This is a post that has been in my files for a while. Never quite started. But never quite finished either. The number one struggle that sticks in my mind the most when I was actively going through infertility treatments was the fact that I couldn’t trust my brain at all.
In the course of a day I would fluctuate from the highest high to the lowest low and every feeling in between. Besides some of the physical side effects like hot flashes, weight gain, and water retention I also had to deal with the psychological ones. And I had no idea if this was just something wrong with me, or something to do with the medications I was on.
I felt crazy.
I couldn’t trust my own mind.
I felt completely out of control.
I hated it.
And I felt absolutely and completely alone in these feelings.
Honestly, this was the part of infertility that was the hardest for me. But at the time, the struggle was worth it if it meant I’d end up with the family I had always dreamed of. So what do you do when you go through all that and don’t have a baby in your arms?
This is the crossroads we’re at right now. Do we put it all on the line again for the chance at a baby? Do I jump back on that rollercoaster of emotions? Do I put Dustin through the pain of seeing me deal with this?
Recently I read a fascinating article outlining the results of a Harvard Medical School study on the psychological impact of infertility. It laid out some pretty interesting numbers, and the ones that stuck out most to me was the fact that 23% of infertility patients were diagnosed with anxiety compared to 11% of the general medical patients. And 17% of infertility patients were diagnosed with depression compared to 6% of other patients.
To me though, those numbers are so much more personal than just figures in a study. Those numbers are me.
After we moved back to Michigan from Arkansas my ex-husband and I agreed that it was time for us to take a break from fertility treatments. Not that they were doing much good anyways. Mostly because I needed time to get my head screwed on straight.
Even after I was off of the fertility meds I couldn’t keep my emotions under control. I struggled with depression especially. It was hard for me to stay on an even keel, and worse than that my depression manifested itself with an inability to motivate. I wanted nothing more than to curl up in a ball and do nothing.
I thought I could just get over it. Will myself out of the funk. Somehow superman up the energy and muscle through this depression. I refused to believe that I could be brought down by my own mind. And rather than seek help I struggled in silence. Far from friends, far from family, I had no one to lean on and felt 110% alone.
It wasn’t until we moved closer to our social network that I finally accepted that I couldn’t ‘get over’ depression and I talked to my doctor. I’m quite lucky to have a pretty amazing D.O. who focuses on the whole rather than the symptom. We talked a lot about how the infertility and the meds had contributed to this, and what option I had for the future.
We started me on a low dose of anti-depressants and the difference was amazing. I’m not sure if it was just the fact that I had finally talked about how I was feeling with someone, or the fact that I had finally taken steps to get better, but I noticed the difference pretty quickly. The low dose was just right for pulling me up. Getting out of bed, working out, staying motivated, even sleeping got significantly easier. All of a sudden I was on an even keel again.
Everything else in my life fell apart sure, but my mind was starting to feel like my own again. I was on the low dose anti-depressant for a little over two years before I finally felt confident enough to talk to my doctor about weaning my way off of it.
I still struggle, I still have days where I know that it would be easier if I just kept taking meds. But I also recognize that I am not Depressed, I was dealing with a depression. Everyone goes through those situations in life and I think one of the biggest shames in our country is that we do not recognize the difference.
This fall has probably been the hardest time since I went off my medication. Dealing with a lot of personal and professional stress. The wedding. Being constantly busy. And all of those other little things of life add up quickly for me. And that makes my personal awareness that much more important. I feel more in tune with my emotions and am better about recognizing those times when I need to walk away.
When I need to take time for myself.
When I need to have a good cry.
Self-care has become an important part of my life.
Talking about my own infertility journey is a form of therapy for me.
If you are in the middle of your infertility journey, or even if you’re on the other side (whatever that might look like), it’s important to think about these factors and take care of yourself.
Talk It Out
Find a support group, there are tons of resources online but I really can’t say enough good things about being face to face with other people who understand. Talk about what you’re going through. Realize you are not crazy. You are not alone. You are not superman.
Talking to others will help give you perspective. If you can find an in-person group it will give you a reason to put pants on and get out the door. It helps. Even if you’re not ready to talk about your own story listening to others can help immensely.
Talk to Your Doctor
Do not hide how you’re feeling from your medical professional. Be honest with them about your emotions. Be honest with them about where you are in your infertility journey and what medications you’ve been on. Depression and anxiety are common side effects of these medications and it’s important for them to know this. As much as the health field is becoming integrated it is still up to you to make sure all sides are informed.
My infertility stuff was in one hospital with one doctor. My general practitioner was in a whole other. And then I moved cross country. You can sure as heck bet I have a copy of all of my health stuff and I bring it with me. If you have a doctor who isn’t understanding of your depression, or tries to make you feel like this is all in your head (not in a good way) find someone else. I recommend a D.O. or other holistic practitioner.
Whether it’s talking to your spouse, your support group, or your doctor, do not be ashamed of your mental health. This may be temporary, as it was with me, or it may be a chemical imbalance that you have to deal with for life. Either way you need to be in charge of your own mental health.
If you’re worried about how you’re feeling start by talking to those closest to you. Ask them if they’ve noticed any difference. Get out of your own head and get that perspective. You can not do this alone, no one is strong enough to will away depression or other mental health issues. There is no shame in that.
Obviously I am not a mental health or medical professional. This is my own personal story/struggle, and the tips that I have found helpful. Please seek help if you are feeling depressed or anxious. Don’t struggle alone. Don’t be ashamed. If you need help finding resources in your community I’d be happy to help you Google!
You can read more about our infertility journey here, along with some tips for dealing with infertility around Mother’s Day, Dustin’s perspective on infertility, and more on our struggle with life after infertility. Obviously this is a topic I am passionate.