After sharing my HA diagnosis a few months ago, I've been overwhelmed by the number of women who have shared, commented or emailed me about their own hormone issues. To this day, My Battle With Estrogen remains my highest viewed post. When I wrote that post, I never expected to receive the response I did from so many women who are suffering with HA or some form of hormone imbalance. Many of them requested I continue writing about it, but finding the words has been really difficult for me.
It's not something I particularly want to talk about. In fact, part of me is subconciously pushing it under the rug pretending it doesn't exist. I don't want to admit to myself I have to deal with this and that I will eventually have to make lifestyle decisions. It makes me feel weak and I pride myself on being strong. But if my weakness helps another woman going through this or something similar then putting my pride aside is worth talking about it.
So let's talk about The Aftermath of my HA Diagnosis.
Going Off The Pill
You may remember Mayo Clinic put me on that high dose estrogen birth control pill. That pill made me feel awful. I felt as if I had adrenaline running through my body. I was edgy, irritable, unfocused and gained weight. I suffered horrible cramping during my menstrual cycle, heavy bleeding and at times, hemorrhaging. There were a days I couldn't go to work it was so bad.
Being on the pill was horrible and I knew in the back of my mind that I shouldn't be on it. I'd been on the pill since I was 16 and wondered what taking artificial hormones had done to my body over the course of so many years. I also couldn't imagine being on the pill forever either. What am I supposed to do? Take the pill until I'm 80? I felt like it was a bandaid to cover up what was really going on with my body.
So going against medical advice, I took myself off the pill.
After The Pill
Two months after going off the pill, I started feeling like myself again. I was more focused, less irritable and lost weight. My periods are still irregular, painful, spotty and extremely heavy, but with less overall disruption to my life. I feel less crazy! My OBGYM said the abnormalities could be my body trying to regulate itself after being dormant for many years. She assured me I don't need to worry about it. The good news is I am getting a period and my body's doing it on its own.
Going The Natural Route
After feeling frustrated with traditional medicine & being passed around from doctor to doctor, over the summer I saw a naturopath. It was sort of last ditch effort to see if someone else could figure out what was going on with my body. After seeing her, I felt my decision to see her was the best thing I thing I did for my health.
She agreed with my decision to go off the pill was the right one. She also reviewed my labs and while I was no longer estrogen deficient, I was deficient in all other reproductive hormones. She pointed out that I needed proper levels of testosterone and progesterone in my body at various stages of my cycle and mine were simply not working. It confirmed what I felt all along. The pill was only a bandaid for a symptom of something else.
To rebalance my hormones, she had me seed cycle. Seed cycling is a natural way of resetting the body's hormones by eating certain said seeds at different phases of the menstrual cycle. The omegas gently encourage the body to kickstart its natural rhythm. With the exception of 1 month (after the car accident when I was under extreme stress), I've had a period.
The Root Cause
Besides my hormone deficiency, my labs showed other abnormalities. Various organs and hormones showed a decline in function over the course of a year. There were things she noted that no other traditional doctor ever talked to me about and I assume never considered. She told me this has become the new normal and she's seeing more and more patients like me being passed around the medical system not getting answers. In a future post, I'll discuss what she theorized as the root cause of my estrogen deficiency. I'm still undergoing tests to confirm everything.
Stress, The Contributing Factor
With HA, there are three motivating factors: high stress, intense exercise and disordered eating. My naturopath reviewed what and how I was eating and determined my eating was not part of the equation. I was eating enough and eating the right things.
Because of my cycle of injuries, I haven't worked out with the same intensity as I used to in the past so the exercise part of this equation remains to be determined, but I suspect the answer is yes. Our bodies don't know the difference between good stress (i.e. exercise) and bad stress (i.e. work, family, life). I know my life has been incredibly stressful these last few years especially with work. The pressure, intensity, long hours has been immense and I'm sure that along with the stress of exercise contributed to that.
The Scary Reality
It's scary being sick and alone. Most women my age have a husband, a partner to lean on every day. I have no one. No one to support me. No one to take care of me. No one to tell me what to do. I know I have to reduce my stress but I don't know how to do. At least I haven't figure it out yet. I've been too busy recovering from injuries.
It's scary knowing your body is shutting down and feeling like if you don't do something about it that your health will continue to suffer. You feel lost, like you don't know what to do and scared of making a change. I always thought as a kid that being an adult would be so much easier. You could do or be anything you wanted. When did becoming an adult become being scared of living our lives beyond what we know? Either way. It's scary.
We often talk about how HA effects us emotionally and psychologically in terms of our weight, our relationship with food or our exercise habits, but we don't talk about the real truth. How it effects our day to day life and how we're left in ruins to figure them out. Alone. Scared. And uncertain of the future.