Some of the craziest shit has been happening to me recently. Literally, the craziest. I have no idea what’s going on. That’s a lie. I have a lot of ideas. One of them has even been emerging over the last few days as the strongest contender, but that’s only after duking it out in the sea of idea-mediocrity for some time. It’s like the island of misfit toys, but for insane hypotheses.
Never let it be said I have anything other than insane hypotheses.
Okay. I have to wind it back a bit for you. You can scroll down to the last section of the post for the punch line if you’re an overly eager beaver. What follows is a recap of my eating and PCOS history, with recent developments highlighted near the end.
In 2009 I stopped menstruating. This month, March 2012, marks the 29th month in a row that I haven’t had a period. This is because I have the hormone disorder Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, which means basically that my ovaries are constantly on the fritz. Back in 2009, this condition was sent into hyperdrive. I lost ~25 pounds in 3 months on a low fat low calorie diet. That’ quite an achievement for a 5’2 frame. My already sluggish ovaries boarded up their windows and got the hell out of Dodge, leaving me alone to deal with the wreckage.
My body fat got down to probably around 18 percent, as a guess; it probably dipped to 17 at times, and at others rising to 19. I’m not sure. In any case, from that unhealthy low point in 2009 I adopted a paleo diet, though that didn’t trigger menstruation, and I built muscle, and I travelled and my hair stopped falling out and every man in the world started tripping over himself to put his tongue in my mouth. (This actually happened. It happened so frequently in fact that it developed it’s own name: the drive-by make out. This is not a joke. I was in Italy. Italian men are handsy, presumptuous little grabby primates.)
My sex drive was also in the shitter; I got moderate-severe cystic acne; I was (am) infertile.
But I was paleo. I was healthy. I started doing reading on PCOS and found loads of information– but it all was hard to dig up, and it was totally scattered, and even the people with the best ideas really didn’t have any kind of certainty. The problem was that there’s lots of information out there, and also that PCOS is a bit complicated, such that the reason I was suffering my symptoms “could have been anything!” I tried loads of things to fix the PCOS naturally: I ate super low carbohydrate for a while; I eliminated dairy and soy completely; I ate coconut; I ate fish; I cut out non-organic animal products; I ate “fertility” foods; I built muscle; I exercised; I fasted.
Yeah. So one of the things I did was fast. I was told that PCOS is usually a disease of insulin dysregulation (true), so I figured I should fast in order to fix my sensitivity. Okay! Awesome. Now I had scientific justification for my life of disordered eating, restriction, obsession, and hunger. Hell to the y. e. s.!
Fast forward to the end of 2011.
Nothing has worked. I’m fed-up. I’m broken and pock-marked and frustrated like I’ve never been. Tired of fighting and looking for answers. I decide to try drugs. They fuck me royally.
One of the things that happens is I develop anxiety issues and the worst insomnia I’ve ever suffered. I know this doesn’t sound like a big deal, but of all the health issues I’ve ever dealt with, this one of the worst. I couldn’t possibly wish this kind of panicked existence on anyone. Trying desperately to make it stop, I drop the thyroid medication. It helps. The anxiety dissipates, more or less. All that is left is insomnia. But it’s BATSHIT CRAZY INSOMNIA. Like: Don’t-sleep-for-days insomnia. It’s absurd, completely absurd– I really don’t know how to articulate just how fucked everything in your life becomes when you stop sleeping. Don’t let this happen to you. It’s fucked.
Did I mention being fucked?
I think it’s a good thing.
Now who’s fucked?
I’ve stayed on the testosterone blocking drug Spironolactone. This has some potential to increase my estrogen levels, which is really important. Yet far more important than being on this drug, I think, are some other “desperate” measures I have undertaken, finally, in submission to last resorts. I have added significant carbohydrate to my diet: 40-50 percent of calories, and my BMI has risen to 21.7. I have also endeavored to eat more frequently, specifically whenever I am hungry, and to stop exercising, and do my best to convince my body that I am not starving.
