Sunday, April 21, 2013

Join the Movement: An Ah-Ha Moment

I remember well the day it happened.

I was sitting on the back patio holding a stick.  His favorite stick.  The lavender was newly blooming, the fragrance enveloping me, and the bees flicked around the purple stalks making a loud buzzing sound impossible to ignore.  I smiled up at the sun knowing that this was a great moment.

I intended to carve his name in that stick and toss it in his favorite lake where he use to dive in and swim after it no matter how far it was thrown.  I always joked that he would swim until he died. 

Bailey was my beautiful, wild yellow lab.  A strong swimmer, an eater of random non-edibles like plastic bottles or underwear that missed the hamper, and a source of daily laughter (or certain expletives when his ever-wagging tail would connect with a shin) .  He was always at the ready when we'd walk in the front door, like he had heard our car a mile away.

Except, of course, the time he ate a whole tray of freshly-baked brownies.  He hid upstairs that day.

Bailey had died the previous winter.  My handsome, funny, crazy, yellow lab was just ten days short of 8 years old.  And I missed him the instant he was gone.

I didn't know of the lesson he would teach several months later as I sat among the lavender.  It's propelled and motivated me in a way in which words fall short of describing.

Briefly: I was finally happy.

That moment was six and a half years post infertility diagnosis with tens of thousands of dollars spent on fertility treatments, raging hormones, a seemingly endless emotional roller coaster, intrusions on my body and mind, and no baby to show for it.

But, as I sat there, "it" happened.  The realization that I was happy.  My ah-ha moment.

"How could this be?" I thought.  I should be sad, discouraged, angry, and, and, and....

Yet, I wasn't.

Why?

Somehow in the mess of infertility and losing Bailey, I realized I had everything I could ever want or need right then.  In that moment.  Happiness is now.  And the more that I want something that I don't presently have, the more unhappy I feel.

Sure, wanting something more...dreaming of something more...craving something more (like parenthood) is normal.  But, I was obsessing, perseverating, and becoming consumed with the ache of not having that thing.  That's where I lost myself.  And my happiness.

When I really thought about what was happening, I was able to trace that shift to sometime the previous November when I really began looking forward to the holidays.  I was always happy about the holidays, but this was more than just reaching my pre-infertility level of happiness.  I was so much more grateful for everything I had.  Even though I didn't have a baby, I had a fabulous husband, awesome animals, a comfy home, and my dream job.  I enjoyed lots of different hobbies and got to help people on a daily basis; some of whom were dealing with the same confusing and overwhelming world of infertility.  I didn't take even one of those things for granted anymore.  Just like not having a baby, any of those things could be gone.  And I didn't know it at the time, but Bailey would be gone in just a few short months.

Because, I'm a researcher and pseudo-academic at heart (Okay, I'm a nerd.  There, I said it), I wondered if this happened to other people.  Could I be the only one?  Is it just me, or was I experiencing this traumatic health crisis and feeling, not only happy, but way more happy than I'd ever been?

No way.  No way!

After digging a bit on Google Scholar, I discovered a phenomenon that had been studied for the past decade or so called posttraumatic growth.  You know what PTSD is, right?  Well, this is the opposite:  When good things happen as a result of trauma. 

I know.  Weird. 

It's the message in that song "Live Like You Were Dying."  You know the one.  Are you humming it yet?  The character in the song is diagnosed with cancer and decides to do all of the things that he ever wanted to do.  He began to make Each. Moment. Count. 

Now, would I ride a bull named Fu Man Chu?  Uh, no.

But, there are a ton of things that I (or any of us) could do in any given moment.  To live in that moment.  To really be present right then and there.

Like throwing a stick for your dog.

Thanks to thoughts of Bailey, I discovered what was happening to me.  And I decided I needed to know more and pass it around.  I began research for my dissertation on infertility and posttraumatic growth, and I began throwing ideas around for this blog. 

Hence, I began Joining the Movement to contribute to the infertility community and to educate outside of it.

It's the crux of this blog to recognize the suffering that people with infertility experience and to highlight that one is not alone and does not have to suffer alone.  I'd like to also highlight that one can be in the gutter and simultaneously look up at the stars and wonder at their beauty.  Suffering does not negate joy.

I'll say it again: Suffering does not negate joy. 

I'm Joining the Movement to contribute that small piece of knowledge that can have a big impact on your life, if you so choose.

I'm happy to say, I took my joy back from infertility.  And it even grew exponentially beyond what it was before I began the wild infertility ride. 

Take that, IF. 

And thank you, Bailey. 

