Prepare yourself, this is going to be long. You may get halfway through reading this and think “wow, I’m bored.” That’s okay. In our world of “fast” this post won’t be a quick read. But if you read to the end, thank you.
For my entire adult life I have been into what I would call a “healthy” lifestyle. I started out my twenties working at a health food store and learning all I could. Even got certified at one point. I studied in my spare time about how foods, vitamins, and minerals work in the body. I drank Kombucha, ate seaweed, and walked outside barefoot.
In 2013 I was let go from my job. It was the day before flying out of state for a funeral. Very bad timing. The stress I felt was so immense, trying to figure out finances on one income. And then another family member got sick and I had to travel to be there for them. My healthy habits flew out the door as I just tried to cope with my emotions and stress. Which honestly, I didn’t handle very well. I remember talking with a friend once and they asked “how are you?”
I paused and said “fine.”
“I know you better than that Alyssa. How are you really?”
You see, when you have a best friend, they know when you aren’t fine. Even if you don’t see them as much as you wish. But that opened the door to a flood of emotions, emotions I had been bottling up. I though I was truly fine.
A few months went by and my husband and I took a trip to New Hampshire for a festival. I was mildly sick the whole week. Thinking it was just the junk food I was consuming or the elevation, I shrugged it off.
But then a day after we got back home from that trip, I was rushed to the hospital. I had an ectopic pregnancy and had to have emergency surgery to save my life.
“If you had come in an hour later, you wouldn’t have made it.” The doctor said to me before he took my husband out of the room to talk to him. The nursing student in the room saw the fear in my face. I think her name was Angela. In my mind she was an angel. She prayed over me, encouraged me. I wish I could thank her. She helped bring hope to me before a very scary surgery. I’m so glad I said yes to have nursing students present during the surgery.
During the months, yes MONTHS, of physical recovery, I gained weight. I was pricked with a needle every six months to check stuff in my blood. I was told my blood sugar was way too high and I had cholesterol that was crazy high. Being someone who actually enjoyed eating vegetables, this confused me. Why was it so high?
My doctor told me that I needed to “Lose weight.” So the dieting began. Keto, Paleo, wheat belly diet, vegan, vegetarian, whole 30. EVERYTHING. And nothing worked. The scale just reminded me that I was failing at what I knew. I had the book knowledge on how to be healthy but everything I tried wouldn’t make those numbers on the scale go down. In fact, they went up. I was told over and over to “lose weight” which eventually led me to not even going to a Doctor.
Then we moved to Tennessee. I decided in 2020 it was time for me to figure out why I couldn’t have kids. The only pregnancy I ever had was my ectopic pregnancy in 2013. I had people asking me when we were “planning” on having kids. Of course they didn’t know the emotional ups and downs of my personal health and how difficult it was to deal with the thought you may not be able to have kids.
But when I turned 30 without any sign of getting pregnant I knew something was wrong. I wanted kids. And I knew the older I got, the harder it would be. So I made that first doctors appointment for December of 2020.
After an ultrasound the Doctor sat me down and told me “You have PCOS, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. You have cysts.”
I was almost relieved to finally know what was wrong. And have an answer to why I was in pain for years. Ever since my ectopic surgery I had pain in my side. Sometimes it was bad, sometimes not so bad. But it was constant. I soon learned to live with it. Going each day in pain but never saying a thing to anyone. I didn’t want to complain. There were those far worse off than me. I could deal with the pain in my side each day quietly. But after my diagnoses of PCOS, I booked another appointment with my Primary Doctor. Blood work and tests were done. An MRI was done as well to make sure I didn’t have tumors causing my severe headaches. The normal “blood sugar and cholesterol levels too high” came back in my blood work. But this time I knew why. It’s because of PCOS. You see PCOS makes your body insulin resistant. What does that mean? Insulin resistance is when cells in your muscles, fat, and liver don’t respond well to insulin and can’t use glucose from your blood for energy. To make up for it, your pancreas makes more insulin. Over time, your blood sugar levels go up. This actually causes obesity and a host of other issues.
So I made a plan. I knew what I was dealing with. I felt like a knight about to go slay that dragon. It wouldn’t be easy but I could do it. After the help from some very knowledgeable people online, I started taking a supplement to help my insulin resistance. Within days I felt my energy return. You mean normal people don’t walk around all day feeling as if they never slept? Shocker.
In the end of January I started eating better. And In February after my doctors appointment, and seeing those numbers on the scale, I took things seriously. I cut my bread, pasta, and other useless carbs out of my diet. I cut sugars and processed foods. At this point the only meat I ate was fish. Had been that way for two years thanks to most meats sounding gross or making me puke. So not my thing. I started exercising. Indoor cycling, low impact HIIT workouts. Guess what? Me, Alyssa, who used to hate doing anything active, found out she actually loves working out. I was happier. I slept better, I felt better. And then the pain was gone. I wanted to cry with joy. The pain I dealt with for years was gone. I had no idea how bad it had gotten until it was gone! My headaches were fewer and fewer. A miracle in itself. And my mental state was a lot better as well.
The numbers on the scale slowly went down. And I realized it wasn’t about those silly numbers. It was about my health. Getting to a point where I can enjoy the things in life like hike a mountain or ride a bike without feeling like I’m going into cardiac arrest. I’m 31 years old, I want to be healthy both physically and mentally. And they both go hand in hand.
In March I had another follow up appointment. My cysts had shrunk. I was so excited to hear that. You mean the hard work was actually paying off? I still have a ways to go. I have a lot of weight to lose to be back at a healthy level. But I’m going to get there. And if the Lord decides to bless us with kids eventually I will be ready.
You see, something needed to change in my head before I could do all of this though. I had to be dedicated to working out and eating healthy. I don’t crave the breads or sugary foods I used to. In fact, I don’t even want to eat them because I know they will bring that pain in my side back. It’s just not worth it to me. And so many times I would say “I’ll start on Monday” and never actually do it on Monday. One day I woke up and said “I’m not waiting until Monday, I’m doing it today.” And I didn’t stop. So here is my encouragement to you today. Don’t wait until Monday to start that thing, make today your Monday. Sometimes our greatest battle is the fuel we need to change.
I’m not done with this journey to health. It’s an active decision every single day. But I’m so grateful for where God has brought me, where He is leading, and how he promises to be by my side through it all.
Thanks for reading to the end. It really means a lot to me. I don’t know what you are going through right now but I’ll be praying that the Lord gives you strength.