Does PCOS Make Me Unworthy or Unfeminine?

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Sarvika Aggarwal

08 January 2024

7 Mins

I remember this like it was yesterday. About four years back, I was anxiously waiting in the dingy reception of a clinic. I was worried and embarrassed at the same time about having to undergo an ultrasound due to my consistently inconsistent menses.

I had just turned sweet sixteen but there was no lustre of youth on my face, no sudden beauty bout was happening, no boys were besotted with me and my body weight was on an all-time hike.

I had undeniable symptoms of PCOS like hirsutism, fortnightly spotting, erratic sleeping patterns, disproportional weight gain, acne on my forehead and a never-ending riot of moods. As a result of all of these, I had a really poor self-image, something that has not changed much even after all these years. The report of my ultrasound reiterated my self-diagnosis and here I am today, writing about my constant wrestle with PCOS.

In this article, I am going to narrow down my focus on the emotional havoc PCOS causes in a woman. During my late teens, I struggled to manage physical symptoms of PCOS, but mood and impulse control remained challenging. Extensive global [research]((https://womensmentalhealth.org/posts/polycystic-ovarian-syndrome-pcos-linked-anxiety-depression/) indicates a strong association between PCOS and mood disorders, with women having PCOS being three times more likely to experience anxiety and depression.

This is not only because of the biochemical-hormonal reactions but also because of the social stigma around the condition and the women having it. In a society like ours where bearing a child is seen as the highest duty concomitant with womanhood, having a condition that could make you infertile exposes you to scorn and pity and makes you feel undesirable. One could also begin to feel unfeminine and “ugly”. All thanks to selectively representative commercial media and the unreasonable beauty standards it has set.


The Hormonal Riot

Women with PCOS have been found to have the excessive release of a stress hormone called Cortisol. This makes all my fellow ‘cysters’ more prone to having exaggerated responses to stressors that might not be as threatening or alarming to women who are free of this condition. PCOS is essentially an endocrinal disorder which means that it directly puts the hormones in the body into disequilibrium. It has also been researched that PCOS affects the HPA (Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis and the HPG (Hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal) axis, leading to poor regulation of cortisol, adrenaline, androgens, oestrogen, progesterone etc., in the female body.

Depression too becomes a quick possibility. All in all, the hormones remain imbalanced and the woman experiences a perpetual emotional roller coaster. There is a feeling of general malaise and irritation. This could be because of a usually bloated abdomen, unpredictable periods, acne, excessive hairiness, too much stress, anxiety about one’s future and inner feelings of inadequacy as a female.


Self-Image

Now, it is surprising how beauty standards adversely affect our perception of ourselves. It is so pernicious that many of us do not even realise that our faulty self- image is a product of the unreasonable beauty standards that have been given representation singularly over the extensive media we consume.

Knowingly or unknowingly, we all tend to be more appreciative of features like a slim waist, fair and unblemished skin, tall yet hourglass figures etc. I could almost count these features on my fingertips. However, I am sure most people reading this article, especially women, will agree that it is almost impossible to achieve all these bodily standards. This brings us to a simple fact of psychology that when one’s ideal self is in contradiction with one’s real self, there arises conflict and conflict causes frustration.

At sixteen, I grappled with an unshapely unibrow, prominent sideburns, and excess weight. With dry, rough skin and persistent acne, I diverged from conventional beauty standards. Maturing faster due to early puberty, I faced inquiries about my career while still navigating high school.

My mother insisted on two ponytails as a modest attempt to appear my age. Lacking a consistent skincare routine and disregarding sun exposure, I felt helpless against comments about my appearance, contributing to plummeting self-esteem, erratic moods, and a pervasive sense of inadequacy.


Mood Swings

Small rejections and romantic setbacks deeply affected me, causing rapid mood swings. Despite managing my weight by eighteen, the process of self-image deterioration proved challenging to reverse. Emotionally cutting off from others, I hesitated to let anyone too close, reluctant to reveal my true self.

