My Hairy Truth

Ok so here it is, I am hairy, some of it is light blonde, some of it is dark, some of it is long and some of it is like hard cactus needles.

Like many women I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is one of the contributing factors to my infertility, but is not the cause alone. 

I have decided to write about one of the impacts on the body, excess hair growth, known medically as hirsutism. 

So this is me, and this is my hairy truth. 

Where is the hair?

Everywhere and it feels embarrassing and brings up feelings of shame.  

Shame in how I feel about my body, shame that I am so hairy and shame that I can at times feel so disgusted in how the hair growth changes how I perceive my self.  

I feel all those that have shunned me in the past, told me I will grow out of it, or that I should get rid of it because women are not meant to be hairy, should also feel shame, for making light of a condition that has a big impact on my everyday life. This attitude only serves to reinforce that to be accepted by society we should hide all the parts of us that we feel ashamed of.  We shouldn’t share the perceived ‘ugly’. I am here sharing mine, as the more we share our so-called ‘ugly’ the less ugly it becomes and it becomes normal and part of being a woman. 

(I acknowledge that not all women who have excess hair growth have PCOS , this is piece is for any woman or man who may relate or just wants to know more.)  

I still sometimes hold out hope that there will one day be a cure to make it all go away and my confidence will sky rocket and I will be able to conquer the world.  Well maybe not that extreme, but have the confidence to leave the house without a pair of tweezers, the fear of bright lights and the feelings of anxiety that rise up as someone speaks to me and I feel they are examining my face and may spot a stray hair at any moment. 

So where should hair grow? 

Well according to society, for women it should only grow on your head, in your pubic region, in your armpits, legs and arms.  Yet the removal of hair is a multi billion pound industry, with women having their pubic regions nipped and shaped into all sorts of styles, landing strips, the full naked, the bush and the tamed one. Legs, arms and armpits are waxed, sugared, threaded, bleached and lasers’d, until the hair is in remission, banished gone until the next time the hair resurfaces and meets its next timely death. 

My first ever-home wax still makes me feel sick, hunched over in the bathroom aged 16 not a clue what I was doing. I had pubic hair that stretched beyond my groin and graced the top of my legs, it just didn’t seem to end, all I knew was I needed it gone. 

Peeling the wax strips apart, I pressed them on, making sure they were really stuck, but rookie mistake alert, I didn’t hold the skin taught. All the colours of the rainbow adorned my bikini line following that wax. To make it feel worse, they were highlighted by the sun whilst away on holiday, making the reds, blues, greens and yellows somehow glisten even brighter, as I tried desperately to pull my t-shirt down to hide my shame.  

This is just one of my many mishaps I have had along the way. 

How do you manage an ever-growing load of hair, in places you just don’t want it?

That’s a good question, and one I am still working through! 

Lets explore where the hair is….

A list is simplest and I am shaking as type, I have spent as long hiding and ridding myself of this hair so no one would know it existed but now I am typing it out.   

Chin, upper lip, sides of face, neck, a few long hairs on my chest, stomach leading to my pubic region, my back, mainly upper and lower, my buttocks, of course my pubic region which joins onto the top of my thighs, my legs and arms, armpits, and I finish off with hairy feet and toes. 

I remember being at the hospital at the endocrine clinic where I was diagnosed with PCOS.  The doctor asking me to undress so they could record how much excess hair growth I had.  In their hands was a picture of a body and they circled and circled a never-ending set of circles until they reached my face. That tiny room became smaller and all I could hear was that pen being pressed into the paper, marks covering the face on the page, it was like they were drawing a cartoon beard. 

That pen not only left indentations on the paper but also left indentations within me. 

Gorilla girl was all I could hear circling in my head, and I felt like it, like a specimen to be examined, to be recorded for all its abnormalities.

Gorilla girl is a name that makes me feel sick to the pit of my stomach; I feel like I am being dragged back years and I can feel the embarrassment and the shame, the wish the ground would swallow me whole.  A guy I once thought I was safe with and trusted, branded me with the name and told everyone that I was hairy just like a gorilla. 

My face is my main cause of anxiety if the light catches it just right, or if I am cold, its like a pile of fuzz standing to attention, but that’s just on my cheeks.  

My chin, upper lip and neck have excessive growth.  Over the years I have tried so many different ways to get rid of it, from scrapping and digging at my skin in hope I could removes the follicles. Electrolysis, sand paper, wax, sugaring, bleach, hair removal creams and IPL. 

