Friday, 12 April 2013

Infertility schizophrenia: glass half flempty?

You might have noticed, (it was certainly not lost on me, if only in hindsight), that my announcement about moving forward to IVF was unceremoniously deposited at the end of a blathering post touching on innocuous topics like work and the weather. I suppose there is some deeper psychological insight to be had in this observation, about the state of my continued denial or my fear of moving forward, or...whatever. Make of it what you will.

This post is prompted by a post yesterday from Sarah at Fallopian Groove (who it turns out, while I was writing the draft of this post, was having a Very Big Day Indeed - as well as fuelling the fires of what I previously thought were you-could-mistake-implantation-bleeding-for-a-period! pure urban legend - so drop by and give her a little love and encouragement). Anyway, her description of the 'infertility set' (card carrying member here!) - one so apt that I'm tempted to see it as a kind of manifesto - touched on the need for us to embrace being glass-half-empty kind of people.

My trouble is, this whole experience has made me, for one, more than a little glass/liquid-ratio confused. I'm schizophrenic on this topic.

Because I need, on some primeval and self-protective level, to see the glass as half empty as each two week wait hurtles towards its now-inevitable conclusion month after month. This in order to keep my sanity and sense of self-worth intact, to keep from being broken right in half in such a way that no amount of bandaids of chocolate or curling up under a duvet would sooth. I need to embrace the whole this-won't-be-so-bad-your-life-is-great-either-way sense of the inevitable. 

But by the same token, I need, as I am dragged towards another fertile window of super sexy jungle time each month, to see the glass as half-full, to want to keep bothering at all. Not with the sex itself - which obviously we'd have periodically anyway - but with the vitamins and the hurry up I'm ovulating NOW sexiness and the treating my body like a goddess temple that I still believe might be inhabited by a growing baby one day. To keep hoping in such a way that is more than just a painful reminder of what isn't, and allowing for a belief in what could be.   

These two halves of me are in an eternal manichean struggle:

From this could almost certainly be The Month! I can just feel it somehow!

To there is no possible way that this will ever happen for me! Who am I kidding?! 

My problem is that by nature, pre-utterly hopeless less-than-fruitful baby-making attempts, I have never been by nature either a pessimist or very realistic. (I am the sort of girl who booked a one way flight to Turkey one summer in university with no plan, no language skills, only what I could carry in my backpack, and £200 in my bank account; just because I thought it'd be fun to see where it took me, and I just knew I could rely on the kindness of strangers to help guide me. Turns out on both those counts, and on that occasion, I was right. But I digress.)

I think I probably used to be one of those annoying anything-can-happen-if you-will-good-vibrations-towards-you perky people. And although for the most part I'd like to punch that version of Sadie in the face more often than not nowadays, I guess I still need her reckless, bitterness-free, dreamy hopefulness to hang around on the margins at times.

Take this past cycle for example. I started spotting at about 10 days post-ovulation, right around the time I took my customarily too-early-to-tell pregnancy test intended to desensitize me to the inevitable disappointment but just-early-enough to leave room for hope (welcome, once again, to my neurotic ttc brain). Even though this hormonal weirdness was also a part of last month's unsuccessful cycle (and appears to have become a regular thing), coupled with the, er...negative pregnancy test, the annoying, dreamy glass-half-full Sadie beat down my bitterness for a day and forced me to really question my more jaded self. What if this might was the fabled implantation bleeding? (Hey, just because it's an urban legend doesn't mean I don't fervently believe in it at times; just like say, the Sasquatch, or a new Star Trek: TNG spin-off). I briefly wondered if I might not, in fact, be with child.

And yes, I can understand why you'd want to punch that Sadie in the face, but you know what? I also kind of liked the floaty feeling that carried me through that one delusional day, because even if it was deluded I managed genuine joy for those hours, and that fact did nothing to exacerbate what would in any case have been the same feeling of crushing failure and time-is-running-out anxiety that I feel every month.

So it's a dilemma; one that I know does not end, for those of us who have struggled so to get there - and maybe struggled with staying that way - once a pregnancy finally occurs. I'm interested to to know how other people cope. Or am I the only one who suffers from this particular brand of schizophrenia?

What about you bloggy friends? How do you manage the delicate balance of hope versus realism? Have you changed in your outlook over time?


Never a clear winner. Source.


22 comments:

  1. I'm a super pessimist at heart, for the day to day feelings on the matter. The funny thing is, I still harbor hope that I *will* get pregnant someday, whether by IVF, or some strange bit of luck. It's this strange optimistic hope that keeps me texting my husband saying hey, we should bang tonight, and keeps me frustrated as I watch my temperature slowly go down right before my period. In the long run, I feel I will parent. But in the day to day, I am *miserable* and pessimistic. It's a hard bi-polar balance to manage, and I don't do it very well AT ALL. As in, one week I'm great! We're okay! We'll parent someday! SOMEDAY! And the next I'm like BOOFUCKINGHOO THIS SUCKS SO HARD WAHH SOB SOB.

