This journey began three years ago, when I decided to come off the oral contraceptive pill (OCP) after 14 years; yup, for over a decade I thought I was on something that would help my body…how so very wrong I was. In April 2014, after having just turned 30 a few months prior, I thought now was a good time to come off the OCP and see what the health of my lady hormones were like. I must say I was dreading my first real bleed since being on the OCP, fear of not knowing at what minute it may decide to begin to flow again. Weeks turned into months and months turned into years. Yes, years!!
At first I chose to beat myself up along with the doctor who prescribed the OCP to me (metaphorically not physically..lol). However, after I got that out of my system it was time to look at how I could move forward, and who I could invest in to help me get my period back and obviously elevate my health in order for this to happen. There is no denying when I look back on this time of my life (I’m still on my journey)—even though I had sought out a knowledgeable and supportive team of practitioners I still wasn’t necessarily being completely honest with myself and what needed to change in order for my body to function well and for my hormones to be humming along nicely.
I was diagnosed with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, or HA for short. You might be thinking, “hypo what?” That is exactly what I thought; I had no clue what this diagnosis meant. So, in brief HA is a loss of communication between our brain and ovaries, disrupting our sex hormones optimal functioning along with a series of symptoms. These include having no period or not having one for over three months, low energy available for normal bodily functions to operate, so, this may be as a result of having an eating disorder or it may be just that you aren’t fueling your body enough of the good stuff in order for your reproductive system to thrive. And lastly, you may experience decreased bone density…tick, tick and tick for me. Sadly, I was experiencing every one of these symptoms, which lead me down the path of healing from HA.
Through this I learnt a lot about myself, the way I treated my body and the importance of nourishing yourself in all areas of your life from good food, to moving your body with kindness to understanding your bodies signs and signals and the all important sleep and rest.
Here are 9 things I have learnt since beginning my healing from HA journey...
1. I was super hard on myself: If my body was tired from being up at 4.45am for work or if I had a poor nights sleep, too bad! I would push my body to exercise in ways even if that meant depleting my energy and bodily fuel even further. If I didn’t complete a task or do it perfectly I would berate myself and consequently my stress levels would rise and my mood would dip.
2. I would over commit myself: I would often book myself up for the entire week with work, seeing family, friends, gym workouts, and studying. The minute I had a little…and I mean little down time I would be looking for more to do, learn etc. I would never allow myself to just be, in the present with myself, sitting with my thoughts or even a Netflix show.
3. I still had some inner body image stuff to work on: For years I struggled with feeling uncomfy in my body and nourishing it the way it was meant to be. I have a history of disordered eating, and there were still a few little tweaks and challenges of my mind that were brought to my attention during this period—a little more growth, understanding and compassion for my body needed to be cultivated during this time, and with the support of this awesome human – Kate Callaghan (theholisticnurtritionist.com) and an Integrative Doctor, my loved ones and of course me and my own self-development learning, I have been able to do just that and it feels so good!
4. My self-care and joy was super low: I didn’t really like to do ‘nice’ things just for me. I don’t mean going out to buy a new pair of shoes, it was having the ability to care for myself with gentleness and softness both in actions and words. Beginning my healing journey I began to cultivate more time for me, and planning things that created a sense of joy in my life and day from meditating to sleeping in (omg how dare I…lol! J) and waiting for my husband to wake for a morning cuddle and chat, instead of jumping out of bed early on a weekend day.
5. You most definitely need carbs in your diet girlies—the starchy kind I’m talking about: Yup I realized I was still treating starchy carbs as the enemy and found that through adding them back into my diet I had more energy (no brainer) and fuel in my body and I actually felt better mentally—hello endorphins! And my hormones are thanking me for it.
6. Sleep is one of, if not the best medicines for healing: I don’t know how I pushed myself so much and robbed myself of 8 hours of sleep. Some nights I would have 4 hours and would consequently think to myself—“all good, a coffee should fix that,” and I would rarely allow myself to nap during the day. Fast-forward to now and I love my bed!! 8 hours or sometimes 7 never felt so incredibly good.
7. My gut needed some loving: Just as Hippocrates says “all disease begins in the gut,”—well mine definitely needed some extra care and repairing as the high levels of bad bacteria were making proper digestion difficult which was in turn affecting the functioning of my liver, which was affecting the health of my hormones. Wow! It just blows my mind how everything is so closely linked and dependent on one another. I am still on my gut-healing journey, which has really helped me, sink deeper into honouring and tuning into my body’s needs, whilst ramping up my self-care practices.
8.Getting your period is more than just the ability to have a baby: My why for healing my HA was initially so my husband and I could try for a baby when we felt the time was right. However, along the way I have come to slightly alter my why. I now see my period as a sign of true health, a way for me to really be the healthiest version of me, and if that includes having a family one day then that would be the icing on the cake.
9. My body is flippin’ awesome and deserves to be honoured and listened to: Our bodies really do know best, but our minds have a sneaky and powerful way of overriding the subtleties of our body’s signs and whispers. Although, HA really is no whisper, it’s a big cry out from our body that this shit is real—it’s a wake up call and a reality check. But, in the end it is up to you to listen accordingly, it may happen straight away or in my case it may take another 18 months until you finally drag your head out of the sand and really take a look at what is happening to your body and health. But first, sit down and ask yourself why you want to make the change? Write it down and put it somewhere you will see it every single day. This is so incredibly powerful and important especially when the journey is trying at times because, lovely, as with life there will be ebbs and flows along the way.
Our bodies are our home and I didn’t want to live in a broken and beated up one any longer—I chose to start to rebuild mine from the inside out and I ain’t never looking back.
IF you feel you would like to share your experience with how you healed from HA or perhaps, how you tilted you perspective during a time of hardship or dis-ease and what strengths you gained and what you learnt about yourself from your experience. I would love to hear from you either in the comments below of you can email me hereà firstname.lastname@example.org
In Health and Happiness,