Wellness Wake-Up Call
I have a great group of women that I am working with who are inspiring, uplifting and vibrant. They are successful and funny and smart and more.
Here’s a comment that I made yesterday at our group that I feel comfortable sharing:
I want to take at least as good care of me as I do my car.
My car gets regular oil changes. I fill it with gas when the gauge indicates that it’s needed. (I have experienced the unfortunate results when I’ve waited too long about the gas issue.) I have great snow tires and make sure to check them regularly during the winter and my regular tires regularly as well; just the right amount of air. When I want to wash my windshield, I press a button and fluid magically appears, if I’ve filled the windshield wiper fluid reservoir. The list around my car goes on. My tires are rotated and balanced. The car is washed, perhaps not frequently enough. The car has regular check-ups and lights remind me to bring it in until I do.
I kind of wish I had the light go on for me when I turned 16 and didn’t get my period regularly. Or at 22, when I was having sex, not being particularly careful and never got pregnant. A light reminding me to ask questions about that or to have myself checked would have come in very handy.
Who knows what would have happened. Had I known about infertility earlier, would I have done something different? Made different choices? Set my priorities in some other way?
Having a light go on might have alerted me that I needed maintenance. The way we all do.
The Self-Care We Deserve
My body, my psyche, me. I deserve at least as much self-care -- attention, money, mindfulness -- as my car does. But while I do not skimp on the car (except for car washes!), I do skimp on myself.
I shower regularly, brush my teeth three times a day, floss (not enough). Do I go to the doctor regularly? Do I make the appointment with my OB/Gyn for a checkup? Do I see the dentist as often as I should? How long should I have intense and regular shoulder pain before I see an orthopedist? Do I treat my food as fuel for my physical body; nourishment for organs, cells, tissues? Do I skip the glass of water because I’m in too much of a rush? Sleep less than I should because I have too much to do? Leave out meditation or time by myself to do more?
Do I take better care of my car than myself?
You bet I do.
Without a doubt I do.
The car won’t run without gas and I won’t function without food and water. Yet so often I fuel myself with inappropriate nourishment and call it comfort. I wouldn’t think about putting soda into my car and expect it to run, still I feed myself things that do not help my body run in a way that is anywhere near optimum.
And the list goes on and on. My car is treated with more mindfulness than I treat myself.
So easy to make a commitment to making a change. So hard to implement real changes.
Today, I have started. I have eaten a healthy breakfast. I have made plans and taken the action steps to create and eat a healthy lunch. Tonight, for dinner, I will think ahead, now, and make sure that before I get too hungry, I can eat what is appropriate and delicious.
Today, I will treat myself as lovingly as I do my car.
It’s the least I can do.
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Infertile or Not - Some Things Are Starting to Annoy Me
I’ve read a lot of quotes lately, whether e-cards or beautiful pieces of poems coupled with gorgeous photographs or images.
They’re starting to annoy me. So are Pinterest and Twitter, and yes, even Facebook. There are these little snippets of advice that sound remarkably similar after a while.
Look at things differently. See the good. Appreciate what you have.
Oh, come on.
I’m sticking up for those of us who have feelings of disappointment, frustration, irritability about significant and insignificant events in our lives.
Why can’t we take a moment of emotional honesty and say “THIS SUCKS” at the top of our lungs? Punch a pillow. Curse like a truck driver. Cry our eyes out.
Why can’t we take a moment and acknowledge the very HUMAN emotions that we feel when we spend time, energy, effort and more and we don’t get what we want? Why can’t we throw a little or big pity party? Or a tiny or enormous temper tantrum?
It sounds so much to me like a version of “pull yourself up by your boot straps”. It sounds so much to me like don’t feel your feelings. It sounds so much to me like feel differently, NOW, immediately.
Oh bah humbug.
I have a great life, with wonderful things, people and more in it. But I am tired right now. And I was tired yesterday after fifteen minutes of moving around my house. And I sat down and had a good cry about being unable to do what so definitely needed to be done in my home.
I felt better. I felt better after I cried. I felt better feeling awful for a little while; for feeling sorry for myself.
Ever hear this one? “Eat all your dinner because there are children starving all over the world.” So what, does that mean I should overeat? Would that make those children less hungry or just me overfull?
