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My Hormones Are a Trapeze Artist. I’m a Bearded Lady. (Holly)

April 27, 2011

When I was nine years old, my body began to change. I grew breast buds. I found hair on my yoni. I started to grow taller than I had ever been. And I began to get fat. I felt like that girl from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I was scared. In the course of one school year, I doubled my height and tripled my weight. I went from one of the smallest in my class to the absolute largest. I tell you this not because I’m going to whine
endlessly about my size, but because this was the beginning of a long journey which I will be on until the day I pass into the next realm of existence.

As my mother and I watched my body transform, we started seeing a menagerie of physicians: pediatricians, endocrinologists, nutritionists, therapists…And every one of them took one look at me and decided my weight was my fault, and refused to hear us when we said that I never ate more than any other kid my age. It wasn’t until I was sixteen that anyone really listened. A nurse practitioner gave me my first well-woman check, and in her gentle voice, she explained the symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome to me; the irregular cycles, weight gain, hormone imbalances, insulin resistance, abnormal hair growth, and infertility. And suddenly, my entire struggle had a name. I no longer felt like a mysterious, bloating freak. I had a real problem. And so I began treating it and learning about it.

For a very long time, I focused only on the most prevalent issues that face one with PCOS. I focused on my weight, and my cycle. Because I was young, I didn’t obsess over fertility. In fact, I considered my supposed infertility a blessing. I didn’t need to take birth control inside of a committed relationship, because it wasn’t like I could get pregnant. I learned a lot about trusting medical knowledge 100% when I was 19 and stared down at the positive pregnancy test in my hands. But this post isn’t about that either.

When my daughter was born, I focused again on my weight and my cycles. Those were, of course, the hallmarks of PCOS. I charted my cycles, obsessed over dietary changes, tried to find ways to treat my hormones naturally. I thought I was doing well to make small changes, and that I could find a way to beat the diagnosis…

And then one day I noticed a hair. It was a small, innocuous, sort of dirty blonde hair. I would have been proud of this hair had it been any place other than on my chin. I stared at that hair incredulously. HOW?!? WHY?!? NO!! Chin hair is for circus freaks and little old ladies. It’s not for twenty-something moms in college! I rushed to find tweezers. I pulled that hair as fast as I could, and decided to deny its existence. But we all know what happens when you pluck one hair. It’s like a hydra. Three grow back in its place.

Soon, I became a regular plucker. Even though I couldn’t stand the pain, I also couldn’t stand the sight of hair on my face. I didn’t mention the hair to anyone, not my husband or my mother…not my best friends. Who wants to admit that they feel like a circus freak? But my plight didn’t end here. Oh no. I started to notice that the hair above my lip was a darker blonde than it had ever been. And it was longer! I could feel it overhang the curve of my lip just the slightest bit. It was unnerving. I began to feel so betrayed by my body.

I’ve never felt particularly feminine, but I always felt like a woman. And now my body was trying to pull a switcheroo!

A month ago, as I cruised through my local Target, I broke down and did the one thing I hoped I would never do. I bought a little bottle of hair-remover, specifically formulated for facial hair. When I got home, I painted the stuff over my lip. The faintly perfumed chemical smell was strong, and I couldn’t look in the mirror. I felt so ashamed of myself, of my body. But I also didn’t want to be more of a freak than I already felt like as a
morbidly obese woman. When my husband questioned me about the gunk on my face, I told him the truth. He understood, but he let me know that he loved me no matter where hair was growing on my face or body. I could feel his love, and it helped me to feel less freakish.

And now, I’m looking in the mirror and noticing that the hair is growing back, darker and more noticeable than it was before. I see this as my own doing. I’ve now created a stronger version of the monster I’ve feared. And I must decide if I should force the hair back into submission. Should I expose my body to harsh chemicals just so I never have to see my face on some mean blog somewhere that exploits women with a genetic penchant for hairy bodies or hormone issues? Should I hide my true self, ashamed to show those
physical reminders that I suffer a true medical condition? Can I hold my head high and wear a mustache and chin hair like it’s not abnormal? Do I have the self-esteem to cast off the sideshow imagery and see myself as beautiful, no matter what?

