Disclaimer: I am going to be quite honest in this post and talk about my period, menstrual cycle, that time of the month thing. If you are uncomfortable with this topic please read with caution or not at all. Also, if you are either my dad, brothers, or grandpa you are forewarned as well!
I hope people have some kind of reaction or insight to this or I might have to quickly delete it and go hide in a corner haha
This is a subject I have been wanting to talk about for a long time, but was not yet ready to open up about such a personal subject. After reading other bloggers stories on the matter, and continuously having positive and motivating responses to my other posts, I decided I am ready and it’s time. This is quite long too…. here we go!
This morning I went on a 7 mile run and used the time to really think about what I wanted to say. As I was running, my exhaustion that I spoke about a few weeks ago was still present and continues to burden both my mind and body. My legs were so tired even with the fuel I had consumed before the workout and this feeling allowed me to reflect on how much I have put myself through in the last few years. Although I would love for there to be a quick fix for my dead legs and tiredness, I believe it’s my body telling, no screaming at me, that it needs a break.
A clear physical sign, besides being constantly exhausted, is my lack of period. Let’s go back a few years to the beginning of all of this to really give you an idea of what is going on.
Disordered eating and an unhealthy view towards food, has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Even though those thoughts have always been there, they have emerged in greater strength in certain times of life and worsened my health and well-being as a result. I touched on this in My Story, but to reiterate, the first time disordered eating truly took a hold of me was when I was in 7th grade. Over a few short months, my weight plummeted and the people I love started to get concerned. My mother, being the amazing woman she is, took me aside one day and told me if I continued these habits of barely eating and continuing to lose weight, I would never get my period and eventually lose the ability to have children.
At that time, those few short words scared the hell out of me. Growing up, I had constantly played with baby dolls, stuffed animals, barbies, doll houses, all with a similar theme where a family was part of my imaginary game. I was obsessed with pregnancy and my characters having babies, taking care of them, having them grow into my children, and the made-up games would reflect these interests. Like most little girls, I was so excited to be a mother. My interests brought me to being a mother’s helper whenever I could and eventually growing old enough to take on the full responsibility of babysitting for others.
That speech my mom gave me literally pulled me back from the edge of disordered eating and caught me before it got so much worse. I so wanted to have children and the idea that I was intentionally hurting my body and preventing it from doing this, what simply unbelievable. So I quit my dangerous habits, started to eat normally again and gained weight back. Phew, glad that was over with… if only I knew the worst had yet to come.
I first got my period in 8th grade when I was 14 years old, a bit later than most of my friends. At that age, it was a shunned and embarrassing topic to discuss among such immature girls, but I still knew I was among the last to get to receive the monthly “gift.” I know it’s not too old to first get it, but I believe the amount of swimming I was doing at the time and my past history with a lack of proper food stressed my body to delay getting my period for a few years.
My period came each month like clockwork, 28 days would go by and hello there it was! I could honestly feel when I was ovulating, when it would be coming soon because my boobs would hurt like crazy and I would be a bloated, hot mess (cute I know). I would get normal cramps, cravings, headaches and it would last for about 5-6 days, the first few being the worst and then it was over until about 21 days later when I Aunt Flow would come to town again.
This regular, NORMAL routine continued for the next four years until of course my eating habits began to change when I joined Weight Watchers, the beginning of the end if you will. I started on WW in March and it only took 5 months for my period to slowly become irregular and eventually stopped all together. I did notice it’s absence in August, but at that time I was moving to college for the first time and beyond sad and stressed. Those terrible feelings combined with my recent weight loss (even though it was only around 8 pounds) led me to lose my period.
Even though I continued to lose a bit of weight, began running and was still completely miserable my freshman year of college, I still expected my period would eventually come back…it never did. I became concerned of course, voiced these worries to my mother and visited a gynecologist in the Burlington area. I told her what was going on, that there was definitely ZERO chance of being pregnant (unless I was the Virgin Mary) and that I wanted my dang period back! I still did not attribute its absence to any physical changes such as weight loss and running, and purely blamed it on the emotional and depressed mess that I was that first year of college. I was still at a healthy weight at that point, and the worst of my disordered eating had not yet taken a hold of me.
After talking with the gynecologist, having my blood work tested, and even going up in the stirrups for the first time to be analyzed (awkward) she deemed that my body was simply under stress. She prescribed me a pill that I should take for 10 days to “jump start” my reproductive system and make me get my period. Well guess what, that did not work and so we moved on to the next option, birth control.
The only reason I took the birth control was to get my period and definitely not because I needed it for that other reason! Thankfully, the pill Ocella worked and I got my period in March of 2009 for the first time in 7 months. I continued to take the Ocella and each month my menstrual cycle worked normally and the once-normal routine of having a period was back in full swing. It became a regular burden again and I was so thankful to have it, the idea of being able to have children ever-present in my mind.