One last thing: I wouldn't know it for another year, but as my "shift" happened that previous November, my son was being born half way across the world.  A Thanksgiving baby.

Coincidence?  I think not.  But, that's another post. 


May boundless joy be yours,
~Maria

Dedicated to my Bailey Boy swimming after sticks somewhere

To learn more about the disease of infertility, please visit this page at RESOLVE (The National Infertility Association).

This post is written in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week 2013 (see badge in sidebar). To learn more about NIAW and the theme "Join the Movement," please click here.

Also for HAWMC's Day 21 prompt:  “The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all.” – Mulan  True or False?   I vote true.  Obviously.  :)


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

HAWMC Day 17: Organic Happy Carrots

HAWMC Day 17, here we are!  You can start with day 1 here.

Yesterday's post was a temporary reprieve from HAWMC...just had to say a few words about Boston.


Today's prompt:  Go to wordle.net to create a word cloud or tree from a list of words associated with your condition, blog, or interests.  Post it!

I had way too much fun with this prompt, and I'm kinda diggin' the finished product:



I recently saw an iPhone case with the words Think Happy, Be Happy, and I way dig it.  So, "think" and "happiness" right in the center like that?  Way me.  That, and the fact that the color scheme is called Organic Carrot.

Yup.  Can't go wrong with that.  

Until tomorrow...be well,
~M

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Spread Love

I don't watch the news.

I have a tendency to be sensitive to others' emotions, both positive and negative (like most therapists).  Watching the news -- which seems to be endlessly negative -- is, therefore, a big no-no for me.

Who could not, however, watch the events of yesterday?  I'm pained and thinking about the people affected near and far. 

As I was going through my blogroll, I read this post by Katie at From If to When and realized they are precisely my thoughts. 

Even when such awful, dastardly events happen, apart from asking why, I still believe my best response is to spread around more love. 

It's okay to be angry.  It's okay to be sad.  It's okay to question the fundamental characteristics of humankind.  Those things are not mutually exclusive from love.

May you find peace in your day and spread a little (or a lot of) love.

Be well,
~M


Monday, April 15, 2013

HAWMC Day 15: Inspired Happiness



Hello, hello, Day 15!  I've missed the last two days of posts; nonetheless, today's post marks a momentous occasion.  I've met my 13-post goal for this HAWMC!  Wah-hoo!  What's even cooler, is that I plan on participating for the rest of the challenge, and may even add in those two missing posts.  We shall see...


Today's prompt: Comment!  Pick someone else's blog post and write a comment to them.  Write that comment as your post for today and link back to them to let them know you were inspired.

By nature, I am a glass-is-half-full kinda gal.  Lots of current research shows that people can actually be taught this way of thinking, which means it doesn't have to be in your genes.  You can learn how to be happy.  So, anytime I see a blog post, article, FB post, or Tweet that talks about happiness despite adversity, I "like" it.  I like it very, very much.

I found a blog post through KC&Co. who also wrote about happiness here.  The primary post I'd like to highlight is written by Moira entitled "Can We Motivate the World with Happiness? (The one where I refuse to be sad all the time)"  Moira highlights juvenile diabetes; a condition about which I have no clue.  But, the message is absolutely transferable across conditions and emotional struggles.

It's actually the crux of this blog where I write about how one can be stuck in the gutter and still look up at the stars.  Even through suffering, happiness can be present.  One need only choose it.

Here's my comment to Moira:  Hi! I found this post via KC & Co., and I absolutely love the message here. I once had a client who had Type I diabetes (both he and his brother), and when I would conduct family sessions, they would both test in the middle of whatever therapeutic intervention we were conducting at the time. It wasn’t a big deal; just life. To me it was a HUGE deal, but in the other direction…it was very inspiring. :)

Moira asks if we can motivate the world with happiness.  What do you think?  Do you think people are motivated more by the negative or positive in life?  The key word is motivate, of course, and I also think "inspire" is connected to that word.  I'm exceedingly uninspired, for example, by those awful commercials portraying the suffering of animals and begging for your donations (sorry, Sarah McLaughlin), and I'm very inspired by the shows I've seen about animal rehabilitation.  I want to give way more to the latter organization.

What about you?

Until tomorrow...be well,
~M

Friday, April 12, 2013

HAWMC Day 12: Advocate and Breathe

 
Hello to Day 12 of HAWMC.  It's been a great ride so far.

Today's prompt: If you could go back in time and talk to yourself on the day of diagnosis, what would you say?

