time I visited a doctor, they would say, "Well, if you lost a little weight..."
My mother would call me up to ask how I was doing and slyly ask if I had lost any kgs. Everyone around me would tell me about diet plans, dieticians, and exercises that were miraculous. It seemed to me that they all cared about the weight but didn't really pay attention to the underlying cause of it--PCOS.
There came a point, that I hated myself from the inside out. I hated my hormonal mood swings, I hated the depression that only became worse because of the hormonal imbalance in my body and I detested how ugly I was. Thoughts of suicide were frequent and unwavering and I was pretty down and out.
Finally, after sinking to rock bottom, I sought professional help, went in for therapy, and really took a deep dive into why I hated myself so much. I was introduced to eating disorders, unhealthy coping mechanisms, and body image issues. I got on antidepressants, learned self-care techniques, and reworked my thinking on femininity. I learned to listen to my body, hear my emotions and sit with myself, something I would previously ignore.
I don't want to romanticise it and lie to you guys and say that by eating healthy and working out my PCOS dramatically vanished, it didn't. However, what did change was my view towards it. I accepted that keeping my weight in check is something I'd have to do for the rest of my life but only for my own wellbeing. I also found it in me to ignore unsolicited advice that aunties felt compelled to give me--this one really was a life-changer.
The one thing I'm still struggling with is self-love. I still haven't reached at a point where I love myself completely or love all my belly rolls and arm fat as much as I love other parts of my body but I'm learning and trying to. And isn't that the best we can all do?
Images: Authour's Own