Seeking refuge in academics and humor shielded me from judgment based on looks. Achievements brought elation, but a single negative comment could unravel it all, leading me to retreat in solitude. I became irritable, avoided social interactions, cried at my reflection, and struggled to accept compliments, embracing sulking as a constant companion.

There came a time when I would overcompensate for my ‘lack of beauty’ by being ‘too sweet’ with people who always tended to cross my boundaries. This would make me sick all the time. It felt like I had no spine of my own to stop body shamers, opinionated hotheads and orthodox aunties from making hurtful comments about me. In any budding romances, I would be extremely insecure and worried about losing the person.

Once again, I allowed myself to be treated disrespectfully, often venting my frustration on close friends and crying during phone calls. Later, when I encountered more supportive individuals who valued me, I hesitated and sabotaged potential connections. A condition, not widely understood, had profoundly disrupted my life and reshaped my priorities. All of this stemmed from my low self-esteem and I kept searching for answers outside. The answer was in my ovaries!


What Helped Me Overcome PCOS Mood Swings?

After all the emotional turmoil and lack of coping mechanisms, I was left quite baffled about where my mental health was going. I knew I had to change this.

I immediately joined a gym as the first step. Weight loss is a highly effective treatment for PCOS, restoring hormonal balance and facilitating mood regulation. Additionally, I chose to surround myself exclusively with supportive, appreciative, and uplifting individuals. No room for negativity, ignorance about my condition, advocates of 'conventional beauty,' or unmotivated bad influences in my circle.

Thirdly, I worked tirelessly to remind myself of all that I was capable of and that I had no reason to hate myself in the journey towards improvement. As long as I was growing every day, I did not have to sabotage myself just because I wasn’t my best on the day I started.

It wasn't just external criticism anymore; I was harshly judging myself, engaging in daily self-body shaming and creating distance in relationships. Realizing the need to break free from this cycle, I aimed to avoid triggers that induced anxiety and prevented me from slipping into a loop of mood swings.

I kept some physical activity consistent, even if it was a 10-minute walk in the evening. I improved my sleeping patterns slowly and strictly kept myself from spending my sleep-time scrolling over social media platforms. Occasionally, I also took refuge in a guided meditation for healing and health.

I distanced myself from toxicity, prioritized self-worth, and improved my health, positively impacting my appearance. Compliments on confidence and style flowed in, and I embraced effective communication over impulsive reactions. Occasional mood swings during PMS are now accepted and even celebrated as a natural part of growing up, along with the regular occurrence of my period.


Girlfriends are Like Medicines

Supportive friends, emphasizing my worth beyond looks, played a crucial role in lifting me from self-loathing. With a clear mission to help, my girlfriends became my resilient support system. If you're grappling with PCOS and erratic moods, prioritize treating the disorder, enhancing self-image, and preserving your femininity. Steer clear of toxicity in people and media, focus on your genuine self, and maintain mindfulness in your responses to safeguard relationships from the impact of PCOS.

Pause and acknowledge hormonal influences when facing adverse reactions. Withdraw if you recognize the situation's triviality, as not everything warrants excessive thought or time.

Ultimately, I would like to make it clear that PCOS is different for every woman but the hormonal imbalance and the subsequent mood disorders are quite common. If I could deal with it, so can you. Go ahead and embrace yourself, polish yourself and love yourself. You are worth the best.


How Can Now&Me Help You

Our platform, Now&Me, is a safe place that can help you feel lighter by writing out whatever is weighing you down. If you do not know what you are exactly looking for or how to find the right therapist for yourself, you can write to us, and we will help you get in touch with a therapist who will guide you in the best way possible at 1/4th the cost of traditional therapy.

However, if you are want to share your thoughts about PCOS, you can become a part of a non-judgmental, inclusive, and friendly community and get insights from other people's experiences. Become a part of the larger community and understand yourself with the help of counseling.

When you do not know if you really want counseling, sign up on Now&Me, take a shorter version of therapy, and talk to an expert who can help you understand your PCOS and how to manage it in a better way.

Download the Now&Me app for free and start your healing journey with a panel of qualified experts and a loving community.


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