I know there are people who have it worse than I do in this world. There are people who have it worse than you in this world too. Does that mean you have no pain or that you’re not allowed to express it or feel it for a moment before rushing on to feeling better, different, more?
Emotional Support and Empathy
My very physically ill and compromised older sister called me yesterday, from the hospital. I can’t even count how many times she’s been in the hospital in the last two years. Probably a conservative number of times would be twenty. She had another emergency admittance last week and was calling me from the hospital to see how I was feeling.
She pushed aside questions about how she was feeling and pressed me to tell her about myself. Not coincidentally, our conversation precipitated my bout of crying. Her tenderness, concern and empathy, despite her much more overwhelming painful situation were like a soothing balm. My pain and discomfort were valid and it was ok to feel how I felt and to express those feelings. She was not comparing our pain and she was interested.
It’s ok to hurt. It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to feel bad, frustrated, disappointed and yes, even angry.
And it’s ok not to rush on to make any of those feelings any different. We know they will pass. It’s ok to feel bad until they do.
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Infertility Anxiety - Ideas from Our Community
I write when I’m anxious.
Sometimes I eat. (OK, often I eat when I’m anxious.)
I meditate when I’m anxious. Or create a mantra and repeat it.
Infertility and fertility treatment sometimes causes anxiety. To be fair, it also creates hopeful anticipation and lots and lots of joy when it works.
Taking medication, having to come in for ultrasounds, noticing changes in our bodies, having to be aware of scheduling--all can create some anxiety.
Tips for Anxiety
Here are a few suggestions from our Fertile Yoga ladies -- tips for anxiety -- on how to handle those feelings:
- Writing in a journal - stream of thought. Releasing it to paper or onto the computer will allow it to flow from your head out. Seeing it out there is often calming as you have given yourself a way to see it, outside yourself.
- Listening to music - plug in! Find something that is so unbelievably beautiful that you just can't help but dive in. Sing along. Tap your foot.
- A side note to music - DANCE. Enjoy your body. Do it privately if it makes you less self-conscious.
- Read. Oh yeah. Dive right into a book. A nice, juicy novel.
- Educate yourself. Make that stack of books on your nightstand books that will help you understand the infertility and fertility treatment process.
- Work out! Take a walk. Go to yoga.
- Consider a brand new style of therapy. Profane therapy. Swearing evidently can help. Let loose. Then let yourself laugh.
- Movies - there are a lot of them coming out right about now. George Clooney. Need I say more?
Thank you Fertile Yoga Ladies for all these suggestions.
Any other ideas for managing anxiety?
Let me know. I'll post them here. Anonymously, if you like.
Follow Lisa on Google+
Holiday Support Through the Season
This is a very personal blog, based on what is helpful to me, the places I go when I feel stress or anxiety. They are probably not identical to how you cope or where you find holiday support through the season, and yet some may seem very familiar.
Getting clear with what I am doing as opposed to what I could be doing is a way for me to see through the murkiness. I have choices, it's reassuring to remember that.
I don't know if this will be helpful to you or not. Maybe you need to make your own lists, see where the things are that trigger you and how to release in a healthy (or not so healthy way).
Coping with Holiday Stress
The holiday season is in full swing. Some of what goes on is so loving and fun and full of joy. And some of it is just plain hard, holiday stress. Especially if you are dealing with not being pregnant. Again. Or fertility treatment cycle failed. Again.
Maybe not every coping method has to be healthy. At least not every day, occasion or minute.
Ten ways that I punish myself during the holiday season:
- I eat too much of too many wrong foods - including drinking alcohol and caffeine
- I stay longer than I am comfortable at social events
- I don’t exercise
- I make too many plans and don’t plan enough down time
- I don’t attend yoga classes
- I stay up too late and get up too early
- I don’t read
- I don’t pray and meditate regularly
- I don’t pay attention to how I am feeling and therefore can’t respect my feelings
- I endure rather than enjoy the holiday season
Ten ways that I support myself during the holiday season:
- I appreciate my loved ones
- I make phone calls to people I don’t normally speak with
- I put on my pajamas and stay in them for hours past what is normally socially acceptable
- I cook and clean in spurts
- I look at the physical beauty of the world
- I watch good movies
- I listen to those around me and let them in
- I hear my heart beating and my breath coming in and out
- I actively work towards finding light in my life
- I get up. I move a muscle, change a thought
Ten things I COULD do to support myself during the holiday season:
- Take a walk every morning
- Go to yoga class twice a week
- Pray and meditate
- Paint, draw, weave, knit
- Go to sleep by 11 pm every night
- Embrace the loving relationships in my life
- Spend time with my beloveds
- Make social contact regularly with supportive and loving people
- Have fun. Plan fun. Laugh more often.
