Let's talk about <gasp 😱> MENTAL HEALTH
FYI: I am not a doctor or a therapist nor have I ever had the training or schooling required. I just have some strong feelings and opinions. ☺️
When I first sat down to write this post, I was planning to spill it all in one sitting. But after thinking about it, I changed my mind. The topic of mental health deserves more than ONE measly post. So you can expect a mini "blog series" from me in the future on mental health and infertility.👏
Let's get started, shall we? First, I need to paint you a little picture of who I am at my core:
I was born a perfectionist. A people pleaser. An overachiever. A go-getter.
You know the type. In high school, I pulled fantastic grades and was involved in almost ALL the things––which is easy to do when your graduating class consists of 45 people.
So. Many. Extra-Curricular. Activities. (Except for sports–proud band nerd here ✋).
When I wasn't practicing my tenor sax I was prepping my next storytelling submission for Speech Contest, memorizing my lines for the school play, practicing my golf swing (we went to state!), working on my latest 4-H project, getting my lambs ready for the fair, presiding over Spanish club (no hablo now though), singing in the choir, giving speeches at graduation, teaching elementary students to not do drugs. I was the Student Council President, County Fair 4-H Queen, Senior Class President, Beef Princess (you have my permission to laugh), and Homecoming Queen.
Whew. I got tired just writing that. #old
I put my all into these activities, and I had fun, usually. But, sometimes, an evil little monster got in the way. Anxiety.
I have struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember.
In third grade, my mom enrolled me in a couple summer enrichment classes (origami and theater) in Des Moines. I vividly remember being so anxious on the ride there that my mom had to pull over at the nearest Casey's due to my anxious stomach. (No, I don't remember how to make a paper swan.)
In 6th grade, I worried I'd forget my locker combination and be late to my next class without my textbook. So, I would repeat it in my head numerous times a day––every day––for the whole year. And it was not even a hard combo to remember. 36-24-0.
Interesting fact: When I was a baby, I cried every time my mom was out of my sight. She couldn't even go to the bathroom alone. Early sign of anxiety? Maybe. 🤷♀️Proof of a strong mother-daughter bond? Definitely. 💜
Anxiety is something I deal with on a daily basis, multiple times a day. Over the years I've learned different ways to cope, but it's just a part of what makes me... me.
After Brian and I got engaged, he decided he wanted to come to a few therapy sessions with me to learn how to help me deal with my anxiety and what he can do to help make it better. What.👏A. 👏Guy.👏
That was our first time going to therapy together, and Brian's first time ever.
Yes, Brian has gone to therapy.
No, that doesn't make him less of a man.
Infertility With a Side of Anxiety
Dealing with all we've been handed on this infertility journey–all the ups and downs and appointments and tests and COVID and waiting and waiting and waiting–is not easy for anyone, but is especially hard when you add anxiety on top all that is happening.
I (quite literally) drove my husband (and myself, since we're being honest here) crazy with all my irrational thoughts and anxieties. I could not turn it off. And it was EXHAUSTING.
What if we can never have babies?
What if we never become parents?
What if the doctor can't see us because of COVID?
What if my tests show I have some disease?
What if your next sample shows another negative result?
What if something goes horribly wrong during surgery and you die on the table?
What if you have cancer?
What if you don't have any sperm?
You guys. It was BAD. So bad that Brian has banned the phrase "what if..." from my vocabulary. (Still working on that one.) 😂
Therapy (Round 1)
In June (smack dab in the middle of all the testing and waiting and what ifs) I started talking to a therapist via Telehealth. And, I didn't really click with her. I felt like she couldn't relate to me and all I was feeling (and perhaps I didn't open myself up to her enough or maybe I wasn't as honest with her as I should have been about my feelings).
That relationship didn't last long. 🤷♀️
Then, I tried a local virtual support group for women and infertility. It sounded great in theory, but it wasn't for me.
I felt so alone in our journey and I was desperate to connect with others with stories like my own.
The women in the group shared their stories, but I didn't connect with them. I was the only one there where male infertility was the factor, and honestly, I felt out of place. All these women were spilling their guts about THEIR bodies and why THEY can't conceive a baby, while I'm sitting on the other side of the screen feeling more alone than ever.
So, I didn't go back.
This is another perfect example of my why behind the blog. I will never forget how alone I felt in this journey. I couldn't find any stories or blogs or Pinterest quotes or fertile wives who were dealing with the male infertility factor. I wanted so badly to read a success story or hear about the TESE surgery from a non-doctor or learn what someone else did to have a family after finding out their partner had no sperm.
I hope someday someone will happen upon Wannabe Mom and say, "This is JUST what I needed."
Looking back, I should have made my mental health my top priority while we were in the thick of our journey.
But, it's never too late.
In this little mental health mini series, you'll hear some more insights from me about therapy (yes, I am seeing a therapist now!), Brian's therapy experience, practicing self care, being intentional, validating feelings and more!
Stay tuned for more mental health musings from yours truly.