Thursday, October 20, 2016

My Monster

Infertility is a very lonely diagnosis. Even though the statistics are now 1 in 6, you feel very alone. Especially during this time of year, when the holidays are starting, there's lots of family activities, traditions, and child-centered activities. It is very lonely to be surrounded by your friends and family who were so easily able to have children, who have no idea how this feels. You think absolutely awful things. You feel absolutely awful things. But mostly, you stay inside your head a lot, which is not the best place for a lonely, emotionally unstable person to be. 

As someone dealing with infertility I have quite the "social" life. This week I have been to the doctor (always a fun experience), gone to my monthly support group, and gone to my weekly art therapy. My support group is AWESOME. Imagine being surrounded by a group of women, all going through the same traumatic experience you are, and all know exactly how you feel, why you feel it, and we're all there to support each other. It's a very cathartic experience, hearing other women talk about their experience and getting advice and tips on the next steps in your own journey. I always feel so much better after going to meetings. 

There is a study in Richmond on the effects of art therapy on women suffering from infertility, specifically focusing on depression. Having never been in any sort of therapy, I was really nervous at my first session. I had a hard time opening up and I was worried that I wouldn't be able to artistically express my feelings to a stranger. I had no problems drawing my feelings; in fact, I was rather surprised to see what I had drawn (I will post pictures of my artwork at the end of the study). What was more amazing to me was that it worked. I felt better. I learned how to process some emotions and how to deal with triggers that may cause breakdowns. And that was only my first session. 

At my second session, I drew something that I was ashamed of. After my first session I made myself promise to be honest with my therapist and myself during our sessions. So, I drew what I was ashamed of. I call her "My Monster." 

I have often "joked" with Trey that he didn't know he was marrying a monster when he married me. I may not have had My Monster when we were first married, or maybe she was just lying dormant. But this experience has brought her into the foreground more times than I care to admit. 

My Monster is me. She is this thing that I have become since being diagnosed with infertility. She only cares about babies, timing ovulating, the two week wait, hormones, shots. She does not care about Halloween decorations or having a clean house. She does not care about her friends and what their lives are like. She does not care about being nice to the strangers at the grocery store or not running over the annoyingly slow people crossing the street. She is the cause of my awful thoughts. She is the deep sadness that I always have, even on good days. She is the cause of my exploding anger at nothing and no one in particular. She is the reason I want to be numb sometimes. I feel her presence all the time, off my right shoulder. She is always there. She comes to work with me, she goes home with me, she goes on trips with me. She is the niggling feeling I have when I am happy. She is the reason true happiness doesn't last very long these days. She is my guilt, my punisher, the worst things of me. She is My Monster and she lives in me. 

My therapist asked me about making the decision to stop treatment and what it would mean for me to make that decision. I told her that would break my heart to have to make that decision. I would not make that decision lightly and it would probably the hardest decision I would ever have to make. I don't want to give up. I have gone through so many failures already that I cannot make the decision to just stop, not right now, not when there is still hope. When I finish my journey I want to be proud of the decisions that I made. I want to be proud of the woman that I am. I don't want to look back on myself, at the most critical parts of this journey and think that I could have done more, that I should have fought harder. I don't want to be ashamed of myself. 

And so we come back to My Monster. She sucks. I hate her. I wish I never met her and that I don't have to live with her. But, she is me and I am her and so I will try my hardest to not let her screw with who I am. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Welcome to the Club-Part 1

People belong to lots of clubs: the single mother club, the widower club, the breast cancer club. Sometimes they're fun clubs like the millionaire club or the own lots of houses club. But I belong to the infertility club.

I joined this club, reluctantly and in tears, officially in September 2014. Fair warning, this is my story and I'm not holding back.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

I spent most of the summer of 2014 in pain and unable to sleep due to heavy periods. I cannot even describe to you how awful and disgusting this was. Well, I could, but that would mean reliving it and I'm not inclined to do so right now. The only point that needs to be made is that something was wrong. And something had been wrong. For nearly five months I was bleeding, having awful cramps and didn't sleep more than a couple of hours per night because of it. I knew something was wrong but I didn't want to be told that I was right.

Eventually it became too much. I was exhausted. I felt sick all the time. I could barely last a whole day at work. And I was terrified and had been for a long time.

I had a myriad of tests done, lots of blood work, my first experience with an internal ultrasound (side note: at the time I had no idea that these existed. It was not comfortable. However, I've now had so many of these that I can read and interpret them on the monitor). I was given a diagnosis of PCOS, which was helpful and not helpful.

PCOS has an unknown cause. There is no cure. You can treat it by causing ovulation, but this is sort of a catch-22 because PCOS makes it super-duper hard to ovulate (hence the problems we're having now). I was put on birth control and was told to call at a specified time for follow up.

The birth control did not help. It didn't make anything worse, but it sure didn't make anything better. Then came something terrible. Something that didn't even cross my mind. And the whole experience was so painful and traumatizing thinking about it these years later makes me tear up.

I had a biopsy-of my uterus. I had a uterine biopsy. Sounds not so scary, right? All they do is snip a part of your muscle and that's it. But the first scary thing was that I had to have this because my doctor was concerned I had cancer. Waiting those 24 hours to get the pathology results back was absolute pure hell.

The other awful thing was the biopsy itself. It's not the easiest thing to get into, a uterus. There's this thing called a cervix that, unless you're in active labor, is a fairly small opening. It's too small, in fact, for all of the tools (needles, etc) that have to get into your uterus. The way that they make room for all these things is by dilating it. Now, when a cervix is dilated for birth it dilates slowly. It does not happen all at once. When it has to be forced open, when a forced dilation happens and it goes from 0-60mph in two seconds's an experience. So far in my journey it has been the worst medical test/physical feeling I have ever had. Your vagus nerve has to be stimulated to force your cervix open and then all these tools get shoved in and then they cut a piece of you out. So, to sum up, not fun at all.  I felt nausea, I felt hot, I cramped, I am pretty sure I lost consciousness for a few seconds. I had to lay on the awful table for several minutes until I could even sit up.

After I could stand up I went to put my clothes on and got some water from my nurse. I left the office and I went to sit in my car and I cried. I cried because I was exhausted, I was terrified, I was hurt and slightly traumatized, and I was nervous. My legs were still shaking and I didn't feel comfortable enough to drive so I did the worst thing-I googled symptoms of uterine cancer on my phone.

I got a phone call the next day. I did not have cancer. "Just the PCOS!" the nurse said cheerfully. Yup, just the PCOS. I had a diagnosis. I had a reason that this had happened. I have an incurable disease.

And I had just been accepted into The Infertility Club. I just didn't know it then.