Recent discussions about body hair feminism have led me to reflect on my own experiences as an Indian girl with body hair. I don't quite remember when I started to grow body hair, but I do remember feeling upset and sad that my body hair was not like other girls' body hair. Where other girls' body hair was thin, sporadic, and easily shaved off, mine was thick, long, and grew rapidly. I could hide the hair on my arms and legs with long pants in the winter and wax whenever I wanted to.

What killed me, though, was the facial hair.

I remember finding a mini-beard/mustache on my face and begging my mom to let me use my dad's razor to shave it; her response was to say that I would grow an even thicker beard/mustache if I shaved (which, by the way, is completely and utterly wrong). I remember putting a thin layer of Nair on my cheeks and having to tolerate the smell of burning hair all day. I remember growing allergic to Nair so much that I can't even touch any cosmetics with lanolin before I get an itchy and painful rash nowadays.

I remember one of the first times I went to get my face threaded at a location that wasn't run by my usual "Indian parlor aunty" since she was out of town then. I remember being asked to sit down and having a cream applied to my cheeks before feeling the intense pain of having each strand of hair ripped out one by one along my face. I remember this Indian parlor aunty stopping halfway through to make deeply offensive comments about androgyny. I remember walking out and being called a "monkey" by the cashier because I had experienced an allergic reaction to the cream on my cheeks (racist much?)

I remember spending thousands of dollars on laser treatments and being excited that they worked on my arms, legs, and moustache, but inevitably despairing that my jawline still had thick hair. I remember being consumed by jealousy and cursing the fact that I couldn't be like other Indian girls who had smooth skin and a hairless body. I remember cursing my genetics more than once. I remember an individual in my parents' social circles calling me a yeti for having to shave so often and my mother seemingly doing absolutely nothing to defend me from said insult.

Things came to a boiling point when I told my pediatrician that nothing was working and I was ready to give up on looking good. She promptly sent me to get my blood drawn.

The phone call I received the next day caused a major shift in my relationship with food.

"We just wanted to let you know that your DHEA levels are high," the nurse said. As any aspiring pre-med student would do, I thanked her politely, hung up the phone, and went about my day as normal, but I was pretty scared, especially because the first thing that I saw when I googled "high DHEA" was adrenal cancer and Cushing's Disease. The nurse had also mentioned that my endocrinologist would also try to rule out polycystic ovary syndrome and that they may explore low-dose hormonal contraception if that were the case. This was particularly terrifying to me because my family has a history of narrow blood vessels, strokes, DVTs and ischemic attacks. I did not want to be part of that history because of a medication that I could have to take.

I truly felt as if I were cast adrift by this diagnosis. So, again, as any aspiring pre-med student would do, I tried to find things I could do to make my situation better. Naturally, it came down to my food habits. I became incredibly careful about what I ate, limiting my dairy intake heavily and avoiding all soy products and other sources of phytoestrogens. This was incredibly difficult; not only did I have to grapple with my desire for dairy, but I now also had to read labels a lot more carefully and be more aware of where and what I was eating. Grocery shopping was awful; every time I picked up anything that was remotely processed, some type of soy product would turn up in the ingredients. During those months, I did not love food.

It was only when I found myself panic-stricken in the middle of a Target after eating a bag of Milanos with my cousin that I realized that I was on the path to developing problems with my eating habits. It was clear, for the sake of my physical health and for my peace of mind, that I needed professional advice on what I should and should not be eating. I advanced my endocrinologist appointment by two months. The next six months were a whirlwind of blood draws, CT scans and ultrasounds.

It's been almost a year since I got my official diagnosis of hirsutism and elevated androgens.

I take an aldosterone inhibitor and a couple of multivitamins, and my physical symptoms and lab results have (thankfully) improved greatly. I have no diet "restrictions" per se; instead, I just try to eat as nutritiously as I can and watch my portion sizes. Once a month, I include one dairy-heavy or soy-heavy "treat" meal of sorts. And yes, I have grown to love food again.

Keeping up with this routine isn't easy, especially when it comes to dealing with detractors. It has been difficult dealing with others' judgments about the fact that I take a medication that's also prescribed to treat blood pressure. Comments like "you take more medication in one day than my grandfather did in his lifetime" and "oh, you eat barely eat anything, do you expect to run on air" are difficult to hear and handle.  Choosing to eat healthy at social events where everything appears to be smothered in cheese and fried in soybean oil and where refusal to eat those items can be misconstrued as deeply offensive can also be rather daunting socially.

But when it comes to managing your health, we are forced to work with the cards we have been dealt. What has been critical for me is working closely with my primary care physician and my endocrinologist to keep tabs on my medications, my vitals, and my diet. It is because of this that I have become less afraid of advocating for my health. I have accepted that I am who I am, and I need to do what is right for my body at the end of the day.

If you're struggling with a health issue like I was for so long, please talk to your doctor - it's the best decision I made for my health and peace of mind.

I wish the same for you.