Holly lives in the Emerald City with her husband, daughter, grandma, and two kitties. When she’s not in school or taking care of others, she reads and knits. She very infrequently posts at mis-adventuresindomesticity.blogspot.com, but mostly just lurks around facebook.

Holly also has entries at SOAM about herself and her grandmother.

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31 Responses to “My Hormones Are a Trapeze Artist. I’m a Bearded Lady. (Holly)”

  1. Anonymous Says:
    April 27th, 2011 at 9:59 am

    You don’t have to do anything to be beautiful, just be you and your confidence will shine through. A confident woman is a beautiful woman. If you want to get rid of the hair, waxing may work better though. it will last longer than cream and the hair follicles over time will have lighter and thinner hairs and eventually less and less hair each time. but again, that is only if you feel you need to, not because anyone else says you need to. It sounds like your husband has been very supportive through your medical stuggles. good luck!

  2. Mandy Says:
    April 27th, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Don’t worry momma. A lot of women have to use those creams on their face. ((Hugs)) I also get beard hairs from time to time, I just pluck them out and go on my merry way! No use stressing about it! :)

  3. Deborah Says:
    April 27th, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Holly, I too suffer from PCOS and endometriosis and have spent a lot of my adult life battling obesity, horribly painful cysts and weird periods. Though oddly enough – never infertility. I was diagnosed about 3 years ago with Celiac disease and discovered through my own research that many many diseases go hand in hand with Celiac including an estimated 75-85% of women with PCOS. Since I’ve gone gluten free, I’ve only gotten ONE cyst – and not the kind that make me look even more pregnant and incapacitate me for days when they burst. My period is almost normal and the hair that I was starting to grow has receeded, now it’s mostly on my belly – which as you know is MUCH better than your face. I also FEEL much happier and have gone down from a size 20 to a size 12. I’m still chubby, but I don’t feel fat anymore.
    While I was suffering, I wished more than anything for a magic pill to just make me better. I found instead that if I just took these foods out of my diet that I got better. Not 100%, but more than 50% that’s for sure.
    If it’s not your magic bullet, it’s ok too. You are NOT the only woman who feels the same way. Afraid to really examine yourself, or look in the mirror. Questioning why your honey could love you. I saw a really really bearded lady at the store once and she was awesome, her confidence and serenity just shining through and she gave me such hope that I could grow to be the same way if I just tried hard enough to let my fears go. (((hugs))) you are very brave putting this out here for the world to see!

  4. Heather R Says:
    April 27th, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    I knew from your title that you had PCOS. I was 18 when I had my “why use birth control, I am infertile” baby. We then got custody of my step son. We tried for 6 years to give them a sibling, and had another son. Two years, IUI & clomid for his sister. I had lap band surgery in 2009, I lost 29 lbs before because of the flu, and strict liquid pre-surgery diet, 23 lbs after surgery. I guess the 52 lbs shocked the heck out of my body because one missed condom later and now we have a 4 month old son, for a grand total of 5. I saw my pre-pregnancy weight for 3 whole days, but my PCOS is back in full force and I have gained 17 lbs in the last 3 months, and I weigh the same as I did 4 months ago when I was 9 months pregnant.

    I went through cycles where I would have regular periods, and could lose 10-15 lbs (usually while I was on birth control pills, Yaz), but never did my chin/neck hairs thin. I regularly shave my chin, neck & lip in the shower. Shave my face, my armpits & my legs, that is my routine. My husband had no clue until a few months ago… he got wide eyed and looked like he was going to say something, but knew better and I just looked at him and said “don’t judge, you were the one who jumped in here with me, making myself feminine for you is not pretty”.

    I wish I could give you a hug Holly. You are beautiful, inside and out!

  5. kelli Says:
    April 27th, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Oh, I have those crazy dark upper lip hairs too. I eradicate mine. It doesn’t make you any less of a woman. Do whateveer you have to in order to feel pretty and acceptable on the outside. But you are already that way, inside and out. And so brave!