This one is simple for me: Speak up and be your own advocate!  Upon diagnosis, I'm pretty sure I was a) in denial and b) completely unsure of what to do.  I believed my gyno when he said I didn't need a Reproductive Endocronologist, and that I could take the evil drug Clomid essentially forever.

Wrong.

I didn't seek second or third or fourth opinions.  I just went with the flow of whatever docs told me, because obviously they are they authority of my body, and therefore, know precisely what to do with it.

Wrong.

I would tell myself to not take any doc's word as the word of God and keep seeking opinions for as long as my gut told me I needed to.

Lastly, I'm going to steal from last year's HAWMC and post the following:


Keep Calm and BREATHE EVERY MOMENT Poster

I would (and do!) tell myself this every day.

Until tomorrow....be well,
~M

Thursday, April 11, 2013

HAWMC Day 11: Find Me Gluten Free



Welcome to HAWMC Day 11!  You can start with Day 1 here.

Technology got the best of me today.  My Macbook randomly stopped charging, and the battery is so old that it doesn't hold a charge anymore.  Thus, I was out of a computer for a good 6 hours.  I text my husband, "I think I might die."

And yet, I remember the days when the cool kids all had pagers, and I was not a cool kid.  How did we ever survive without technology?

At any rate, darling Macbook randomly began to charge again.  She needs an Apple visit for sure, but in the meantime, I shall post today's HAWMC Prompt:


Write about your favorite health iPhone app. 

Aside from infertility, I also have a wheat allergy (which is probably connected somehow).  While I don't have to eat completely gluten-free, I love finding foods and restaurants that offer a GF menu, because I can be sure that I won't be eating wheat.  So, my favorite wellness app is Find Me Gluten Free.

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/4/prweb9370128.htm
It's got like a bazillion GF restaurants listed on it in whatever location you are.  I absolutely love it, and it's constantly being updated, so one can never be without GF good eats.  Check it out!

Until tomorrow...be well,
~M

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

HAWMC Day 10: Favorite Picture



Welcome to Day 10 of HAWMC!  You can start with Day 1 here.

Today's prompt for Wordless Wednesday: It's often hard to like pictures of ourselves -- post your favorite picture of yourself.

I happen to have a few favored pictures of myself; not because of how I look in them, but because of the happy moments in which they were taken.  I'll go with this one today:

A little Bailey love


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

HAWMC Day 9: Being Present


It's Day 9 of the HAWMC; you can start with Day 1 here.

Today's prompt:  Patients, what advice or tips do you have for caregivers out there -- professional or otherwise?

Because I'm a caregiver, I have the unique opportunity to be both patient and professional within the fertility world.  Well, not a patient anymore, but a looooong history of being one.  For professionals (including docs, nurses, and staff), my personal tip is to simply be present for your patients.

You may have the education, the knowledge, the stats memorized, etc, but you are not that patient.  Be present when they talk about their concerns and issues, and listen -- really listen -- to what is being said as opposed to throwing out numbers and diagnoses.

Nothing is more powerful than a professional who is totally present for their patients or clients.  Instead of feeling like a number, she/he may actually feel like a person.

Okay....now as a professional therapist, I'd love to ask you guys:  What advice and/or tips do you have for us headshrinkers?

Listening presently...

~M

Monday, April 8, 2013

HAWMC Day 8: If Infertility Were an Animal



It's the second week and Day 8 of HAWMC, and I'm well on my way to my 13-post goal for this year's challenge.  Ya-hoo!

You can start with Day 1 here.


Today's prompt:  If your health condition (or the health condition of a loved one) was an animal, what would it be?  Is it a real animal or make believe?

Infertility and the circumstances surrounding it are like some of the hunting scenes I've seen on National Geographic.  People are like the antelope hanging out at a pond's edge waiting for a fish to swim by.  The antelope just knows a fish will come by any moment now, and that it'll be able to grasp it up quickly.

What the antelope doesn't know is that something is wrong.  A sinister presence lurks in the tall grass behind it.  It's a lion.  The lion is patient.  Seeing its prey, it's going to pounce at just the right moment; just when the antelope thinks it's safe, that nothing terrible is going to happen, the lion will attack.  And not only will it take away the prospect of a fish, but it will damage the antelope badly, if not fully engulf it in its sharp dagger teeth. 



The ubiquitous fear and its all encompassing nature force the antelope to fight or flee.  Other antelope scatter and send messages to the one in danger like, "Tsk, tsk...maybe it was meant to be" or "Just keep running and it'll all be okay" or "Maybe if you turn left quickly..."  All silly placations, but really, what else can they do?

