When you've lived on IF Island for so long, you start to notice some of the things that once seemed like a big deal are kind of normal now. Having to get daily injections, talking about donor eggs at the dinner table, and having to plan life around medical appointments and procedures are all par for the course now. Another thing I've noticed is that I have a new, fairly high, baseline of anxiety, that is becoming almost normal.
I started this madness as a fairly anxious person, so add YEARS of infertility treatments, zero success, and lots of questions and "what-ifs" looming on the horizon and it's no wonder I wake up on Monday mornings feeling like I'm choking. I woke up today and asked myself, "Is this really my new normal?" Then I forced an audible exhale. And another. Then one more.
When you have no real answers as to why you're in the situation you're in and you have no guarantees about where you're going, it's hard to help feeling...uneasy. Few people are comfortable with uncertainty. Few people have the emotional, physical, and financial resources to say, "I'm just going to do IVF until I get a baby." And even for those people, there still is no guarantee. IF Island is an anxiety provoking place, so it is somewhat "normal" to be feeling anxious. But it isn't fun, and it doesn't help improve any outcomes, so what can we do to calm a racing mind and a jittery tummy?
I wish I had a magic answer. I wish I could just sprinkle fairy dust over all of us who lay awake at night wondering if we are doing the right thing and making the right choice. I wish I could wave a wand over all of us who feel sick to our stomachs thinking about whether or not the next ART procedure is going to work. I really wish I could. But I can't.
What I can share are the few things that sometimes help me calm an anxious mind and a terrified heart.
1) Breathe. My anxiety gets physical, so the first thing I do is drop into child's pose and take deep inhales into my back. Being in a forward-fold is supposed to be calming, and with my forehead on the floor I just breathe and imagine all my worries dumping out of my forehead and onto the floor. Worrying about it isn't going to change the situation, I know that. But my body doesn't always. My body reacts as if I'm being chased by a lion. So I have to get into my body and try to convince it that I'm safe. I also have to convince my brain that I'm safe, which brings me to the next thing.
2) Change my thoughts. Sure, easier said than done. But when I start freaking out that this embryo might not work, I remind myself that whatever is going to happen is going to happen, and I'll deal with with, just like I've dealt with everything else. It may not work, that's true. But telling myself I will eventually have a baby is much better than thinking about all the reasons why the next procedure might not work. Repeating to myself that this will not last forever, and reminding myself that babies exist and I can get one one day helps me remember the bigger picture.
3) Don't overwhelm myself. I have to remember not to write out a list of insane to-dos and not to get caught in a cyber sink-hole trying to find the perfect donor or researching side effects of specific meds. I've done both of those things. Multiple times. They don't make the situation better. If you can't help it, then try to allot a specific amount of time to these activities and then quickly move on.
I have to acknowledge that I'm more anxious than usual, because what goes on in the world of infertility is extremely anxiety provoking. With the recognition of increased anxiety comes the promise to take care of myself. To sit in a hot bath, to drink calming teas, to meditate and read funny books, to get more sleep and to rub lavender oil on my wrists and take ten deep inhales whenever I'm feeling stressed out. We all have to take care of ourselves more. We have to remember that while an increased state of anxiety is normal, it doesn't have to completely be our new normal.