In 2013, I began eating ice like potato chips. My best college friends would grab me late night cups of soda from the dining hall that were 90% ice chips with cola minimally filling in the cracks. In 2015, I started showering two, sometimes three times a day. The water as hot as I could get it, for 40 minutes on average, I belted out Disney classics and didn’t think anything of it beyond necessary junior year self-care.

Later that year, over iced coffee with a close high school friend, I was comfortably but firmly told, “Maddie, I think you’re iron deficient. I used to be, too. I got a blood test and started taking iron supplements, and I haven’t chewed ice since.” It felt obvious enough, and a soon-thereafter visit to my primary care doctor confirmed it. I started taking iron supplements and a multivitamin.

My periods had always been very, very heavy. But nobody ever talks about the thin, thin line between “normal” heavy and dangerously heavy. It took nearly dying of blood loss for me to realize which side of that line I was on.

It’s now 2020, and I have been diagnosed with PCOS–“probably”–by one doctor. The journey from there to here has been a series of traumas, sometimes spaced apart and other times overlapping. I intend to explore the biggest points of change in this series. In doing so, I hope to explore how PCOS and other reproductive issues pose challenges to living out the expected, Catholic path of natural family planning (NFP), as well as how the lived experience of chronic illness often falls outside the bounds of disability discussions, workplace “sick” days, self-care culture, and various other social norms both new and old around bodily wellbeing.

Moral of the forthcoming, multi-part story: You are not alone. NFP or fertility awareness is near-impossible for lots of people. Reproductive troubles impact all other parts of your body. Chronic illness isn’t just “trendy right now.” What worked for me might not work for you, just as what worked for others didn’t always work for me. I’m not an expert; few people are. This knowledge should’t be behind a paywall. I’ll point you towards the leaders I’ve followed. I LOVE talking reproductive and digestive health in my DM’s. Let’s do this chronic illness thing, together (no lifestyle subscription or novena commitment required.)

With love and light, Madison

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