  6. kus Says:
    April 27th, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    i have pcos and have had hair too
    i take medication wich takes away the hair and also use other med for the pcos
    i take diane 35(estelle 35 same but cheaper) wich is a pill as in preg pill and that help with your hormonies replaces wats missing
    but plz plz ask your dr about this and in conjunction with them aldactone (spironolactone) i take 100mg ,but you can have in lower dose ,these pills are used for high blood pressuer but if u dnt have it shouldnt affceted you but so are safe to take ,TAKEN WILL STOP UNWATED HAIR GROTH ,i been useing them since 2006 and wen taking them they wrk great so plz do not feel so down u can fix this problem by taking the aldactone plz plz ask your dr. as for weight i dnt have as much problems but i also know if u take the above meds i said they help ,for weight for pcos alottta ppl also use a med for diabetics metformin (spelling?) and this helps with weight loss in pcos as it does somthing to help , reserch it i joined a lotta pcos groups on facebook as well ! hope this helps you :)

  7. Mandi Says:
    April 27th, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Your way with words is wonderful! and your story sounds soo much like mine, it could have been mine! There is a scene in the Shrek movies, where both Sherk and Fiona are shaving, and i feel that way every morning! only i have an electric tweezer, and his is a shaver. sometimes i wonder if i should use his.!

  8. alina browne Says:
    April 27th, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    I think this is a brave and amazing piece and am so happy you shared. Thank you!

  9. Shana M. Says:
    April 27th, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    I have to pluck everyday, otherwise I would have a beard and mustache!! I hate it but I do it otherwise I would be disgusted with myself because I don’t just have a little hair here or there I have a lot of hair!! Part of it is genetics for me so I just grin and bear it!

  10. Carla Says:
    April 27th, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    You are by far and wide nowhwere near alone! Although women don’t talk about it, there are a lot of us out there and many of us much further along the line of circus freak than yourself…my beard started at 16, my aunt’s even younger. I shave daily and get 5 o’clock shadow. My aunt shaves twice a day, as my Mom used to until her hair started falling out from other hormonal complications. Thank God that you have a supportive loving husband by your side and don’t hide it from your child, as my mother didn’t and I don’t from my son because we are out there and just as body shape acceptance is something we all need, so is the acceptance of anything that makes any one person different from any of the majority. We are still women, and we are still beautiful!

  11. Lori Says:
    April 27th, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    ahh, you’re beautiful.
    Don’t stress over your facial hair, I don’t stress over mine anymore! I just pluck it and forget it!

  12. J. Rivkah Says:
    April 27th, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    I shave mine. It takes 2 seconds in the shower. I don’t even need a mirror. I feel for the hairs and just shave it. And yes, I’ve seen women wear their full beards proudly. This reminds me of the intro to the show Living Single where one of the characters is shaving in the bathroom mirror (her face!) I think it’s a real part of many women’s lives and is probably not exclusive to PCOS.

    Thanks for your excellent article!

  13. Linnea Says:
    April 27th, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    PCOS is nearly an epidemic. I am almost 35 and was just diagnosed with it a little over a year ago. I went through years of the same things you did – weight issues, irregular and extreme cycles (going 20 months w/o a period, no joke), weird skin issues, problems with sugar… When the hairs started showing up on my chin and upper lip, I figured it was just aging and unlucky genetics. Half right, I suppose.

    My diagnosis was like a tidal wave of relief. I thought I was broken in so many ways. Turns out I was only seeing symptoms of one underlying problem. It finally made sense why I could dance as hard as anyone else, sweat as much, go to the gym MORE often, and still gain back every ounce I’d managed to lose the second I stopped.

    My cure for the facial hair is a good pair of tweezers and an occasional (read: once a year or less) visit to the salon for waxing. Just don’t shave it or you’ll need to for the rest of your life. Pluck what you need to accept what you see in the mirror, and let the rest roll off your back. Nobody looks as close as you do.

    Good luck to you. Know you’re not alone. <3

  14. Jbot Says:
    April 27th, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    Thank you for sharing this with us. You are not alone :) Whatever you choose to do, I think you are courageous & beautiful. Keep on keeping on.

