San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec




San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

My PCOS diagnosis gave me answers, but not peace

Eug%C3%A8nie+Budnik+poses+in+front+of+Hepner+Hall+on+March+6%2C+2023.+She+is+a+third-year+journalism+major+with+an+emphasis+in+marketing.+Photo+by+Bella+Biunno.
Eugènie Budnik poses in front of Hepner Hall on March 6, 2023. She is a third-year journalism major with an emphasis in marketing. Photo by Bella Biunno.

Content warning: Eating disorders and mental health.

At the age of 14, I stopped having my period for months on end. It wasn’t a pregnancy scare – I hadn’t even had as much as a conversation with a member of the opposite sex. Then the mustache came when I was 17, along with unbearable abdominal pain.  

I went to the doctor for answers, anxious that it might be exactly what I feared. My experiences with doctors in the past aren’t something I look fondly upon, as I would be shamed about my weight even when visiting for unrelated issues. 

At this doctor’s appointment, the nurse took my vitals and left me alone in a cold, impersonable examination room. When my doctor walked in, she would utter the four letters that would change me for the rest of my life: PCOS. 

I knew exactly what this was. I’d been researching it for months trying to find an answer for my symptoms. As she spoke, I had immediate flashbacks to being the biggest girl in my friend group throughout elementary, middle, and high school. While my friends were svelte and athletic, I was clumsy and worried about fitting into the desks at school. I could never share clothing with them. In fact, I started fitting into women’s clothing in sixth grade.

My diagnosis finally gave me an answer for why my entire girlhood had been dominated by concerns over my body, but I didn’t feel the feeling of a weight lifting off my shoulders like I thought I would.

Even as I approached high school, I was still the bigger girl. As my friends started getting their first boyfriends and reciprocated crushes, I was questioning the universe as to why I was handed the short end of the stick. I eventually decided to take the matter of my weight into my own hands, but not in the healthiest way. I started restricting the food I ate, which often ended up in after school binge sessions before the rest of my family got home. No matter what I did, I couldn’t keep off any weight. 

My diagnosis finally gave me an answer for why my entire girlhood had been dominated by concerns over my body, but I didn’t feel the feeling of a weight lifting off my shoulders like I thought I would. I long believed that a diagnosis would give me the solace I desperately had been searching for, but instead I felt like I had reached a dead-end.

 I had been handed Pandora’s box, but not a way to close it. 

PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, a hormone disorder which affects nearly 5 million people with uteruses in the U.S. alone. There isn’t enough research or information known about the disease to pinpoint an exact cause. 

Many sufferers of PCOS experience irregular periods, excess body hair, excess weight gain, abdominal pain, acne, cysts on the ovaries, an increased risk of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, and in some cases infertility. 

A young Eugènie Budnik. Courtesy photo.

A few of these symptoms amplified problems I had struggled with for years. Other than my ghosting period – which was a nightmare – I’ve still grappled to lose weight and stabilize my mental health. 

The two are intertwined for me. As I struggled to gain control of one, the other always worsened along with it. 

I’ve been hyper-aware of the space my body takes up since I was that 15-year-old who worried about fitting into my desk. 

College was no different. 

The summer before freshman year, I was invited to a few Instagram pages which allowed incoming freshmen to share photos and facts about themselves.

I stayed up late at night doom scrolling these pages, wondering why I looked nothing like the girls who would soon be my peers. Their posts featured gorgeous shots in perfect lighting where they wore bikinis or workout gear that showed off perfect figures.  

These posts would have comment after comment from other incoming students on the page freely giving out compliments. These girls were akin to Taylor Swift’s star-studded girl squad from 2015, and I was an outsider secretly begging to be let in. 

I wondered why my body had to look so different from their bodies. I wondered why I couldn’t embrace the trends that they were wearing. I even wondered if I would belong at SDSU.

So until my first semester started, I took matters into my own hands once again. I started restricting my eating even further, although I referred to it as “intermittent fasting,” and exercising more than I ever had done before.

