I recently attended the Women in Platforms meeting where the lovely Laura Barnes shared her menopause story! Laura was fab, and it is so refreshing that this subject can be discussed openly within networks, peer groups and with colleagues, with both men and women wanting to be educated in order to support each other.
The theme for the Women in Platforms group this year is ‘Be the first Domino’ and the rest of us should fall. Laura really resonated with me and has given me the confidence to share my story of how I as a Polycystic Ovary Syndrome “PCOS” sufferer have to juggle symptoms in my day-to-day life. Therefore, now feels like the right time to share my story and my experience, to provide awareness and offer support to anyone else suffering in silence.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a common hormonal condition that effects how a woman’s ovaries work. It is related to abnormal hormone levels in the body, including high levels of insulin, much the same as a diabetic. Many women with PCOS are resistant to the action of insulin in their body and produce high levels of insulin to overcome this and therefore this, unfortunately contributes to the increased production and activity of hormones like testosterone.
So how many women do you think suffer with this condition? More than you would ever imagine….
It is estimated that 1 in 10 women suffer with the condition, and over half of these will not have any symptoms. Unfortunately for me, I suffer with every symptom that this condition can offer!
- Amenorrhoea (missed periods) or irregular periods
- Unwanted hair growth (excessive facial hair)
- Thinning hair on the head
- Mood changes
- Sleep problems
- Weight gain
There is no cure, and nor is there much support from the NHS in order to manage the condition.
Some of these symptoms I am able to self manage, although they are expensive! I do this for me to ensure I feel the best I can about myself. Laser hair therapy, hair extensions and god knows how many hundreds of pounds I have spent on skin treatments over the years!
I won’t go into my fertility journey on this blog, that is for another time! But I am grateful every day that I am one of the lucky ones who has managed to have a child with the condition, even though the pain stays with me daily that my daughter will be an only child (not by choice).
However, the symptoms I feel I do need to speak about are those that aren’t obvious. The anxiety, the lack of confidence, the mood swings and depression that can wash over you at any given moment!
I like to think I am very confident, a great communicator, and all round legend! However, there are some days where it is just tough. My skin could be clear, my hair glossy, and my outfit on point, however the thought of going onto a video client call fills me with dread as honestly, no matter how good I may look, my hormones are telling me I look like shit!
I love my job, and I think I am pretty good at it, however often the hormones tell me I am not. This is when the anxiety, the overthinking and depression hits – they tell me that I am not good enough and honestly the joy to it all is you never know how you are going to feel when you wake, or after lunch as there are no obvious triggers. That element of surprise means managing it is tough, and you constantly find yourself asking the same questions – Is it PCOS making me feel like this? Or is it me? Am I just like this?
I am lucky that I have coping mechanisms I apply to my daily routine; journaling, meditation, and a real awareness of my diet all help. However, some days those hormones just hit me like a tonne of bricks and even the most rational me just wants to hide in bed and give up!
There are so many conditions like PCOS where people suffer in silence, and Laura’s words made me realise that we really don’t need to. There is no shame in talking about it with friends and colleagues as they are who you will turn to when you need that support network around you the most.
I am so grateful to my network, that we are able to share our personal stories and support each other, but we need to do more of this as men and women and ensure we share our conditions, our periods of suffering or just our quirks so that people are educated, aware and can understand.
I have extensively researched PCOS over the past 26 years (I was diagnosed at 13) but I am sure there is more to learn. If you are unfortunate enough to have this condition or know someone who does, please reach out it would be lovely to share stories and experiences to hopefully help one another!
Finally, a massive thank you to Emma, Amira and Helena for running the wonderful Women in Platforms. I have attended for a few years now, and it is a lovely group, if you would like to join please reach out and I will pass you the details. Altus Consulting are lucky enough to be hosting the in-person event in Bath on 24th May, and I cannot wait to share a drink and a story with you all!