Recognizing Trauma within infertility

Its not just the treatments that cause trauma there are many more aspects with infertility that are trauma based and in this post we explore them.

My last post was almost 6 months ago. I was pretty good on writing and being on top of it, but after the last IVF transfer didn’t work I got pretty shook up and angry. All the meditations and Vypassana Silent retreats didn’t help me. We do need to recognize the fact that there is trauma with infertility – the in ability to be fertile on our own.

1. RE-TRAUMA. There is a double edge sword of telling the world your story. 

When you are open to the world about your story you keep retelling it and re-traumitizing yourself. Do you recognize that this is the case? Every time you tell your story, your emotions, feelings and memories that are stored in your body come up and you feel like you are in the moment. Its like victims of abuse who need to retell their story over an over and over again. Whenever I had to retell my story of all the things I’ve done toeither a friend or a professional, I could feel my brain and my body sinking into that trauma part of my brain. I felt like I was reliving parts of everything. When I’m not talking about it, I’m fine, as soon as I need to launch into the story of “what is going on” then its like my brain retreats back to those centres. I know it affects me, re-telling my story over and over again, as the effects afterwards cause me to feel angry and completely triggered by the situation. This is one traumatizing aspect of infertility.

2. MONEY – Lets face it, money in itself is traumatizing, how do we get more money, how do we pay the bills on a every day basis, now add how you are going go pay for a baby. 

Its such a traumatic thing, you think you are paying into something ($25,000 Canadian) and are expecting a return, but there maybe no return on your investment. This shakes me every time I think about it. I have better chances at a Casino. This is a big traumatizing aspect of infertility. THIS has the ability to split couples.

3. THE STORIES OF HOPE 

These I hate the most.

Somehow I get on the topic of fertility with a person and they lay their hand on me very sincerely, look me in the eye with what *they* think is empathy and the usual story tells of some tragic fertility version and then a miracle happens. It usually sound like this, “I know my neighbour who tried for 6 years. She  plus she had endometriosis and cancer as a child and they told her she was infertile and she got pregnant. If she did it then you can too”. The flash with of anger when I hear these types of stories as I find them LACKING EMPATHY. Its like being hit open handed in the face. Its not hope. Its a bunch of bullshit where the message behind the “hopeful bullshit story” is that I shouldn’t worry, my problems are not that bad and a miracle will happen. This is honestly traumatizing because the question that comes to mind is, what did THEY DO that I’m not doing?

Even if that person had fertility issues is telling me the story, I don’t care, your story of hope isn’t my story so telling me your story of “HOPE” thinking you are helping me, please stop, its not. Period. Even my Social Worker who runs a fertility support group had fertility issues tell me her story doesn’t give me any hope. These stories don’t give me hope because they are not me and my reality. It doesn’t tell me what I could do better.

I’m happy to swap stories and strategies you’ve used, what doctor you saw and what helped you, but don’t tell me, “Don’t worry you’ll get there” just because you’ve crossed to the other side.

Infertility is traumatic. In addition to depression symptoms, it is quite common that couples experiencing infertility will experience anxiety in response to certain situations or triggers (such as seeing pregnant women, pregnancy tests, babies on TV or in person, etc.). They may experience intense emotion around certain times of the month, particularly the times near ovulation and when a period is due.

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4. Random Trauma: A wedding was my trauma trigger

Apart from the usual triggers listed above, the trauma of infertility can come from places we never expected. We were so excited to go to a friend’s wedding, as it was long and anticipated. We had received the invitation in August of 2017 and the wedding was October 2017. I bought a very beautiful dress, planned the outfit and off we drove to another city for 4 hours to attend this wedding.

Of course the wedding was perfect. It was small, quaint and very family oriented. The parents of the bride were there and I was looking forward to dancing the night way in my comfy shoes, that is, until…..

THE MOMENT.

We were sitting at the back of the small reception room at a round table all facing the front listening to the speeches. The first set of parents went up and spoke and then the second parents went up and said beautiful things about their child and showed a video of childhood photos. It was so moving and sweet. I felt my brain shift and crack. I tried shaking it off by going to the washroom but it was too late.

