Photo credit: @ohnutco, Instagram

How My Faith Helped Me View My PCOS as a Gift

Disclaimer: This article is in no way meant to substitute for medical or mental health advice from a trained and educated mental health professional. Muslim Girl encourages those who need help to seek it, and encourages the use of resources such as therapists, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and trained mental health professionals. You should never try to manage your mental health alone. You are not alone, and there is no shame in seeking professional help. Muslim Girl also does not recommend self-diagnosis; again, please seek the help of a professional. The following are the views and experiences of the author only.

I remember when I first got my official diagnosis for PCOS in 2014 — that specific doctor’s visit was equally self-affirming and anxiety-inducing. The reason for the former: as a slim woman, I found it very tough to find a doctor who would take my suspicion of PCOS seriously and the latter because, well, any threat to a woman’s reproductive system often feels like a threat to the very essence of her biological purpose for existence.

When it comes to PCOS “miracle” tips I’ve pretty much tried them all, yet I am still battling many of its symptoms in varying severity. At times it feels as if I’m stuck in a hamster wheel, chasing my tail towards some unattainable –and sometimes just plain unrealistic — ideal of personal reproductive health. I go through phases where I am absolutely killing it, mashallah, doing all of the right things and feeling great while doing it, and other times I collapse in defeat and fall into all of the toxic patterns that only perpetuate the spirit-crushing symptoms of this pretty depressing and potentially dangerous disorder.

In March 2021, during one particularly rough day while I was sitting on my prayer mat after salah, my PCOS really began to weigh heavily on me. I felt ugly, deeply unfeminine, and my fertility insecurity was reaching an all-time high. Being unmarried and afflicted with a fertility disorder will have you all up in your fears real quick. I sat in front of Allah in tears, laying all my frustrations and anxieties out in front of Him in hopes He would send down a magical cure — or at least some emotional reprieve.

It was through this epic vent session that I was sent the most beautiful perspective on PCOS; that it may actually be a gift from Allah, and not the test that I thought it to be.

Any threat to a woman’s reproductive system often feels like a threat to the very essence of her biological purpose for existence.

In today’s world we as women have to do it all: protect and nurture the home while bringing home the (halal) bacon too. Because of this, we rarely have the time to slow down, revel in our divine femininity, and take special care of ourselves the way that we should. For me, my PCOS and my disease activity has in many ways correlated with being a barometer of how kind I am being with myself. Are I making sure my stress level is down? Are I eating correctly? Engaging in gentle and enjoyable movement everyday? Expressing myself through personal creative outlets? Am I being kind and patient with myself emotionally? It is at times where I put these aspects of Being first — putting myself first, that this disorder has the tendency to fade into background noise. Conversely, during times that I’m out here getting four hours of sleep or eating like a 7-year-old at a birthday party, my PCOS begins running rampant in my body again, wreaking absolute havoc on my physical and mental health through its plethora of undesirable symptoms. 

If I can manage to catch myself in those moments where my PCOS is flared up and instead of becoming frustrated, approach my body with kindness instead, I am likely to find the ease I am seeking. I can do this by simply trying to assess what may be making my body feel uneasy, and sending it some tender love and care. If I can engage in mindfulness around the way I treat my body, perhaps living with a condition such as PCOS doesn’t have to derail my progress and plans for health goals I have for myself after all.

I don’t push this perspective to minimize the physical and mental dangers that women suffering with PCOS face, nor to try and trivialize the endless list of heartbreaking symptoms that PCOS can cause. I say this because this revelation has, for me, completely shifted my mentality in how I deal with these challenges. Instead of feeling defeated by PCOS, I feel empowered by it. My anxiety has improved tremendously since I’ve been living in this spirit by realising that I am not at the mercy of PCOS — I’m still in the driver’s seat of my own health. And PCOS? Well, she’s just the speedometer, telling me when I should get off my ass and get active, or when I should slow down and keep myself safe. I don’t know about you, but that sure sounds like a gift to me.