I'm so proud of this body. It's strong, nourished and energised. It's completely changed from the inside out in the last 12 months. Since October, I've had a natural menstrual cycle for the first time in more than a decade. My body is making hormones that it didn't make for ... possibly ever? I'll never really be able to tell. That's the irony of starting the pill as a young girl to help my acne and boost my self-esteem.
In late 2017, I finally faced up to the fact that my hormones had been completed trashed. I'm talking barely existent. The pathologist couldn't actually even measure my free testosterone. That's the last thing that a fitness competitor wants to hear. For years, I put a hell of a lot of time and effort into training to build size and I felt taken aback at the idea that I was only capable of, at best, sub-par results. And that's just considering the muscle building side of things. My estradiol and progesterone measurements resembled the post-menopausal range. I completely freaked out. I also didn't have a clue if these ranges even applied to me because I didn't actually have a natural cycle, thanks to the pill. But I'd stopped taking it more than a year before that. And nothing.
The solution on offer? A technical medical term to label my body's current hormonal state - 'Functional Hypothalamic Amenorrhea'. Translation: 'We don't really know what's wrong with you.' And a prescription for the pill. The one and the same pill that contributed to the problem becomes the cure. Are you serious?
For me, it's been emotional pandemonium.
I felt frustrated, because I felt my body had betrayed me. (I tried to perfect all things. I'd come to learn that perfectionism is part of the problem.)
I felt stupid, because I had considered that I cared for my body.
I felt defeated, because I trained so hard and fastidiously, all for my body to under cut my results.
I felt apathetic, because I couldn't be bothered. It felt out of my control.
I felt anxious, because I didn't have the tools or abilities to fix it. And if I don't heal, what's the consequences?
I felt furious, at doctors, at medicine, at our 'grind or die' culture.
I felt inspired, to learn, research, ask questions, share, and help others.
I've learned so many things about my mind and body. I've delved into the realms of female hormones, blood tests, nutrition, digestion, stress (this is the biggie!) and other lifestyle factors. I've done my best to research things and find accurate information, but I'm no expert and I tend to have far more questions that I do 'answers'. I'm grateful to the master minds in this area like Victoria Felkar for sharing her many years of expertise to make sense of the chaos.
It's not easy to share vulnerabilities about your emotional health, your hormonal imbalances, your irrational self-talk about food and your self-concept that lies in your body image. There's a sense of shame to admitting that you aren't as healthy as you think you should be. To me, it felt like failure. If other people can do it all, then shouldn't I be able to?
But I don't think it's just me.