Stress Reduction - Remember Choices
It's easy to get caught up in the season, for good and for bad. It's equally as easy to forget that we can make choices.
I'm going out for a walk. That's my choice.
As is my writing to you.
Maybe your choices would be helpful to someone else.
Could you share them with us?
If you do write to me, it does not post automatically. I can post your choices and stress reduction ideas anonymously.
Make a choice to share, I'd love to hear from you.
Lisa Rosenthal's Google+
Staying On the Same Side During Fertility Treatment
There are lots of ways to say what is in your heart.
You can start with something lovely and loving.
You can start with no.
You can start with discomfort or ease or anything in between.
It's not always easy to say something you feel strongly about. Or at least it's not always easy to say it in a kind way.
What happens when you and your partner aren't on the same page about fertility treatment? Are you in a safe place emotionally to say how you feel about it? Can you hear what your partner has to say?
It's possible that hearing one another becomes convulted and murky. The more strongly you feel about your own position, the less likely you are to be able to hear your partner's.
Clearing space between the two of you can sometimes remind you that you are a team. That you have the same goal: to have a child. Even if you don't agree on how to achieve that goal or how far you are willing to go, you need to stay on the same side. It's amazing how much worse and how much lonlier you can feel when you see your partner as an opponent.
And what a relief and powerful feeling it can be when you see your partner as an ally, even an advocate.
Finding ways of talking to one another is a crucial step. Recognizing your feeling but not necessarily being commited to a specific option or path is also tremendously helpful.
When this is not working, time to get some help!
Infertility Support Resources
We have wonderful infertility support resources here at RMACT. Peer support through Ladies Night In with Carrie Van Steen and myself. (Starting in Trumbull next month, November 20.)
Peer support is great, I love it, it helped me through some very rough times. There are times though, when trying to find your way, even with a supportive and loving community, that more help is needed.
Meet Lisa Tuttle, PhD and Melissa Kelleher, LCSW. Two mental health professionals with decades in the field of infertility. They are compassionate and knowledgable and can help you find your way even when that may seem impossible.
Please don't worry if your partner will not agree to go see either Lisa or Melissa. Go yourself. That may seem besides the point if there is a problem agreeing on fertility treatment options. If your partner isn't comfortable going, accept that and go yourself. What you learn, the relief that you will find will soothe and comfort you.
Lisa Tuttle, PhD
It may even allow you to reach out to your partner in a way that will eventually help him/her into Lisa's or Melissa's office.
Even if it doesn't, you will feel better. You will be able to see more clearly. You will discover that there are ways for you to make your way through fertility treatment and not feel like you're disappearing.
Melissa Kelleher, LCSW
What You Deserve: A Rare Guarantee
You deserve this. I don't make many guarantees on this blog. In almost four years of writing PathtoFertility, I've made very few promises. I'm ready to make this one.
You deserve to feel better, to feel supported, to know that what you're going through is normal and even expected. This, I guarantee.
I also guarantee that seeing Lisa or Melissa can help get you to a healthier and saner feeling place.
Consider it if you are in pain. You can find your way out.
You just need a little help.
Lisa Rosenthal's Google+
Top 40 Fertile Words for Positive Affirmations
Yesterday I wrote a list of words that I find hurtful and painful when talking about infertility; today I share a list that I love when it comes to infertility. Today is October 2, 2013. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, whenever you read this, whatever your challenge is, I offer you this; I will be choosing three of these words a day and creating positive affirmations around them.
So whether you are down the block from my house in Connecticut, or in Texas or Montana or Portugal or China, you can do this. And whether your challenge is infertility or cancer or neurofibromatosis, you can do this. And even or maybe especially, when you know that it will not help or be effective, because you really and truly feel that bad, you can do this.
