Issue 5's cover story.
Photographer: Stephanie Barone Model & Writing: Fay Smith MUA: Madison Spera
Hair Stylist: Molly Tanzillo Stylist: Alexandra Conn
PCOS. Four simple letters. They were only letters to me until this year when they became so much more than that. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS for short) is a hormone disorder that is becoming increasingly common amongst women today. It is responsible for nearly seventy percent of Infertility in women who have trouble ovulating. Twelve months ago I started exhibiting unexpected symptoms that were going to test the way I saw myself, the way I loved myself. PCOS, as I would soon find out, does not only impact fertility, it manifests with other physical symptoms that quite simply do not align with today’s societal beauty ideals.
The first things I noticed was the weight gain. My jeans grew tighter and tighter until I couldn’t manage to squeeze them up over my thighs anymore. It happened so fast. One day everything was unfolding as usual and the next I noticed my body changing at a rapid rate. I was terrified. Not only are we, as women, taught that we should be frail and delicate and so I was conditioned to be mortified that I was inching farther and farther away from that, I was also at a loss for what had caused this sudden change. What was happening to me? Why? I started wearing sweatpants to my college lectures every day because pants with elastic waists were the only things I could fit into.
Next, was the hair thinning. Clumps of my hair began falling out when I ran a brush through my curls in the morning. My hair was brittle and weak. It hung limply where it had once had life and body. I began breaking out into speckles of pink blemishes across my cheeks and nose. Who was the girl staring at me in the mirror? I didn’t recognize her. Her body didn’t feel like mine, like home. Finally, there was the pain. For a week and a half each month my cycle would show up and make it practically impossible to accomplish anything between searing cramping pains in my lower stomach. The cysts, I would later find out, were the cause. I missed class and cancelled any plans during the first few days of each cycle so that I could lay nestled with a heating pad at home. Although the pain was terrible, I found myself much more concerned about my other symptoms, the visible ones. I couldn't help but wonder, "what would people think of me?"
By the time I was actually diagnosed with PCOS I didn’t want to leave the house except out of necessity. I was so ashamed of the way these physical symptoms were manifesting. My belief in my self-worth was dissipating fast. I was everything the magazines said I shouldn’t be. I didn’t have clear skin or a slender frame and it was becoming such a labour to try and conceal those truths. Baggy clothes and thick foundation were not the answers. So, what was? A lovely thing called radical acceptance. At a certain point, I realized I had come to hate myself and I knew that self-hatred was only contributing to the problem. One day, instead of googling “weight loss tips” or “acne treatments”, I started searching the web for plus size models and fashion. I looked up articles on how to feel confident in one’s own skin. The body positive sector of the internet finally made me feel like it was okay to just be me, the me that I was at any moment.
Photographer: Stephanie Barone (@stephanie_bar)
Model & Writing: Fay Smith (@faymeredith)
MUA: Madison Spera (@madmakeupofficial)
Hair Stylist: Molly Tanzillo (@mollys_chair)
Stylist: Alexandra Conn (@blondeandblueboutique)