Freedom, after 8 long years!

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It is almost uncanny how the best moments of my life have often coincided with the worst. As I have come to believe, there is a price to pay for every decision taken, every choice made. And I do not mean it negatively, but just the awareness of how saying ‘yes’ to something means saying ‘no’ to many others has helped me evaluate all my choices better and make conscious decisions. As it were, the best year of my life up until then, the year I met my now-husband and we decided to get married was also the year I got diagnosed with PCOD. There is a difference between PCOD and PCOS, but I continue to use the term PCOD as it was used by my first doctors when it was almost unheard of and it has stuck with me.

So there we were in 2010 meeting every single day, eating out every single day and drinking fairly regularly. Anybody who knows me knows I don’t enjoy my drink and finish my beer / cocktail after a lot of egging on. But Abhi and I had just discovered how yummy Kamikaze shots were and there were many nights we ordered several shots along with our Caprioshkas or Mojitos. I began putting on weight that time but I hardly even noticed it in my smitten, almost delirious-with-joy state.

In October 2010, my menstrual bleeding began and it would not stop. After 7 days, I waited for 10, then 20 then 25. It took me 25 days of bleeding to work out that something was quite wrong. Till then, I had never even visited a gynecologist and Mum took me to her doctor. That visit did not go well. The doctor could not get over how fat I had become and expounded upon it for half an hour before prescribing hormonal pills. I was so put off by her insensitive talking, I refused to see her again. I then used recommendations at work to find a new doctor.

In our quest to understand PCOD which not many seemed to have even heard of, we must have visited ten different clinics and hospitals (and I can never be grateful enough to Abhi for coming with me and holding my hand every single time!) before we visited the gynecologist who we would start a life-long relationship with. As we sat in her office, something made me feel comforted and peaceful. Her smile, the way she spoke, it all put me at ease and we decided to continue with her. She put me on oral contraceptives and we continued with those, taking them for three months at a stretch followed by a break. At that time, I turned to Ayurveda but it seemed too tedious with its powders and I gave up soon after.

Soon after the wedding and honeymoon, our doctor spoke to us about trying to conceive. We laughed it off then, not imagining a baby in our life for at least a couple of years. But in 2012, a year into our marriage, we talked about it seriously and decided to begin trying, as I was already experiencing trouble with my period.

Then came a year of ovulation monitoring, HCG injections and progesterone supplements and lots of tears and frustration before we luckily and naturally conceived Rumi in 2013, when we were least expecting it.

Her birth was followed by the period of most self-neglect I had ever practiced. Pregnancy had brought along Hypothyroidism and gestational diabetes with strict bed rest but all I wanted was to carry the baby to full-term and once I birthed a healthy baby, I forgot all about regular testing and monitoring till two years later where my desire for a second child surfaced.

All the tests showed miserable results. A scary high (and bloody inaccurate!) sugar test later, we started looking into alternative treatments last year. I am quite a non-believer in Homeopathy but we still met a dozen homeopathic doctors again, some old and senile, some young and juvenile, and though we weren’t particularly happy with any of them, the medicine did seem to help.

Month after month I would take my medicines, along with folic acid and calcium supplements and rant about the unfairness of it all. In my mind, according to my personal rules of justice, since I had suffered from primary infertility, the next time conception was supposed to be super-easy. (In my defense, I was also told a hundred times by various ‘wise’ women: “Dusryanda lavkar hota” (“Conceiving the second time is easier”). My husband would smile in his gentle way and ask me “But think logically Allu, you’re older, your body has undergone so much with Rumi’s birth…”

I was in a frustrated, exhausted and emotionally wrung-out state. I would not get my period for months at a time, making ‘trying to conceive’ almost impossible as there was no ovulation happening. Till I heard ‘Let It Go‘ from the movie Frozen a million times a day, dreamed about Elsa telling me to let it go and just understood once and for all. I needed to let go, just like the last time with Rumi. Conceiving and birthing are incredible miracles which we simply cannot hope to control a 100%. We can do our best and the rest really up to God, the universe, the energies of the world.

Having to grapple with the thought that I absolutely cannot control the outcome was extremely hard for me. But once I came to terms with it, I took an effort to control the things that I could and then just leave it out there for the Universe to decide. The constant pressure of wanting a baby was off me and I started enjoying being in the present, really enjoying with Rumi and giving her my full attention. My wish may come true and it may never happen. We might get there through other means or stop and say “One is enough, more than enough”. I don’t have the answers yet. But I am peaceful, content and grateful to be where we are in our lives right now.

I started exercising regularly, not as the means to the end of another baby but for myself, for my health and well-being. I started watching what I eat. We still eat out a lot, enjoy non-vegetarian meals but I am mindful of what I eat, I try to eat on time and I can happily say that 8 out of 10 meals are nutritious and healthy.

And just look what a few tiny lifestyle changes have done!

I had completely accepted PCOD as a part of my life and I wholly believed in what I’ve always heard: PCOD is pretty much irreversible, we can only try to bring it in control through lifestyle changes. I made all these lifestyle changes in order to improve my overall well-being without thinking about eradicating PCOD.

Yesterday was supposed to be a routine ultrasound since I have been taking only Ayurvedic medicines and have stopped all my allopathic pills, including Metformin. That was a big, scary step for me and I was very tense about my blood sugar report. the blood sugar and thyroid levels were completely normal and lower than ever!

I lay on that bed in extreme discomfort, remarking to my husband “It is 2018. You would think there would be another way to get a clear ultrasound without this full bladder nonsense.” He handed me another glass of water. Since this was just a routine ultrasound, we did not visit my doctor but an independent lab. The doctor was sleepy eyed and kind. “Why didn’t you bring your old reports?” he asked. “Ummm” i was flustered and then he continued with “You don’t have PCOD.”

