PCOS fucking sucks.

When I was diagnosed with Polycystic-Ovarian Syndrome, I believed that my life was over. I thought I would gain weight exponentially, have acne for the rest of my life, and never be able to have kids. I felt trapped by an illness hellbent on ruining whatever happiness I had, and of course, that resulted in the depression and anxiety that I am still battling with today.

One in 10 women of child-bearing age will be diagnosed with PCOS, making it a fast-growing illness for millennial women. With the pressures of becoming an adult and taking responsibility for our lives in a time wrought with unrest, having to deal with the difficult symptoms of PCOS can be stressful and result in multiple mental health issues.

And any PCOS patient who has visited their GP knows that doctors simply don’t know what to do with us.

Having consulted with the internet, other women with PCOS and my own personal experimentation, I’ve found a few tips that have helped me immensely in my fight against PCOS. Though all of these methods are natural, as it is my choice to try beat PCOS without medication and gynecology, there are other biomedical options out there for people with different choices.

The point is that PCOS is not a life-sentence; we can beat it together.

1. I downed spearmint and chamomile tea like cheap tequila

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Spearmint and chamomile tea is a must for me, and I drink it religiously three times a day at every meal. Spearmint contains natural anti-androgen properties, therefore minimizing the effects of hormones like testosterone on our bodies; effectively fixing hormone imbalances. This means that women who struggle with symptoms like hirsutism (excessive hair growth), can manage it with a few cups of tea every day. Chamomile also helps to reduce anxiety and stress; mental health issues that are very common for women with PCOS.

I’ve seen a marked reduction in my facial hair, and my stress levels have subsided dramatically with the regular use of this delectable herbal remedy.

2. I got myself to the gym against my own will

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Five days a week. It sounds excessive, but a little goes a long way. I’ve learnt to love going to the gym by noting the positive effects it has on both my mind and body. It’s a natural stress-reliever and immediately lifts my mood and energy levels.

Exercise is also important for counteracting weight gain, a common symptom for people with PCOS. The combination of PCOS and weight gain can result in diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea and uterine cancer. With just a 20 minutes, or if you have time, an hour of exercise every day for five days a week, you can drastically reduce your chances of these fatal health issues.

Going to the gym can be a difficult journey, but incorporating it into your regimen is imperative. I like to look at it like brushing your teeth; you wouldn’t go a day without it.

3. I swiped left on any processed sugar like a predictably bad hookup

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I know, I know, I dream in cake and ice cream too and don’t even get me started on the classic croissant and cappuccino duo.

But the reality is that people with PCOS are insulin resistant, therefore making diseases like diabetes a very real prospect in our lives. By canceling out processed sugars, we can drop our blood sugar levels dramatically, therefore decreasing weight gain, acne, anxiety and depression and so much more.

My father, the health food nut that he is, managed to go off his diabetes medication by giving up processed sugar. For someone who is turning 62 this year, it is truly remarkable, and a testament to the fact that it’s never too late to kick bad habits.

So substitute beer for water, and ice cream for green juices, and I promise you, the results will be worth more than a midnight snack.

4. I said goodbye to carbohydrates and therefore my bread addiction

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Pizza, pasta, roti, and rice. You name it, I want it.

But sadly carbs can work against your insulin resistance just as much as sugar does. But this doesn’t mean you have to give up on all kinds of carbs. The same way we work with kicking sugar through substitutions, you can eat black rice, quinoa, buckwheat, couscous and so many other yummy things that are actually good for people with PCOS.

It might be difficult at first, but becoming innovative with your recipes will help you to see that although late-night pizza is a feel-good phenomenon, black rice, chickpea curry and decadent, colorful salads are better for your long-term health.

5. I unashamedly journaled Bridget Jones Diary-style

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When I acted out because of my depression and anxiety, people made me feel even worse by telling me that it was just because I was hormonal. Take it from me, telling someone with PCOS that they’re hormonal is the worst thing you can do.

So I started dealing with my feelings head on by journalling them in a diary. It doesn’t need to be consistent but simply taking 10 minutes to write down how I am feeling and what triggered it has been a literal lifesaver.

Many people like doctors, family and friends might expect you to deal with your depression and anxiety quietly because of your hormonal imbalances. They nullify your feelings by claiming that they aren’t real.

But no one knows you better than yourself. So buy a beautifully-bound journal, or just grab a piece of paper, and start working through your thoughts with yourself.

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  • Ariana is a graduate from the University of Cape Town with majors in Gender Studies and Anthropology. She is a plant-lady artist, writer and poet, who has been published in Prufrock & Type/Cast Literary Journal. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, retweeting and playing Skyrim.