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.

 

The dirty secret of infertility.

The dirty secret of infertility is the massive effect it has on our whole well-being and the shame. If there’s one thing I know for sure is that being diagnosed with and struggling with infertility can bring up a whole slew of unwanted negative emotions. One of the toughest to deal with is SHAME. When we try to conceive, and bear our own biological children and have difficulty, we may start to think thoughts such as “I’m no good. My body is busted or what will my parents and friends think if I get IVF? What if I’m barren?” It can be debilitating or freeing, depending on your perspective.

Debilitating because we can sink deep into the hole of despair that there is something wrong.

Freeing, because we can see it as an opportunity and be grateful we have the medicine to do IVF and fertility treatments. This science is about 30 years old, which is younger than me. The first ever IVF was doing in the late 70’s, Isn’t it amazing how far we have come that we can actually safely freeze embryos?!

We need to get on camera and TV and talk not about just egg quality, we need to talk about shame, mental health, depression, anxiety and all of these things that are and can be true with infertility. I don’t understand why this not happening. I hear the main doctor of Anova speaking on the breakfast program what we need to do to increase our chances of getting pregnant, and love for her speak about the impact fertility has on mental health and see fertility treatments as a gift!

I am not ashamed of not being able to conceive on my own. For whatever reason, there is a block and I’m working on myself through personal development, grounding myself, reminding myself who I am to be able to bring forth a life that will be completely reliant on me.

To have a positive conception, we need to actually be able to receive. I don’t know what the magical formula is but by dismissing mental health with fertility treatments is dismissing the rest of the person. I imagine a chicken walking around without a head.

From my support group, I know from the stories of 11 other women that none of the clinics that they attend check-in with the women and ask them to participate in any mind-body or counseling. This, in my opinion, is so key would alleviate so much pain from the process. I also know that it takes time to warm up to a donor egg, donor sperm, and surrogacy. It took me two years to warm up to IVF and there is not shame in that. Everything in its due process.

We need the tools that no one has taught us to cope with constant grieving and uncertainty. We need to learn how to re-balance and put fertility into one box of our life and not make it our entire life. I understand how it can get to be a runaway train but we are the conductors of the train and can choose our speed or even choose to stop. Look at the roses and flowers growing by the side of the tracks, aren’t they just beautiful?

Stop being ashamed of your “lacking” and see it as an opportunity to learn about you. See it as an opportunity to grow. Look at it from a point of view of empowering and just how much more you will love that baby or your life without the baby because you took that time to step into a big challenge, a challenge you didn’t ask for but now it’s here. Either way it’s courageous.

You will know, that whatever you are faced with in life can be no greater than this, the act of creating life. What matters is how we choose to look and think about this journey.

Harry Potter metaphor: Sirius Black tells Harry

“You’re not a bad person. You’re a very good person who bad things have happened to. We’ve all got both good light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.” We ALL experience shame in our lives, thus it behooves all of us to learn to manage it well. Instead of thinking of ourselves as bad or defective people, think of yourself as a hero of your own life, on your own hero’s journey, remembering that vulnerability and love are the truest marks of courage.

“Shame is a social concept – it happens between people – it also heals best between people. A social wound needs a social balm, and empathy is that balm. Self-compassion is key because when we’re able to be gentle with ourselves in the midst of shame, we’re more likely to reach out, connect and experience empathy.”
Brene Brown Daring Greatly.

I will continue to advocate for patients and be the fertility doula. I will continue to be vulnerable and face everything full on – for all those who are not ready to come out of the closet.

The only thing that is certain is uncertainty with infertility.

Embrace what is certain, you are a beautiful person with the tremendous capacity to love. Take a moment and love yourself.

Step into the process and be fully part of it. Talk about it. Tell everyone. You’ll be so surprised that every 6th person you talk to will have the same story as you. Not only are you healing yourself but the person who you are speaking to.

I want people to know that there is NO shame is seeking mental health support. It has saved me. There is no shame in having fertility challenges.

If I had not spoken out and used my voice then I would have not been able to make a change for other patients.

I’m grateful for the pain because we need the darkness to get to the light. But we also need the tool to know how to get past the darkness & any shame.