It costs nothing. You don’t need special gear or clothes. You don’t need to get up from where you’re sitting or spend more than a few minutes on it. You can do this and it will only take a few minutes of your day.
I chose 40 fertile words although I could have gone on and on. I chose 40 because it’s the number that often triggers us when it comes to fertility treatment. Here in CT, it’s the cut off on age that the state mandate covers. It’s often the number where pregnancy rates precipitously drop. Where hope is lost at a dizzying speed.
Daily Affirmations to Begin
A few examples of daily affirmations below, using three of the words on our list.
- My desire is to confidently appreciate my present moment
- I dwell in thankfulness and eagerly find gratitude throughout my day
- I embrace my dreams and will transform to see the different paths that lead me to them
Lisa Rosenthal's Google+
A Pause for Remembrance
And in peace.
A reminder this morning that I received.
We are not alone in our suffering and loss. And we are not alone in our ability to heal and find comfort from our pain.
We hold our hearts in our hands and offer it to those who need it most. We give freely to those weeping. For whatever their reasons. Today, of all days, we remember that we are all human beings and offer ways of listening to one another so that we feel heard. And so that we feel comforted by being heard.
We feel our tragedies. Personal, local, national and international. We shed tears for our own losses around our fertility and we feel the pain echoing throughout the world for the loss of peace and serenity.
We feel the violence and prejudice and somehow, through our fear and self absorption, we find the courage to speak up against it. And when we do not, we dig deeper and find it within ourselves to find our voices the next time. For it seems, there will be a next time. Our voices count when it matters most; when someone is in pain or being oppressed or is resorting to violence. Our voices matter, individually and collectively.
We remember in love and in peace, those who are hurting enough to do violence and those affected most by it.
We remember in love and in peace, our own pain and we breathe and we find a way to stay present and compassionate to others.
We remember in love and in peace that all living beings have a right to live and love and be heard.
This morning, I feel our pain. And our hope. And our love. And our compassion and strength.
Today, I remember in love and in peace.
At 8:46 am, please spend a minute of quiet to remember. Lovingly and with peace in our hearts.
Lisa Rosenthal's Google+
"You should sit in meditation 20 minutes every day -
unless you're too busy;
then you should sit for an hour."
- Zen Adage
I love that saying. I know that many of us get overwhelmed by the short sound bytes of pithy, ironic sayings. The one above sticks for me though. It's a reminder about what's important. What I make time for and what I don't.
The first thing I let go from my schedule when I'm overbooked is quiet, down time. Time for myself, that's the first thing that goes.
After all, I still have to work, cook, clean, take care of all my work obligations. The first obligation that I skimp on or put aside is the one to myself.
It so happens that I do meditate every morning. Maybe you do, maybe you don't. Maybe your meditation is your coffee, uninterrupted. Maybe it's the walk that you do, when you have time for it. Or the gym. Or the time for reading. Or speaking to your closest friends. Or simply having enough time between things to do that you don't have to rush.
"I don't have time" is a common refrain amongst people today.
The biggest thief of my time? Myself.
I overbook, I underestimate what's needed to hold my center strong and healthy. Then I wonder why I feel frantic and unsatisified. Not such a mystery, really.
I assume that I can go from one thing to another, to another to another.
What a blessing in my life that there are so many wonderful, interesting things in my life that I want to try to fit in. That I love my job(s), that I have interests that are sustaining and fulfilling.
Still, too much is simply too much.
After a lovely walk with a thoughtful friend, I have given myself a thirty-day challenge.
Every morning for thirty days, I look at my schedule for the day and take at least one thing out of it. At least one thing. And then make sure I don't add anything else to the day.
It has helped.
Sometimes I take out things that I would really enjoy doing.
Still, too much is too much.
Rushing like a madwoman from one thing to another never allows me to arrive in a calm state of mind, available and present for the moment.
So, I'm not. At least for thirty days, I'm actively reducing the amount of "things" I do in a day.
Which makes more time for me. To sit and read. To meditate. To drink a cup of tea, not running out the door at the same time.
My choice is to slow down. Do things with more respect. Treat time as if it's on my side instead of something to race against.
