Mental Health Matters – that has been the growing mantra the last few years to bring compassion of people’s lives to the forefront of national attention. Mental health awareness is essential.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It highlights the issue of how important our mental health is. On the last week of April, National Infertility Awareness Week is celebrated to raise awareness and provide support for women and men dealing with infertility issues.
As my husband and I dealt with infertility and embarked on our IVF (in vitro fertilization) journey to conceive our kids, our mental health was important. Not just our physical or financial health did we have to assess and explore, but our mental health as well.
Were we emotionally ready to take on this chapter in our lives?
One of the things we did to get ready for the in vitro fertilization process was to see a therapist to talk about our feelings – our anxieties and fears of the unknown. This was highly recommended by our fertility clinic. IVF was going to forever change our lives.
My husband and I have never talked to a therapist before. This was something new and a bit uncomfortable to divulge our feelings to someone we didn’t really know, but we took that step and made an appointment. It was honestly the best thing we did to prepare for our IVF journey.
Our therapist made us feel comfortable and supported in our journey. Especially that we weren’t sharing our struggles with any of our close friends and family. Since our support system was just each other, we left feeling empowered to undertake such a journey.
I want to share 5 Mental Health Awareness Tips I learned that helped me endure the struggles of IVF. The highs and lows, the joys and pains can be overwhelming. But these 5 tips I learned along the way made the journey an easier burden to bear.
1. Everything in Moderation
Moderation is key. Whether it’s your diet or exercise, the key is moderation. I didn’t know this when I first started my IVF journey that there was a fertility diet or exercises to do that helps or increases your chances to be fertile and get pregnant.
I took my prenatal vitamins and tried my best to eat healthy food – lots of fruits and veggies and drank only water. I limited my sugar intake. But I didn’t beat myself up if I wanted donuts or craved for the occasional In-n-Out burger.
As for exercise, there were certainly days I just wanted to be a couch potato. The effects of all the fertility medications sucked the energy out of me.
With my pregnancies being considered high-risk, my doctor advised me to do only low impact exercises. If walking around Target was considered exercise, I was certainly a pro.
I continued to do all things in moderation both before and during my IVF journey.
2. Positive Attitude
Maintain a positive attitude. Dealing with infertility, going through IVF, trying to figure out all the medications – these were all stressors in my life. Combine that with your relationship with your partner or spouse, the daily demands of work, and seeing other people get pregnant so easily can foster a lot of negativity around you.
Stress releases cortisol which triggers your fight or flight instinct. You don’t want your body to feel as if IVF was a stressor that your body needed to fight off. You want your body to be calm and relaxed as much as possible.
To maintain a positive mindset, I leaned on my husband for emotional support and just focused on all of my blessings in life thus far. I tried not to have my life consumed with all things IVF. I knew I had great things going on for me so I had to focus on the positive rather than the negative.
3. Get Organized
The many doctor visits for scans and ultrasounds, blood work, surgical procedures, prescription medications can be a logistical nightmare. One has to get organized and stay organized.
I used a big calendar to input all the dates for doctor appointments and times for shots. And I made sure my husband accessed and reviewed the calendar as well. I needed a visual to make sense of it all.
All the boxes of prescriptions that included injections, pills, and suppositories needed to be organized and stored properly. Some medications needed to be refrigerated. Disposal container for used syringes needed to be kept in a safe and secure spot.
Now there’s so many apps, calendars, organizational containers to store meds and journals to document your infertility journey. I wish I kept a journal of my thoughts and feelings going through this process.
I never thought I would be sharing my infertility journey with others, but it certainly has given me great joy. If I can help others navigate this emotional IVF journey, I would be forever grateful that I could pay it forward.
4. Take a Break
Take a break, whether it’s a mental break, a vacation if needed, or even a break from IVF treatments. It’s okay to pause and reflect.
You don’t need to keep going nonstop. I know life (pre coronavirus) was filled with nonstop planning and activities, that you usually didn’t have downtime to just do nothing.
Don’t feel like a failure if things are not going your way. IVF is usually not successful the first time around and many go through years of IVF cycles to get pregnant.
Sometimes your body needs to just take a break to heal and reset. Reflect on your physical, financial, and emotional health and take a much needed break.
5. Trust Your Heart
Acknowledge your true feelings. It’s okay to feel sad and let out a good cry every now and then. IVF is a roller coaster of a ride with twist and turns you don’t expect.
You’re not expected to put on a happy face and act like everything is ok.
Believe in yourself that you’re doing the right thing. Lean on your partner, chat with a friend, or meet with a therapist – it’s ok to ask for help.
It’s not a sign of weakness. Sometimes all you need is a hug, a listening ear, or a shoulder to cry on.
Your mental health matters more than ever these days. Living in such uncertain times due to the COVID-19 pandemic has everyone feeling stressed and in bit of a panic mode.
Social isolation, disruption of routines, financial loss, or being inundated with the daily news reports can be overwhelming. Reach out and connect with a trusted person.
With this pandemic, many fertility clinics had to close and people had to delay their treatments – a major setback to one’s IVF journey when time is of the essence.
But as we pause and reset during these unprecedented times, please take time out to assess and improve your mental health with these 5 tips – do things in moderation, maintain a positive attitude, get organized, take a break, and trust your heart.
I would love to hear from you, whether you connected with my life story, need more information, or just wanted to share your IVF story – let’s build a safe and accepting community because we are better and stronger together.
Faith, hope, and love always.