Broken Like a Puzzle: Living with PCOS

The sun was beating down on my pale legs. I was starring out the patio window as I held back my tears.

“I just wish I could do something,” Justin said. “I am a problem solver. I like fixing things. And I just want to fix you.”

He said with tears in his eyes.

Earlier that night, he read how he found a blog and forum that a husband wrote about living with his wife, who suffered from PCOS.

In case you’re new to PCOS, it stands for Polycystic  Ovarian Syndrome. The symptoms range from:

  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Irregular and painful periods
  • Weight gain and difficulty losing weight
  • Excess hair growth on the face and body
  • Infertility
  • Thinning hair
  • Insulin resistance
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Cysts on the ovaries
  • Pelvic pain
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep apnea
  • Increased stress levels

I’ve highlighted the ones that impact me the most on any given month.

“It was like reading a page from my own journal,” he said about the blog post he read.

I read the blog post and felt awful for Justin. I know that my PCOS doesn’t just affect me; it affects Justin too….especially when I take him on the roller coaster of emotions with me.

Which Ashley is getting today? The happy one? The stressed one? The sad one? The anxious one? The free spirit? The worrier?

There are days when Justin will ask what’s wrong and I’ll get so upset.

Not upset at him.

But upset with myself.

“I have no idea,” I say.

And I genuinely will mean it. Nothing bad or horrible happened. My hormones just decided to go crazy and I find myself escaping from my normally positive outlook on life.

Some days I feel like I have multiple personalities.

I know who I am deep down on the inside, but when the hormones spike and change – out of the blue…I feel like a different person.

And there is literally nothing I can do to change my mood except ensure I’m eating healthy and exercise. I don’t know Diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol medicine isn’t needed at this point. The mood swings or depression don’t seem to last long enough to require medicine (I’ve talked to my doctors and therapist very openly about all of this)… And even though I don’t look incredibly fit, I take great care of my body and make time for exercise almost every single day.

But most days…I feel….broken.

“You can’t fix me, babe,” I said. “I’m broken.”

He wiped a tear from his face and walked over to my chair. I looked into his eyes. For the first time, I realized that we both share the same pain and hurt when my PCOS gets bad.

My mood swings cause his moods to swing.

The negative pregnancy test that we see 2-3 times a month break his heart too.

The expression on my face when I see a 10 lb weight gain overnight saddens him as well.

I’ve been living with PCOS for years, but I had no idea until recently. I’ve always battled with my weight, emotions, hair loss, and incredibly irregular and painful periods. I thought that’s what it meant to be a woman.

Don’t we all hate the scale?

Don’t we all experience a wave of emotions throughout the month?

Don’t we all have globs of hair falling out in the shower?

IMG_3381

EXTREME hair loss….it’s no joke, people.

Don’t we all have stomach cramps around our period?

Don’t we all have problems getting pregnant?

Maybe we do.

But my challenges and pains are extreme and out of the blue.

I got back from my work trip last week.

I ate INCREDIBLE all week.

I didn’t snack on a single piece of cheese, brownie, or other fattening snack that tempted me.

I stayed away from simple carbs.

I avoided all things dairy (which is the hardest of all because I love cheese and ranch).

I drank water and black coffee.

I worked out every single morning. I was at the gym by 6 am and worked out as hard as my body would let me.

Guess what happened when I returned home?

I gained 9 lbs.

Do you know what it feels like to gain nearly 10 lbs overnight?

Awful.

Painful.

Emotional.

I literally looked 6 months pregnant. I even posted a picture of myself with Brad and Jack from the conference, but I quickly deleted it because I looked gigantic. I swear it looked like I was hiding something under my dress. Nope, that was my belly. Filled with cysts and pain and weight gain.

IMG_7630

Not pregnant…

Some people will say it’s just water weight – and they may be right. But it doesn’t feel like water in my stomach. It feels like a giant pumpkin is growing in there.

I felt pregnant, but I knew I wasn’t – another painful reminder of the way PCOS affects my body.

I can’t explain how much money we spend on pregnancy tests. I took a test last week fairly confident we were pregnant again. I had prepared what I wanted to say to Justin. I was going to wrap up the pregnancy test and tell Justin that his Father’s Day present finally arrived.

“The shipping took a lot longer than expected,” I would say. “But it finally arrived!”

I would hand him the box with a T-shirt for him to give to Cooper that said, “Big Brother!”

My heart felt so happy as I imagined how everything would play out. I even thought about asking my friend Ann if she would come record Justin’s reaction  – maybe she could hide in the pantry or something.

I looked down at the test and giant question mark appeared.

Yup, a question mark.

That’s not even an option in the instructions.

Does this mean, “Maybeeeeeee you’re pregnant. We aren’t sure yet. Try back again soon! BYE.”

Seriously, who gets a question mark response (when that’s not an option)?

Me.

I do.

I took another test a few days later.

But alas, the test was negative (for real this time, no questions about it).

I lifted the test into the air and under the light.

Could that be a line?

Is that line?

There was no line.