I am your fertility doula. I will speak for you till you are ready.

You are loved.

 

 

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

 

Infertility support groups spot the good vs the bad ones

Change your mindset to change your outcome. 

I’m highly critical of support groups that allow patients to stay in suffering mode, in my mind, support groups should help patients move forward, beyond their suffering. I have a low tolerance for bullshit. I have visited and participated in two support groups. Here is how to spot a good one vs. a bad one.

Experience Support group one: December 2016

We sit in a circle in the clinic under florescent lights. Each woman staring at their phone and playing with it. There is no eye contact, not even a laugh, occasionally someone takes out a kleenex and daps away the tears from their eyes. It’s silent and incredibly awkward. We are gathered here today to spill our guts out and sit in the stillness and the emptiness of sadness and suffering.

I’m here because I’m curious as to what other women have gone through and hope to find a group as well as a facilitator that doesn’t allow me to sit in my bullshit and suffering as well as the stories my mind has created but to help me move me forward.

The facilitator checks the clock for the fifteenth time waiting for the hand to strike 5:30 pm to get the session started. She tries small talk, the weather, the rain, the what movie have you seen lately, all to get one-word answers from women that seem they would rather be everywhere but there.

Finally, the clock strikes the magical number of 5:30 pm, the facilitator clears her throat and opens the floor with a booming cracked voice, “how is everyone doing today”. Panic arises, the women dart their eyes to the floor, all hoping they won’t be picked first, all hoping the person next to them will just blurt something out.

A wee voice speaks out, “I’ll go first”, says Daria (not her real name) a wave of relief hits the women thanking their lucky stars that for that brief moment, they don’t need to talk or share, even though eventually they know they will need to. After all, isn’t that why they came to the group, for support and to find compassion for their suffering?

Daria talks, her face looks incredibly stressed and her whole body looks like it’s about to crumble. Daria tells us her story and at the end she says, “I’m so proud of myself, I declared that I won’t go to family gatherings anymore, I won’t go to baby showers anymore and that I most certainly won’t step into a Babys’R’Us anymore”. She has lost three pregnancies to miscarriages and is waiting to find out if her final embryo would take.Tears

The women turn to look at Daria, nod their heads and silently compare their own story to hers. You can see in their eyes, either relief that they are better off than her, or feel worse because of being more down the rabbit hole of fertility.

The facilitator says nothing, encouraging Daria to just to keep going and be “in the moment”, in my mind, encouraging her suffering. No one moves when Daria starts sobbing uncontrollably, the eyes of the women just darting towards the lights. Perhaps they are looking for God up there? The kleenex box is thrown towards her direction and she picks out one tissue at a time.

This continues, the same thing, “copy and paste” for six other women sitting on those Tiffany blue couches. I’m getting more drained by the second of it, my soul fighting to not get sucked into their stories. The empath in me, seeing there is more to their fertility journey than they are aware of.


Quiet mindHow to spot a bad support group? When the facilitator allows participants to wallow.

What I’m trying to get across here is that this group was all about wallowing in their pain and being a victim in this journey. Trust me I’ve been here. I have been here and have had to allow myself to grieve, but at some point, I needed a kick in the ass to move forward. I need someone to get me out of the mud puddle so I can see that that the pavement right next to me is dry and that it’s really not that bad.


A good support group, take two

The room is silent as I enter, but you can sense the anticipation. We are all new and fresh to the group. Amira is sitting at the top of the table and I find my way to my friend who I met because we were going through the same fertility journey at the same time. We’ve kept in touch with since Sept. 2016, since I started publicly declaring about my fertility challenges. I can feel this support group will be different. I can feel we will be moving forward.

Amira, sits at the head of the brown square table, with that old trusty Kleenex box at the end. She intros herself and lets everyone know, that this group is different, this group is about changing our mindset because with infertility 50% of the journey is a mindset and the other 50% is the medicine and science.

