Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Welcome ICLWers!

Happy ICLW to everyone out in the blogosphere!  It's always such a great time during this week to connect with others and read new and interesting blogs.

Welcome to From Gutter to Stars -- You can read all about the blog title here.  I'm a psychotherapist specializing in infertility and was in the trenches for six years learning how to take care of myself while dealing with this incredibly tumultuous disease, which affects body, mind, and soul.

After hanging out here on the "other side," I realized I wanted to help this community that's so near and dear to my heart.  I'm hoping there's a little something you can take away today that will help you cope and maybe even find a little smile while dealing with infertility.   Welcome!


Today I'd like to write about happiness.  Seemingly simple, happiness often evades those working through a life crisis or traumatic experience.  I mean, how can one be happy when hurting so much, right?

Infertility is special.  It invades every aspect of life, and it's chronic.  So, even when there are those moments that bring a smile to your face and cause you to feel that warm inner glow, in the next moment it's marred by the mere sight of a pregnant woman or baby carriage.  "Congratulations!" you say to the next announcement, all the while wanting to be happy.  You muster up the will to smile broadly, but true joy escapes you.  Again.

Today I'm writing about one small thing you can do to buoy your spirits: Gratitude.  I know, I know...you hear them all the time, right?  Those placations that never really help.  "Oh, just be thankful for what you do have."  Somehow that's supposed to make you pregnant, I suppose, eh?

Um, no.

However!  Reminding yourself of some of the wonderful things in your life may boost your spirit long enough to ease the burden a bit.  And, really, if you feel lighter for even 5 minutes in your day, isn't it worth it?

So, here's a small task: When you wake up in the morning, write down three (or five or ten) things you're grateful for.  I don't care how tiny they are.  For example, this morning I was grateful that I woke up without a stiff neck for the first time in months (thank you, new pillow!). 

Just as a small experiment to yourself, rate your happiness on a scale from 1-10 at the beginning of seven days; do this task for seven days, then rate your happiness again.  If you go up even half a point, you know this works for you. 

What's on your grateful list today?

And, just because I'm a nerd who loves research, I have to plug the Positive Psychology Department at UPenn.  If you want to know truly where you stand on various topics such as Happiness, Optimism, and Gratitude, head on over to the Authentic Happiness Research Center and take a questionnaire or two.  They're free!  I'm pretty sure you have to register for a user ID and password, but it's all free. 

May you have a fantastic Tuesday.  Until next time...

Be Well,

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Scientific Art

It used to be that the science of psychology was not a science at all. When I received my undergraduate degree in psychology, it was a Bachelor's of Art. Admittedly, there are a few parts of psychology that are an art still. But, most of this world has learned how to study the brain and human behavior scientifically.

I have to say, though, that I love when art and science come together. I love when the rigour and concrete findings of scientific minds meld with the shades of gray and bright and dull colors within the world of art. The science is the clean, hard lines; the art is the softness that rounds it up. They balance each other out.

I was thinking about this idea today when I remembered a video I had seen maybe two or three years ago about a woman who had a concrete, explainable experience that resulted in a little chaotic, almost artistic outcome. Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is a brain scientist who suffered a stroke; her story is amazing. And the way she tells it brings tears to my eyes every single time (and some laughter, too..she's funny!).  I invite you to share in a little scientific art today.

May you find the same peace out of your choas today. Until next time...

Be well,

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Holiday You've Been Waiting For (and waiting, and waiting...)

Have you seen them?  I doubt you've had a chance to miss them (unless you've decided to hibernate under a rock, which I would totally understand).  You know what I'm talking about...

The 50,000 neon signs screaming "It's Mother's Day tomorrow!!!!!"

Okay, that's probably a slight exaggeration, but when trying to conceive, it can feel like an understatement.  I think I may have received about 10 email reminders from FTD indicating Mother's Day was around the corner, then "Get moving it's almost here," then "It's not too late! Order now!"  At least half (if not more) of commercials on TV lately are all about what to do for moms, what moms want on this most special day of the year, and the fact that Mother's Day should be every year.

For those of you trying to conceive your first child, this day is especially difficult.  Moms all around you are basking in the glory of this fabulous day; a day that you've been hoping and praying and trying really hard to become a part of.

It's not the actual day, though, really....it's the big flashing reminder that you are not a mom (yet).

And that hurts.

So, how do you protect yourself from some of this pain?  One of the biggest issues surrounding trying to conceive is the feeling of a loss of control.  So, I suggest doing something on Mother's Day that gives you a feeling of control.  Here are some ideas:

~Plan a ladies' day with some friends with no children
~Have a fun day with your partner: A cheese and wine tour, lunch, shopping, massages, hiking, a picnic, camping for the weekend.
~Establish a brand new holiday to celebrate; it can be mom-related like "Mother-to-be Day" or totally random like "Cinema Supporters Day" (and go watch a bunch of movies).  What would your new holiday be?

The trick is to plan this day.  It puts you in control, and it gives you something to look forward to.

Here are a couple of articles with some other suggestions:
Surviving Mother's and Father's Day (from The American Fertility Association)

If you're waiting to adopt, here is a fantastic article just for you (actually, a few of the things go for IFers, too): A Mother's Day Love Letter to Women Waiting to Adopt (from The Adoption Goddess)

Until next time...

 Be well,

Friday, May 4, 2012

Got a Minute?

Sometimes the experience of infertility (or any mental health issue, really) is so overwhelming and disorienting that we have trouble keeping our thoughts together.  We continue to try to think our way through it all the while dealing with some pretty intense emotions. 

Now, I do agree that the way we think affects the way we feel; it's actually supported via science.  But, sometimes we just need to stop.  We need to stop and be.

I'm a gigantic proponent of mindfulness meditation, though I don't practice it nearly enough myself.   Mindfulness is a way to absolutely pay attention to whatever is happening in your present moment.  Right now, I hear birds chirping outside of my window, and the recycle truck just pulled up to pick up my recycles.  There's a breeze coming through the window, and I feel it cool and damp on my skin.  I feel my dog's warmth as he lay next to me.  As I'm thinking about the breeze, the dog, and the recycle truck, I'm not worried about anything.  I'm not thinking about getting ready for work, or even publishing this post.  I'm fully present and aware (listening to my fingers hit the keyboard).

Bottom line: I'm giving myself a break.  And it feels great.

Whenever I fall off the mindfulness bandwagon, I gently redirect myself to start again.  Sometimes I can't begin my practice over by sitting for 15 minutes or more, so I start with the smallest increment.  Sometimes that's 30 seconds.  That's right!  30 seconds.  If you don't feel like you have 30 seconds in your day, then you really need mindfulness.

If you happen to have a full minute today, try this:

Ahhh....you deserved that.

Until next time...

Be well,