The doctor at the clinic prescribed me medication and told me it was for men transitioning into women, noting this would help to balance out my hormones. I was also given a cream that was like thick lard, to be smeared on my face twice a day.  Medication and cream, that only served to deepen the disconnect I had with my body and a reminder it was not doing what a woman’s body should do, in fact it was acting like a mans and I needed medial assistance to become more like a woman.   

I had no one to talk to, I was to embarrassed and ashamed of how I felt and looked, how would anyone find me attractive when I myself was so ashamed of my body and the thick down of dark hair that adorned it.  

So how did I move forward? 

All of the above has come with outcome that have been less than desirable, scarring, ingrowing hairs that have becomes infected, bleach burns, blisters caused by allergic reactions to hair removal cream. 

Electrolysis would leave me red for days, blisters would sometimes appear, and a battle with ingrowing hairs would commence until my chin and upper lip was red raw, cracked and at times bleeding. 

I saved as much money as I could to try IPL in a specialist skin clinic, but it made little impact, it just turned some dark hairs into white thick prickly hairs that seem to announce themselves in broad daylight for the world to see. 

Tweezers are my best friend and my nemesis, I love them and hate them in equal measure, they get rid of the hair, but it always comes back. 

I saved again and bought a home IPL gun and I use it religiously. It has worked wonders on my bikini line, my dark line I had from my tummy button to my pubic region. It’s worked on my armpits, my buttocks, lower back but that hair on my chin and upper lip will not budge.  

It has been a wonder of a machine for me, but there are downsides. 

One of the downsides of using the IPL machine is the relationship I have had to establish with shaving my face. 

In order to use the IPL machine you can not pluck, thread or wax, you can only trim or shave as the hair follicle needs to stay in tact.  So here at my computer in the privacy of my on home I feel the shame rise up and I feel mortified to be sharing this in the wider world that I shave.  It has now become the one way I feel I can step out the door free from the worry of that stray straggler of a hair catching someone’s eye. 

I can her the yells almost coming through, “don’t do it, it will grow back thicker, you will destroy your skin!” The truth is though, my chin is already really scarred, and the hair was thick as could be before I started shaving. It is a trade off between thick hairs forever, or a hope that one-day they will be gone. 

I don’t have a miracle cure, I wince if my husband touches my face, and I cannot look in a mirror without closely carrying out a detailed examination to ensure I am hair free.

I sometimes wonder if I was granted three wishes what would I wish for? 

I know one would be to be free of PCOS and all its symptoms and unwanted hair growth it brings. 

This is my hairy truth and it’s hard to write, I know it makes me no less of a woman, yet somehow it still leaves its mark. 

I have tried to write this piece many times, and have deleted it over and over. 

But here the words now sit, plain as day on the page, just like the hair on my face. There is no hiding from the truth, and this is my hairy truth. 

I know I am not alone in this, 1 in 10 women have PCOS. Not all women are impacted by hirsutism, but PCOS presents itself differently in each woman. 

Lets not hide from our feelings surrounding PCOS or how we feel about our bodies. 

Today I was reminded that our bodies are a shell, and the energy we permit is truly who we are. 

Lets celebrate each other for all we are, hair or no hair, our intricacies and quirks that make us truly unique and like no other. 

Together we can stand tall and support each other. 

What’s your hairy truth? 

With love

Laura

Please note Laura is not a medical profession, the blog piece is written from her own perspective and experiences.

If you need guidance or support in being diagnosed with PCOS or if you have PCOS please consult your a professional.

Here are some sites that offer support, advice and more information on PCOS.

Verity – The UK PCOS charity

PCOS Awareness Association

I feel like a FRAUD

Sat in the studio trying to focus, a feeling of unease is in my stomach rising through me, down my arms into my hands, which are shaking.

I am working hard on not trying to write the narrative of the upcoming phone call before it has even begun. I have all my facts and figures laid out next to me and I have captured as much information as possible.

I feel like I am going into to plead a case, to be prepared when the conversation invariably sway’s off course to discuss the aspects of my infertility. I need to be strong and grounded to purvey my truth.

Every word I say has to count.

 

The phone rings and its the doctor, right deep breathe here we go…….

 

So lets give a little background here.

In April I started using the menstrual cup, this highlighted to me how much blood I was loosing. I knew I was going through super tampons and a pad every hour, but this didn’t really equate to anything for me, its just what my monthly cycle did, its normal right?

So as I recorded the amounts and I was shocked, and yes shocked is the right word, and I was perplexed as to how this was not having more of an impact on my body.

It kind of shook me a bit, and I decided I needed to record several months and gain the courage to speak to a doctor, as something can’t be right.

So here are numbers for blood loss per monthly cycle.

