As I begin to write this post, it’s 12:36am. I’m up because every inch of my skin is itchy (despite being covered in coconut oil), which I can attribute to maybe an allergic reaction to something I ate today- maybe a stress response from doing too much- or maybe a side effect of IBS and struggling with pooping like a normal person today. I attempted to go to bed at 10pm but my body clearly had other plans for me. Instead of laying in bed, insufferably itchy and gassy and bloated, I decided to get up and write this in the hopes that it’ll comfort someone else out there dealing with the things I’m dealing with.
This one’s a long one with no pictures so bail now if you don’t want to get into this.
You see, as many of you all know, four years ago I began a weight loss journey that ultimately led me to losing eighty pounds in nine short months (going from 210 lb. to 130 lb.) I did it mostly through calorie counting, but also moving more and exercising regularly for the first time in my life. What started as something good I was trying to do for myself eventually turned into obsession which ultimately morphed itself into an eating disorder. I struggled in the deepest depths of orthorexia for several months (and losing 20 more pounds that my body needed) until finally finding it within myself to admit I needed help. During this time, I also developed IBS like symptoms and lost my period for two months.
I worked with a counselor and registered dietitian for the better part of a year trying to take my life back. And I eventually did with their help. My period came back. My IBS symptoms didn’t go away, but they definitely improved if even ever so slightly. I gained a healthy amount of weight back. I started exercising smarter and eating smarter. I switched to a whole foods (not the grocery store) way of eating and adapted an 80/20 paleo philosophy in order to help my body heal quicker from all of the damage that it incurred during my eating disorder days. I had taxed my adrenals pretty heavily and I knew it would take many years of taking care of myself before I got my body out of the constant state of stress it had gotten so used to living in. I was still exercising like a crazy person- running my first half marathon and a ten miler a couple weeks after + working out six times a week.
For a couple of years, things were pretty stable. I had better energy levels (not good, but better), a better mentality about food (not good, but better), a better relationship with my body (not the greatest, but better), a better relationship with exercise (you get the picture here), my weight wasn’t changing, and my IBS was still present but more manageable. I definitely developed some food allergies during my eating disorder days (due to the amount of stress my body was under and the negative effects this then had on my gut) and so I worked my way through eliminating different foods and adding them back into my diet to see what I had issues with. I felt like I was on a good track to getting better. I still experienced bad joint pain, bouts of bad anxiety, and was easily fatigued- but like I said before, everything was at least slightly better than it had been. I probably was still over-exercising for the recovery my body was still trying to make, but I was aware of this at the very least.
In May of 2014 I decided to go off of hormonal birth control. I had put my body through so much and I just wanted to give it a break. I wanted to give it the chance to “do its thing” for once now that I was fueling it properly and was in a better mental head space. I wanted to see where my hormones stood. I wanted to see what my body would do without anything synthetic going into it.
And well, I saw what it would do alright. I haven’t had my period since then. That’ll be two years this May. Yepppp.
The only reason I was getting my period before was because of the pill. My body wasn’t producing the hormones needed for this biological function on its own. It’s almost like it forgot how to do it. Having a regular/normal reproductive cycle is one of the number one indicators for good health in women… so I wasn’t feeling so great after the first couple of months went by and I didn’t get my period.
And here I am today. Diagnosed in western medicine terms with amenorrhea. Even the word for the condition sounds horrible. Doctors (and myself) are hesitant to put me back on birth control because that would merely be a bandaid on a bigger issue. Sure, maybe I’d get my period back, but then once I wanted to have kids in a few years an went off of it… I’d be stuck with the same problem. We’re dedicated to finding the root cause of my lack of period.
Throughout the past year, my body has changed dramatically. I’m pretty sure my lack of period has affected my hormones in a big way.
I don’t have the energy I used to have. Working out hard for an hour wipes me out for an entire day- like can’t get off the couch kind of wiped out. Having my heart rate up for even over thirty minutes a day sets off a stress response in my body making it hard for me to concentrate for the rest of the day, feel calm, and then fall asleep that night. I had to give up exercising as I knew it (spin, running, HIIT, and all the other intense workouts I loved) and settle for walking more, yoga, and slowly lifting heavy weights. I had FINALLY found exercise that I loved… and then I had to give it up. I didn’t want to risk stressing my body out even more. Getting my period back became more important than sweating at the gym.