And guess WHAT. I think it’s working.
I think, too, sometimes, that I am detecting hints of a menstrual cycle. (!) By gauging the activity of my skin, my vaginal secretions (no longer dry as Oscar Wilde !), sensation in my clitoris (imagine… Jesus Christ… no, don’t imagine Jesus, I mean: imagine OMG not having any sensation down there for three years), and emotional changes…. well, it looks like my hormones are up to something.
Which brings us to the topic of today’s post: emerging from starvation.
These days, I absolutely can not sleep unless I am fed. This fact scares me for a number of reasons, and it seems crazy, but really, the evidence is clear. At night, I lay awake literally until the sun comes up unless I’ve had a full, satiating meal beforehand. On nights I do sleep, I wake up energized and ravenous, usually quite early. During the day, I might feel exhausted, but I can’t sleep unless I eat. Often I will lay down to nap or to sleep, and I just know that my body is too energized, and I feel sort of caffeine-type jittery, but then I’ll eat an avocado and I’ll be instantaneously exhausted and fall asleep on the spot.
What’s happening to me is on the surface clear, even if the reasoning is less so: it’s adrenaline. Nothing in the world I think has the ability to keep the body running like this for so long except for adrenaline. I have gone now several days at a time where I hardly sleep at all but am never tired…. it’s adrenaline, it’s got to be, and I have a theory. Surprise.
I have sworn very recently to never let my body go hungry. Today, I eat whenever I get the urge to, come hell or high water… or– holy hellfire, Batman!– a size 27 jean. I have to make this happen. Literally. It feels so unnatural. And it is brand new for me. Even though I’ve been fasting under the guise of healthy eating for a significant chunk of time now, I have actually been denying myself food, dieting, counting calories, and cycling in and out of severe restriction since I was ~15 years old.
I have been hungry since I was 15 years old. I think my body had rather gotten used to it. Up until…hell, yesterday, I thought it was the normal state of existence.
But now… now… with the added weight, with the dedication to reduced stress… certain hormone systems I think are kicking back into life. My body is having none of starvation. It’s just completely done; it won’t let me do it anymore; the jig is up– I’m packing up my skinny pants forever. In some ways this is really sad, and still it’s really difficult, but in other ways it’s the best thing that has ever happened to me.
The most amazing thing happened to me last night:
I went out to dinner with some friends, and I did not finish my pho because I did not WANT to.
Holy shit. Holy shit. I’m shaking my computer, guys. If you’re a disordered eater, you know how big of a deal this is. I did not want to keep eating!!11!1!!!1!!sin(90)1!!1!!! Now that I am treating my body with respect, it’s respecting me right back. Is my obsession with food waning? After almost ten years? Was the answer really as simple as making a commitment to reduced stress and consistent satiation?
I’m not getting my hopes up. It’s early. My hormones are in giant flux. I really have no idea what is happening. Honestly, I don’t understand any of it. Why the adrenaline, why now? Why wasn’t it working this way before? Is it because other hormones are fluctuating? Because my cells are emerging from a several-year period of semi-starvation and, in their new energy state, are steadfastly refusing to go back? Maybe. I know that I’m grasping at straws. But I don’t know what else to grasp at. Only time will tell.
For now, I’m going to continue to eat when I’m hungry. This sounds like a completely normal idea, but for me and for all the other people out there with disordered relationships with food, it seems almost impossible. I’ll try to keep at it, and I’ll let you know how it goes. Who knows. Maybe now that I’ve got that side of the equation, I’ll be able to continue to stop eating when I’m full. And this will, in the very least, enable me to keep getting rest at night. That’s the most important part. I really can’t say that enough. Sleep is important. I’ll do anything to get it back.
I’ll write more on starvation in a while. I’ll keep you posted. It’s interesting; it’s abnormal; I’m freaked out and nervous as shit; but also I’m tentatively psyched. The future is scary, but if I can manage to trust my body just a little while longer, I may in fact be saved.