My Personal Story of Transition

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By Nicole Charky

I broke up with everything in my life a year ago. It felt like I set everything I built and worked for on fire — just to watch it all explode — and I loved every scary second of it.

I left my shitty doctor. I left my job. I left my unsupportive boyfriend. I left my neighborhood.

I shed my skin completely. I never looked back.

I’m 34 pounds lighter today. It took me years to get here — over four doctors and almost 10 years to get diagnosed with hypothyroid and PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome. 1 in 5 women have PCOS, according to the National Institute of Health, and they often go undiagnosed for years. I’m lucky and grateful for my diagnosis. I could not have done it alone —shout out to my team of incredible doctors: Dr. Minh Mach and Dr. Karen Sherwood — the first to ever diagnose me and request blood work.

In the year since my diagnosis and transition to a new life, I’ve shed a lot of weight — and not solely in the physical sense. A lot of it was shame and pain.

I was prediabetic and now I’m no longer showing those signs. My blood glucose levels have stabilized. I became attentive and I reversed it. My hormone levels are more balanced. My migraines have almost disappeared (*knocking on wood). My walk is more balanced. I run. I dance. I do pilates. I swim. I surf. I bike. I don’t have any physical hangups and I’m not afraid to do anything.

My back, shoulders and neck don’t hurt as much. My stomach is completely different and the long stretch marks look like battle scars—but honestly I’m proud of them and they’re part of me and my strong core.

I’m still a total work in progress, but it took me time to get here. Sometimes I slipped. There were nights I didn’t get to bed until after midnight, when I was drinking too much alcohol (you’re not really supposed to when you’re prediabetic or have PCOS), when I smoked cigarettes because I felt stressed and didn’t know what else to do (also a big no-no for women on birth control).

But I make a choice everyday to be healthy. I do something very simple, but also very difficult: I’m nice to myself. I try to love myself back the way my family and friends love me. I thank my legs, my hands, my fingers and my smile everyday for keeping me going. Sometimes I’m in awe that this body has held me for 30 years, so I try to show grace. I take baby steps. Because transitions don’t happen fast. They take time, and a lot of care.

You can take baby steps

When you’re diagnosed with a chronic illness or come to realize something has been going on with you medically, you can actually spiral out mentally. It can feel isolating. I almost did, but then I did this: I took an inventory of my life. I thought about my lifestyle and what I really wanted. I realized I was afraid to be honest with myself about what I wanted out of life. I had a lot of beautiful things to feel grateful for, a nice home near my family with a boyfriend who wanted to marry me. But it wasn’t right. I knew that in my gut.

I got real with myself: I hated commuting. I was sitting and staring at a computer all day long. I actually wanted to hold a camera and be on set, interviewing, producing and directing. Instead, I was trapped in an office and feeling creatively expired. I’m not an office girl.

What do you need to change?

It felt like my boyfriend wasn’t understanding my dietary restrictions, or that I needed his help staying consistent with my eating and exercise plan. I was living with someone and dating someone but I had never felt more alone.

It took him awhile to get it and support me in my new lifestyle. It was almost too shocking. And when he did adjust to me and my changes it was too late. Sometimes, if you’re experiencing a lot of changes and your partner is not there to support you it can feel isolating. In my case it bred contempt, which is often a component that can destroy or break down relationships.

In weight loss, your partner can be your biggest ally or your biggest enemy. One way you can work on that in a relationship is by voicing what you need and framing it in a positive way. For example, ‘I love when you join me on a walk,’ or ‘Can you help me make this amazing salad for dinner?’ You’re on a team. Tell your partner that. The more your partner knows that you’re both working toward a weight loss goal or a health concern the better. Even if your partner doesn’t need to lose weight, studies have shown that when one partner makes changes and loses weight then it increases the chances for the other person in the couple to shed pounds, too.

If you are communicating your health concerns and goals to your partner and it’s not working, then it’s important to seek help from a professional who can help you. Talk to a doctor you trust and open up about these issues because they are hard and it’s not wise to do it alone. If it’s important to you then it needs to be important to the person you care about in your life. I opened up to my doctor and I sought help from a therapist during this transition. That was my way to cope and move forward, while also remaining mindful of these major changes.

Speak your fears and dreams out loud

I counted, tallied and wrote down all the amazing people in my life, the ones who truly supported and listened to me. I went to them and called them. I explained my recent diagnosis, my fears on fertility and my future. At the time I was told I could have potential fertility issues (this is something a lot of women with PCOS are told and face after their diagnosis) so I made a vow that I’d do whatever I could to potentially increase my chances. The problem? I was single and overweight. I knew that weight loss was a main way for me to address my stress, fertility and do something to improve my overall health. It was a real fertility pep talk.

I accepted that I no longer had a partner who fit my lifestyle and ended our time together. Because I felt in my heart that my partner at the time wasn’t right for me, that we couldn’t build the potentially healthy lifestyle and family I wanted to have, that was the decision I had to make at the time for my future.

I knew that even if I had to walk away from my relationship and the chance to have a child with somebody, I was scared I could be infertile and I wanted to work on that alone. I didn’t want to be with a partner who didn’t support me or didn’t stick by me when I got sick. And the days following my diagnosis had been incredibly painful. I would explain to my significant other the pain I had in my stomach, the adrenal fatigue issues — I was constantly tired and even if I slept all night it would take me hours to adjust and by afternoon I was exhausted. I had to keep this up, quietly, without anyone knowing how sick I actually was. I didn’t want people to view me differently or know how hard the diagnosis and changes were. I was miserable and silently suffering with really long periods, extensive cramps, painful, cystic acne. The acne was trying to tell me something about the inside of my body: my ovaries were covered in cysts.

Don’t be afraid and don’t get down

I was a little naive when I first got diagnosed. One thing I do regret about my my diagnosis experience was that I often put myself in situations where I was receiving information I had never heard before and I was alone. I wish now that I would have invited my mother or father, or even my sister when she was visiting from New York. I needed someone to advocate for me, with me.

And when I did try to explain what was going on to my family after the fact, it didn’t always get through to them how serious it was. And that was OK. Sometimes when you tell people you are going through something, or that you’re experiencing a health problem, they might not know how to act. In my case, I looked generally healthy, but the truth was I was very sick. I was able to hide it externally for the most part, but my doctors knew the truth about my internal health.

It took a long time for me to really explain to my family and friends just how sick I was. It felt embarrassing and shameful, like I had let them down, even though I hadn’t. My symptoms alone were shameful: I had stubborn weight around my midsection, acne that was red and painful and random hairs and a puffy face. To my family, I looked overweight, like I needed to just eat better, sleep or workout more, which was only part of the issue. I was on a series of new medications. I could no longer have milk or really bread. Dessert was limited. I lost my appetite on my medications. I could barely eat anymore, which surprised my family. Whenever we had dinner I felt so on edge because I would stare at a pile of food and wish I could put it in my mouth but the medication was so strong I couldn’t.  

When I decided to transition to a new life it was because I had to make a choice about my future.

I needed to be positive and adjust my attitude. To live and work in a place that supported a healthy lifestyle, the much-required sleep that you need when you’re dealing with thyroid and PCOS conditions. Instead of feeling down, sad, I started to adjust my brain and I realized this: I was breaking up with my past and getting back together with myself. This was the kind of relationship I wanted — and like all transitions — this process all brought me closer to who I really am and my goals.