  15. Wendy T Says:
    April 27th, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story……although I don’t share in your struggles with PCOS and only have a few errant hairs that I aggressively pluck, I do think that most of us feel a bit like a circus freak either occasionally or a lot of the time.

    I don’t know why there is always that little girl in the mirror who feels like she could be better, prettier, thinner, cuter, have less facial hair, etc. It’s a shame really and it’s taken lots of years for me to learn to tell her to go pound sand because I have an amazing life despite not being “perfect”.

    I wish you well on your journey.

  16. Serena W Says:
    April 28th, 2011 at 7:11 am

    I read your post and tears came. I don’t have PCOS and can’t imagine what you’ve had to deal with, but know this, the strenght and courage it took to talk about your self doubt and the trials you’ve faced make you the thing you are afraid you aren’t. Most people spend their lives hiding themselves away, afraid to share their fears and worries. You had the courage to stand up and tell the world that you aren’t perfect and that you struggle with confidence. Some other woman will read this and suddenly feel less alone in the world. In my eyes, that makes you one of the most beautiful people in the world.

  17. Mina Says:
    April 28th, 2011 at 9:41 am

    You are a great writer! I relate to this post. I don’t have PCOS (at least I don’t think so), but I’ve been hairy since my teen years (I think it’s just my middle eastern heritage and genetics for me). Whether or not you choose to do anything about it, just know that this is something that many of us deal with (otherwise the depilatory aisle at the drugstore wouldn’t have so many products haha), I think people just tend to not talk about it ;) It’s not abnormal to have unwanted hair at all.

  18. Ashleigh Says:
    April 28th, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    This post was so inspiring. I’m 22 years old and have a 5month old son. I do not have pcos, however I do have a very noticeable mustache. I am in general pretty ‘hairy’ I wax my dark brown eye brows to avoid a uni-brow. without sounding vain, I am pretty normal-attractive however I feel like the ugliest person on earth with those dark hairs above my lip. I feel like I might as well have the word ugly tattooed above my lip. Men have been very cruel to me in the past and its usually the first thing people will jump to if they are trying to hurt me. My mom has encouraged me to wax it but I’m so afraid of making it more noticeable. I usually just try to pretend that its not there although I know people are doing all they can do to avoid starring at it.
    I’m not going to wax it, shave it, or use any creams. I am who I am. If someone doesn’t like me because I have a few hairs on my lip, then they’re not anyone I want in my life anyway.
    Keep shining beautiful!!

  19. nicki Says:
    April 28th, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    I have POCS, I have not had a period in over 3 years. Thank you. I know how you feel. I have a full beard, weight gain, and sugar problems. Sadly I was told I would never have children, but thanks to reading you story…I have hope….Thank you

  20. Kristen Says:
    May 6th, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    I made my husband promise that if I were ever confined to a bed and unable to primp myself, that he would take care of the plucking responsibilities. I don’t want to make light of your condition, but you would be astounded at how many women without a medical condition also need to take care of hair issues.

    Good luck on your journey. You are blessed to have a husband that loves you just the way you are. There is also a God that loves you just the way you are.

  21. Kim Says:
    May 7th, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    I don’t have PCOS, but I do have chin hairs. And back hair and belly hair and lip hair and long mole hairs.
    Oh, and a unibrow.
    And when I’m pregnant I get a little fumanchu thing under my bottom lip.
    I wax the lip and pluck the chin and the moles and the brow.
    I just don’t want to be noticed. I’d rather be one of those people who just blends in to the crowd.