If all works out, the lion will tire and the antelope will live to fish another day.  If all works out even better, the antelope will have gained some knowledge, strength, and courage to carry with it all of the rest of its life. 


Until next time...be well,
~M



Sunday, April 7, 2013

HAWMC Day 7: Ridiculous Cure Headline

Hi everyone!  It's Day 7 of HAWMC, and I am having a ridiculously good time with today's prompt.  If you get sarcasm, you just may get a giggle out of it, too.

You can start with Day 1 of HAWMC here.

Today's prompt:  Share a ludicrous headline or cure. Do a news search and choose a ridiculous headline or proposed cure about your condition and write what you think about it.  Can't find one?  Write your own.

For this prompt, I just had to make up my own ridiculous headline.  Last year (or the year before?), Resolve facilitated a whole blog challenge for busting infertility myths.  You wouldn't believe the ideas that people come up with to help "cure" infertility.  Things like, "Oh just go on vacation" or "Get drunk.  That's what I did" are some of my favorites.  But, the headline below is one that I get all the time.

And you know what? Most of the time it's from my own family!  No matter how often I educate, it just doesn't sink in.  So, hey...why not get a little giggle from it?




Until next time...

~M

Saturday, April 6, 2013

HAWMC Day 6: A Letter to Infertility

Hi all!  It's Day 6 of the HAWMC and an absolutely gorgeous day here on the East Coast (finally!).  Dare I say Spring has arrived?

You can start with Day 1 of HAWMC here.


Today's prompt:  Write a letter to your condition -- what do you want to get off your chest?

I've written a lot about the devastation of infertility.  I've written about the depression, all-encompassing anxiety, difficulty focusing on anything else but one's cycle and various symptoms (Ah! A twinge!  I must be pregnant!), and the baby- and pregnancy-obsession.  So, this letter may come as a surprise.

Dear IF,

Thank you.

(I know, right?)

Because of your initially insidious and, later, your blatant disregard for my emotional well-being, I began to notice how awesome life is.  At first, you threw in my face at any inopportune moment how I didn't have a big round belly and how everybody else on the planet was lucky enough to have children except for me. 

You made me feel that I didn't belong anywhere.  My friends weren't stuck like I was.  My younger and unmarried friends were still partying -- I didn't belong with them either.  You forced me to look daily at what I didn't have and wanted desperately.  Worse, you made me begin to despise my body and feel that I couldn't even control that aspect of my life.  Worse still, you made me feel as if I didn't deserve motherhood.  You were evil.  Plain and simple.

Then...

Something weird happened.  I began to notice the sunshine on my face.  I noticed the smell of freshly-mowed grass and how it felt on my bare feet.  I enjoyed lazy, rainy days on the couch with my dogs, popcorn, and a movie.  I started to run and notice how free I felt.  My body could do that?

Life was awesome.

I giggled with my nieces and nephews.  I cherished wine and conversation with loved ones.  I started writing, and I focused my practice on helping others just like me.  I started dancing again, even if it was only in my living room.

Life was awesome. 

And I started laughing at you.  You were still a part of my life, but you weren't huge.  You stopped being heavy.  You stopped ruling my days.  I had shrunk you.  I won.  

Then something weird happened again.

I realized I owed you.  Yup.  I owed you the feel of sunshine, the grass under my feet, the laughter with loved ones, and all things wonderful in my life.  I know....weird.  But, here's my thinking.

Years ago -- in the midst of your darkness -- I saved this fortune from a fortune cookie.  Who knew a tiny slip of paper could later prove to be so profound?


You see?  You are my shadow.  You will always be with me.  And because of that, life will always be awesome.  Nothing will be taken for granted.

Ever.

So, thank you, IF.  Thank you.

Life is awesome.

And though I wish you'd stay out of others' lives, if you have to intrude on their happiness, I hope your shadows make their lights seem brighter, too.

 ~M


This letter, incidentally, is the crux of my dissertation: Infertility and Posttraumatic Growth.  I know it's possible for positive things to come out of such a life crisis, since it happened to me, but does that happen often?  Take the survey located at the top of the side bar or click on the tab at the top of this page, and help me find out. 

Until next time...be well,
~M

Friday, April 5, 2013

HAWMC Day 5: Thinking BIG!

It's Day 5 of HAWMC....still going strong here.  Wah-hoo!  You can start with Day 1 here.

Today's prompt: If I could do anything as a Health Activist..."  Think big today!  Money/time/physical limitations are no longer an issue.  What is your biggest goal that is now possible?