(“Most women will lose less than 16 teaspoons of blood (80ml) during their period, with the average being around 6 to 8 teaspoons.” NHS Health Website )

April 205ml

May 163ml

June 132 ml

July 178ml

August 153ml

 

Stepping back into Monday, back in the studio, the phone rings and the consult begins.

My heart is beating, how can I say my point with strength, power, calmness, and clarity.

The usual; “how can I help you? “Echoes through the receiver, and I start by saying I wish to discuss my monthly cycle and the heaviness of the flow, and the concerns I have surrounding it. I outline the bloods loss, the crippling pain, the flu like symptoms, the soreness of my breast’s, bleeding mid cycle and the fatigue that follows each cycle.

I am ready poised waiting for all the suggestions coming my way. (I have been here before), and like clockwork the doctor reels of all the hormonal treatments and then the NSAIDS and clotting medication available.

Hurdle number one, deep breathe as I explain why I cannot do hormonal treatment and how medication contains lactose, which I am allergic to and causes a immune system response, heightening my CFS symptoms, meaning I can not entertain everyday normal function of life.

I feel disheartened already; I can hear where this conversation is going to go and every fibre in my being wants to stop, hang up and runaway from this call.  The doctor is doing their job, but it doesn’t make it any less painful to sit through.

Sat in my studio, my place of sanctuary, all of sudden the walls are getting closers, my heart is beating so fast and the tears are rising, my voice trembles and I apologise for getting emotional as I say “menopause in my family is around the age of 60, I don’t think I can keep going like this, I have had had my periods since I was 11.”

Discussion moves onto surgical procedures, I feel for a moment I have been heard, until it comes crashing down, shattering through me, making me feel hollow and empty, and like a complete FRAUD.

The words “these procedures are for women who have had children and you will not be considered until you have had children.”

Hello merry go round my old friend, you incite nausea, you leave me spinning and unaware of who I am, what is my truth and you leave me unsteady for days.

 

“ I can’t have kids”, trickles out of my mouth and flows down the phone.

 

It’s met with  “Why?”

 

Breathe in and big sigh out, here we go…

“I was told when I was 19 I have significant scarring on my fallopian tubes which means it will be very unlikely I can have kids, coupled with the diagnose of PCOS in my early 20’s and all my hormonal profiling’s clearly showing I can not conceive. My husband and I have decided that we do not wish to explore medical interventions, we are not going to have children as it is not meant for us.”

I can feel myself shaking, trying to contain years of emotions, all tethered to the journey of knowing I can’t have kids and how this has shaped my life.

 

“But you have a regular cycle, you will be fertile”

 

In this moment I am wondering how do I make myself heard, how do I prove I can’t have kids. I know I can’t, numerous doctors and specialist have been involved in this process over the years and have said yes I can one minute only to retract it the next.

Repetitive false hope, so eventually I just started to hear a low hum and decide that the medical system is just not for me.

Instead I just said “ I have been with my husband for 13 years and over the years we have only practiced safe sex some of the time, we should of been pregnant, and we actively tried for over a year.

(This may seem crazy that we tried, but I was always of the thinking if it was meant to be it would happen. And even here I am justifying my decisions.)

I follow it up clearly with we have decided that there is life beyond infertility and that is our life and the one we have chosen.

Feeling quite proud, I  am sat quite tall in in my chair, feeling empowered, knowing this is my truth, knowing this is my life story, this is the path I want.

There is a short silence, and then the words come back “Are you sure you don’t want a family, you have a regular cycle you will be able to have a baby, has your husband been tested?”

My back bends, I feel small and insignificant, almost stupid.  Do I know my body? Maybe this doctor is right? Maybe I can have a baby? is this what I want?

I catch myself quickly, as I hear the false hope rise up, I stop it before it balloons out of control.

I know my truth I know my story, I am 38, I have known for 19 years, I can not have children, I am not lying, but why do I feel like I am, why to I feel like a FRAUD.

I felt lost for words, I fell silent, and the consult turned to focus on the mirena coil and it being the best option for me to help stem the heavy bleeding.

(I had the mirena in my early 20’s and it was removed due to the adverse side effects I experienced due to the progesterone going into my system.  But that’s whole different story)

I heard my voice ask if they could tell me more, I was going through the motions, I was beaten, I had lost my case, I had come away feeling like I was wrong, like it wasn’t me that been through the tests, and procedures, to be told over and over again you can not have kids.

In the space of 5 minutes I felt shaken to my core, I felt angry I didn’t get the referral, that I had agreed to get a prescription for a medication I am allergic too.

I felt like a complete and utter FRAUD, like a woman making up some elaborate story of being infertile.

Sat here right now, I feel ashamed at the lack persistence, where was my inner warrior, a little child took her place.