Till this day I can feel this black veil that came out of nowhere and knocked me off my feet. The thought lit up in my mind like a shinny ad on New York’s Times Square with the letters spelling: You may never experience this. This this day so many months later those 4 words sting. And I was done. Cold Play’s lyrics from the song “Fix You” became my mind’s background music and the tears just came streaming down my face…..Its like loosing something you cannot replace. I could even hear the voice of the main singer Chris Martin whining those words into my ears. My energy just became off and all I wanted to do was crawl underneath that round table with the white table cloth and hide. I smiled so politely at my friend the bride and lied straight to her face when she came up to me later asking if I’m Ok. Holding my tears I lied through my teeth and said, “I was incredibly moved by the speeches”. Lie. Lie. Lie. The rest of the night I pretended to dance and forcibly remove that veil off of me, but it didn’t happen. As I retell this story, I’m right there. The trauma of the moment is right there with me.

Triggers can seem unrelated or random but still have a profound effect on the emotional reaction of the people going through this difficult situation. For many, infertility feels like riding an emotional roller coaster of anticipation, worry, sadness, grief, and anger.

When someone is experiencing infertility, negative beliefs about one’s inadequacyor defectiveness may come up.

5. The trauma of “it is free for everyone else, so why not me?”. 

Its in those moments that you least expect that bring up the trauma of not just about your body, but about everything around it. Not accepting your diagnosis, not being able to bring yourself to go to another acupuncture treatment. The unwillingness to change your diet or do anything else that would require you to change your lifestyle. This brings so much resentment towards the whole thing. Its supposed to be free so why am I forced to pay for it. Why should I stop eating sugar? Why I need to change everything when “crack babies” are still being born.

Denying that there is anything wrong. Just stuffing it down deeper. I have a hard time accepting that there is something wrong with me just because my diagnosis says so. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with me thats why I want this to be free and on my own terms. This lack of being able to use my body and have it function the way its supposed to filters through on other parts. The inadequacy. The feeling of failure. The feeling of being stuck. Its everything my life. I feel stuck in a job I can’t quit till I find something else but I can’t find a job because I don’t feel adequate so I look for a low paying customer service job. I don’t believe I will achieve financial success beyond my small little goal, because why, I don’t deserve it. It just filters through. Denying grief.

6. The Trauma of the advice: Change your mindset

The worst advice I have ever received was believe it and it will happen. Well I don’t believe that I can’ actually get pregnant and the story of “Hope” (see above) isn’t helping. Then I think, maybe I don’t want any this family and baby business, but immediately my

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body signals to me that is a lie. A way of self preservation of the fact that nothing has happened. A way for me to preserve some mental sanity. If my mindset was to be on point then it would have happened last year between May and August. My belief was strong. How many times have a I heard just stop thinking about it. I have stopped thinking about it and it still hasn’t happened.

It is hard to believe that my body is actually able to have a pregnancy when in the last 5 years it never once did. Read that again. NEVER EVER EVER. 

7. The Trauma of a “Past life”. 

This one gets me going because it doesn’t actually solve anything. A spiritual guru comes to you and says they know the problem and it comes from a past life. I believe in reincarnation but saying that I had a problem in the past life and now I have to fix the past life in order to create life is complete bullshit. There is nothing that I can do in present current life to go back and  talk to ‘said past life’ and tell it to move on and get going. It putting blame on things so beyond reach and human possibility. I just have no words for this type of thing.

8. Your partner’s trauma

Your partner has trauma except he may not express it. I have tried to get hubby to express it but its so deeply repressed that it a cork I’m having a hard time uncorking. It affect him. Its like us walking through the Green Living Show and him stopping and looking at baby clothes. Its not that we both get up and think about it all the time, but this thing, shows up in different ways. Pregnant women, strollers, Toys R Us, children or  other objects don’t seem to move us, but a simple piece of clothing does. It moves him.

