My journey with PCOS...
(and how the cycles led me home)
I was a 'late bloomer' and when my bleed started it wasn't easy to say the least. Before I even experienced my first menstrual cycle (menarche) I would experience a migraine and lose my vision once a month. When they started I would have terrible pain and be throwing up, writhing around on the floor next to the loo and have to regularly miss school. I’d never had any issues with my skin however during my late teens I developed severe acne. Growing up I had always taken good care of my skin and had taken an interest in it. When the acne came the first time it was really bad, I was at Drama School. I had my friends ask what had happened to my skin? Although I loved to visit the juice bars and health stores (and would often spend way too much money there) the 12 hour days and weekends as well meant there wasn’t much time to plan healthy meals, I tended to go for huge bowls of pasta to give me energy, I don’t think my diet was the best and the stress levels were very high, I went on the pill and my skin calmed down. I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), a condition where the ovaries are covered with very small follicles in which the egg develops and where acne is one of the symptoms.
The pill I was on though, you couldn’t be on if you had migraines so I came off it. Then unsurprisingly, the acne came back again, I remember during Waterloo Road filming (image above) I had a flare up and because of schedules I couldn’t get to the doctors and it was getting worse and worse, impossible to cover up with make-up. It would begin in one area of my face and then move around until I was covered and that’s when it would have a full hold and I’d resort to the methods that didn’t feel right, but I was desperate. In this picture it was mainly chin and cheeks. Eventually I did get to the doctors and that’s when I went on the antibiotics. They were horrible to take and felt so wrong for my body. I knew there was a better way. When you have an issue you always notice the perfectness in those around you, I would obsess over other peoples skin. I remember on holiday I would see my friends so free, jumping in and out of water and I always had make-up on to cover up the boils and blemishes so I felt trapped and stuck, unable to be free to have fun. It was probably even worse in my mind. I also had a problem with picking which didn’t help! I spoke to a friend who was working with Marilyn Glenville (Charlotte Dormon, if you happen to read this, I will forever be so grateful for that spontaneous conversation in Sa Fonda!), that’s when everything changed. I had tests to check my hormone levels and my testosterone was high.
Marilyn created a plan to give my body a chance to reset, took away the things that were potentially flaring up my PCOS (the main ones being wheat, dairy and sugar) and added supplements and foods to soothe and calm everything down. After 12 weeks of strictly sticking to the plan my skin was completely clear. Also part of the plan was meditation, to calm my nervous system and balance the stress levels (which also affect hormones). PCOS can mean there are problems with the blood sugar balance - another symptom I would have would be experiencing plummeting energy levels and if I didn’t eat regularly enough there would be moments where the hunger would lead to really odd feelings of being numb or I could end up in tears (which wasn’t always understood by those around me, there was a tendency to think I was being overdramatic and a bit of a Hangry diva).
Alongside the inner work I also assisted the healing on the outer level - I avoided over-washing my skin (something that feels like the opposite of what you want to do when you have acne). Over-washing doesn’t help the acid mantle stay balanced, it actually causes your skin to over-produce oil, so it makes it even worse. By using minimal products and adding a few drops of face oil (and a lot of patience and trust) while it settled, also really helped. Another big lesson was using face tissues to dry my face rather than a towel (where bacteria can gather) - I know it’s not probably the best for the environment but it did help during this time. And I would only touch my face to apply products / make-up, I developed a good habit of not touching it during the day unconsciously - this just causes bacteria to spread. And, the picking had to go out of the window, it only makes matters worse. I would pick spots that were more like boils and under the skin and end up in such a mess. That had to stop, again everything needed time to calm down and settle.
Continuing on from this in the last few years I’ve deepened my relationship to my ‘bleed’ and my whole cycle - I have no pain anymore and a regular cycle.
Another symptom I used to have was PMS, I would become extremely sensitive before my bleed (the Autumn part of the cycle for those of you who work with the menstrual seasons). I believe PMS is partly your soul crying out for you to listen, it’s your truth rising to the surface uncontrollably, it’s all the times you didn’t speak your truth or free your emotions. I never knew this, it was something that gets laughed at, that typical thing where you’re emotional or angry and someone says ‘ohh are you on your period’ and you’re like ‘f••• you!’ But when you listen and hear that deeper call, the whisperings and find ways to channel your truth throughout the month, and heal the lost or hidden parts, those symptoms can calm down. That’s what happened in my experience. Again it’s a multi-angled approach, I do think PMS is helped through diet/supplements but shadow work is also really important and healing.
I’ve learnt the power of my cycle, I found the key to unlock the secrets that it holds and I know now the problems I was having were all about leading me home. My body was saying ‘wake up, listen to me, I’m trying to teach you something’ but I wasn’t listening to what my body was trying to tell me, and no-one around me had the tools, and 'masking the symptoms' through conventional methods wasn't the answer.... I had to follow the trail of crumbs from the Universe to unlock the wisdom.
It was a long journey home, but I got here in the end! Working with the cycles on a physical, emotional and spiritual level - the menstrual cycle, the lunar cycle and the seasonal cycle is literally like an awakening, it’s something we already all understand at our deepest core, but it’s like we’ve forgotten the language. It’s my mission to help women of all ages come home to the power of their cycles and their magical real relationship to the cycles of nature. The journey of self-discovery continues, with every bleed, every moon phase, every spin of the Wheel as the seasons change I learn a little more about myself and the cycles.
Photographs 1 and 3: Karen Staniland-Platt @withpassionandpurpose
Image 2: Screenshot from Waterloo Road Series 4, BBC