Tag Archives: Mental Health

The rotten egg toss

Well maybe rotten eggs are a bit too harsh. My eggs, and we’re not talking about the ones from chickens either, are only “aged” and not actually rotten!  After trying for a couple of years without too much success, I only discovered this issue when I visited a fertility clinic earlier this year.

monopoly-go-to-jail-card_8582The Assisted Reproductive Therapy (ART) process is a bit like a game of Monopoly:  sometimes when you’re two-thirds of the way around the board, you have to pick up the Chance card that says, “Go directly to jail. Do not pass go, do not collect 200.” Wham! All that progress is down the tubes (excuse the pun) and your wallet is the worse for wear too.

There are no guarantees

When undergoing fertility treatment, the first thing you will be told is that there are no guarantees that IVF or ICSI or GIFT or ZIFT (or actually whichever technique you are undergoing) will be successful.  Yet, when presented with a success rate of 80% and the payment of large sums of money, you really do begin to believe that “dammit, this just can’t fail”.

Well it can. In our case, we were in that unlucky 20% of couples where it did actually fail. After six months of running backwards and forwards to the fertility clinic at a drop of a hat, an op to fix the scarring in my uterus thanks to the D&C I had after my previous miscarriage, a truckload of blood tests, hormone pills, stabbing myself with hormone injections morning and night for a period of two weeks, harvesting my eggs, ICSI and PGS, I faced the lonely 10-day wait for the blood test that would show if the implantation was successful.

The odds were seemingly stacked in our favour with all the right conditions in place and a healthy, genetically normal embryo (the only one out of seven) being implanted.  Yet, this is where science leaves the guarantees at the door.  While it can control a myriad of factors, whether the embryo actually implants or not is something that just can’t be manipulated.

This last step of the cycle is the part fraught with the most risk and, in my own humble experience, is something most doctors and specialists downplay to various degrees.

An interesting article on livescience.com sheds some light on why some embryos implant successfully while others don’t.

Our little male embryo and my womb just didn’t make the right chemical connections and sadly, I miscarried.  We were again left distraught, poorer, more desperate … and basically back at square one since we had no more healthy embryos.

Forgiveness

So, I am here asking for forgiveness:  after spewing forth much enthusiasm and positivity in my last blog entry, this post is the polar opposite.

I do take consolation in that, for woman like me, these negative feelings of self-loathing and misery are apparently perfectly natural.  With hope, sometimes we need to face and conquer its evil twin:  despair.

If you are in the same boat, I offer these words of encouragement:  you are not alone.  Every woman and couple undergoing fertility treatment experiences almost the same thing.   The journey of trying to fall pregnant when you suffer from infertility complications is a path I don’t wish on anyone.  Yet, despite being emotionally taxing, it does offer hope to many couples that wouldn’t be able to do this on their own.

I love this visual representation of the fertility path.  If ART was a board game, it would look a lot like this:

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It’s easy to lose your marbles in the loony ball pit of depression

There  is something so therapeutic about the ocean. A powerful ebb and flow that serves to remind me just how unimportant I am really am in the greater scheme of things. I am humbled and captivated by the sea – it’s actually the right scene for the space I’m in. Nature has a way of pulling me closer to God, and the sea and surf in particular seems to nurture my inner peace when I find myself in personal chaos.  With what has transpired in the past two weeks, I needed to reflect on events and I needed time to appreciate life in general.

Since my last blog post, “What’s in the belly of the monster?”, I was drawn further into a depressive darkness that swallowed my hope and joy.  I almost left my husband, I contemplated how much better people’s lives would be without me, and a friendship of over 20 years terminated in a spiral of unfortunate events. Additionally, a perception of being unappreciated in my career and the fact that I could actually lose said job, was the icing on the cake. 

I found myself in a down-slide that gained momentum with every day.  Between seesawing episodes of tearfulness and anger, I visited my doctor, changed my anti-depressant medication from Zoloft to Wellbutrin XL and was booked off work with a depressive episode. Unfortunately for me, my depression actually worsened and I experienced several bad side-effects, amongst others, insomnia, increased agitation, and aggression.  All this culminated in a mini breakdown of sorts.

Toes in the sandAfter a second visit to the good doctor and a diagnosis of burnout and anxiety, I was changed back to my former medication and given another medication on top of that to help me cope. Now, after strict instructions to get some rest and relaxation, I am at the coast doing just that!

I’ve found that my toes in the sand, a salty sea breeze in my nostrils and the soothing sound of breaking waves in my ears are the best prescription. I feel happier and more at peace than I have felt in a while! It’s a first step to getting back on the wagon; and since I’m taking this whole ‘getting better’ thing day by day, that indeed makes it a very significant step.

What’s in the belly of the monster?

There is a time for everything:  a time to laugh, a time to cry, a time to grieve and a time to dance, a time to love and a time to hate, a time to embrace and a time to turn away.  Where are you in your life? 

We live our short existence in seasons, and that’s ok, because there is a time and place for almost everything under the sun. But for some of us, we find ourselves ensnared in one never-ending season:  winter.  

I think back to my days as a younger woman in her early twenties. I had lost my father to depression and alcoholism and was left alone to my own devices.  I had no siblings and a dysfunctional relationship with my mother. I found myself in a place filled with turmoil and unhappiness. I even tried to end my life.  But eventually I found God and was pulled out of the muck and mire.  I was happier again – for a short while – before slipping back into the arms of a former lover, that is, the comfortable misery I had once known.