WHAT?? “I have PCOD since 2010” in my firmest tone. And then a meek “Could you please check again?” He did. Absolutely nothing. No bulky ovaries, no cysts. All clear and very unremarkable inside. “That’s why I wanted to see your older reports” he said. I know my old reports by heart. Every one of them says ‘polycystic ovaries’. I have never ever had an ultrasound that said ‘No remarkable findings’. I told my husband and we hugged and jumped in that little waiting room, in spite of that excruciatingly full bladder.

Ever since last night, I cannot stop looking at my report. And I cannot stop tearing up! How is this possible? Is it a mistake? asks my delighted yet skeptical mind. It is too much to take in. So I don’t have PCOD. This seemingly ordinary news is making me weak in my knees. I want to tell every person I meet. “I don’t have PCOD!!” I already told the maids this morning. They didn’t even know what it was but the politely agreed “Khup cchaan zhala” (Very Good!)

I’m afraid of bursting into tears of gratefulness in the Ayurvedic doctor’s clinic tomorrow. Ah well, can’t worry about dignified behavior now. I’m blessing that guy every single minute right now.

For all those of you with PCOD, or any health trouble that brings down the quality of your life, I am compiling a few things that seemed to help me.

Find a good doctor

After having been to at least 30 different doctors in the last decade, I cannot emphasize enough how much of a difference the doctor makes. Not the medicine, not whether it is allopathic, homeopathic or ayurvedic but the doctor himself. If you’re already anxious about your health, you do not need anybody that tells you off, makes you feel smaller than you’re already feeling and shames you. Neither do you want someone taking you casually and rushing you in a hurry to see the next patient. Don’t be afraid to visit different doctors till you find somebody you wholeheartedly trust, somebody who you feel is genuinely interested in your recovery and wellness.

I never, really personally believed in Ayurveda but I really liked my doctor, his calmness and two months of medicine seems to have worked a miracle! Please take the time out to find a doctor that makes you feel comfortable, this has been the biggest game-changer for me and I have a 100% faith in all the doctors in my life from my gynecologist to Rumi’s pediatrician.

Practice emotional resilience

So many people give you the advice of ‘ignoring’ the people or situations you don’t like. But for an emotional weather vane like me who cannot function well if emotionally hurt, ignoring seems like the hardest thing to do. What I have gently and slowly practicing in this year is to not indulge in things or situations that upset me. It actually came to a time where I was hardly meeting any humans except my husband and child.

And while this seems unhealthily creepy and would be so if it continued long-term, I was really able to cut out all the noise, strip my life to its bare minimum and then gradually only allow those things in that validated my self-worth.

Aunty who said “Why are you looking so fat?” CUT.

Another random aunty who said “Kiti pimples ale ahet!” CUT

For a decade I had been saying “PCOD” ashamedly and apologetically. Because it is so common, it is often viewed as not such a serious issue.

“Every second girl has it” they say, almost dismissively as if that is no excuse for my apparent sloth.

Using my husband’s term ‘Patta cut‘ for all those people who made me feel down in any way, even if they were sometimes my nearest and dearest ones.

I have a toddler to look after, my house to run, my partner to cherish and support. I do not have the mind space to deal with anything over and above this that only brings me down.

The biggest enemy here was comparison. “But she has PCOD and she’s doing it.” “But she has a full-time successful career and a toddler and she’s managing wonderfully”. Yes. But they are them and I am me. This revelation helped me to only think of myself, getting better than I used to be, keeping my eye on my own tightrope, not wanting to fall the minute I raised my eyes to look at where ‘others’ were.

It was hard and is hard but it really gets easy with practice, to count your blessings everyday and to be satisfied in knowing that you gave this day the very best you could. Most importantly, you don’t deserve to have your feelings invalidated or shrugged off. Even a headache is a headache, anything that makes you feel unwell deserves to be taken seriously.

Find exercise you love

The whole world knows the benefits of exercise. Yet why do so many of us not exercise on a regular basis? There are some people who love to be active in their free time and there is me who loves to be a couch potato in my free time. I can literally lie down the whole day and not be bored for a single second.

Knowing that I had to exercise lead me to probe: wasn’t there any form of exercise I enjoyed? I remembered that I used to love to dance and swim. I started with swimming and here we really got lucky because our society made a fancy, lovely pool for us to enjoy. Even on some lazy days, once I went to the pool, I always enjoyed myself. And once it became a habit, it became easier and easier to integrate it into a busy day, Very often, I go swimming late evening after Abhi is home. The pool is empty and all lit up and without random kids doing Cannonball jumps and it is such a pleasure to only hear the splash of your own hands and legs!

Another thing I enjoy is Yoga. Just looked up some PCOD specific asanas and started with those and Surya Namaskars. I have fun with it and so does Rumi (That child actually dances to my Kapalbhati cycles, it is HILARIOUS!)

I know the benefits of strength training and weights but the thought bores me to death. If I had forced myself to take a gym membership I would have only gone for 2 days a month!

Taking time to even find something enjoyable has made it easier for me to incorporate it into my day. From cycling to running to Zumba to dancing in the living room on Salman Khan’s songs, taking up something you really have fun with makes all the difference in the world.

Ultimately, this happened to me when I was least expecting it, but when I was living my life mindfully. I think things started changing the minute I decided to be content in every minute, with whatever we have. It is not all roses but it feels great to live in the moment, to be grateful for all that my life has given me and eventually to finally be PCOD-free!

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