This sure has been one whirlwind of a week! I have so much to say so I am just going to unload it all in a series of posts in no particular order. I think what I would like to address first is my recent news which many of you already know via my various social media outlets.
Finally after years of seeing doctor after doctor and specialist after specialist I was recently diagnosed with PCOS, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. The road to finally get here has been filled with lots of tears of frustration—lots and lots of tears of frustration. With my recent diagnosis there is a sort of vindication as these last two years many doctors treated me like I was crazy. I mean, my blood work wasn’t just normal; it was stellar, reflective of someone who was very fit and committed to eating healthy. One doctor even beamed, “Your blood work reads like a pediatric patient—it’s even better than my kids!” So if the blood coursing through my body tells a story of health then why did my period mysteriously disappear 2.5 years ago to only come back months later but only intermittently?
How is it possible to gain 30 pounds despite committing to programs and lifestyles like Isagenix, vegetarianism, veganism, going gluten free, and [recently] the Paleo lifestyle paired with an intense fitness regimen?
How is it possible that right around my 30th birthday my reproductive system completely shut down and I was no longer ovulating?
No one it seemed could provide me with any answers so I continued to cry, workout harder, restrict more calories, and cry some more.
Finally one day my gynecologist looked me in the face and flatly said, “Arielle, we have no explanation why you’re infertile when you are so healthy. It seems as if your brain isn’t signaling to your ovaries to release the egg…” [Note: I was not trying to get pregnant] Naturally, not having the answer she decided to give me some hormones to induce menstruation which never did happen. But you know what did? All the wonderful side effects of hormone treatment: extreme mood swings and depression. Deep, deep, deep depression. There were times it was so dark in my mind I actually could see myself ending my life. I know it’s hard to imagine someone ‘like me’, a lover of all things in my life filled with such darkness but when the people we trust to take care of us do not understand what we are suffering from, they toss anything and everything at the problem and hope to find a solution. I felt so alone and angry that my body could just turn on me. I had no control over my cycle, my weight, and now my very own thoughts were being robbed and captained by a beast I could not tame. Thankfully, this extreme darkness only represents a brief period of my life during which I called my mother crying:
“I know I always said I didn’t want children…but now that the universe has stripped me of that gift without asking me and I didn’t even get a say in the matter.”
Eventually, I did start to menstruate albeit irregularly but apparently so long as one gets at least 4 periods a year it’s considered safe. Who knew that? Girls! You can be healthy and only menstruate 4x a year! Stop taking your placebo pills now! Whatever. I still don’t buy this bologna. But when you’re in a crowded room screaming and no one turns around, after a while you stop screaming and walk out.
Fast forward two years later and I am teaching fitness in LA. I have done some unimaginably awesome things like shoot a yoga reel, an indoor cycling fitness video, become a brand ambassador for a fitness clothing line, had a 4th knee surgery, and so much more all while I worked out more and harder and only got fatter. My clothes have stopped fitting. The only things I can really wear and experience some sort of comfort in are ironically workout clothes. I suppose the yoga instructor in me should embrace the fact that regardless of my expanding waistline [and knee injury] I was killing Crossfit workouts, running serious distance, and a cycling machine so I should be happy, right?
There is nothing worse than looking at yourself in the mirror, pinching the oozing sides of your stomach, then poking it in an effort to will it back into place. What’s more, there is nothing worse than facing the people of your classes wondering if they’re staring at you wondering how a fat ass like you landed this gig in the first place.
The cycle of self-hatred is vicious and to top it all off, when a doctor tells you that you’re gaining weight because ‘you eat too much’ it really doesn’t help the cause.
I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t just fade away into the masses and leave this thing alone, whatever this “thing” was with my body. All I kept telling myself and imploring doctors:
“I’m a yoga instructor damn it, I know the body. I understand the body. I know my body and I am telling you something just isn’t right.”
In yet another attempt to get some answers, recently I made a second appointment with my new gynecologist to get some answers. And though I am not sure I am any closer to understanding my body and why it hates me, I did finally get a diagnosis and have started medication.
But the real reason why I am sharing my story is to empower other women. Each day is a struggle to love my physical-self as I can be terribly rigid when it comes to self-acceptance. I genuinely want to take the steps to understand and control my PCOS while learning how to love myself. Since I subscribe to the notion that community can help elevate us all I have started a secret Facebook group for women with endocrine disorders, autoimmune diseases, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, cancer, or depression. Really I wanted to create a place for women looking to understand their inner-selves a little more is welcome. I wanted a sacred space where we share, we heal, and we work towards understanding ourselves just a little better. I wanted a place for women to share their stories without feeling judged and to feel heard. I wanted a place for someone like me to feel less alone and cultivate the tools to learn how to build myself up instead of berating myself for my self-imposed inadequacies.
I created this space for woman to stop surviving and to learn how to thrive.
I have never been one to sit and wallow in self-pity for an extended period of time. Notice how I carefully used the words extended period of time. But with my recent diagnosis I hit the interwebs and have started collecting a group of strong, beautiful, passionate women who are looking to connect. Perhaps it’s our pain that brings us together, but it’s our love and compassion that unites us. After all, my entire life has been about servitude—English teacher, yoga instructor, cycling instructor. I do not know how to do anything else. But what life has taught me is that I can be a victim of circumstance or I can take an active role in all of this and be a victor. I am choosing to stop allowing my exterior to determine my self-worth and how I feel about myself. Though I recognize what an uphill battle that this will be, with the community of women in my new support group I know we can do this together.