Recovering From Myself-- My Battle with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea
Eat more, sleep more, exercise less, is what the doctors told me when the they told me I had Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. To many that sounds like the best doctors orders to be prescribed; however, for me, it sounded terrifying. In high school, I found my passion for fitness and proper nutrition; working out has been apart of my life for 5 years now. Why would I want to stop doing what I love? Up until now I would work out 5-7 days a week, sometimes twice and eat a 1500 calorie diet. I thought I was being healthy and this was treating my body well, until I realized I was so “healthy” that it took my fertility away from me. I was 125 pounds and I was 5’4 at age 15, by the the time I was 18 I was 114 pounds, body ft percentage was 17.1 percent. My period? Gone. I had my last period in November of 2014. It was not until a year went by before I realized that I needed to see a doctor. I saw a naturopath, a gynecologist, an endocrinologist, but all of them told me they didn't know what to do because every test I took came back normal. My hormones were fine, my brain was fine, my body seemed perfectly fine. It was not until I was referred to a endocrinologist that specialized in fertility, that I finally received an answer to why this was happening. She was a Harvard Medical School graduate and had done her thesis on the affects of low Leptin hormone and those who suddenly lose their periods. When I met her, she immediately tested every hormone that could possibly be off track. If you could guess, the only hormone that was abnormal was my leptin hormone and she immediately diagnosed me with hypothalamic amenorrhea.
Hypothalamic amenorrhea is a condition where menstruation stops due to a problem in the hypothalamus in the brain. It's pretty much a fancy term for stress induced amenorrhea. This is usually caused by acute weight loss, chronic anxiety, and stress.Your leptin hormone is your satiety hormone. So what does this have to do with my reproductive system? Well through the research I’ve done, and through all the physiology and nutrition classes I’ve taken, I’ve learned that your body produces less leptin hormone through periods of starvation. Thats one of the reasons why woman with eating disorders stop getting their periods.
I never purposefully starved myself, but I will admit I became obsessed with eating right and exercising, to a point where being “healthy” was unhealthy. My brain never shut off thinking about what I was putting into my body. I logged everything I ate and when I went over, I mentally beat myself up about it.
Now that I am trying to recover from this, the doctors have me on a 2,000 calorie/day diet without any exercise, I am gaining the weight they say I need in order to start menstruating naturally again. It has been almost 4 years without my period but I am still working hard on keeping my mind and my body happy and healthy. I use meditation and yoga as a way to get relax my mind and my body. I also try and only eat whole and nutritious foods. Although I am heavier than I used to be, I honestly think that this is what my body needs and I am happy to help it out. Sometimes it is hard for me to be confident 100% of the time, but I know that this is what I need to do for myself. I am patiently waiting for the day I can naturally have a cycle again, for the sake of my body’s health and for the sake of having children one day.
I wanted to write about this in my blog because during this process, I really felt alone. I have never met anyone who has been in this situation before and I had no idea if anything I was doing was actually going to help my body start cycling again. I started googling Hypothalamic Amenorrhea and started watching youtube videos of other women documenting their experience with this. It honestly helped me realize that I wasn't alone in this. I never want anyone with this condition to feel alone. I have been dealing with this for four years but some of the videos I had watched, they had been dealing with this for six or more years and eventually got their periods, which really gave me hope.
I'm not sure what will happen in the future with my period, but I know that I've learned a lot about myself in the process. Most importantly, I've been able to open up about my condition with others and have been able to help others seek help for their eating disorders and other traumatic events.
I really want to come out and say that if anyone who is reading this is struggling with an eating disorder, I strongly encourage that you seek professional help because it is something you will struggle with forever. You're not alone in this, and if anyone wants to talk to me about it, I will gladly talk to anyone who is struggling with this.
Stay well, and don't forget to love yourself.