Let’s fast forward a few months to August of 2010, when things started to become abnormal again. Up until this point, the Ocella worked perfectly and I got my period exactly when the pills told me I would and it would last for an appropriate 4 or 5 days. However, changes occurred and I would now be getting my period about a week before I was supposed to and it would last another 2 weeks, meaning I would have it for around half a month. Obviously this was not normal and I went to my primary doctor expressing my concerns. She told me my body could have gotten used to the estrogen and hormones and perhaps a switch in birth controls would absolve the problems.
I’m pretty sure Ocella suddenly stopped working because of the immense stress my body was under during that time. It was the end of last summer when the birth control did not work properly, the absolute worst point of my disordered eating. I was at the lowest weight yet, still continuing to exercise a crazy amount, and had the mental drive to continue my dangerous routine.
So before heading back to school later that month of August, I switched to Nicon, another contraceptive and hoped things would regulate once again. Well, the pills didn’t work and instead of having a period for 2 weeks, it no longer showed up at all and has not made an entrance into my life since then. I stopped taking the Nicon, realizing it was doing absolutely nothing for me. Yes that is correct, I do not have a period at the moment.
When I finally began recovering earlier this year, mentally understanding changes needed to occur, I assumed the huge changes that I was making with my food intake and a bit of weight gain, would re-start my current closed down reproductive system. I went from eating literally zero grams of fat to consuming around 40-50 grams on a daily basis. I have also increased my caloric intake, added more protein and am continuously striving to eat a well-balanced NORMAL diet. And yet, it is still not enough.
I recently met with an amazing physician on-campus who was recommended by my therapist. I saw her earlier in March and told her about my issues with food, over-exercising, discomfort with my body and of course, not having my period. She ran a series of blood tests, just to make sure things were normal and that I was not pregnant (again, ermm no) and the results that came back were quite interesting, though concerning.
Most of my nutrient levels and stores were normal, such as Vitamin C, D E and K and other micro-nutrients such as potassium, all of the Vitamin Bs except iron, where levels were below normal. My thyroid was fine, and under possible underlying problems were ruled out as well. However, I already knew about that result, having had low levels of iron for the last three years or so (something else I need to work on it seems). The part of the results that were most note-worthy were my hormone levels. Without going into much detail, the doctor told me my hormone levels were the equivalent of a 10 or 11 year old little girl.
Wow. Is there really any other kind of reaction I could have had? I was blown away by these words… clear evidence of what I had done to my body, allowing it to have the health level of a girl, rather than a woman. I asked the doctor immediately what could be done about this and she said to keep adding healthy fats, because that is a key aspect of hormone levels. I also asked if going back on birth control would be useful, but the physician informed me that even getting a period on contraceptive is not the same as your own body producing the monthly cycle itself, so I am currently not taking any medicine for it.
I am 21 years old with the body and chemical levels of a small child who has yet to blossom into woman hood. If I don’t get my act together (and soon) that whole becoming a mother thing, yeah not going to happen. It scares the hell out of me to hear results like this and clearly indicates what I have done to my body, the stresses I have put it through and now it is screaming back at me. When a woman’s body senses danger to its physical health, such as under eating or a lack of proper nutrients, one of the first things that is shut down is your reproductive system.
I have Secondary amenorrhoea, the loss of a menstrual cycle for three months or more in women who have otherwise been regular with their bleeding, or six months in women who are less regular. Amenorrhoea means your body doesn’t trust you to carry a baby to fruition. It can lead to infertility if not treated, as well as osteopenia and osteoporosis as your bone density is slowly leeched without the proper regular menses and hormones supplying it.
Many distance runners and other endurance athletes don’t have their period because of the strain they put on their bodies, low body fat percentage, and over exercising. It does frustrate me when I see girls on my cross country team who are thinner than me and workout just as much if not more, and still have their periods each month. But I also have to remember that obviously our bodies are all quite different and apparently mine gets scared and nervous quite easily!
Having this knowledge and clear evidence that my body is not functioning correctly should be a major kick in the ass to change my habits PRONTO. And it is to a certain extent. However, there is still the dysfunctional and irrational side of me that wants to hold onto my routine, my thin body, running and just keep hoping that my period will eventually make an appearance. I realize this will not simply occur, although the changes I have made in my eating are certainly helping.
But then I think of the horrible potential of not being able to have children? Or getting osteoporosis at a young age, setting me up for a lifetime of bone struggles? Goodness, no thank you! This is just even MORE evidence and gives me continuous reasons that I need to let go of my old, dangerous life and make the necessary changes to be a woman again, and to be content and happy with myself- that’s what everyone deserves if you ask me.
If you read this whole thing, I applaud you! It was quite long but I needed to get this story out!
Has anyone had a similar experience or something you have done to get it going again? Any sort of personal insight would be so helpful Thank you very much for reading