Who are we in this group? It’s an all women’s group of educated professionals with fertility challenges. All on different stages of the journey through fertility. All of them seem to be in their mid-thirties – early forties. We all seem to have come to this group because we were looking for answers and needed a reset or a mind shift. Amira let everyone speak as long as they needed, but immediately gave them something that would help move them forward in their journey, saying, “find joy in the things that brought you joy”,  or “Change your mindset and then change your outcome. 

The goal of the group is to have us leave with our tanks full by the end of the 6 weeks rather than empty. To give us tools so the next time we hit a block, we can cope better. She has said that the people who follow the support group program often go on to get pregnant. Amira says she has many examples of this happening.

I believe her, even though it’s hard to hear without blaming myself that I haven’t done better….that inner judge, always ready to shoot me down faster than I can get up.

Amira says she has countless of stories that support her theory that by practicing mindfulness our mind releases. When we take care of ourselves first, the fertility comes naturally.


What makes a good support group?

First of all, they have a description of what they are trying to achieve, usually, it should be a set of skills that you get at the end of the group. When I asked my medical team to send me a support group that has less BS and more of moving forward, they all scratched their heads and had a hard time coming up with one that would fit me. They even tried to create one because really, there is only one good support group for infertility in ALL OF TORONTO!

Amira’s group which runs for 6 weeks (I’m in the second week) actually had a schedule and a set of outcomes and skills that someone can achieve when following her program. She doesn’t allow people to wallow in their pain but moves them gently along through their puddle of mud, helping them see that if we just stepped to the right or left of the puddle, we would be out of the mud. She challenges us to look at other alternatives and being mindful of our thoughts and words. 

We still check-in at the beginning, but there are processes and a reason for each time we meet with each other. As soon as there is a ‘breakdown’, the facilitator, with empathy, lifts that person up and moves them forward.

Our words that we say, are a reflection of our thoughts. Our thoughts have the power to change what the outcome is.
Eva Braveheart

Because I have really not thought “fertility” since the end of March, my mind is totally not in victim mode. I’m so glad I took this break, as I’m ready for the next step. I’m so glad I listened to my intuition to have taken that break, otherwise I think would have been completely broken by now. It’s even clearer to me now how much everything was about fertility. Every thought, action, word – everything.

This week with Amira, we did mindfulness and meditation. Our homework was to observe ourselves and do a meditation everyday.

Being present and watching my thoughts.

Noticing how my thoughts affect my body

When I started noticing my thoughts, I found that when I had thoughts that were centred around fear (and uncertainty), my body shut down. My throat started constricting and I started to choke.

My Mindful moments and not “mindfull”.

This week I drove my car completely in the present moment. Every time a thought came into my mind, I let it go and watched it float away. I remember every minute of that car ride.

I did a mindful meditation and felt the front of the brain become activated. My whole body just relaxed. Meditation alters your brain’s neuro network and I felt when it was happening. 

I used Gabrielle Bernstein’s’ technique, of breathing in for 3, holding for 5, and releasing for three.

I noticed how grateful I actually am with my fertility journey because all the issues and challenges that are coming up are helping me find myself – who I am as a person and what is my purpose.

My means goal is going to be to do 10 minutes of meditation from now till I get till June.

If I’m going to go for 10 days to silent retreat that is 8 hours of mediating a day, I need to start practicing!

If you need more convincing that meditation isn’t just funky science, Amira came across this article by CNN, “Can you train your brain to make better decisions?” I hope this article would some more incentive to spend at least 5 minutes a day to practice meditation. Actually, the benefits of practicing mindfulness have been confirmed by brain images using MRI.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/09/business/can-you-train-your-brain/


Signing up to Amira’s support group

Amira’s support group:

The desire to have a child could be a physically and emotionally challenging journey for those who are experiencing fertility issues. This 6-week Mind-Body Fertility Program is specifically designed to compliment and support fertility treatment for those who are trying to conceive.

The program will focus on mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques and emotional coping strategies to optimize the physiological and mental well-being of participants. Emphasis will be placed on learning mindfulness-based techniques as well as mutual support within the group through shared experiences in a safe environment. The group is co-facilitated by Amira Posner, MSW, RSW from Healing Infertility (www.healinginfertility.ca)


Resources:

I used to use the app, “Headspace”, but this time I used meditations by  www.tarabrach.com

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.”


