“Listen to your body.” It’s something we’re told as we get older, to listen to our body, because it’ll tell us what it needs, if there’s something wrong, etc.
Some of us are admittedly much better at listening to our bodies than others.
When I gained 20 pounds in three weeks last July, I should have listened to my body and known something was wrong.
When I continued to gain weight even with exercise and eating adequately, I should have listened to my body.
When I first noticed that I couldn’t remember when the last time was I wasn’t so. fucking. tired.
Yeah, I should have listened to my body.
Okay, in all fairness, I’ve had points of listening to my body.
Last July when I went to see my previous OBGYN for my annual exam, I listened to my body and told her all of the symptoms I’d been having. She thought it could possibly be a hormone imbalance, or my thyroid. Since I’d been on birth control continuously for over ten years, and was on it at the time, we couldn’t really test my hormone levels. She did have my TSH checked. It was fine at like 1.9 or something, IIRC. And then when I gained a bunch of weight after switching birth control I listened to my body and got off of it.
So I sometimes listen to my body. Just not always. And I don’t always feel like doctors take my questions and worries seriously. I think sometimes that’s true (hell, I saw that first hand with Phillip and the way doctors totally brushed him off), but at other times they do listen, and sometimes they listen and they’re just not willing to help me find the answers.
So after gaining 100+ pounds since last July–no matter what I did–I think a part of me was convinced the weight gain was somehow my fault. All of those nasty things my mom’s second husband used to say to me would pop into my head far too often.
Triple sow cow.
Yeah, he thought he was a real comedian.
What a douche canoe (and that’s being nice).
My brain and my emotions have been at constant war over the past year. My brain has kept saying, “Aubrey, something’s not right. This isn’t your fault.” My emotions, on the other hand, have been all like, “Maybe if you just didn’t eat that…or drink that…or exercise harder and longer…or eat at all…this is somehow all your fault.”
*sigh* Internal wars suck balls. Just sayin’.
So when I went to go see my new OBGYN in July, she asked me if I had any concerns. Even I could hear the slight hysteria in my voice when I said, “Only that I’ve literally gained a hundred pounds in the past year.” She raised an eyebrow and asked me about my exercise and eating habits. I told her the whole sordid story, about how the gains would come in these weird chunks–even when I was working out consistently and hard–and mentioned more than once how for part of the beginning of this year I’d been restricting. She asked me how much I would eat when I would binge. To which I said, “I haven’t really binged. It’s more that I’ll just forget to eat lunch sometimes because I’m busy, so I’ll grab a quick snack to tide me over til supper, but by the time I eat supper I actually don’t eat more than usual and seem to get full pretty quick.”
Which made me realize that maybe I wasn’t restricting as badly as I thought I was. I’m just so hyper-aware of my eating behaviors that I’ve been looking for issues where there really weren’t any (although it really isn’t good to skip lunch accidentally, because that shit’s bad for you).
And then she asked me the question that made the light bulb go off.
“So what are you going to do about it?”
Me: *shrug* “I need to work out more. Eat more protein. Make sure I’m not skipping meals.”
OBGYN: “No, Aubrey. What are you going to DO about it?”
Me: “I…I don’t know.”
OBGYN: “I’m going to refer to you to an endocrinologist. We need to get your hormone levels checked, especially your cortisol and thyroid, because you look like you could have Cushing’s.”
And then the light came on.
Holy shit, this wasn’t my fault.
She believes me. This. Is. Not. My. Fault.
I cried a little bit on the way home because it was a relief knowing that I had a doctor who didn’t think it was my fault, and that there really was something going on inside of my body to cause the weight gain.
And then I almost cried a few hours later when I had to go back in for two ultrasounds (let’s just say one of them was almost as uncomfortable as the pelvic exam). Those, however, showed that I appear to still be ovulating despite periods that are getting more and more erratic, and I didn’t have any cysts on my ovaries.
A few weeks later I got in with an endocrinologist and the first round of tests began. She was convinced at first that it was an issue with my adrenal gland, especially considering my dad had had a benign tumor on his adrenal gland (those are apparently pretty rare), combined with where I was gaining weight (mostly my mid-section) and how tired and stressed out I am.
Well, it ends up my cortisol levels were perfect. Go figure.
In fact, lots of things were perfect. Cortisol. Cholesterol. Iron. White blood cells. Creatinin. BUN.
My fasting glucose was at 99. For that lab, 100 was the highest of the “normal” range, and 99 is higher than my endocrinologist likes to see when fasting (incidentally, this is the second time in the past eight years that I’ve had a high fasting glucose level).
My TSH was still in the “normal” range, but was above 2.5, which indicates my thyroid gland could be underperforming.
My Vitamin D was extremely low–like over half of what it’s supposed to be. My B-12 was also about half of what it should be. Yay. (Which explains the constant fatigue, btw.)
She wanted to go ahead and run some more labs, though, and check my hormone levels (estrogen, LH, testosterone) and have a Celiac panel done just to rule that out. Had that done. Celiac panel was negative (which was good, because we were both pretty worried about that one). My estrogen was fine, and the LH (the hormone that tells the ovaries to release an egg every month) was fine. My testosterone, though, was about two times as high where they like to see it (although it was also still in the “normal” range).
So all of this added up points to PCOS and insulin resistance with a slightly underactive thyroid.
It’s. Not. My. Fault.
I didn’t gain all of this weight because of some moral failing on my part, or because I lack willpower. I didn’t gain all of this weight because I didn’t work out hard enough or eat right.
I gained it because my hormone levels are kind of messed up, and apparently my body is very sensitive to hormonal changes, as can be witnessed by how quickly I gain weight whenever I switch birth control and the awful migraines I get when starting my period (well, when I get one…thanks, PCOS).
The kind of funny (not really funny) thing is that months ago I thought I could possibly have PCOS. I knew I had a lot of the symptoms, but I just wasn’t sure. When the ultrasound showed that I didn’t have any cysts on my ovaries I figured, well, okay, I was wrong.
In other words, I listened to my body and my gut knew what was wrong, but one set of tests didn’t show that result so I automatically discredited what I’d been fairly certain about. Yeah, I had pretty good evidence that that wasn’t the issue–I mean, when you think about something like Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, you automatically think about cysts on the ovaries.
Apparently, though, not all women with PCOS actually have cysts on their ovaries. For some of us, PCOS is diagnosed by looking at multiple lab tests in conjunction with symptoms, which is what happened with me. I guess I’m kind of lucky in that I don’t have some of the painful symptoms associated with PCOS–but the other symptoms I do have are kind of for the birds.
I think the scariest parts are the fact that I’m also insulin resistant (which goes hand-in-hand with PCOS), and that PCOS can cause infertility. No, Phillip and I aren’t planning on having children any time soon (we have to get him a new kidney first), but I can admit that I would prefer that decision to be OURS, rather than a by-product of my body deciding it doesn’t want to get pregnant at all.
So now I find myself on thyroid meds to try to get my TSH below 2.5, Metformin for the insulin resistance/PCOS, B-12 and a shit ton of Vitamin D. Depending on how the Metformin works to treat the PCOS, my endocrinologist may or may not try to find a birth control pill that truly works for me.
This diagnosis, though? It explains so much, along with making me feel a weird sense of relief.
It’s. Not. My. Fault.