And don’t even get me started on my increased joint pain. I used to be able to lightly jog up metro escalators- I used to walk up the nine flights of stairs to my old apartment daily- and now the one flight of stairs up to my apartment is a struggle sometimes.
But what’s worse, is the uncontrollable weight gain. Guys- let me tell you- I eat really well. And I have a job where I’m moving all day every day. There is no reason why I should have put on thirty pounds over the course of a couple of months. That’s absurd. I’m steadily gaining 1/2 lb. to a 1 lb every week irregardless of how I move or what I eat. It’s horrifying because I literally have ZERO control over it.
I’ve seen both holistic health practitioners and western medicine doctors. Both have helped in small ways, but no one can seem to point to what’s wrong with me.
Right now where we’re at with everything is that the immense stress I put my body under and autoimmune condition I developed four years ago affected my pituitary gland and hormone production. This in turn makes my thyroid and adrenals act slugglish- affecting my metabolism and the overall balancing of my stress (cortisol) and hormones.
On good days, I know I’ll figure it out. I know things will eventually get better. I accept my body for what it is right now and only hope for the best. I have this proactive determination that can’t be stopped. I just keep doing what I’m doing- treating my issue with food I know is good for me, rest I know I need, as much sleep as possible, and only light exercise.
But on bad days and rough nights, I feel pretty hopeless and afraid. I’m thirtyish pounds away from reaching the heaviest weight I was before I lost it all. I don’t want to be back in that place. Especially after I worked so hard and completely changed my life. It’s not fair. I look in the mirror sometimes and just wonder how I got back to this place. It’s awful and makes me so angry.
More importantly, I’m terrified I’ll never have my period again thus making it impossible for me not to have children. If you know me, you know the only thing I’ve ever wanted in life is to be a Mom. I want to be able to be pregnant and have my own children. Yes, I know there are so many other options out there in order for me to eventually be a Mom, but carrying my own child has always been a dream of mine. This would be a loss that I’d have to mourn big time.
And I get mad. Really mad. Mad because health care is so freaking expensive and I don’t have the money to see every type of doctor under the sun to figure out what’s wrong with me. I have to keep trusting my gut (which is a hot mess btw), doing a lot of research on my own, and helping myself- which isn’t necessarily the most effective route to take. Mad because I feel like some people think I’m crazy. Mad because even sometimes I think I’m crazy. Mad because this is like an invisible disease that’s ruining my life right now. Mad because my outside body doesn’t reflect the healthy lifestyle I live. Mad because I worry that people are judging me because of my weight gain and current appearance. Mad because I can just hear the things people are saying about me. Mad because I worry about what other people think of me. Mad because I threw out so many outfits and articles of clothing that were too big for me back in the day that I would kill to have know. Mad because I can’t afford to keep buying new clothes. Mad because so many people never even have to think about any of this! Mad at people who don’t understand what its like to struggle with weight and body image yet judge and say shit anyway. Mad because I want to scream my story at the top of my lungs so everyone knows- but I’ve been too scared to do so.
I don’t 100% know what’s going on with me. I’m trying to take things one day- one decision- at a time. I’m slowly but surely going to piece this whole mess together.
The only bright light in all this is that I’m learning more about my body than I ever thought I’d know. I’ve developed this compassion for it. I no longer see it as an outside enemy or threat like I did for the past few years. My body is my team mate. I might get frustrated with it and encourage it to do better, but I’m always on its side now. The way I look right now isn’t ideal, but I love myself anyway. I know I’m doing everything I can right now to get better and the way I look is just a result of stuff going on internally that is going to take time to figure out. It’s all too overwhelming to approach any other way. I have the rest of my life to get fit again and get my body back- but for now, I have to put my health first, listen to my body, and do whatever it takes to get my period back and hormones balanced.
Hopefully this made some sense. If not, I blame the fact that its now 1:33am. It’s nights like these where I feel #blessed to work in retail- I don’t have work till 11:30.
If you’re going through anything similar- autoimmune conditions, thyroid issues, adrenal fatigue, missing period- please talk it out with me. I could use a squad.
(my email is allison dot n dot godfrey at gmail dot com).