Continue reading “I’m bleeding out. InFertility & Mental Health”

Jackie the movie: The meaning of life

Jackie: What is your criteria for a magnificent life?

Priest: Take control of your mind. We are the only creature on the planet that we can make ourselves miserable or make ourselves euphoric simply by the state of our thoughts.

PRIEST

There comes a time in man’s search for meaning, when one realizes — there are no answers. (beat) When you come to that horrible, unavoidable realization — you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you simply stop searching.

I have lived a blessed life. And yet every night when I climb into bed, turn off the lights, and stare into the dark, I wonder…is this all there is? Every soul on this planet does.

And then, when morning comes, we all wake up and make a pot of coffee.

JACKIE (O.S.) Why do we bother?

Jackie catches up to John Jr and picks him up. Twirls him.

PRIEST (O.S.) Because we do. You did this morning, and you will again tomorrow.

Jackie stops to watch her laughing children.

PRIEST (O.S.) God, in his infinite wisdom, has made sure…it is just enough for us.

Quote taken from “Jackie the movie”, script and link located below. 

Jackie Movie


I posted this script quote from the script, as its right in line what I’ve been writing about with mental health and fertility. I love the subtle little things (about kids) that are written into the script. I know that we are on the only ones that can change our reality by choosing how we look at situation. There are many angles that can be taken. Its choosing which angle I look at it. Having moved through a “mini” breakdown in past two weeks, (more in next post) I can see how hard it also it can be to move and change my point of view. Its taken great effort and following my intuition.

Some More Inspiration that helped me move forward:

Tony Robbins and Oprah

http://www.oprah.com/video_embed.html?article_id=64700

 

 

My diagnosis of PCOS is bullshit

pcosWhat is PCOS?

PCOS is Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome.

Its one of the most common hormonal endocrine disorders in women. PCOS has been recognized and diagnosed for seventy-five years. There are many signs and symptoms that a woman may experience. Since PCOS cannot be diagnosed with one test alone and symptoms vary from woman to woman. Most women with PCOS grow many small cysts on their ovaries. The body may have a problem using insulin, called insulin resistance. When the body doesn’t use insulin well, blood sugar levels go up. Over time, this increases your chance of getting diabetes

Here is a video: What is PCOS Video – the PCOS foundation

I’m a super responder.

I was told by the clinic I have “PCOS”, Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. The only thing about this syndrome is that it’s a spectrum.

In early 2000’s, the medical community got together and put together three criteria and in order to be diagnosed with PCOS you needed two out of three criteria to qualify.

roterdam-diagnosis

My symptoms:

  1. My cycles are anywhere from 30-50 days and totally random. I can kind of predict but not really. So the idea of aim and fire doesn’t apply to me, as I don’t know when to “aim and fire”.
  2. Cystic Acne (but who doesn’t have acne?!)
  3. Difficulty getting pregnant (because of irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate) We actually have not been able to fully determine if a ovulate all the time on my own.
  4. When I’m given hormones for fertility I respond by making LOTS of eggs. I’m called a “super responder” to the medications because I produce a mass amount of follicles. This is typical in cystic ovaries.

I’ve been called PCOS, the skinny type.  Often women are overweight and have weight around their belly. I don’t have this.

pcosgraphic

How is PCOS treated?

In reality, it’s not really “treated” by the medical community, it needs help from other forms of alternative holistic medicine. For me, the clinic has never treated the diagnosis. Meaning, the underlying factors have not looked into. The diagnosis has been taken into account for the fertility medical/medication protocol. It’s not that they clinic doesn’t or can’t treat it, but they have one job, that is to get you pregnant, that is what the health care system pays for. Our health-care is about treating the ‘disease’ and not about prevention. This is obvious for anyone dealing with the Ontario/Canada system. As my doctor put it, she is a complete believer of FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE but within the clinic right now the facilities are not there to treat PCOS and infertility from this angle. This is why it’s important to be your own patient advocate.

