Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Don't Judge Me: Natalie's Story

An older man, bearing white whiskers, white hair and tortoise-shell rimmed glasses, enters the physical therapy gym, delicately balancing on two crutches. He casts a puzzled look in my direction, watching my every move as I continue completing a set of “clamshells, ” the most intense hip-strengthening exercise I have encountered while at physical therapy.

As I get up to get a drink of water, he glances in my direction and asks “Why… are you here for rehabilitation of some sort?” The question is familiar, though it still feels like a subtle slap on the face. “No I just come here to work out” I want to say, but instead I smile and respond, “Yes, I actually hurt my knee” in my most polite tone. He responds “Ah. Well it sure doesn’t look like you need to be here.”

I smile and nod, and return to my purple mat, where a set of planks awaits me. My physical therapist casts a knowing glance in my direction, having witnessed similar interactions in the past.

This comment still lingers in my thoughts, like the unpleasant residue remaining after a band-aid has been pulled off.  My encounter at the physical therapy clinic reminds me of the many doctors that I have dealt with through various points of my life. It is still astounding to me that so many medical professionals have stated that “a slim, youthful woman of your age” should not be having a myriad of peculiar health symptoms. As if they had suddenly forgotten all six years of their medical school education, or more aptly, attributed my complaints to a state of anxiety that clearly plagues all young female millennials.

As a woman with PCOS, I also find that my youth and slim physique often make me feel like an “atypical” case. I often remind myself that PCOS is a syndrome, but the disbelief of certain doctors has made me feel self-conscious about being a woman with PCOS. Similarly, since PCOS is so intimately linked to fertility health, and since so many women obtain a diagnosis when they are trying to conceive, I sometimes feel alienated by my present situation. Not quite in the “TTC” camp, not quite in the “trying to lose weight camp,” perhaps in a larger camp of working on being as healthy as possible? Does that sound less appealing? I do want to have children some day. This is definitely a motivating factor for me when it comes to taking care of myself and living my life as a “wellness warrior,” but it is not the only one.

These experiences have taught me a lot about the grace with which I interact with others. Despite my outwardly appearance, there is a lot going on with my body. There are days when I feel uncomfortable and overwhelmed. Days where I do not feel like cooking for myself, days where I wish I did not have food sensitivities, and moments where I do not want to get out of bed. I try my best to move forward and to keep improving.

As a Power Up for PCOS representative, I worried about being judged for my age, for my physique, or for the fact that I am not trying to conceive. I sometimes feel that my symptoms are not as “bad” as what other women are going through. I wondered if maybe I shouldn't be as open in sharing my experiences. I worried that my focus on the larger health picture would not appeal to other women. Ultimately, through a conversation with Beth and Katrina, I realized that so many women with PCOS feel this way. Women with children who feel guilty for trying to have another child, women with hair loss who feel guilty that they don’t have excess hair growth, women with thyroid problems who feel guilty for not having endometriosis…etc.

But ultimately, we are all women with PCOS. We all have unique struggles, we all wonder at why our body does what it does and we all strive for wellness. We are different but also similar. So I call on you, to stand together, to let go of the guilt and to work together towards a healthy and fulfilling life.

Have you felt judged during your PCOS journey? Please comment below.

Written by: Natalie, Power Up for PCOS Volunteer
*Please note that I am not a medical professional. I am not qualified to give out any medical advice. I am a woman with PCOS who is sharing my personal experiences in this blog and I advise you to consult a professional.*

Power Up for PCOS - emPowering Women to Manage PCOS

Power Up for PCOS provides support to women with PCOS and their families through educational Power Up Groups, building connections with other PCOS women, calendar of upcoming PCOS events, professional referrals and reviews, PCOS store, and other specialized events to raise awareness for PCOS.

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