November of 2016 I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, also known as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or Disease. But it has always been much more than just that.

PCOS is a hormonal imbalance that affects a woman's overall look, and mental and physical health. This is due to problems concerning a woman's ovaries. For instance, many women with PCOS have problems with the abundance of cysts on their ovaries, which results in the imbalance of hormones. But also, those with PCOS don't always have to have cysts present for the disease to be present. Most common symptoms include cysts, hirtuism, irregular and painful cramps (and not the normal, painful cramps), hair loss, anxiety and/or depression, insulin resistance, diabetes 2, and skin tags. But PCOS should not be limited to these symptoms, it is known as a syndrome for a reason.

Before I was diagnosed, I was realizing that I was coming to terms with the idea that something must be seriously wrong with me. I was no longer feeling like I was a woman. I was losing all of my hair at once, I was growing darker-colored arm hair, and I was growing facial hair. All of which I, almost a year and a half later, am still struggling with.

My anxiety skyrocketed. The self-esteem that I was holding onto was slowly disappearing and I was questioning everything I knew about womanhood. I stopped looking at myself in the mirror and feeling any confidence. I was scared those around me were going to start seeing me for who I was starting to see myself as. Come Spring, I was still wearing long sleeves because I was so embarrassed about my arms. I would cover my chin up just in case someone saw any unwanted hairs. I would, and still do, wear my hair in ways that cover up the fact that my hair has thinned so much.

Although the feeling of insecurity because of how much my looks have changed still creep up on me, I am not who I was when I walked out of the doctor's office back in November of 2016. The doctor told me one thing, "Do not google anything related to PCOS." I did the exact the opposite. In fact, my grocery shopping trips turned into what was maybe 45 minutes to 4 hours. I made sure everything I was eating and using would not harm me or enhance my PCOS in any way.

The following January I had done so much research about PCOS that I realized nothing I was finding was helpful. I joined, and am currently still a part of, two Facebook groups that allow women with PCOS to come together to share each other's celebrations and/or downfalls. One of the best things I did for myself was find a way to stay in contact with other women who are going through the same thing. The hirtuism, the hair loss, the hair growth, the idea of never having children, the insulin resistance, and the pain that comes with periods.

Not only did I do that, but I started with my diet. PCOS takes away so much of your self-control to the point you no longer know who you are. I knew that I had to gain some of my self-control back and I knew the only way I could do that was through exercise and my diet. It has almost been a year and a half and I am now a vegan. This is not my lecture on why anyone with PCOS should go vegan but here are some things that I no longer worry about.

My insulin levels are now at a point of no concern and my testosterone levels are closer to a normal female than before my diet change. I no longer have to sit in a bathtub at 3 a.m or skip out on events because of the pain of a period. I no longer deal with cramps or pain at all when my period comes, to be honest. I did end up shaving my arms, but the unwanted hairs on my face are not what they used to be. And last, my hair falling out, is no longer a concern of mine.

I would never take back having PCOS, no matter how damaging it is and can be. Because of this awful disease, I am more me than I have ever been. I no longer question my womanhood, it might be different than other women but I will always be a woman. The same reason why I used to put myself down has become the same reason why I build myself up. I focused on the two things that I could control and now I feel more in control than ever before, and I am happy with that.

I see that women all around the world battle with PCOS differently, and that is okay, but I hope my story inspires someone in the same ways that I have been inspired.