Robin Williams' Depression and the Sad News
Sad, so very sad, beyond sad, to know that Robin Williams has died. To know that he no longer exists in our world. To know that the depths of his depression brought him to a place where he felt he had no other choice. I’ve read, as you’ve probably read, that suicide didn’t kill Robin Williams, depression did.
Robin Williams’ suicide will bring attention to depression and mental health symptoms and disease, of that I have no doubt. I hope so. I have some doubt. I hope that the attention to his death is more than momentary and that the focus is depression.
Depression is the last thing to take lightly. To try to talk yourself out of or to talk someone else out of depression or feelings of suicide is too big a job for most of us. Especially those of us who are not mental health professionals. For us laypeople, these are scary feelings to experience and just as scary to see someone else experience them.
And of course, you do not have to do it alone. In fact, the point is you can’t.
Infertility and Depression
Infertility can cause depression. I know that’s a bold statement and based entirely on my own empirical evidence. Maybe it’s even a wrong statement. It’s just that I’ve met so many patients over the last two and a half decades that talk about changes that they’ve seen in themselves that I believe it. Men and women who talk about major, seismic shifts in how they see, feel and think about their lives. They speak poignantly about not recognizing themselves in the mirror when they look. I remember that feeling while I was in the midst of the chaos of infertility. I experienced it. I’ve seen it. I believe it. Infertility can cause depression or at the very least it can exacerbate symptoms and make you feel so much worse. It can attack your sense of self and it can make you feel that your dreams and hopes are impossible and too far away to touch.
Basically infertility can kick your a##. If you have been trying to conceive without success, you understand what I’m talking about. You don’t have to be depressed to get your a## kicked. Depression is a huge diagnosis and can be scary to think about, I get that.
You know what. It doesn’t really matter whether I’m right or wrong. I’m not a psychiatrist or a therapist or any other type of mental health professional. I’ve just been privileged enough to have spoken to men and women for almost twenty-five years.
Whether I’m right or wrong about infertility causing or worsening symptoms of depression doesn’t matter.
What does matter is if you feel awful, if you feel differently than you normally do, if you feel hopeless, if you are struggling more than usual, you deserve help. You don’t need to be clinically depressed to get help. You just need to need help.
And if you are trying the stoic, strong routine, drop it. Most of us need help on a regular basis, whether it is changing the oil in our car, or replacing windows in our house. I’m not trivializing this, I’m certainly not meaning too. My point is that we do not have to be the experts in everything nor do we have to have every single skill set. We can accept that there are experts who can help us with our cars, our windows and yes, even ourselves.
You already accept most of this if you see doctors. If you are undergoing fertility treatment, you get and accept that you need help. Hopefully you are seeing a fertility expert (board certified reproductive endocrinologist), please consider seeing another expert.
Infertility Help - Managing Fertility Treatment
Our licesnsed clinical social workers, Lisa Schuman, LCSW and Melissa Kelleher, LCSW, are two experts when it comes to how you’re feeling about yourself, your life, your hopes and dreams. They can provide the help that you need to feel relief from what you may be experiencing while managing fertility treatment. They are both incredible resources for finding relief from the emotional aspects that infertility throws at you, which you don’t quite expect.
Please understand that I am not diagnosing you. I’m not even suggesting that you are depressed. I am suggesting that you take seriously changes in how you are feeling and that you can get help and support if you are feeling differently than you have previously. Lisa and Melissa are two excellent choices of people who can help you.
Don’t wait. Because you have a life and you deserve to feel ok and know that you are ok.
Make an appointment. Be proactive. If you are feeling differently than you usually do, call them.
My favorite advice still stands.
You don’t have to do this alone.
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Understanding Infertility - Do They Get It?
There's been a lot of conversation lately about how our male partners/husbands just don't get it when it comes to understanding infertility. They don't get the intensity that we feel about fertility treatment and more specifically, they don't get how we feel about not having those babies yet.
There's been a lot of anger as well towards the men about not getting it. The word insensitive has been used a lot to describe them. They want sex at what seems like inappropriate times (in the middle of a cycle or two days after a miscarriage). They don't listen or respond when we talk about the despair we feel when a fertility cycle doesn't work.
That old joke about the duck comes to mind. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, swims like a duck, well then, most likely, it's a duck!
Except when these wonderful women, who are feeling angry, sad, lonely and somewhat (or very) abandoned by their men are asked about whether these men love them, the answer is a resounding yes. Unequivocally yes.
They talk about their marriages being stronger than they were before infertility walked in and took a seat.