Final thoughts.

I may just add to the list about but my point is that that I have recognized that the trauma of infertility stops at the fertility clinic. Even when you stop going or someone says to you ‘take a break’ (I’ve been on a break for the last 6 months) it doesn’t go away. Its a train.

Once you get on the fertility train, destination, “Baby/Family”, its very difficulty to get off it before you make it to the destination.  Eva Braveheart.


When you try your best but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired but you can’t sleep
Stuck in reverse
When the tears come streaming down your face
‘Cause you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
What could it be worse?
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you
But high up above or down below
When you are too in love to let it show
Oh but if you never try you’ll never know
Just what you’re worth
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you
Tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you cannot replace
oh and tears come streaming down your face
And I
Tears streaming down your face
I promise you I will learn from all my mistakes
oh and the tears streaming down your face
And I
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you
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How to make a difference in a life

The original is written by “Loren Eiseley” in 1969  – “The Star Thrower” is a part of a 16-page essay of the same name by.
“While walking along a beach, an elderly gentleman saw someone in the distance leaning down, picking something up and throwing it into the ocean.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, picking up starfish one by one and tossing each one gently back into the water.

He came closer still and called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

The old man smiled, and said, “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the elderly observer commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

The young man listened politely. Then he bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it into the back into the ocean past the breaking waves and said, “It made a difference for that one.”
“Chi Mai” by Ennio Morricone – is one of the most beautiful modern piece of music I know. Written in 1971 … and it was used in the film “Maddalena” the same year. Famous it became through being used in “The Professional” (1981 film). Chi Mai is Italian and means whoever.

Just like this story … whoever that wants to can make a difference.

 

Diagnosis infertility. Job description, advocate.

I made a difference at my fertility clinic. 

At the beginning of March, I met with the Patient experience officer and Dr. B after the failure of a fertility cycle. It was a two-hour emergency meeting. It happened because I was falling apart. We met because I felt like a number. I felt I wasn’t listened to and no one was hearing my concerns. I didn’t know who to turn to because if I asked the nurse the nurse couldn’t make any decisions and there were too many people involved in my care. I wanted one or two dedicated nurses who knew everything on file. I needed to tell them their support group sucked. The waiting room was one anxious space and nothing goes well at the clinic if you are not following one of the prescribed fertility boxes of procedures.

I needed to find MY voice in this entire runaway train and I needed to be heard.

I had no idea that my verbal dump changed many things at the clinic. Two months after this meeting and after my two-month break from not being at the clinic, I’ve become aware of results of this meeting.


Early morning, I’m sitting in the waiting room of the clinic. The chairs are plastic and white the walls are Tiffany blue. The door next to the reception desk opens and closes every few minutes with a sight bang. I wait my turn to see the doc. to figure out what drugs I need for the embryo transfer. I see Vee, The patient experience, walking into the waiting room and out. She waves and smiles as she sees me and stops, saying, “I really want to talk to you!”. I say, “we can talk now, I’m just waiting for one instruction but it’s not urgent”. She motions me in, we open the door, I hear the slight bang as it closes and I followed her down the hall into the boardroom of Anova. Cool, the board room. I’ve never been here, just the dark ultrasound rooms and the doc’s room. Vee seems so excited to talk to me. I wonder why…..

We sit down across from each other and talk about how I’m doing after the two-month break and the fact that I seem to be glowing. I am relaxed. I feel more chilled and definitely more grounded. I’ve put fertility into a box. Just one of the boxes that are me and it no longer rules my world. When I reflect and think about myself and who I was January until May, I don’t recognize myself. I’m so glad I took a break.

At one point, Vee stops and looks me in the eye and says, thank you. I’m confused what for…..? She looks me right in the eye, puts her hands together and says, “Thank you for speaking up, very few actually do. We don’t know how we can be better if someone doesn’t tell us, we can just think what we can do but are not on the other side. We have taken all your comments, complaints and observations and have changed our entire counseling department. We are still not perfect but want to let you know you have made an impact on for other patients”. 