What is supposed to help is:

“Regular exercise, healthy foods (low sugar, gluten & dairy) and weight control are said to be the key treatments for PCOS. Treatment can reduce unpleasant symptoms and help prevent long-term health problems” along with alternative therapy treatments, such as naturopath and acupuncture.

My own self-diagnosis?

While its nice that I was officially given a diagnosis of PCOS, but my unofficial self-diagnosis is that my body just forgot how fertility works and is now having trouble remembering. I also believe there are more underlying issues that have never been looked into. According to the symptoms, I have PCOS, but my question has always been, what are the REASONS for these symptoms? This is something that the medical community has not been able to answer which is another reason why I don’t believe in the diagnosis. From what I have found, PCOS is an umbrella diagnosis. Often used as a blanket diagnosis for a lot of women and over diagnosed.

Since this a syndrome, the actual symptoms are wide-ranging, but typically fall into four different types.

Four types of PCOS 

  1. Insulin Resistant PCOS
  2. Pill-Induced PCOS or Post-Pill PCOS
  3. Inflammatory PCOS
  4. Hidden-Cause PCOS

For me, I fall into category number four. The most annoying one, because it’s not really evident as to why I have the syndrome. As Doctor Fiona outlines in her book, “8 steps to reverse your PCOS”, sometimes there may be a genetic cause that mimics PCOS symptoms that are the actual underlying issue of infertility.

It would require the professional to dig deeper and take more time at treating those actual symptoms. The medical clinic doesn’t have time to dig deeper. With the constant stream of new patients, their goal is to get you pregnant and move on. It’s neither right nor, wrong, it’s just the way their protocol is handled. The Clinic is really good at integrating other practitioners into their clinic. They actually refer and support a patient who wants to work with a naturopath or other practitioners.

Mind -body connection

The fertility journey has been a total mind-soul connection.

I was talking to the hypnotherapist and she was telling me about a couple where the husband was adopted. He never really dealt this hurt he felt as a child. Through hypnosis, he realized he has made a deal with himself that he would never father children because he didn’t want any child to go through what he went through. Before therapy he had a terrible sperm count, after the healing process his sperm count went up. I know this may sound over simplistic, but I truly believe that our minds are that powerful. We do make deals with ourselves like that.

We all have limiting beliefs that go back to childhood imprints, I have them, you have them, we all have them. We move through life matching our childhood beliefs with our self-worth. Such as, “I don’t deserve attention”, “It’s not safe to be here”, “I don’t deserve to be loved”. They all come from what I understood and translated as a child from the situations and experiences that I faced.

Some of the things I’m working through the past four years along this journey of fertility are working through my limiting beliefs.

“It may be important to do some inner investigation into the invisible answers you may be carrying to basic questions about how fertility, pregnancy, birth and children were perceived in your family of origin, so that you can journey ahead into those realms fully free, right down to your biochemistry, and make the healthiest choices. (As a bonus, engaging in the creative process of mastering your own inner life is the best preparation not just for conceiving a baby, but for parenting in general!)
Marcy Axness, PhD

Once we realize how we carry on a continual dialogue with our biology—consciously and unconsciously—we can aspire to cultivate an inner ecology that is truly fit for life.

This is why I still am comfortable to state, that while on the physical plane I have been diagnosed as having PCOS, on the spiritual and EGO side, there is another whole world there that I’m still working through.

I call bullshit on the diagnosis of PCOS.

Acupuncture

According to the Journal of the International Society of Gynecological Endocrinology, “acupuncture therapy may have a role in PCOS by increasing blood flow to the ovaries, reducing of ovarian volume and the number of ovarian cysts, controlling hyperglycemia through increasing insulin sensitivity and decreasing blood glucose and insulin levels.” 

I am going to acupuncture once to twice a week. Once to Irene and another time to Tanya at Alive Holistic Health. I decided to go to both because each has their own way of approaching acupuncture. Irene approaches acupuncture the true Chinese way, on the physical level. She sees your body but doesn’t touch the spirit part. Tanya on the other hand approaches acupuncture from of the spirit side. A beautiful and gentle soul. Each treatment is different. When I go to Alive Holistic clinic to Tanya, my body and soul just sinks into the table. Our soul needs the love and care just as much as our physical body does.