  22. Elizabeth Says:
    May 12th, 2011 at 10:06 am

    I have PCOS and Endometriosis too. I was able to get pregnant twice after I had laparoscopic surgery for the Endo. I have the facial hair, obesity, hair loss and insulin resistance that go along with PCOS. I finally went back on the Atkins Diet and feel so much better! My OB/Gyn told me Atkins really works, especially for PCOS sufferers. I’m down 40 lbs since 2/1/2011 and lose about 10 lbs a month without any exercize. As I feel better and am more comfortable, I plan to add exercize in. I still have 93 lbs to lose and am dealing with loose skin from the weight loss and pregnancies, but I feel a lot better. I also used Atkins to get pregnant both times- it seems that for PCOS patients, going low-carb can bring back ovulation. I use creams or tweezing to remove the hair on my face and I’m thinking of using Rogaine for my hair loss, but maybe the diet will help both of these issues- I’m not sure yet. I treat the acne with the Clinique acne system, and it’s a lot better than when I used Neutrogena or Rx’s.

  23. Charlene Says:
    July 10th, 2011 at 9:12 am

    I’ve been “hairy” since before puberty. It is just genetic in that I have androgen sensitive receptors. I’ve always been considered very attractive. I began waxing my lip and shaving my legs and underarms at the age of 10. I’m 63 now and still turn heads (but I remove facial hair). I’m also a brown-eyed brunette (Anglo).

  24. Destiny Says:
    July 18th, 2011 at 8:07 am

    I’ve blamed by chin hairs on my ethnicity. I’m hairy by nature, it’s thick and dark on my legs, arms, my unibrow and yes, my chin and upper lip. I wax and pluck on my face, shave my underarms, but for some reason, I love the hair on my legs. And sometimes I even like the Frida Kahlo look with the brow and mustache, but I always attack the chin hairs as if they’re they enemy. I pluck several daily. I don’t even want to think about how many I’d have if they all grew in at once. I’ve made all my immediate family members and friends promise they won’t let my chin hairs grow if I am ever incapacitated.

    Just wanted you to know there are lots of us with facial hair. On the big island of Hawaii, it seems there’s a whole community of women who let their facial hair grow. I know a couple of them, they are lovely women. And they sport goatees unabashedly, it’s beautiful. I can’t quite get to that point, but I appreciate that they can.

  25. Sorah Says:
    October 19th, 2011 at 8:57 am

    Girl, I hear you about the facial hair. I have waxed my upper lip since I was 13 years old. When I was 14 a guy friend made fun of me for having side burns. So then I started to wax my side burns. When I got into my late teens I did laser on my side burns to remove the hair. I also lasered my bikini area in order to avoid waxing monthly.
    Well, two years ago I gave my baby and the side burns came back, the bikini area came back AND when I finally looked in the mirror two days after my c section I noticed the skin between my chin and neck was covered in hair.
    I was growing a beard. It was horrible. I barely was able to hide in the bathroom for a minute and shave it off as guests streamed in and out of my room.
    I have been doing electrolysis on my face for over a year now and the side burns are going away again and the beard is at 50%. The electroysis lady told me that she has seen other cases where women laser hair off their face and it comes back thick and black in other places.
    (I’ve also lasered hair on my arms and my tush, both which have come back somewhat…)

  26. Heather Rene Says:
    October 19th, 2011 at 9:13 am

    Thank you a million times over for sharing this lovely post!!! Our experiences are very similar– in and out of doctors from the time I was 12, terrible periods and a full beard by 18. I remember the first time I decided to shave my face as a freshman in college in the dorms, and I was mortified. I now have a very loving husband with whom I joke that I would be a very glamorous circus performer– an overweight, tattooed, bearded lady! I do shave daily, sometimes twice.

    For those of you who struggle with PCOS, do not lose hope in your struggles, fertility or otherwise. I was told from a very young age that I would never be able to conceive. I now have a 6 year old and a baby due in February– both conceived completely naturally with only holistic supplements. In fact, the first one was quite a surprise!

    We are all beautiful- so let your light shine, ladies!

  27. Rebecca Says:
    October 19th, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Holly, Your story sounds just like mine. I’m 32 years old. I was diagnosed with PCOS at age 16. Started tweezing at age 15. By the time I turned 19, I was shaving twice a day with an electric razor. 3 weeks ago I was diagnosed with NonClassical Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia. It was not PCOS after all. I wonder how so many of the doctors I saw were able to miss this, and why I wasnt tested for this earlier. check out http://www.notpcos.com There is alot of info there. Good luck!