Needless to say, I’m shocked because I think back how much I was hurting during that time and how long the 2.5 hr meeting was with Dr. B and the Vee. I remember I wanted to write about it but was so drained from the conversation I couldn’t bring myself to blog about it.

I tell Vee that I’m so glad this is going on and I hope that I can continue to be a voice for many patients.

What I want the clinic to recognize is that part of functional care and holistic care is to incorporate; counseling, mindfulness, hypnosis and other modalities so we can support the whole person not just the uterus, the egg or sperm.

Find your voice. We want to hear you.

You are not your diagnosis.

Don’t be afraid to let the clinic know what is not working for your treatment, you just never know, you may the catalyst for massive change.

Click here to join the conversation and get more material & resources

 

“You should’ve asked” A pictorial on women’s mental load and the work they do

Just to change it up this week, lets talk about women’s mental load. While the fertility community is wrapped up in creating babies, the conversation that should be started at the same time and reviewed is what happens to women after the babes are here. When I went to a naturopath three years ago to look into why I’m not getting pregnant, I was intrigued that she started the conversation of, “why do you want to have children, is this because you want to or because you are supposed to do”. While a controversial question, and probably many women would be taken aback [‘why are you asking this just fix me and not question my motivation] I think it’s a valid question and so needed.

It took me ten long years to get to the answer of “yes, this is for me”, but still in my dark days wrapped up in the scope of fertility treatments, I asked myself who is this really for and if I’m fulfilling some need or just doing it because that’s what family wants?

I do look at this cartoon and hope for the best. I don’t know if I could go through another round of treatment and my head is coming around to the fact that I think I would be Ok with one genetic offspring and are open to adopting an older child, like a teen.

The workload for women never does stop.

I am grateful right now that I don’t have a care in the world and sometimes imagine what it would mean to take care of another human being 24/7. My body tells me that I think I could do one, but more then one would be overwhelming.

Let’s make sure to discuss expectations we have of each other as a couple before the baby come or before even the pregnancy. After all, if my big thing is balance and good mental health, then setting up expectations beforehand would save a lot of arguments and meltdowns.

I hope that with the looming embryo transfer that is coming up Husband and I can take a look at this cartoon below and have a very good deep conversation.

Please make sure to comment below about your thoughts. Feedback is always appreciated!

Emma

Here is the english version of my now famous “Fallait demander” !

Thanks Una from unadtranslation.com for the translation 🙂

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I’m bleeding out. InFertility & Mental Health

Fertility and mental health: Female Hormones Can Make a Bloody Mess of Your Mental Health

“*Women with infertility felt as anxious or depressed as those diagnosed with cancer, hypertension, or recovering from a heart attack”. (Harvard Review). 

I’ve realized that I’ve been writing a bit about mental health. I think it’s a topic that is close to my heart, professionally and personally. No one is immune. There are two times in this process where I had a mental breakdown, first time at The Clinic in November of 2016,  and the second time just recently. The first time, I walked out of the waiting room and cried like a wild animal in the middle of the hallway heaving in pain. The second time was for a full week right before we found the results after the two week wait which the last two posts have been about. The first time was only a day, the humpty-dumptysecond time I couldn’t pull myself together for over a full week. The unravelling started here. I still feel like Humpty Dumpty (and so does husband) who fell off the wall and now all the kings horses and all kings men, are trying to put Humpty Dumpty together again.

Mental Health Check-up

At the The Clinic, no one checks in on your mental health even though its well-known how much this process will take a toll on you mentally. Just the hormones should come with a <<beware of side effects>> label. Even if we think about a woman who is going through regular PMS, how those hormones affect her, imagine being pumped with MORE hormones than usual would affect a woman. Being a mental health professional, even I didn’t recognize the early signs of things unravelling. Yet, it was so evident that my mental health was bleeding out onto every aspect of my life. Bleeding out is a term that is used when a person’s ability to perform daily functions are affected and there is no separation between the physical and mental. Just think of your brain spilling out and having a hard time distinguishing and separating what is actually real and what is perceived to be real.  When you are in so deep, fertility takes over every part of your life. Think of blood bleeding out and splattering. It gets into the cracks and leaves a stain.