 

And it worked. I started college in a pants size I couldn’t fit into since ninth grade. 

I finally felt like I was worth something. 

I showed my PCOS the finger and finally lost some weight. I should’ve been over the moon. 

But I was miserable. I had lost the weight I always wanted to lose, but I still found ways to criticize some aspect of myself. 

I was 18. But in my mind, I still saw the fat 15-year-old girl worrying about going into school.

I was setting impossibly high standards for myself and when I couldn’t reach them, I fell apart. By falling apart I mean sleeping too much, having trouble concentrating, and isolating myself.

My doctor diagnosed me with severe depression and prescribed me antidepressants. They did work for a while, until I realized that they were making me rapidly gain back all of the weight I had lost. 

I spiraled as I realized the things that were supposed to make me feel better made me feel even more like a giant monster. I demonized the pills as if they were a close friend who had betrayed me and stabbed me in the back. 

I had reached another dead-end with no solutions in sight. Yet, I trudged on. Now I’m 20. 

In the past, my issues with my body made me lean into the craving of academic validation. Even through my worst times, my academics were always there for me and it was an area of my life I knew I had control over and could excel in. 

But now my body image issues are all consuming and dipping into areas that they had never even touched before, the most prominent being my academics. This semester, I’ve missed all but three sessions of one of my in person classes, and I’ve made excuse after excuse to avoid going to my in person workshop. 

I haven’t missed these classes and activities because I don’t want to go. I don’t go because I don’t want people to see me and perceive the body that I feel so far removed from. 

On the days when I unavoidably have to go to campus, I feel all of the eyes on my body. I feel the way the barista at Starbucks judges the way I walk as I pick up my order, I feel the way passersby watch as my thighs and stomach jiggle when I walk up and down Campanile Drive. 

I feel my body taking up a space I don’t think I deserve. I feel my body taking up a space I think could be used for some better purpose other than myself.

My issues with my body are just one example of how living with PCOS can be a challenging experience that affects all aspects of life. In my case, it has affected my body and self image, causing me to avoid all situations or environments where I feel exposed or vulnerable.

It’s not just about the extra weight or the unfortunate facial hair I get. It’s about feeling like my body doesn’t belong to myself, like it’s a foreign entity I’m constantly at war with. 

Despite the years of therapy, diets, exercise routines, and medication, the feelings of self-doubt and shame that arise about my body persist. I know I shouldn’t feel this way. I know I am worthy of love and respect regardless of my physical appearance.

But knowing something intellectually and feeling it on a visceral level are worlds away. 

I wish I could say I’ve made peace with my PCOS diagnosis. The truth is that I haven’t. It’s an ongoing struggle. 

The difference this time is that I’m making efforts to be kind to myself and remind myself that my body is mine to love and to care for, no matter what others say. I try to focus on the things I can control, like indulging in nutritious foods and moving my body, rather than punishing myself for the things I can’t control. 

Living with PCOS is a daily struggle, but I am learning to face it with compassion and patience. I hope that by sharing my story, I can help others who may be struggling through similar experiences feel less alone and more empowered to love and take care of their bodies just as they are.

If you or a loved one are struggling with disordered eating or body image, call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline (1-800-931-2237) on weekdays for support, resources, and information about treatment options. 

About the Contributor
Eugènie Budnik
Eugènie Budnik, '24-25 News Editor, '23-24 News Editor
Eugenie Budnik is a senior studying journalism and advertising. As an ex-military child, Eugenie spent time growing up in Japan, England, Colorado and San Diego. Eugenie joined The Daily Aztec in 2021, when she was originally an elementary education major. Eugenie's time spent reporting on news for The Daily Aztec developed her love and passion for journalism, ultimately leading her to change her major. Since then, Eugenie has written over 40 pieces for The Daily Aztec and is now the news editor. Outside of her work, you can find Eugenie jamming out to Taylor Swift, reading, or scrolling through Tik Tok.
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San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
My PCOS diagnosis gave me answers, but not peace