I know the phrase “New Year, New Me” can easily incite people’s gag reflexes, but be assured this post and blog will talk about more than just the gym memberships and juice cleanses that surge this time of year. This fall, I had an incredibly stressful transition into my sophomore year in college. After struggling with debilitating cramps for months, I was diagnosed with Polycycstic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) four days before I left home for school. PCOS is a non-terminal, but chronic disease that affects 1 in 10 women in the U.S., associated with abnormal menstruation, unwanted hair growth, acne, weight gain, and (what I feared most) infertility. I know, I’m 19 years old, but the possibility of not having kids devastated me. As a woman, often times I’ve claimed a little bit of comfort knowing that if my career or relationships didn’t work out, I would still have my health and be able to have biological kids. But I carried this fear with me into the start of the school year. With my hectic schedule, I didn’t have time to exercise, and I convinced myself that I didn’t need or deserve to eat. I think part of myself was trying to punish my body for the syndrome that plagued my thoughts.
My test scores and papers didn’t reflect how I spent many classes focused on holding back tears. Friends around the lunch table never noticed the size of my meal decreased as the weeks went by until I began to skip lunch as often as my stomach would let me. Being an introverted person, I’m used to keeping to myself. In fact, I’m usually the person people seek out to talk about their problems. But this time it was different. I yearned to reach out to people, but my brain prevented what my heart desperately needed. I couldn’t recognize the person I had become. My body was exhausted, and a fog seemed to cover my brain, slowing my thoughts. I felt like a spectator to my own life, only responsible for staying alive and not being alive.
And that was my tipping point.
After six weeks back on campus, I was tired of living this way and finally willing to talk about my problems for the possibility of changing my situation. First I reached out to my boyfriend, and I’m so grateful that he didn’t run away or brush off my emotions. He supported me and gave me the foundation to express my feelings to others without fear of judgement.
From there I called my campus’s crisis hotline and met with a counselor the next day. As I sat in the reception room, I constantly gazed around the room to see if I recognized any students (or if anyone recognized me) until the counselor called me in. I felt like an alien trying to respond to all of her normal questions: Where are you from? What’s your major? Do you do any clubs? I forgot that I’m just a person too. That I’m more than just the food I eat and the calories I burn.
From there I scheduled future counseling appointments, and I visited different people in my life on campus (my dean, teachers, job, mentor, and a few close friends) and informed them of everything going on in my life. Even though I was being extremely intimate about my personal life, I felt more relieved and received more guidance than I anticipated. I was surprised so many people around me are suffering/have suffered through similar dilemmas or know someone who’s fought the same battles.
So with the beginning of a New Year and a new quarter, this post marks the opening of the dialogue. Thanks for joining me on my journey in giving the full dish on my life.
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