I can truly imagine how Jonah must have felt when he was swallowed by the whale!  In my opinion, the belly of the monster [depression] is a dark, cold and desolate place to be trapped in.  Yet, I’ve been in this place before; I’ve actually come full circle! While crying helplessly in the shower yesterday, apparently for no reason whatsoever, it dawned on me that I’m familiar with this feeling of despair.  I am also concerned about how much of the so-called depression gene I have inherited from my father. Perhaps I really do suffer from dysthymia?

Melencolia I. Print of Albrecht Dürer

Melencolia I. Print of Albrecht Dürer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to research, the Greek word dysthymia refers to a ‘bad state of mind’ or ‘ill humour’.  It is characterised as one of the two forms of clinical depression, although it apparently has less serious symptoms than major depression, but lasts longer.  The American Psychiatric Association defines dysthymia as a depressed mood most of the time for at least two years, along with at least two of the following symptoms: poor appetite or overeating; insomnia or excessive sleep; low energy or fatigue; low self-esteem; poor concentration or indecisiveness; and hopelessness.  Some experts surmise that dysthymia ‘runs in families and probably has a hereditary component’. Other proposed symptoms of dysthymia include ‘a strong tendency to be critical of oneself and others, pessimism, guilt, brooding and gloominess’.

Where I am, I don’t want to be. I feel as if I’m mourning the life I wanted to have. I know I have so much to be thankful for, so much to celebrate – right now I’m just in the belly of the monster, and I can’t find the exit sign!

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Down the depression rabbit hole

I’m not in a good space right now. The positive spin on this is that I know rough times foster the need for change, the need to do and act differently, to challenge the status quo and cross over into a better situation. That’s apparently where I am – on the pathway to something better.

Despite knowing this, I of course, still need to get through this bad patch. I fully realise that I can’t keep blaming my past on how I feel today. I know that my reactions and feelings stem from my insecurities and my innate inability to believe that I can be loved. Yet, acknowledgement and awareness is not actually helping me to change how I behave.

I am trying so hard not to be sucked further into this black hole of depression and this pit of self-despair.  I try harder to keep a smile on my face and to appear happy.  I’ve even started to keep clear of confrontation.  Me? Steer away from confrontation? That, in itself, should be a warning sign!

On the Threshold of Eternity

On the Threshold of Eternity (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Based on past experience, I recognise all the warning signs:  the hyper-sensitivity, the tearfulness, the feelings of being unloved and being unworthy, the increased shopping expenditure and consequent credit card debt, the need to look and feel more in control by focusing on my physical appearance – and yes, shying away from confrontation because I know I’m not emotionally strong enough to handle it at this juncture.

Am I bipolar? Apparently, after chatting to a friend that is bipolar (and doing a bit of ‘google-ing’), I’m not. Is my life, my job, my lifestyle, my relationships, so bad? No. There is no logical answer for my destructive behaviour – except that I do still feel this way. Previously I turned to antidepressants as a miracle cure for my depressive state of mind. I can’t do the same now – after all, surely 50 mg of Zoloft a day should be doing the trick?

Honestly, I don’t have the answers. I am caught in a spiral and I am trying to claw my way out.  Hopefully, dear reader, I will succeed, because there is one huge difference between now and the depression I suffered in the past:   I can now write about it and openly share my feelings without fear of admonishment or undue remorse. I can draw on the strengths and experiences of other writers and bloggers who are, or have, gone through the same trials and tribulations. 

I am not alone.

The darker side of a shopping addict

After sneaking another new pair of shoes into the house to avoid detection, I realised that I have a serious shopping problem. 

Confessions of a Shopaholic (film)Yes, yes, we’ve all watched the movie, “Confessions of a shopaholic”;

Yes, we are all very familiar with the term shopaholic; and

Yes, most women glibly claim that they are shopping addicts and just love shopping.

So, is there really such a thing as a shopaholic?  Well, apparently there is!  A shopping addiction even has a name, oniomania, as classified by German psychologist, Emil Kraepelin.

Oniomania (pronounced o-nee-o-may-nee-a) is the psychiatric term for compulsive shoppingAbout.com explains that people with oniomania shop on impulse as a way of coping, and find it difficult to control their spending or shopping behaviours. Moreover, this addiction is perhaps the most socially re-inforced of all behavioural addictions due to influences such as consumerism.

In short, shopping is a behaviour altering activity that is performed excessively as an outlet for emotion or as a way to deal with stress.  

Elizabeth Hartney sums up the characteristics of a shopaholic quite nicely in “Inside the mind of a shopaholic – The personality of the compulsive shopaholic”.  Here, a shopaholic is described as a person with emotional problems such as depression or anxiety, a low self-esteem and difficulties controlling impulses. Add materialistic and indulgence in fantasy to that list and you have an accurate profile of an oniomaniac.

To confirm my suspicions, I decided to score myself according to the Compulsive Buying Scale.  If you score 42.2 or more, you are a compulsive shopper. My score:  50. 

It’s time to start making some lifestyle changes.  I’m going to follow the advice of experts and create a budget to start tracking my spending.  In addition, I plan to remove my credit cards and store cards from my purse and avoid shopping malls for the next 21 days. If that doesn’t help, then I’m increasing my anti-depressant dosage and re-visiting my therapist!

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