    In short, you're definitely not alone.

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    1. It IS a hard balance, but I say keep harboring that hope. You WILL be parents someday. Thanks for reminding me I'm not alone.

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  2. Oh no, not alone at all. Maybe that's why I loved so much the accurate descriptions of manic-deppresion swings of one of the characters of Jeffrey Eugenides in the Maniac Plot. Maybe my obsession with schizophrenia 8 years ago, when I would read anything I found on the subject was preparation for this. I loved David Cooper's "The Language of Madness" and Marguerite Sechehaye's "Autobiography of a schizophrenic girl".
    I live life very intensely. I always have. If I am happy I am super happy, if I'm sad I can go way down. But this infertility stuff is just so hard I can not *allow* myself to go look down under... to fall into the rabbit hole. I am afraid I would get sucked in and never come back. So I look for the positive, constantly. It's my strategy. My reckless, delusional hope (against all the evidence, everyday that passes) is what keeps me going. And then I get my period, and I cry, and rant, and feel desperately hopeless. Progesterone makes my life hard because it systematically makes my period 2 days late than usual. So there I am, 17 days post IUI, hoping, believing, THIS is the month. And then reality hits. Even the gynaecologist was calculating my ovulation date based on my period date and was like; "this does not make any sense" . I had to explain her, progesterone, which I take so that my endometrium stays longer, makes me late. The 2 cycles we have had to skip I have been back to my 26 day cycle, so I am convinced it is the hormones. It's crazy making. I will believe anything you tell me, if you tell me it'll make us conceive. I am very good at hiding in a bubble of my own making, at being happy with our lives, but lately, seeing everyone and their cousin have babies all the time is pulling me down. I am considering "unfriending" a friend who's a photographer because she keeps posting casual photoshoot pregnancy sessions of random people I don't even know and it's just like adding salt and lemon to an open wound.
    Hugs to you. There with you.

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    1. The Marriage Plot I meant. Clearly I am losing my mind.

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    2. OK, don't think I'm awful but this (Freudian?) typo makes me want to read the book all the more. Haha! It's already on my list.

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    3. And yeah, I'm just like you, I feel things very intensely, which makes the good days sweeter, but the down days deeply, totally suck. With IF, it's such a long road for some of us that you have to find a way to go back and forth. At least for me, I need to be able to have totally horrible days where I just release, and then feel better, and then keep trying. I hope we both find some resolution (in the form of babies, please!) very soon Amanda!

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    4. Freudian? Can you elaborate?

      (And yes, horrible days are needed to release I was such a crying mess on Monday, Mark had to come and work home. It's going better now. Thanks Sadie for being there <3).

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    5. Oh, in English (maybe it's just a Canadian thing?) we use the term 'Freudian slip' to refer to a humorous error in wording which belies a deeper thought process. Was kidding, though I think that a Maniac Plot might be the appropriate reading for me some days lately!

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  3. I seriously have no idea how to manage this rollercoaster ... I was never good at it. Every month, I was realistic followed by optimistic, followed by delusional (every cramp was a sign of implantation in my mind) to depressed. It was brutal. Brutal for both me and my husband and it was something we just got used to, but never ok with.

    It's such a precarious position to be in - you hear that you have to have the right mindset and be calm and cool in order to conceive, so I tried and then would beat myself up over unrealistic expectations when I wasn't pregnant... thinking I somehow caused it b/c I wasn't quite positive enough or didn't eat the right foods or wasn't zen enough... never stopping to think that maybe the reason I wasn't conceiving and staying pregnant was b/c of endometriosis and was completely out of my control.

    I don't know what to say about managing these emotions ... you're a tough cookie and b/c you are making it through this, I know you can make it through anything.

    Hang in there - your baby is on its way. :)

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    1. Precarious is right, and I completely agree that it's all too easy to blame ourselves for the 'failures' because of something we did or didn't do right. I kind of hold the 'you can do anything you set your mind to' motivational/self-help culture responsible for that, but it just adds more stress and hurt. And you're right, it's hard on our partners too.

      Thanks so much for your words of encouragement Alicia - they mean more than you know. I hope you're right!

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  4. As usual, I think you put this really well. On one hand, we have to protect ourselves, prepare ourselves, take early pregnancy tests to prime ourselves for the inevitably bad news (guilty as charged) and on the other hand, there must be some optimism about us otherwise how could we continue to subject ourselves to this utter terror, month after month? There must be a place in each of us where we find some pocket of hope, consciously or not. I hear they've been revising the DSM - I think we should suggest "infertility schizophrenia" as a new diagnosis.

