This holiday season, families will gather around and reflect on how blessed and grateful they are. When people list the top things they are thankful for, it’s usually the regulars:
Our family will do the same, and I will anxiously await my turn…
And then they will get to me.
I know what I want to say. I’ve been reflecting about this for some time. I have been trying to figure out how exactly to express the thing I am most grateful for. So instead I’ll likely joke and say “leggings” and/or carbs and life goes on.
But I want to tell you. I think it’s important. It is for me this year. (Before I tell you, I want you to promise to hear me out? It is going to sound crazy. But… trust me, okay?)
I am thankful for PCOS.
Yes. You did not misread. I am thankful for the condition that has wrecked havoc on my body, mind and life. Please understand I am not trying to lie and say I am glad I have this diagnosis. Chronic illness isn’t something you can just sugarcoat with positivity and smiles and make it seem like it’s anything less than it is.
I am certainly not sitting here trying to convince you to give thanks that something bad has happened to you. I am not thankful for losing my aunt too soon. I am not grateful my dog is sick. I am not thankful for the fatal crash I witnessed last week. I wouldn’t wish PCOS on another woman. If I was given the choice, I promise you I wouldn’t chose to have PCOS. If they woke up tomorrow and had a cure for it, I’d be in line. It is horrible sometimes. It has made for some bad, scary, trying, dark days.
I remember one of the dark days. On this August day, I wasn’t grateful for PCOS. Laying curled up on the floor of the bathroom, the chills of the square bathroom tiles were cold on my skin, I lay there. In that dark moment, as I fought between uncontrollable sobbing and fighting back the sound escaping my lips so no one would hear, I traced the tiles’ edges to make the time disappear. I wanted to disappear. As I did, I remembered something someone once told me.
It’s a bad day, not a bad life.
I sat up from that floor, and thought, “Shelby, get through the next minute. It’s just a minute.”
I got through it. And thought: “I did it. Now what?”
I have grown to realize it’s all in what you do in those now what? moments. It’s then when you have you decide. What’s next? It’s when you have to make a choice. For me that particular August day, it was deciding to accept and face whatever “bad” day/pain/fear/situation. I would find something good. If I couldn’t find something good, I would find something valuable.
That day was the day I got online and typed in “PCOS Support.” I was shocked at how little information there was available. Even worse, in the support forums, it was all so sad and negative. Women talking about all the things and dreams and happiness PCOS was going to take from them.
Today, I am grateful for all the things PCOS has given me.
On those days that I had to go to school and face being called the “fat sister” by the senior boys because I’d rather cry in the bathroom than tell my mom about it, I learned to be resilient. I’d like to say it played a part in giving me my wit and sense of humor. Being the fat friend wasn’t easy, so I learned to be funny instead. I learned patience while I waited for an explanation year after year for why my body was acting different or didn’t feel right. I stayed patient while my body failed me cycle after cycle.
And when I had enough of feeling clueless about my own body, I became my own health advocate. It’s really hard to love a body you don’t understand or feel comfortable in. It has been one of the hardest things I’ve done, letting go of expectations of what to look like and hatred of my own body for not following suit, but I’ve discovered self love. When you start to love yourself, amazing things happen. When you love yourself, you forgive yourself. Self forgiveness lead me to bravery in ways I wouldn’t understand.
But I chose to have to believe things happen for a reason. And this holiday season, PCOS gives me hope. That August day I felt hopeless. I can’t tell you why I suffered that early pregnancy loss that summer. I don’t know how I wound up feeling so alone and wanting to disappear myself, surviving by getting through minutes. I thought for the longest time that PCOS just wanted to take away everything good in my life. So I don’t know what possessed me to seek out support online. On any other given day I probably would have joined in with the other women feeling victimized and letting our diagnosis take away from our lives. But I didn’t. Maybe I was ready to accept my diagnosis. Maybe I wanted to help. Maybe I refused to let PCOS take one more thing from me.
Whatever it was, I wasn’t looking back. And so I am grateful, because that day PCOS saved my life. (It just took a really roundabout explanation to realize that). And when I get stuck in a now what? situation, I remember… it’s a bad day, not a bad life.
(To the amazing souls I have been blessed with through entering this PCOS community, I am grateful for you. I am entirely blown away every single day by the inspiring, remarkable humans you are. And to the souls who dare to share their stories even when it’s scary, who forgive and love themselves fearlessly, and don’t ever quit ― I’m grateful for you. You are an inspiration. Keep being brave.)
This post originally appeared on Coach Shelby.