In this present moment I am sat sipping peppermint tea, the window open, the air flowing in, I feel connected back to self, giving permission to have patience and compassion towards myself.  I know this is not an easy path to tread. It’s full of misnomers, misguidance, misinformation and the feeling of having to prove my truth.

 

I will make another appointment, and share how I felt and ask how we move forward.

 

This is not about blaming anyone, especially the doctor that I spoke to.  They were doing a great job on the facts that they had immediately in front of them, and they are unknowingly swayed by society’s view of the role of a women.

This is a piece about how we can feel we know our truth but how that can be easily swayed by so many outside influences that others are subjected to and then projected onto us.

Unless you are walking the lesser-known path, how are you to know what it feels like?

It is my truth of hurt and pain over the years; the being told I could, to being told I cant, on a repetitive cycle. How these experiences shape the ones I have to date and the work that goes into making space for myself to journey through them all over again and to regain a sense of self before being able to take the next step forward.

 

Anotherhood is about being seen and heard, sharing the true stories of us as a community and together raising the volume on our voices, so experiences change and society’s perspective shifts and to be a woman without children becomes normalised.

 

Thanks for reading

Laura

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am woman hear me ROAR

Femininity, I can’t say the word let alone spell it, the m’s n’s get me in a muddle and so often I avoid using the word altogether. My dyslexia makes it hard to say and to spell but there are other reasons I have in the past not felt an affinity to the word.

I have felt removed, detached like it was not a word that described anything I could recognise or feel.

I rejected the word because I felt like it rejected me.

Me my femininity and I have not always seen eye-to-eye.

In fact we have been devoid of each other a lack of connection, a split and inherent misunderstanding of the role that we played in each other’s life.

As a child I was not into girly things, yes I liked Beatrix Potter, but I mainly liked climbing trees, being outside and riding my bike.

Fast forward to this very day not much has changed, aside from the fact my body has shifted through teens to adult hood and now I am in my late 30’s with a body that feels like its bears a few scars as markers of the years gone by.

I feel like I have never conformed to the archetypal female. I chopped my hair short after years of it being really long and dressed in men’s clothes; I struggled to be comfortable in my own skin. I bought sports bras that fitted so tight reducing the size of my breasts; I worked out so much to shift any curves.  I focused on growing muscle so I would look lean and be strong.

I calorie counted until I was so skinny and I thought I would be happy but I was miserable, I couldn’t get my body to fit what I wanted or who I felt like I was in my head.

Then enter Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a return of Alopecia who brought along its friend Vitiligo and Fibromyalgia.

My body internally and externally was stripping back of all I knew. My body stopped being able to move, I was consumed by overwhelming fatigue, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t eat without my body having reactions to food.

I couldn’t think, a low fog engulfing every space in my brain, my hair started to fall out in patches and my Vitiligo graced me with its presence on my face for the world to see.

Days and months became a sea of tests, sleeping, hurting, thinking and the regeneration of all that is feminine within me.

The shifting point was the day I decided to shave my head, the day I decided I wasn’t going to let my hair fall out, I would celebrate it and join it on its journey.  That was liberating, I was stripped back, my face was there for all to see, the tiredness, the Vitiligo, the puffiness, but I didn’t care because it was me.

 

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Infertility, autoimmune disorders, loss and grief create who I am today, it has gifted me the understanding of what it is to be feminine.

It is not having long hair, to have perfect skin an unrealistic body and it certainly is not being a Mother.

What makes me feminine? The way I feel, the way I think, and the way I allow myself to be guided by my intuition.

My strength and determination, my ability to sit and feel the challenging emotions, to let them rise and fall, to acknowledge them and celebrate them in all their glory.

To stand tall, to own my Alopecia, my Vitiligo, my CFS, my PCOS and my Infertility. Together they have a created a cocktail of experiences, layered, complex and churned together in my body, but that body is me.

CFS was a pause, a time to stop a time of reflection, and a time to tune into my body, my soul and feel what I really wanted.

I delved into my creativeness, swam in my thoughts and ideas, had wild imaginings and let my soul dance and sing.

I let my body dance the dance of the feminine. I let my soul sing a haunting melody of what has brought me to where I am today.

I reconnected with my inner child and now together we play and delight in our womanly abundance.  I feel a strength within, I feel it rise and grow as I acknowledge it, listen to it and know that I am all-feminine.

I am me, I am strong, I am feminine, I am a wild woman, with fire in her belly and strength in her soul.

I am female hear me Roar!

 

Illustration by Rachel Sego

Rachel is the deisgner of Anotherhoods logo, check out her work on her website Rachel Sego Illustration or insat @rachelsegoillustration