Therapy.. and why I’m done

Throughout our IUI/IVF TTC/Fertility journey, we (in particular, me) were encouraged several times – well meaningly – by some of our lovely nurses to see the therapist. And every time I refused. I just do not see the point.

Yes, I was often a crying mess. Frankly, I’m not sure I know many couples where at least one of them is not a crying mess to have gone through/be going through the hell that is infertility. But;

No therapist in the world was going to make me pregnant.

No therapist in the world is going to change my mindset. In my opinion, therapists help but no one can change you.

At the points in which I underwent counselling, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and CAT (Cognitive Analytical Therapy), I was just learning to talk about these things. These feelings and emotions and behaviours that had essentially been locked up for most of my life – ALL of my adult life! I had bottled them all up for so long that they caused huge breakdowns in me, and so talking to a therapist felt like the only option. At that point I couldn’t have discussed some of those things with anyone, and the leading questions you are offered from a mental-health trained therapist to get you talking are next to nothing expert level! At that point in my life, that’s what I needed. But now I’ve learnt to talk, and write openly. To not be ashamed or scared of what my mind is telling me. It’s still not always easy but I can discuss things far easier now with those around me, than ever before. But often because, everything I’ve been through is quite open, so everyone knows. Everyone else is now almost-expert at leading questions/being open and accepting of discussing subjects that may not have been discussed before! I’m definitely a pretty open book now – nothing is off limits for discussion here!

Don’t get me wrong, my therapists were great. And some time in the future I may need therapy again. But I’m quite picky about what I need from a therapist and wouldn’t just stick with anyone if it wasn’t right for me. But right now, I’m back to Karen. I’m pretty good at talking to anyone and everyone about anything and everything, so therapy is just not needed here. The question of “will our baby have a severely mentally ill mum?” Has crossed my mind. But for now, I’m good. I’m not worried about post-natal depression, but I know if it happens that support is out there.

A favourite extract from Matt Haig’s “How to Stop Time”. ❤️

Advertisements

Cut the crap! 💩

Whenever I see or hear something sad about dogs/animals I have to scoop my fur baby up for a big cuddle. This is what happened yesterday. Cellulite and all.

Reason for this post though (the cellulite kind of plays a part here), is because I have just overheard a young girl/teenager on the phone talking about some “miracle cream” – someone had a baby 2 weeks ago and she’s used the cream non-stop since and her stretch marks are “almost gone”. If the girl had hung up I 100% would have turned around to her and told her the truth.

OH MY GOSH I am so fed up with products being marketed like this. That is WHAT WOULD HAPPEN NATURALLY OVER TIME ANYWAY 🤦🏽‍♀️ once you’ve got stretch marks – they ain’t going anywhere (ok maybe they will with some laser surgery or something) – a cream is NOT gonna make them just disappear. Stretch marks stretch and fade over time. As your belly returns to its non-stretched state over time, the stretch marks will reduce and fade. I know this, because not only have I had them on my thighs since puberty, but I’ve been there with every stupid diet pill and miracle cream there is for cellulite/stretch marks (I never even had cellulite until I was pregnant. My dysmorphic brain just thought I did.) I won’t lie – I hate them, but they’re part of life. I moisturise a fair bit anyway, and when my thighs are slimmer [through running] they are fainter. To be fair, they’re quite faint now (considering how slim my thighs ARE NOT 🤣). I am moisturising like a crazy person whilst pregnant in a bid to not gain any more – but if it happens, it happens. They’ll be a mark of what my body has grown. I’ll probably still hate them, but at least I got the chance to finally be pregnant and carry our child: something I never thought would happen. I honestly don’t seem much difference in creams being marketed as a miracle cure for stretch marks much difference to that of bloody Kim KW and her stupid appetite suppressant lollipops.

It. Is. All. Bullshit.

Moisturise, exercise, eat a healthy, balanced diet. Get outside and [safely] enjoy the sun. Don’t waste your hard earned cash on miracle BS.

Love x

We are all so similar!

Having one of those rare body confidence/empowerment moments on the beach today.

There is a couple – foreign – who both look pretty good; slim, tanned and toned. Probably both around the same age as James and I.

I’m going to focus though, on the woman. As we women do, I’ve noticed her all week. Her body is what I would deem perfect. She is perfectly slim and toned – no “extra” fat. Her boobs (probably fake!?! I don’t think boobs are that perky unless well supported/huge and full of milk?!) are perky (although, they aren’t huge, so maybe she just has great bikini support). Her stomach is flat. She has a thigh gap (my fav, especially now that my thighs are gigantenormous!!) and generally, all round, just looks great. I don’t think anyone could deny that. Do not get me wrong – I am writing this from a point of positivity, and in no way trying to “shame” her – I think, what I am about to say, is brilliant, and a reminder that you can’t judge a book by its cover!

I just walked right next to her though, as I popped to the loo. She’s lying face down on her sun lounger sunbathing.

She has stretch marks on her perfect-shaped bum.

We are all similar!

Food/Eating Disorders/Pregnancy Cravings – we each know our own bodies better.

I was riled, a few months ago, watching a couple of programmes regarding eating disorders – something I always watch if I know it’s on, because I am simply fascinated, still. The first, was the “Wasting Away: The Truth About Anorexia.” And another with Louis Theroux. I remember, whilst watching, that both James and I were gobsmacked – and I have, from experience, a lot more understanding and knowledge of Anorexia.