I tried squinting my eyes and then gave up.

The symptoms of pregnancy and starting your period are so similar. When you add in PCOS into the mix, it makes determining if you’re pregnant even harder and way more confusing.

Late on my period? Check.

Stomach cramps? Check.

Weight gain? Check.

Irritability? Check.

Cravings? Check – GIVE ME ALL THE PICKLES!

Tender breasts? Check.

Acne? Back again.

At first, I felt like PCOS was just part of my infertility journey. But PCOS is beyond infertility. PCOS is the core of all my health problems and challenges. I can’t eat dairy because of the way dairy makes my body swell. One bite of pizza and I’m blowing up like Violet Beauregard turning into a blueberry in Willy Wonka’s factory.

Some people ask why I don’t take fertility medicine yet. The reality is, fertility treatments can be extremely expensive (especially the ones not covered by insurance) and equally emotional.

My emotions are already INSANE because of my PCOS! Add in some medicine to increase your hormones…I would be an emotional wreck. I worry I would be even more dysfunctional and hormonal.

So for now, we will ride it out and see if my body lets me get pregnant on my own again. I’ll keep working with my doctors. But odds are …. it’ll be another miracle, but I got my sweet baby Coop from lots of practice, patience, prayer, and living a healthy life…so who says it can’t be done again?

Baby Coop flashback! Swoon.

Baby Coop flashback! Swoon.

Oh, you didn't know my newborn baby was a model?

Oh, you didn’t know my newborn baby was a model?

Alright, I’ll stop with the baby Coop pictures and continue with my story….

I was laying in bed the other night feeling awful. It hurt to move.

The pain.

The discomfort.

Nothing fits me.

Everything in my body just feels wrong.

Justin walked upstairs and found me laying on my side.

“Are you doing OK, baby?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I hate PCOS.”

“I know,” he said. “I do too.”

“I feel broken and beaten up,” I said.

“But you’re strong and tough, babe,” he said back.

“Maybe I’m just broken like a puzzle,” I said. “And I need you to help piece me back together when I’m feeling like this…”

I have an incredible husband, who truly is a saint for loving me as hard as he does.

I have a hilarious and adorable son, who  brings me so much joy (even on the crazy days).

I have a fur son who never leaves my side. I have a beautiful home in a safe neighborhood.

I have a job that I love.

I have a fantastic family and group of friends who cheer me on every single day.

My puzzle paints a pretty beautiful picture.

When I am feeling broken and defeated, I just need someone to help me piece everything back together so I don’t dwell on the bad and painful aspects of my life.

Thankfully, that person is often Justin. He is my rock. The person who believes in me with every ounce of his soul. I can’t tell you how many times he’s said, “Do what you gotta do, babe! That’s a little crazy, but if anyone can do it- it’s you.”

But even as I type this sentence, I realize that I need to continue develop my own personal strength so that I can piece myself back together too. I need to find ways to overcome the emotional and physical pain associated with PCOS.

I know some of you reading this blog don’t have PCOS, but maybe you experience something similar. Physical and emotional pain can come from so many places. I’d encourage you to first find peace and acceptance of your challenges and circumstances.

You also have to keep your eye on what you’ve accomplished and overcome! I’ve managed to lose 75 lbs (on a good day) when I have SO MANY odds against me.

IMG_7368 IMG_7370

Not all days are bad. In fact, most days are pretty darn good. I’d say there are about 3-5 days a month that are really rough for me. That’s when I do something from the list below to help boost my spirits such as:

  • Hosting dance parties in my living room (usually with Justin, Coop, and Bandit)
  • Going for a long bike ride or run (OR WALK – just get moving)
  • Drinking McCalister’s Tea or an Americano from Starbucks (we all have our vices)
  • Walking around the zoo, park, or other places that have great people watching
  • Writing or expressing myself in another creative way
  • Driving through a beautiful areas filled with nature and beauty
  • Getting together for dinner IN PERSON with friends / family (and putting away your phone so you have no distractions)
  • Spreading kindness in random ways – holding the door open for someone, making small talk, paying for a stranger’s coffee, or even sharing a smile can really change your mood
  • Going to a book store and reading random chapters in books
  • Watching videos of babies laughing or dancing
  • Looking at old pictures from childhood, middle school, and high school (middle school years are the most comical – it’s hard to find pictures that I didn’t already burn though)…

But really, have more dance parties.

Much love,

Ashley

2 thoughts on “Broken Like a Puzzle: Living with PCOS

  1. amymccollister says:

    A mutual friend sent me this link and I am so happy she did. I’ve known about my pcos for about 4 years, however was “officially” diagnosed with it a few months back. After the pain really started and intensified. I feel like I could have written this almost every day in the last couple months. You have put into words everything I’ve wanted to say, but my words seemed inadequate. Thank you.

    • Ashley Sieb says:

      Hi Amy! So sorry for the delay in writing back – I’m not usually this slow. I am so glad that you could relate to me and this post. You certainly aren’t alone. I’m always here if you ever need someone to write to….lifting you up! 🙂 -Ashley

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