Follow me on the crazy, hopeful, discouraging, funny, and ultimately successful (one way or another) path to parenthood while facing infertility.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Oh, the Mind Games We Play

It is amazing the capacity the human brain has to inflict mental torture. You can be the most rational person in the world but in the throes of infertility, your thought processes can be your worst enemy. Last night I went to a support group and we touched on this issue--it was so affirming to realize that it is not just my inner voice that is irrational, crazy, and just plain mean.

When you are going into a cycle, there are stages that your mindset goes through. In the time leading up to your cycle beginning, you psych yourself up. "This is the ONE!" you think. The plan is different, you have new tricks up your sleeve (red candles to burn! wheatgrass shots! pomegranate!), and you can let yourself believe that this time is YOUR time. Hope is at a high. It has to be--we couldn't do this to ourselves over and over and over again without truly believing that it could work despite whatever odds are stacked against a positive outcome. When you start your cycle, you have cold, hard data to support your hope or start whittling away at it. You can cling to every appointment, every ultrasound and blood value and think that it is either affirming your hope stores or causing you to have to go into positive thinking overdrive to overcome the new obstacles in your way (not enough follicles, too many small follicles, too little estrogen, too much estrogen, a cyst, a pesky lead follicle that steals energy from all the rest, whatever). When you finally get to the point where you have your retrieval and transfer (or insemination if it's an IUI), what's done is done. You can no longer control (like you could in the first place?!?) how your materials are growing and it is now up to whatever got settled in to nestle to keep it going. You put all your hope into your uterus and flood it with positive thoughts. But you also flood it with questions--what's that feeling? Do I feel different? Is that cramping or implantation? Is that spotting or implantation bleeding? What's going on in there? And then decision day comes. Hopefully all your hard work is rewarded and you get the positive. Or, as in my case every single freaking time, you get a negative and are crushed. But that silent velvety dark place is only a vacuum of numb for a very short time, because then the Voice starts in. What went wrong? What did I do? What didn't I do? How did I sabotage myself? And so the hurtful analysis begins.

That Voice is so destructive, and so illogical--if there really was anything that we could do to make sure a pregnancy could occur and be viable I'm sure we'd be all over that. It is completely and utterly out of our control. We can do all the right things -- not drink, not eat processed food, eat fertility foods and supplements, relax and destress and detox -- and still have a negative outcome. And, oftentimes people we see in the non-fertility microcosm often do all the WRONG things (get drunk and eat McDonald's while sitting in a hot tub and smoking pot after a 10 mile ball-squishing bike ride for him and a 5 mile ovary-bruising run for her) and get pregnant. Obviously there is no such thing as fairness. But obviously there is no such thing as being able to control the outcomes based on thought patterns or actions.

But, that doesn't stop The Voice from flooding your subconscious with thoughts of how you could be doing more, or less, or how if you had only done x, y and z you would pregnant right now. It doesn't stop you from knowing deep in your heart that The Voice is totally full of shit and this is not your fault whatsoever, it is so far out of your control--but The Voice still speaks and really, still has at least some control over you. This last month we did an under-the-radar IUI as something to do in between IVFs (it can be so awful to have 6 months of nothing between treatments and feel like you aren't doing anything to further the baby quest). The Voice was completely batshit crazy. I figured, I wasn't going to care about this. We know that IUI is not our best option (or really even a viable option based on our combined challenges). I was going to go about my business as usual, and do all the wrong things, and that would be that. Except the Voice said, "And because you don't care and you are relaxed and you are aren't thinking about it, this will be The One!" What a crazy thought. Because by thinking that thought, I WAS caring about it and thinking that I really could get pregnant. If I didn't think about it. Which by entertaining The Voice, I most certainly was thinking about it. So even though I didn't go nuts with the foods and the restrictions and everything for this cycle, I was still thinking about it. I still went for acupuncture and Maya. Because I didn't want to not do things that could increase my chances, even though I was telling myself I had no chance so that I would have a chance after all. Makes you dizzy, doesn't it? This is some crazy, crazy mindgame crap. And, incidentally, none of it worked--unsurprisingly we did not get pregnant with an IUI. So none of that internal dialogue made any difference.

The worst time for The Voice is after a failed cycle. This is when you have destructive self-talk, as counselors would call it. A horrid, unproductive and entirely unhealthy inner loop that is no good. But it's there, and all you can do is try to reason with it. Because the bitch won't shut up. The Voice starts going through your cycle with a fine toothed comb to determine what you did, personally, that screwed up your cycle. It can't just be that you fell on the wrong side of the success rates (again). It can't just be that this isn't your time. It has to be that something you did made this unsuccessful, according to The Voice. So you look--did you overextend yourself during the 2 week wait? Did you eat sushi or feta cheese anytime in the past 10 years? Did you have sex when you weren't supposed to? Did you NOT have sex when you were supposed to? Should you have had one glass of wine to relax yourself? Or did that glass of wine poison your innards and tell your embryo not to implant into this wino womb? Was it the walk you took when you were stimming and your ovaries were huge? Or was it that you didn't walk enough and get the blood moving? Is it somehow, horribly some internal thought that you don't WANT this enough and the embryos can sense this and so don't stay? (That one is the worst and a very low blow, but your subconscious really knows how to kick you when you're down.) Does it sound crazy? Yes. Does it sound abusive? Absolutely--if someone else talked to you this way you would NOT be friends with them or married to them, you would ditch them or run to a shelter ASAP. But somehow, The Voice can say these things to you and, unfortunately, you listen at least a little. Even though you KNOW that these things are nutso and there is NOTHING that you did to cause your loss, there is nothing that you DIDN'T do that would have made a difference. All the marathon-running, goat-cheese-eating, espresso-chugging, overextended-at-work women who get pregnant every day can attest to that. So you have to try to find a way to ignore The Voice, or to reason with it if you can't ignore it.

All the meditation and yoga practices tell you to silence that Voice, at least temporarily.  You imagine a blue sky, and your thoughts are clouds blowing through and past you leaving you with nice peaceful blue thoughtless sky devoid of any negative self-talk. Or you imagine a box and you shove those thoughts in there and close it up for meditation, so that you are free of those thoughts for that sacred space but you can open up your box of crazy after the session (with the calming "Your thoughts will be there for you when you return..." offered up to you by the instructor. I wish I could just throw that box off a cliff in the meditation!)  I guess I can silence that voice for a very short time, but it is still there. It won't go away. But somehow it is immensely comforting to know that lots of other people have The Voice too. We just have to find a way to manage it before it makes a difficult process even more painful than it has to be.

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