A. P. Payal is a doctoral candidate at the University of Delhi. But when not donning the role of the academic, she’s an amateur tarot reader and an artist, who started a 34-panel comic art project Her-sutism to talk about her battle with Poly Cystic Ovary Disease (PCOD) – a hormonal imbalance disorder.
Payal was diagnosed with PCOD in the final year of my undergraduate study. “I was put on medication that helped me control some symptoms and to help manage my weight. Exercise, medication, and healthy eating helped me get healthier for some time. But, I was sated with all the compliments I received and stopped taking care of myself. I had forgotten that PCOD is a constant battle. I have struggled with PCOD since then.”
Payal’s decision to start making comics on PCOS was spurred by the ignorant comments by a principal of the Government Polytechnic College in Mumbai who said that PCOD was caused by women who “dress like men” or “behave like men”, causing a “gender role reversal in their heads” which impacts their “natural urge to reproduce”. Payal felt that this was her opportunity to create this comic panel.
“With the internet always gushing about how Tom Hiddleston (among others) making our “ovaries explode”, I thought that ovaries could “explode” because they were enraged too. That was the genesis of ‘Her-sutism’,” she says.
“Drawing ‘Her-sutism’ has been a personal pilgrimage of sorts. It helped me realise that one’s self-worth does not depend on, say, the hair on your face, the size of your waist and so on. It made me realise that the way to deal with any kind of lifestyle disorder is balance and for each person “balance” will be diﬀerent. And finally, there is no shame on seeking help get healthy. I have been struggling to manage my PCOD for years and making this comic helped me get out of my denial and initiate the healing process,” says the artist.
‘Her-sutism’ has a little love and some laughs to help us PCOD girls find the courage to deal with this every day,” says Payal. In this quest, she uses pop-culture references, dialogues from movies, and books to normalize PCOS. She even imagines Disney Princesses with PCOD!
The response to Payal’s comic panels has been very positive. It made it evident just how necessary it was to start a conversation about PCOD. “Since I started posting the comic on FB, I realised how many friends and acquaintances suffer from PCOD. This made me realise that we need to openly discuss PCOD,” says Payal.
As for the myths surrounding PCOD? Payal has some words.
“People don’t understand that PCOD is a vicious cycle. In many cases, you need to lose weight to get healthy but PCOD does not allow you to loose weight. Often girls suffering from PCOD are shamed for their fat, excess body hair, and the fact that getting healthy takes longer. There simply isn’t enough information about PCOD and the various hormonal imbalances it causes in the female body. Furthermore, it doesn’t just afflict any one body type and each person suffers from their own version of PCOD.
People need to to stop body shaming. Instead of heaving judgment on young women and enforcing the need to conform to a socially acceptable version of “beautiful”, the emphasis needs to shift on supporting young women trying to get healthy. Girls with PCOD are not walking jokes, medical case studies , or aliens, we are human beings. People tend to forget that and that is really something that I wish would change.”
“I hope that the combination of personal narrative, fantasy, and facts initiates a positive public conversation on PCOD, minus the shame,” says Payal.