  28. Crystal Says:
    October 25th, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    I just found out I had PCOS, I’m 23, I’ve always noticed the hair, but then chin hairs multiplied and I tried to take a sexy pic and my back and er crack was hairier then I thought omg! Well I to have the support of my husband thankfully but you are beautiful and so am I

  29. Anabel Says:
    April 17th, 2012 at 7:40 am

    I have to remove black, thick hair on my chin everyday with a tweezers. They grow immediately, the next day is always the same – After those removals, my chin is always red, with spots, and full of scars… At least my upper lip stay relatively blond and “normal”, so I waxing regularly is enough to feel fine. The hair on my legs and underarms are also far from “ok”, but I shave it and not Eden think about it – my belly however, bring me a simmilar problems like a chin.
    Nobody knows about my problem, I’m ashamed even to speak about it with a doctor… I guess everything else is fine with me…

  30. Angela Says:
    April 26th, 2012 at 8:24 am

    I too suffer from PCOS, along with cysts on my thyroid, I was diagnosed in my late teens after not menstruating for a period of 9 months.

    I have tried the prescription Vaniqua which does not work for me at all and the Yaz birth control I had been on for years was recalled. I am 60 lbs over what was typically my normal weight and have been thus for a number of years. I feel like a whale with legs!!! ;-)

    I spent years seeing my OB/GYN along with my Endocrinologist, who monitored my PCOS and the ever-increasing number of cysts on my thyroid. My hormone levels fluctuate so dramatically at times, with my Testosterone going through the roof, my insulin being high and then as if it were all a dream, out of nowhere my levels normalize.

    The hair texture all over my body has changed, becoming very thick, dry and coarse. Talk about a blow to ones self-esteem! LOL!!! Unfortunately for me shaving is not an option as it leads to ingrown hairs and dark marks on my face. Strangely, all of these changes began on just one side of my body before migrating to both, and my doctors can not explain why!

    I have tried everything to remove the hair on my upper lip, chin, neck and sideburns. Depilatories do not work because the hair is so coarse that I end up burning my skin before it is removed. Shaving caused my skin to become so dark and noticeably damaged- not to mention the hair bumps. At present, the only thing that effectively works is plucking each hair. This is so time consuming, it takes me hours upon hours and it seems like I never get all of the hairs!! On top of all of that, I have to dig out the ingrown hairs, which is bloody and painful, but lately, it seems to be getting better, so I have hope! Why does the hair grow so damn fast? The hair on my head should grow so fast, then I would be GORGEOUS!!! LOL!!

    For those of you who live near a Lucy Peters facility, I had good luck with their electrolysis, but due to finances have been unable to continue with this particular therapy.

    I am so self-conscious of my facial hair, that I don’t let anyone get near me. I don’t date and I feel so alone. I wish they would come up with a cure already so that I can be my real self again- thin and not all together unattractive!!!! I would love to find love and get married someday! Heck, I would love to be pregnant!!!

  31. WW Says:
    August 13th, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    Mine was so bad that I was a prisoner in my own home. I was too embarrased to even go out. It got so bad that I had scars from the plucking and digging hairs out and even the thick hairs pushing through made scars. I tried electrolysis but it was taking too long and was too expensive. In February, I broke down and bought the Tria laser. It’s not approved for the face but alot of people use it there and it’s never caused me a problem. As a matter of fact, it has given me my life back. I am no longer ashamed for someone to see my face outside in the sunshine or anywhere else for that matter. It took away all of the thick dark hairs. The very fine light ones are here to stay but I can live with that after the hell I’ve been through. Fine hair is normal. I don’t care about those. The scars are fading and I am finally getting clear skin under my chin and on my neck instead of the horrible razor burn and scars. Waxing and creams didn’t take the hair away at all. I look and feel normal again. I still have to use it. It’s not a permanent solution but hardly any hairs pop out anymore and I would gladly pay 400 bucks every year just to keep that from happening to me again. If you have fair to medium skin and dark hair, I highly recommend you at least try it. No need to live in depression because of it.

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