    Anyway, thanks for the shout out - I'm totally going to write that manifesto! (and yes, I now realize I will never live down having stoked the urban-legend-implantation-bleeding fire. I totally should have taken pictures. but that would have crossed an imaginary line that I'm just now implementing. ha. also, maybe it wasn't implantation bleeding? negative nancy that I am, I'm still expecting something far more sinister).

    Fingers crossed for IVF -I'll be cheering from the sidelines in a totally not creepy way.

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    1. I TOTALLY think the DSM V should include infertility schizophrenia in its listings!

      As to your urban legend fuelling ways, I am really, really continuing to send good thoughts in your direction, and the hopes that your worries that there's anything sinister going on will soon be put to rest. One day at a time. I'm so thrilled for you.

      Please stick around, come what may! Your support and humour are so valued!

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  5. As someone who once booked a one-way ticket to Alaska in December (with a similar level of planning) and lived to tell, I salute the Old Sadie and would love to hear more of her stories. :)

    But I get what you're saying about this struggle. We need enough optimism to stay motivated through the whole grind, without being dangerously deluded. Where's the "dangerous" line? I don't think we cross it by analyzing twinges during the 2ww, or even daydreaming now and then about how great it would be if... but I think I WILL have crossed the line if I'm still trying the same things a year from now, and if I won't consider moving on to the next steps, just because this month might be The One!

    There's so much more I could say, since this struggle is really hard and it's there every day. But for now I just want to wish you best of luck with IVF or whatever your next steps turn out to be. There is some comfort in moving forward, even if the territory seems strange at first. You will get through it!

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    1. I think there's really still an awful lot of her in me today, even if it feels quite difficult to access on the crap days. Perhaps I need to start dusting off some of those stories here too...?

      Thanks for your support and just for being here; it IS a struggle that's with us every day, but it has meant so much to me to be able to share with people who understand. Onward and upward!

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  6. I've never been a naturally optimistic person. I hate getting my hopes up only to have them dashed every. single. cycle. But I do it anyway. Even now I'm secretly hoping that ill-timed sex with what little sperm Hubby may have left at this point will result in our miracle pregnancy. And when it doesn't, I'll be devasted. But the optimism keeps coming back. Otherwise, we'd just give up. All of us.

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    1. It's so tough, isn't it? We grasp on to whatever shred of hope there is, because really, what else would we do?

      Daryl, thank you so much for stopping by. You are in my thoughts and heart every day. Sending huge hugs.

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  7. I've got that same combination of optimism and pessimism and I can't quite shake it. I pass the ovulation point and I'm doing *so well* at not getting my hopes up. Then, anywhere from a week to just a couple of days before my period is supposed to come my brain starts going crazy all on its own and I just have no control of it. It's hard and even though I've been less over the top about my optimism lately my hopes still get far higher than they have any right to.

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    1. Well, obviously I can relate since even a *period* is enough to make my crazy brain think that I might be pregnant 'this time'. I mean, how insane is that line of thinking?? But I think all these wise women have said it well - we need the hope to fuel our ongoing struggles, and the possibility that just once, it'll all fall into place and we won't need to struggle. I hope the time is on it's way for both of us!

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  8. You nailed it my friend, how can we keep going without hope, yet we don't want to be disappointed yet again so we hold back. and so it goes, back and forth. I'm glad you have decided on IVF as a possible next step. It is scary and emotional, but also a chance to get closer to that dream.

    And that trip to Turkey sounds like lots of fun and adventure! I was like that as well, although had a job when I went out travelling in the world. Fun times.

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    1. Thanks for your support, it means a lot knowing that there are people like you I can share with. Yes, scary and emotional and a lot to take in, both individually and as a couple.. But at this point, we just want to feel we're doing everything we can to give us the best odds.

      Turkey was amazing! I worked and played. I feel fortunate to have had all these advetnures in my past, so that I can feel so totally confident going in the direction that we are now.

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  9. Why cant we be good at baby making? why, perhaps we are have enough happiness in our little lives and we should just be gratefull. But we deserve happiness, maybe life is just this for us, maybe we have our lot!!!!!! AAArrggghh. Why oh why do I keep battling this conversation in my head. Soooooo glad you are here Sadie to let me know Im not some damaged, broken useless piece of crap, and that there is indeed some sort of normality to my life. Ever the optimist.:) X

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    1. Oh dear Sally, you are not useless and you DO deserve happiness. We all do, though probably, (if we're honest), we're all a bit broken, a bit damaged. Who wouldn't be through all this crap? I for one will bear my scars proudly, as a reminder that I've really lived, am really living.

      Your happiness will come my friend. You are such a strong and generous heart. I hope there is a healthy baby in your future, who will long outlive you :) Sending hugs.

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