It interests me that both of them approach PCOS from a completely different angle. They don’t even focus on it, rather they focus on what is going on with your body that day. Irene can tell me exactly what is going on with my body by how my tongue looks. Tanya also looks at my tongue, and bases the treatment and how many needles she puts in by checking my pulse. There are 29 different pulses according to Chinese medicine.

I respond so well to the needles. They were both shocked at how fast my body changed.

I’m a super responder

Anova Fertility

While Dr. Dickson was the one that diagnosed me with PCOS when I first started seeing her, nothing more was done with the diagnosis.

  • No one at the clinic asked about my nutrition patterns.
  • No one at the clinic looked into inflammation or my insulin intake.
  • It wasn’t looked into or asked why have my cycles become shorter since the time I was a teenager.
  • I wasn’t asked or looked into if I have any allergies that I I am not aware of, such as gluten sensitive or dairy sensitive.

There was not functional medicine, just straight to the point – fix the physical.

This is neither right nor wrong, it’s just the way western medicine is structured: Fix the physical body, the rest doesn’t matter.

I’m calling the “diagnosis” of PCOS as bullshit.

Instead of just calling it PCOS, why don’t we peel away the layers of the onion and see what else is there. The diagnosis of PCOS is just a big blanket statement that so many women have been diagnosed with. Instead of throwing medication at it, lets dig deeper.

Unfortunately, as a society are not willing to do that because we just want the fertility clinic to “fix the problem” and don’t have time to dig deeper.

I also have the challenge, that my time on my medical leave is up in April. I hear the clock ticking all the time.

Naturopath: White Lotus integrative Health (with Dr. Erica)

When I finally went to see this clinic, I realized how much I had ignored and not done my homework about my diagnosis. I realize now it’s because I didn’t want to be another one of “those”people. One of “those” women who search the internet for hours on end, reading all the forums possible and spinning in all the information about PCOS and infertility.

I didn’t want to be more stressed or have more anxiety about this situation. I just wanted to be calm, cool and collected. Most of all, I didn’t want to have someone to again tell me to change my diet: drop gluten, drop dairy and sugar. I didn’t want to be responsible for this, I just wanted the drugs.

What I learned from this two-hour initial appointment is how much I have just wanted to go with it and how much I didn’t want to get to the bottom of PCOS. I also realized how much I ignored my diagnosis because it wasn’t something that was even discussed with the clinic at any point during treatment.

I’m pretty aware of the mind-spiritual connection but I have ignored my physical body and just gave it drugs. It’s ironic, I didn’t want to deal with taking charge of my diet and digging deeper.

From the appointment at the clinic which happened on Feb. 1, 2017 – I learned that I potentially could have an insulin issue. When the Dr. Erica tested my insulin five hours after I had eaten a really good breakfast and was feeling hungry, it was unusually high.

After four years of starting this, I started to accept that I actually may have a diagnosis and there is something I can do about it.

Now it’s getting through the muck and deciding how much this I want to do right now and if this is now the long-term plan after Anova Clinic or if I want to implement the program now.

I came to Lotus clinic because there was a thyroid scare and Anova just wanted to give me medication. I don’t want to mess with my thyroid with medication. I don’t want to make it worse in the long-term. I don’t want to just give my body drugs, again.

I call bullshit on my diagnosis. 

But I’m calling bullshit on myself.

I just didn’t want to take responsibility and do anything more about my diagnosis. I didn’t take my own health into my own hands. It was good enough that I just showed up and went to the clinic. I offered my body into the science experiment and went off on my own hippie ultra-spiritual meditative lotus leaf pretending that nothing else mattered. I didn’t connect with my body and honour it. If something was to go wrong, it would be so easy to blame the clinic. Blame someone else. Blame the drugs. Blame, blame, blame…..

 

Even in this journey, the Universe has shown me, that I need SPEAK UP and whether I like it or not, authentically take responsibility for E V E R Y T H I N G.

Kicking and screaming, another slap in the face about taking responsibility for my thoughts, actions and words.


Reference PDF: genetics of PCOS