I’m wondering if the duck is perhaps not a duck.
Perhaps it’s a tern. Or a loon (kinda like that one). Or a swan. Or a goose.
Infertility Problems: Dealing with the Pain
Maybe insensitivity is a great mask for denial (if I ignore the infertility problems, one day they will be solved and all will be great, etc.). Maybe it is that their beloved’s pain is so deep that they do not know how to touch it gently enough without causing more pain. Perhaps they are worried about drowning in the pain themselves and not being able to be the anchor that they are expected to be. Perhaps their own pain is so bewildering to them that without our help, they are lost and they cannot ask for help while we are in such pain.
It is possible that the only thing they know how to do is to do more of what they know how to do. Work. Fix things. Shelter us the best they know how.
While there were a few names flying around describing these men that were not duck or goose or loon, there was also general consensus that these men love us. And that their best wasn’t good enough. That’s a hard concept to face, that our best isn’t good enough. We know about that one, don’t we? Because that’s the one we face when it comes to failed fertility cycles.
Infertility Support - Is Something Getting In The Way?
Perhaps they need more help and direction than we can give them about how to support us.
Or, maybe they are the ones who need the support and help themselves and have no idea how to dig deeply enough to ask for it.
I don’t know. I just suspect that if there is love there and it’s not being expressed then something is getting in the way. Going a step further, I would suspect that the culprit getting in the way is our pain.
Not making excuses or apologies for them or us. Just trying to figure out the odd phenomena of our men not showing up in ways that are helpful or supportive even when we all agree that they love us.
Maybe it’s time for us to look past the obvious. Maybe it’s not a duck at all.
Maybe it’s the swan we see struggling under the weight of not knowing the right thing to do or say. Or being too afraid to say it.
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There are a few phrases that come to mind about my experience at the doctors office the other day.
One is practice what you preach.
Two is, walk the talk.
I had to have a procedure done. Not an infertility procedure, but it was hauntingly similar to the procedures done in a fertility program.
Especially the part where I was told it would not hurt that much. I might feel a pinch.
I definitely felt a pinch. I would go a step farther and say that it did hurt and it hurt a whole lot more than a pinch.
I'm very happy that our doctors and nurses give out instructions about certain of our procedures, such as the HSG, and advise taking pain medication.
There's a reason that we do that. Because we know it's painful. And because we would like our patients to trust us when we say it's not painful.
A lot of this is about trust. If our doctor says its not going to be painful and it is, it erodes our trust in their words and their judgement.
How do we trust them when they say that again?
If they're not trustworthy about a procedure being painful or not, how do we feel about hearing other information from them? How do we trust results or diagnoses?
I'll leave my experiences at the doctors for another day. This subject of trust with our doctors is too important.
There are simple ways of making sure that we patients understand how something may feel. There is language that can be used that is easy to understand.
How about this?
- Most patients feel only a slight prick. However, some people feel quite a bit more than that. Please don't be alarmed either way, as both reactions are within the range of normal.
- Only 2% of the people who have this test will feel any discomfort at all. If you happen to be in that 2%, please know that it will be over in just a very few moments. Less than a minute, in fact.
- We do everything that we can to ensure that this testing is not painful. However, sometimes, it can be very uncomfortable. Try to stay as relaxed as possible, breathing deeply will help.
Each of those phrases is three sentences.
Any one of those sentences would have built the trust that I had in my doctor the other day. Any of those phrases would have better prepared me for a procedure that was not a simple pinch and did in fact, hurt.
Part of the problem with a procedure hurting, is that it's alarming. If we're told that it's not going to hurt, then that's what we expect. If we're expecting that it's not going to hurt and it does, we worry that something's wrong.
We worry that something is wrong with with us. Sometimes we even worry that something is wrong with our doctors expertise. After all, they're the ones who said it wouldn't hurt.
It all comes back to trust. We want and need to trust our doctors.
We want them to be honest, but not alarmist. We want them to say the right things, in the right tone, at the right moment, in the right way.
But we're reasonable. If they don't do all of that, it's ok. We can forgive them and move on.
When it comes to pain, though, it erodes trust on a very different level.
So, maybe we should help them out. Maybe when they describe a pinch, and we are actually left gasping with pain, let's make an agreement, right here and now.
Let's tell them.
Let's educate them.
Let's help them understand what to say to the next patient.
Yep, we can change the world, one moment at a time.
We want our doctors to be truthful with us. Let's be truthful with them. If it doesn't hurt, let's tell them.
If it does hurt, though, let's tell them that too.