Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) can leave women feeling ashamed and isolated. This fertility and femininity scourge is a common condition affecting up to 20% of women of reproductive age.
It affects a woman’s hormones causing problems with periods, fertility and appearance, and can lead to serious health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease.
Danielle Mortimer, who has had PCOS since she was 17, knows how it feels to be bombarded by PCOS’s symptoms and the shame that accompanies them.
For years, she has never spoken to anyone about the hair growth and skin tags. Now at 37, she is stepping out from behind a shroud of secrecy and sharing her journey with the world.
“Living with male-like facial hair growth, skin tags and dark skin patches has been like a nightmare,” she said.
“You just don’t talk about these things. PCOS is a hidden epidemic. It feels like something you should be ashamed about and those around just don’t know what to say or how to deal with it.
“Every day we see images of how women are ‘meant’ to look like…it is hard to reconcile that when I look in the mirror and see facial hair, splotchy skin and extra kilos despite living a healthy life.”
Danielle said for a long time her PCOS symptoms were something she tried to hide and was humiliated by.
“I would never talk about them, even to my closest friends and family. It stopped me from meeting new people or forming new relationships. I would constantly judge myself as less of a woman.”
Danielle’s website www.pcosaware.com tracks her 2014 journey overcoming PCOS.
“It is easy to do that in a private forum where all of the other people are having similar experiences,”
“It is a big thing to publically tell people about how PCOS has affected not only my body but my mind.
“There are five things I do to keep moving forward.”
1. Shame be gone
By talking about it (slowly and taking baby steps) and letting myself be seen over time I’ve seen a big change to how I see and value myself.
2. Self-talk – a powerful tool
How I talk to myself is an ongoing journey for me and one I’m continuing to learn. I’ve realised how I talk to myself is critical. A good friend once said to me “talk to yourself like you would to someone you love”. A vision of my seven year old niece came to mind – how would I talk to her if she’d made a mistake (especially if she was trying something new).
The way I was talking to myself was berating “you idiot – what did you do/say that for?” Whereas the reaction to my niece would have been encouragement for trying something new.
3. Support network
By opening myself up and connecting, I have created an awesome support network around me. Core friends I can laugh with, get angry with and will just listen when I need a rant or a few giggles. Talking about it has lessened my shame and made all the difference. Every time I connect and we talk of our struggles, I heal a little more myself.
I truly believe my imperfections are what makes me beautiful. We live in a vulnerable world. I used to close myself off. Through emotional eating. I’d numb myself. The only problem is numbing the hard feelings also numbs the good. I ended up numbing joy, gratitude, happiness; feeling miserable and exposed. It was a dangerous cycle. By accepting and sitting with my feelings – whether I am angry, sad or fearful – and not going straight to the fridge has allowed me to learn so much more about myself.
“I’m busy’ is a 21st century catch cry. I suffer from it too; my brain is always ‘on’. When I started meditating, my thoughts would run around in my head; I thought it would never change. I now spend time meditating daily (often this is just stopping and breathing for a few minutes before going on to my next task) I can now clear my mind, stop and breathe.