One of the biggest things that I have always said I'd do, if I won a ton of money, is to open up a grant program for infertility treatments.  Insurance has a looooong way to go before infertility is recognized as a legitimate health issue (thanks to activists who regularly visit Washington, D.C., this is going to change!). 

The cost of treatments is no joke.  People take out loans, sell things, borrow from loved ones, etc., all in the name of dealing with this horrible disease that some insurance companies don't consider a medical issue.  Some plans get around the mandatory state coverage, because it's a "self-insured" plan.  Or they cover peanuts of the total cost of treatment. 

All told, some people spend tens of thousands of dollars for infertility treatments and never have a baby on the other side of said treatments.  Until insurance companies can be sensible and cover all infertility all of the time, my biggest dream is to have a gigantic cushion of money to simply give away to those who don't have coverage, who don't have the means, and who desperately want treatments. 

Imagine what it would be like to not have to ever worry about the funds needed for your medical issue.  How different would life be for you?

Until next time...

Be well,
~M

Thursday, April 4, 2013

HAWMC Day 4: Favorite Things


It's Day 4 of the HAWMC 2013, and I am diggin' the way this is going.  I'm learning a lot and feeling all involved and stuff.

You can start with Day 1 here.

Today's Prompt: Create a "care page" -- a list of your best resources that someone who is newly diagnosed could go to when starting to advocate for themselves or a loved one.

Over the years, I have found a multitude of resources that I pass on like crazy all the time.  These include resources for infertility and adoption as well as mental well-being in general, and I'm adding to it all the time.

I've listed these resources on my main website under a tab labeled "Favorite Things."  Indeed, they are my very favorite:

Maria's Favorite Things

Enjoy!  Until next time...

Be well,
~M

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

HAWMC Day 3: Wordless Wednesday

HAWMC Day 3: Post a picture that symbolizes your condition and your experiences.

You can find Day 1 here.

 
Like a lotus flower that grows out of the mud and blossoms above the muddy water surface, we can rise above our defilements and sufferings of life

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

HAWMC Day 2: Sharing Old Posts

It's Day 2 of the HAWMC.  I'm officially on a roll.  Yay me!

You can start with Day 1 here.   Don't know what the heck I'm talking about?  I'll give the link to you one more time: HAWMC.  Check it out!  Good times to be had.

Today's prompt: Share links to 3-5 of your old posts (or posts from other Health Activists!) that you think will help the newly diagnosed. 

Some of my favorite posts to write involve what I call Infertility Rx's, which you can see on a tab at the top of this pageThe first post actually comes from last year when I wrote in the HAWMC, and it incorporated Resolve's theme for the year: Don't Ignore.  This one is all about not ignoring your feelings (hello!  I'm a therapist).  Infertility can be confusing and all-encompassing.  You don't have to ignore those feelings.

Don't Ignore: Your Feelings 

The second post I'd like to share is actually one of things that I personally learned through the infertility journey.  Infertility became super huge in my life (as is typical with a life crisis).  In the following post, I talk about how to shrink it down.
  
Putting IF In Its Place  

The last is actually an article that I think I've spread around the internet about a million times.  Not knowing how to talk to friends and relatives about what you need when going through infertility is super difficult.  Resolve put out a fan-friggin'-tastic article on just that.

Infertility Etiquette 

I hope this has been helpful!  Until next time...

Be well,
~M   

Monday, April 1, 2013

HAWMC Day 1: Intro

It's April Fool's Day!  Reminds me of a short video I saw recently where the speaker was talking about wisdom.  He said something to the effect of the more wise we get, the more foolish we realize we are.  So, it's really April Wiseperson's Day.

Kinda.

Okay, well for sure it's the first day of the Health Activist's Writer's Month Challenge (#HAWMC), which I love!  Every day for the month of April, I get to write about my health focus: Infertility.  Interested in trying it out?  Go check out the link!


Day 1 prompt: Why HAWMC? This is our third year of the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge – why did you get involved this year? Are you a newbie to #HAWMC or a veteran?

 
I am for sure not a veteran, though this is my second year participating in HAWMC.  Last year, I believe I completed around 12 out of the 30 posts or something ridiculous like that.  Ha!  So, my secret reason for getting involved this year is to beat my "record" from last year.  Go me!

Aside from that vain goal, I love writing about infertility and about the various ways that those struck by the IF wake can help steady their selves again.  It's possible.  I would even posit that it's probable.  Even though it doesn't feel like it very often.

So here we go...off to make it to 13.

I've said it before...nothing like a lofty goal. 

Be well,
~M