Let me know how you would spend your time if you had more of it. Then consider making a change on a daily basis to create it for yourself.
Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss
Miscarriage, losing a wanted pregnancy, no matter how early, is a loss.
Whether you are five weeks, five months or five minutes, when a pregnancy ends before a baby arrives, it hurts.
It hurts terribly.
And hearing well meant comments that hurt even more can make any one of us shrink back into ourselves.
We know we may get pregnant again and have a baby.
That doesn't make this loss less painful or sad.
We know that the pregnancy may never have had a chance of surviving to become a healthy child.
That doesn't make having our pregnancy end feel any better.
We have our own beliefs about God and/or a higher power that may be shaken to it's very core or strengthened beyond what we could ever have believed. And with all due respect, those are our beliefs.
The Right to Grieve, The Right to Recover
No matter what anyone tells you, you have the right to grieve a pregnancy loss--however you may need to.
It may be a ritual. A letter written to your unborn child. It may be that you plant something. It may be that you start a scholarship fund.
It may be that you cry for a long time or frequently.
Let yourself grieve. Find loved ones that can help. Find a mental health professional, like RMACT's clinical psychologist Lisa Tuttle, PhD, that can help support you through your grief.
Please let us know what we can do to support you.
We are here.
A lovely woman, full of pain, asked me to write a blog about being positive while struggling with infertility and loss.
I've been struggling with what to say.
Her precise challenge is that after several losses, she is looking to find a balance between having positive feelings and staying too hopeful and then having her feelings crushed again by a disappointment.
I know I can start here.
This is about balance.
Here are several definitions that I think are meaningful in an almost gut wrenching way, according to thefreedictionary:
1. A weighing device, especially one consisting of a rigid beam horizontally suspended by a low-friction support at its center, with identical weighing pans hung at either end, one of which holds an unknown weight while the effective weight in the other is increased by known amounts until the beam is level and motionless.
2. A state of equilibrium or parity characterized by cancellation of all forces by equal opposing forces.
3. The power or means to decide
4. An influence or force tending to produce equilibrium; counterpoise.
5. Something that is left over; a remainder.
One of the synonyms used was proportion.
There were several more definitions, but these created a whole picture in my mind's eye. The first, 1, being so very physical and literal.
I taught a yoga workshop last night, where the entire focus was on balance. There were demonostrations on what happens to the physical body when we stand or walk, off balance. If we are walking skewed in one direction or another, the other side of our body compensates. We are shaping our bodies into uncomfortable and unatural states.
That's purely the physical.
Consider though, how it relates to the emotional and the spiritual, those other places where hope lives and breathes, and where we can get skewed as well.
As the body moves lopsided, so can the emotional and spiritual. We lean further and further away from pain, which is why we are lopsided most often.
We are lopsided, off balance, most often, when we are in pain. We move away from pain.
Because it hurts.
How do we find balance?
Look at the second, third and fourth definitions.
We bring the physical body back into balance by acknolwedging pain and allowing for it and working towards re-alignment of muscles, tendons, fascia, and the skeletal system. We don't ignore pain, it's our body's way of sharing information with us. We pay attention to pain and adjust, not to avoid, but to heal.
We bring the physical, emotional and spiritual bodies back to balance by using opposing forces. Lean too far to the left, physically, come back to balance by leaning to the right.
There is no but.
Some things are simple enough.
With each breath we take, we move. We unbalance, rebalance, unbalance again. The earth actually is moving, below and with us. We balance, again, and again and again.
When we hold rigidly to a place that feels balanced, we lose our balance completely. It's like trying to hold onto the past, present and future, instead of accepting the fluidity of time.
The third and fifth definition may apply best here. The power or means to decide.
We decide in each moment, just how much hope we have. We decide in them moment, in the present, what we are able to handle.
The key to that is coming into the next moment as fresh as possible, as available as possible to feeling something different.
Sometimes, it's all about definition five. Something that is left over, a remainder.
Our hearts and spirits are resilient. We hurt, we hope, we hurt again, we hope again.
It's in line with how our physical bodies function. Our breath and our hearts work that way. Breath flows in and then flows out. Our hearts beat and then beat again.
We hope and we breathe and we hurt and we try and we hope again.