No none of this is healthy, far from it, but what I’m trying to say, this happens so slowly, I didn’t notice it and I’m freaking trained. I’m my worst doctor.

Intuitively I knew something was wrong.

I knew I needed help.

On the second week of the “Two week wait”, I fell apart and crashed mentally and hit a wall. I liken it to a car accident. I’m driving along to my destination and all of a sudden I’m driving through a winter storm. I’m so focused on making it safely to my destination that I don’t notice the truck swerving to the right of me and that threw me through my windshield. That is how it felt. My mental health was out of control. I was anxious, crying at any moment, didn’t want to get out of bed and my energy was so low, I had to take naps during the day. In Chinese medicine they would say, my Qi was off-balance. I was scared to eat anything because I thought I was doing something wrong. I felt so drained, I was getting up, eating and sleeping because of anxiety and stress of waiting if THIS TIME the treatment would work. That week, I went to see a mental health professional and I realized: every aspect of my everyday was now consumed by fertility. Needless to say not exactly the right mindset to have, right?!

I knew there was a problem, when I picked up a pastry in my favourite coffee shop, and my thought process was this:

“Should eat it this because it had gluten in it. Gluten could be a cause of infertility. Maybe I have gluten intolerance and I don’t know it. That is why I am infertile. Why else would a healthy person like me have issues? Maybe I was harming myself by having this pastry. Since I also have PCSO the sugar could be harming me . Ugh, why am I eating this pastry when I should just go Gluten free! Dairy free! Sugar free! 

I had fought this so hard to not have it happen, but it seeped in through the cracks so quietly and so slowly, like water seeping through the cracks.”The Judge”, the voice in my head,  screaming at me, “you of all people should know better”. Before I knew what had happened, my everyday was fertility. Before I knew what had happened, my mental health was affected and I had trouble finding joy in anything. How did this happen?

While the causes of infertility are overwhelmingly physiological, the resulting heartache — often exacerbated by the physical and emotional rigors of infertility treatment — may exact a huge psychological toll. One study of 200 couples seen consecutively at a fertility clinic, for example, found that half of the women and 15% of the men said that infertility was the most upsetting experience of their lives. Another study of 488 American women who filled out a standard psychological questionnaire before undergoing a stress reduction program concluded that *women with infertility felt as anxious or depressed as those diagnosed with cancer, hypertension, or recovering from a heart attack.

http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/The-psychological-impact-of-infertility-and-its-treatment

I had read about this on different blogs and read about it in different the books.  I heard about this happening, but I swore I was going to be different. I swore I won’t have this problem, until it was there…and from what I have seen anyone who has done treatments at one point hits a wall and falls hard.

Asking for help

I went to see someone. She showed me how my thoughts were chaotic and one thought bleed over and over rode all the other thoughts. I walked away after an hour with three practical things.

ONE: Compartmentalize 

I have compartmentalized and really watched my thoughts.

After I walked away from Dr. Julia, I was shocked to realize how much my whole body was and is in flight/fight mode. I did a ten minutes of meditation and my body just slumped into hibernation. So many thoughts circled back to fertility. I’m really not great at this yet, but at least there is an awareness. Right after the appointment, husband and went for lunch and listening about my appointment he discovered that he has unconsciously sought out coping mechanisms too. His was playing the online game  of World of Warcraft, something he had not done years! 

Prescription

I was to assign one hour a day, just like I did with an appointment to obsess over fertility. I was to watch my thoughts and if any thought or something that had to do with fertility I was to tell my mind, not now, that will be doing that at the assigned appointment time.

The work

Its funny, in many ways while this blog was helpful, it also required me to designate a time in the day for it. I would poke and write something at all hours of the day. I realized how our conversations with friends and my husband were all about this freak’n subject. How freak’n annoying not just to me but to those around me.

