Love, Joleen: All The Hard Things: PCOS, Depression, and The Heartbreak of Infertility

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

All The Hard Things: PCOS, Depression, and The Heartbreak of Infertility

It's really interesting and amazing to me, how God will sometimes use other people to encourage you without them even knowing it. I've been working on this blog post, off and on, since September. It's been in my drafts waiting for me to finish it and take the plunge to hit publish. The thing is, as much as I've written about depression, anxiety, miscarriage, and infertility, in the past... it never gets any easier. It puts me in a vulnerable position, but I honestly feel that God calls me to share these things, so that I can connect and encourage other women. My friend, Katie, shared her mental health journey  on her blog and Brittany has been discussing her own journey on Instagram and in her IG Stories. So brave, these women. All this to say, that I've been inspired twice over this week to share an update on things.


Spoiler Alert: 
I'm not pregnant.
"The pain and heartbreak come in waves."
You may have seen the articles and blog post shares, but September was PCOS Awareness Month and October was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Phew. Back-to-back topics that are basically ruling my life right now. I've been wanting to write about them but my sadness had been holding me back. Sometimes it's cathartic to talk things out in this space, and other times I need to keep them closer to the chest until I'm in a better place – more solid ground, emotionally. Today, I feel okay. When I started writing this, I was in a much darker place. The pain and heartbreak come in waves.

PCOS is a real B*. I mean, really. I hate everything about it. If you're unfamiliar, PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) is a hormonal imbalance in women, where androgen – a male sex hormone that women also produce – is produced in excess.

High androgen levels can affect the development of eggs as well as delay or prevent ovulation. It can also cause unwanted hair growth and acne. Most women with PCOS grow small cysts on their ovaries. Excess insulin may cause high androgen levels, which is why many doctors prescribe diabetic medication to help keep levels down. PCOS is linked to high blood pressure, pre-diabetes, and high cholesterol, meaning the biggest health concerns (in addition to possible infertility) are diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. *Between 5% and 10% of women of childbearing age in the U.S. (roughly 5 million), have PCOS. It is the most common hormonal endocrine disorder in women today and the #1 cause of female infertility. *4 Frustrating Facts About PCOS... and What They Mean for You. PCOS is also linked to depression for oh, so many obvious reasons. It's really hard to lose weight with PCOS but it's really important to try to maintain a healthy weight and eating habits to manage it. It's sort of a catch 22, for your entire life. It's very difficult to live with.
"PCOS... is the most common hormonal endocrine disorder in women today and the #1 cause of female infertility."
In years past, I've been able to manage my PCOS with diet and exercise. At my fittest and when we got pregnant with #2 and #3 in 2016, I was having a regular cycle. 2017 has been an absolute nightmare in regards to my hormones. In the spring, we started seeing a Reproductive Endocrinologist (R.E.) / Infertility Specialist. Both my husband and myself underwent extensive testing. My doctor believes that despite having monthly periods, I'm not ovulating correctly. We took the next step  fertility medications. I took Prometrium (Progesterone = nightmare) to bring on my period and then Letrozole, hormone based chemotherapy, meant to also stimulate ovulation, for two failed cycles. I was put on Metformin (used to treat Diabetes) to help manage my insulin levels. On the "off" cycle between meds, I tried a natural supplement called Maca root. Everything I've tried so far has given me the worst side effects. I don't feel like any of it is helping my hormones and it certainly hasn't helped me to become pregnant. It's officially been 15 months since my last miscarriage. This last cycle, my period didn't come at all... I was hopeful but the tests show that no, I'm not pregnant – it's just the PCOS.

A few weeks ago, I hit my rock bottom. I had been so depressed over how far I'd let myself go and that I still haven't gotten pregnant, that I *couldn't* do anything about it. I was paralyzed by feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. But, then I turned a corner and everything shifted. I am finally ready to take my health by the reins again. I started posting to my "fit" Instagram account again to share my journey and be encouraged by others on a similar one. I joined Weight Watchers with my mom. I'm setting mini goals for myself and taking them one step at a time. I'm trying to make other goals and plans. I'm trying to be more present; more appreciative of the blessings I have. I recognize that it's okay to not be okay and I'm trying to show myself grace through it all.

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