My tenuous grasp on any form of normalcy was quickly unravelling. I felt defeated. I felt like the universe was actively working against me. I felt angry ALL the time. I couldn’t be around people. Family, friends, strangers, it made no difference. I couldn’t keep my anger, my jealously, my agony, from showing through in every interaction. And this is exactly when I had to return to work.
Unable to bare the thought of leaving my house and being surrounded by happy people daily, I finally admitted that I might need help. The clinic we are at has a therapist on staff to talk to people or couples about the struggles of their infertility journey. I figured this was a good place to start.
It was not.
I made the appointment, and as I was waiting to be seen, I was extremely anxious and agitated. Just being in the same building that all the other negative interactions had been in made me want to crawl out of my skin! I closed my eyes, clenched my fists, and tried to just focus on my breathing. I was here to get help for how I was feeling. I just had to focus on that.
Finally, the doctor called me into her office. It was decorated with plush cushions, soft furniture, and discreetly placed Kleenex boxes lurking everywhere. But no matter how I tried, I just couldn’t get comfortable. I ended up just sitting straight backed on the sofa as the doctor took a seat in an office chair across from me.
“Tell me why you are here” she began. That was easy enough. I told her how I have struggled with anxiety my entire life, but have always managed to keep it in check, but now with the stress of infertility, that just seems to be chronically present and never ending, I’m having difficulty coping. My resiliency just isn’t there. Every little thing was the end of the world. I told her how I was worried we’d never get pregnant, how my dream of being a mother was getting blacker and blacker, and how I worried that my worry was a big part of the problem. I know that anxiety and cortisol have a negative effect on conception and pregnancy so I was afraid that I was a self fulfilling prophecy. I also said that I was worried about the stress this was putting on my marriage. I didn’t want to gain a baby and lose a husband. The words poured out of me, and of course, so did the tears. Then I waited for some pearl of wisdom that would help me change how I was thinking, or some coping strategy that I was unfamiliar with that I could try, something!
No such luck.
First thing she told me was that my fear of stress affecting conception was unfounded. “Look at rape victims” she said “they get pregnant, and they are certainly stressed, right?” I couldn’t believe my ears. I honestly had no response to that, I was so horrified. And oddly, I wasn’t comforted about my own chronic level of stress at all…. (Yes, the sarcasm is dripping out of those words, how on EARTH were those situations similar? And as someone who has exposure to that world through my work, I didn’t appreciate the nonchalant comparison).
Next, she told me that I should find someone that I can talk to, like my mom, and just go shopping. Splurge. Have a me day and just enjoy it. I see what she was going for there, but when all you want is a kid, and you have to pay through the nose to TRY for a kid, spending money on materialistic things just doesn’t hold the same appeal, ya know?
The one nugget of information that I gleaned from her was that she also struggled with infertility in her first marriage, and that she subsequently married in to having step children and now grandchildren. She said that even to this day she politely declines baby shower invites, unless she happens to know that they too struggled before becoming pregnant. That one I held on to. I no longer feel bad when I decline baby shower invites, I just acknowledge that I am practicing self preservation and putting myself first. I used to be raked with guilt over declining, but no longer!
And that was my first experience with therapy…. I walked out of there feeling confused, and a little angry. I couldn’t get passed the rape victim comment. I decided that perhaps it was a personality conflict, and that maybe a different therapist would be able to help me.
My second experience with a therapist was better. She seemed to genuinely care about me and what I was going through. She was completely unaffiliated with the clinic and dealt more with anxiety and depression than infertility. I saw her twice. Each time, she acknowledged my anxiety, hinted at depression, and tried to find ways that I could outlet my anxiety, especially while undergoing fertility treatments when most activities are not allowed (no jogging, no kickboxing, etc) but none were really found (granted it was only 2 sessions). My problem with therapy was finding the time to go to an appointment. I already had numerous appointments per week, and I still had to TRY to hold down a job, finding time for all of my appointments quickly became a source of anxiety in itself.
That’s when I found an online therapy program, where you could talk to your therapist via text message at any time of day (and they answer during designated days and hours). I have been using this option for about a year now. I can’t say it has been life changing by any means, but we have a connection, I enjoy talking with them, and I appreciate their insights into things. We touch on infertility, but mainly we are focused on dealing with my depression and anxiety.
How did I come to realize it was depression too? It was before Christmas last year. I was working at my dinning room table while my husband did some work readings in the lazy boy in the adjoining room. I was a little bored, and I did some web walking and somehow happened across a website that talked about depression. And it hit home. I started to cry and I couldn’t stop crying. My husband, now VERY used to this behaviour, asked if I was ok. My usual response would be “I’m fine” or a very angry “of course I’m not ok!!!!” but this time, I turned to look at him and said “I’m not ok. I haven’t been ok for a very long time”
He got up and came and put his arms around me. “I know” he said, which just made me cry harder. I told him I thought it was time that I started antidepressants, or anti anxiety meds, and he told me he thought that was an excellent idea.
You know how they say that the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have a problem? Well, what they don’t tell you is how freaking long it can take to get to the next step!
Me being me, my first reaction was to research the crap out of anti depressants. And of course, the minute you google ANYTHING medical online, all you get are the negatives, the side effects, the pitfalls, the big and scary. I’m not someone who freaks out over drugs, or anything, but there were enough side effects (lowered libido being one) that I thought would negatively affect our fertility dreams that I was just not comfortable pursuing treatment. So while I may have admitted that I needed help, I was far from actually receiving it.
I continued with online therapy, and I continued to degrade. I all but ran home from work and cried the entire way home. I’d get inside the door, lock it behind me and sob until I could pick myself up and continue with my evening routine. I blamed infertility for having such a long reach that it could ruin even my dream job, because I HAD my dream job, the job I’d wanted since I was a little kid. and instead of waking up and looking forward to it like I always had, I dreaded it. I dreaded working in that open environment with all those moms, talking and complaining about motherhood. I just couldn’t cope with it. So much so, that there were a number of break downs at the office. There was one personality in particular that caused endless pain, despite my taking her aside and telling her what I was going through. Yet she still planned surprise ‘gender reveal’ parties at mandatory office meetings, among other unnecessarily cruel things.
To be clear, I do NOT want to detract from anyone else’s joy. You wanna have a gender reveal party? Baby shower for work colleagues? FILL YOUR BOOTS! Do it at lunch! Or book a conference room! Or go to a restaurant! Do it LITERALLY ANYWHERE other than a MANDATORY work meeting that your fellow colleague struggling with infertility THAT YOU KNOW ABOUT will be forced to attend!
She was the final straw. A job posting came up for a promotion in a completely different section and I filled out an application. I. NEEDED. OUT.
I stressed about this more than any other job decision in my entire life. I would be leaving a job I loved, for an unknown job, just to escape the people in my section…. it felt both wrong and right at the same time…. Fast forward (because this is already super long) and I got the job! I was ecstatic, and nostalgic for my old job all at once! But, more on that in the next post or this will become an extremely long read!
In the next post: starting a new job, starting a new transfer, and my continuing saga of depression and anxiety.