AMENORRHEA…embracing the journey
Do you ever feel like you’re doing everything “right,” from a health perspective, but not getting any results or seeing any improvements?
This is how I feel in regards to my endocrine system – my hormones and menstrual cycle. Always putting in and never getting anything in return.
For a bit of background, I went off oral contraceptives 18 months ago after about eight years of diligence. Since ditching the Pill, I have had only one stint of spotting which was in February this year, and oddly enough, on Valentine’s Day.. Over the past 12 months or so, I have consulted several professionals about my amenorrhea, which is the fancy term for lack of menstrual cycle. It’s fairly normal for women to not have a period for several months after coming off the Pill, but pushing a year was getting a bit much…especially when you’re a tad fanatical about your health like I am.
Logically, my first step was seeing the gynecologist. Not surprisingly, she advised me to get back on the Pill, simply because there was not much else she had to offer. By then I had come to understand that the Pill is not a long term solution; it’s merely a band-aid used to cover up what might actually be going on in those precious little ovaries of mine. I mean, what happens when I want to have babies…..eventually…maybe…(ahh)...waaaayyyy down the track? The condition causing the amenorrhea would still be there and probably worse! I would then be faced with an even bigger situation to deal with for getting my body “baby ready” and far more stressful that it is now when I am not evening trying to conceive. Needless to say, I was very unsatisfied with this “solution” and decided to go in search of a general practitioner who could order the necessary tests and assure me that I still had a baby maker in there somewhere. I found a “conventional” doctor who is actually not conventional at all. In reality, he is a kook…in the most likable way possible. We did all the tests and scans, some of which awkwardly invasive, and discovered that I have polycystic ovaries and low sex hormones. The amenorrhea is due to the fact that I am not ovulating.
Just so we’re all up to speed… Polycystic ovaries is not to be confused with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) which is unfortunately a fairly common and quite troubling hormonal disorder. With PCOS, a woman’s ovaries often produce higher levels of the male hormone androgen, which can lead to acne, weight gain, excess facial hair, depression and, in worst cases, fertility challenges. That said, polycystic ovaries can readily develop into the full-blown syndrome and therefore must be actively managed in a similar way to treating the syndrome. The key elements in the treatment plan are:
reduce caffeine intake
eat enough healthy fats
cut out soy products (if you have estrogen dominance)
Many resources go on to say that eliminating gluten and dairy are also essential. This is the standard advice any doctor gives his/her patient diagnosed with polycystic ovaries, or PCOS. My eccentric doctor took my lifestyle prescription a step further. He looked me in the eye and said, “Steph, you just need to fall in love and have tons of sex!” (You can’t make this stuff up!) He then proceeded to provide me with an anecdote from his own life during which his theory proved true in igniting a regular menstrual cycle… I remember there being a reference in the story to bunnies… Yikes. I digress.
Now that you’ve got the full picture, I’d like to swing back around to my initial question which relates why I can’t get my period back when I am so healthy. Despite my assiduous efforts to regulate my hormones by adhering to the above guidelines, minus the kook’s suggestion, I have made, from what I can tell, little to no progress! Obviously I am not getting new tests/scans done every day to monitor the cysts and hormone levels, but I haven’t received the slightest indication that Aunt Flow might like to soon come for a visit.
So what gives?
My beliefs. Our body’s functions match and mirror our mind (beliefs). Put another way, there is a mental cause, or negative thought pattern, behind every condition manifesting as symptoms in our body.
I’m talking about emotional barriers that are hindering my hormonal health. I’m a perfectionist, harsh inner critic, and I put a lot of pressure on myself in a variety of ways. I focus, sometimes obsessively, on my challenges and imperfections while rarely, if ever, giving any attention to celebrating my successes. I blame my body for not responding to all my efforts to ‘heal’ it, but never thank or praise it for all that it does to keep me alive and well.
Learning to treat myself with more love than criticism is something that I must be conscious of and continually work on. Unfortunately, it doesn't come easy to me, and I would suspect it doesn’t come easy to a large percentage of women. Gratitude practices, such as journaling, have been a wonderful way to reflect on the aspects of myself I am happy with and put energy in to parts of my life I wish to see grow. Rather than succumb to my urge to fix/improve/change everything (right now!), I am (slowly) learning to embrace this journey and allow it to be whatever it is at each step along the way.
Does any of this ring true for you? What are your beliefs, or negative thought patterns, about your body? Can you connect any of your physical or emotional illness with your underlying thoughts or fears?