Spiritual work

The attachment to an outcome.  I had thought I had let go of this attachment, I had not, because it was attached to the fear of letting go of control over the situation.

I had fear that my plan would not work. I had a timeline. I had 6 months for the medical leave and it had to work in the 6 months otherwise I would need to go back.

The plan has not worked out. I was so attached to an outcome. I still am, but working through it. There is no surrender in that. I think it’s also the idea that this family thing is supposed to look a particular way and what if it doesn’t turn out looking that way and I actually don’t get a chance was nature has said to me is so natural? What if I’m still punishing myself for all those years of looking down at moms and pregnant women and my views on family 10 years ago.

If I don’t have my head straight and if I don’t have a sense of peace and serenity, then I can still be misaligned with the opportunity to create.

When I change my mind about my experiences, then my experiences change. It doesn’t mean that the outcome I was expecting will happen, it means how I experience the outcome will change. It’s the attachment piece and an expectation of the outcome.

Gabrielle Bernstein.

This is really hard to process, as how hard it is to not be attached and hoping for an outcome during the two week wait? 

What is my intuition telling me? Its been saying since last year that I should switch clinics, and maybe I should finally listen to that but then there is fear around this switch.

         Fear is such a bitch. It messes with your mind so much.

TWO: Watching cat videos

Prescription:

After my one hour appointment with myself and once I was done obsessing over fertility during the day, I was to watch cat videos or anything funny. This engages a totally different part of your brain that has nothing to do with logical thinking brain. Its like dancing or singing or anything creative.Squirrel

Result….Squirrel!

Have you ever watched that movie, “Up”, where the dog is talking and all of sudden his attention is distracted for a second because there is a squirrel. That is what I’m doing now. Anytime my mind trails off to this topic (you can see it in my eyes) people around me know to simply tell me, “squirrel”. Its funny and it works.

Three: Permission to feel

The work:

I think because I had so much judgement going on in my head and because I was punishing myself for NOT “knowing better”, I didn’t allow myself to feel the true extent of my feelings. Having done lots of personal development there is also a personal development judge that comes up and was punishing me because I wasn’t using the tools that I had learned to use in such situations. In many ways, my training took a knife and decided to hurt me.

Prescription:

In Chinese medicine, “we have an infinate amount of energy and the more we are consumed with negative thoughts and judments then there is less energy to go towards the spark of life.

I don’t think my brain would have accepted permission to relax if it were not a mental health professonal telling to relax and that its totally normal to feel this way. My prescription was to really allow myself to feel the full extent of my feelings where ever they may be in my body.

Final thoughts: so what about all this?

I’ve been writing this post for almost two weeks now, weaving my way in and out of this hitting the wall. I’ve learned how elusive this topic is. Its one thing to talk about infertility which is not as much of a taboo subject anymore, but the mental health piece is. I can truely say, I had a mental breakdown. There really is no way of describing it.

What I’ve learned yet again is that I need to learn to ask for help, allow myself to really feel my feelings and use my voice. This seems to be a theme for me.

As I pick myself up from hitting the wall. I know that this time around it took me almost two weeks to get past this, it just doesn’t go away. I know the next time it could hit me even harder. I just need the tools and compassion for myself to not critise myself so much as I did this time.

The anticipation and anxiety around if our transfer will work, already has my body in tight knots. Before I walk into that process, I need to prepare my mind and body.

In preparation, I decided to do a Mindfulness course on myself again and be more gentle with myself. To really actually do the mediation that I know work but I have not done. To recognize my judge and see him as a protector and someone who wants me to not get hurt. This is the path forward of again holding my heart and saying in the mirror: I love you.

In the book, “Pathways to Pregnancy“, Mary says, “its not that pregancy won’t work, your body is just telling you not now, and most certainly not now when your head and heart are not aligned. You need to sow the soil before you plant the seed. Take care of youself first, before you take care of another being”.

Wisdom of Irene:
“You try, then no expect, then you no sad.”


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