What I will say from the offset, is that anyone that can be considered a role model should think very carefully about what they are saying/posting, although I believe if you are going to suffer with an eating disorder (or any other mental health issue), you will probably do so regardless of what you see/hear etc. I think you are pre-disposed within your genetic makeup in the same way some people get Cancer, and others don’t. However, I don’t believe the likes of Kim Kardashian (pains me to even write her name in one of my blogs 😫!) and the idiotic things she – or other similar individuals – say/do/post are going to cause eating disorders in young men/women, but I do think at times they are selling utter shite. If you are hungry, food or drink (not booze people🥂🍾!) will suppress your appetite, not a lollipop 🍭, ladies and gentlemen. In fact, I am currently eating a Chupa-Chups lollipop and am quite sure that once I’ve finished it, my appetite will no longer be suppressed and I’ll simply move onto another snack..

I seem to have this inbuilt part of me that has this need/want to help and support others, hence why I continue to write this blog.

Mark Austin and his daughter Maddy gave an incredibly open, and honest account of life with anorexia (Wasting Away: The Truth About Anorexia). Everything they both said is the exact kind of situation that happens with mental health illness and destroying families. The exact same happened in mine: anorexia isolates you, it makes you cunning and kuniving and it destroys relationships. Parents – or those that have no chance to understand – are angry, frustrated, exasperated. I hope history doesn’t repeat itself, and when I first started writing this – I was also still hoping anorexia hadn’t entirely destroyed my ability to have an embryo/blastocyst implant and carry a healthy pregnancy/birth/child. Thankfully, I have made it 25 weeks in and everything is healthy so far.

But it still hasn’t been easy. Whilst I am beyond in love with the ever-growing bump attached to the front of me, I am not thrilled with how I currently look overall. I stopped running in order to conceive – and anxiety meant I didn’t try again until we were 13 weeks, by which point, all fitness was lost and I was not in a position to push myself for fear of hurting our much-longed-for, unborn baby. Whilst I don’t doubt from other people’s comments that I perhaps still see myself as larger than I actually am (although believe me, I am heavy now!) my thighs, therefore {to me} are enormous. I have craved, and thus eaten non-stop carbs for the past 25 weeks; foods which I would normally reserve for never due to their ability to make me gain weight just thinking about them. I still live with mental health issues that I fight against daily, that no one can ever fully understand, and thus no one can ever fully have an input – especially if it is unasked for – thank you very much!

Recently, I’ve found people telling me what I should and shouldn’t be eating. People that will never be pregnant are included in this (aka men, or those older who have never wanted children) and I spent a drive home from an anxious hospital appointment a few weeks ago in tears, fuming and thinking about it, and the things I’ve done to my body over the years:

When I was 16, upon waking and realising no-one else was home, I leapt out of bed and ran through to my parents ensuite to weigh myself and see if the scales were acceptable to me yet.

I knocked myself out on a door frame/TV cabinet on the way through because I was so dizzy and fainting. In the 5 days prior to that morning, I had eaten just one apple. Nothing suppressed my appetite, I tried everything to be constantly thinner, and as a result of hunger, passed out.

In 2015, over ten years later, aged 26/27 I spent a month barely eating, and sneaking off to throw up everything I did consume. I taunted and teased myself by joining in with others and accepting free hot chocolate the work canteen was offering at the time – throwing it all up as soon as it was finished. Months later at 27/28 I struggled to push myself – desperately – through a 5 mile run because all I’d allowed myself for three days prior was “juice diet”. “Healthy” green liquid or water only. Less than a mile in I could feel my kidneys in pain, my muscles physically unable to run through a full 5 miles from lack of fuel. And yet mentally, I was livid with myself still. Angry at my body at having to run-walk-run as someone who knew they could usually run for miles on end and love it. You cannot function on nothing. Food, is fuel.

I remember lying to my friends that I’d already had dinner/was eating dinner at home later. Lying to my parents that I’d eaten out with my friends. I remember trying to throw up the smallest bit of cheese I’d sucumbed (BECAUSE SUPPRESSING YOUR APPETITE DOESN’T EXIST!!) to eating off my friends pizza, in the Pizza Hut toilets aged 15. I remember flushing food down the toilet or chucking it in the bin whilst exercising for a minimum of an hour every single day. I remember asking my parents for school dinner money rather than food so that at least I wouldn’t waste the food; because, whilst adamant I didn’t deserve food, I still felt a resounding guilt that I was simply throwing food away when there were – are – thousands of starving people in the world. I remember that I wasn’t kidding anyone. I remember it all too well, for someone who’s memory is largely shot to pieces. How can you forget such hideous self punishment?

Having been diagnosed “Anxiety with depression” aged 26, in 2015, I also honestly believe anorexia/eating disorders are a side effect, a symptom, a coping mechanism for wider issues. When I had my first mental health breakdown in March 2015 I had spent the previous 6+ weeks over exercising, marginally under eating and regularly throwing up everything I did eat. It was something I could control. It was a coping mechanism to deal with my heightened anxiety, my low self confidence and self esteem, it was an outlet, but it kills.

So what I don’t understand now, is how anyone thinks they have the right to tell someone – anyone – let alone someone who has been through what I have – what they should and shouldn’t be eating, when they’ve not asked, but particularly through pregnancy. I believe after all these years I am more than aware of what I should/should not eat in order to achieve weight gain/loss. I also instinctively believe I (we: baby and I!) will crave what we need. This pregnancy, that has NOT been salad. And I do love me a good salad. Maybe, if I’m lucky enough for a future pregnancy(/pregnancies?!) perhaps salad will be craved.

Yes – I am eating a lot of (ok ONLY!) carbs. Just because that isn’t considered an “odd” craving to many doesn’t mean it isn’t a craving, and is just an “excuse” to eat them. I have never eaten carbs like this before – I used to avoid them like the plague. I have never wanted or apparently needed carbs like this before. I can’t remember the last time I allowed myself a jacket potato (rather than sweet potato), or white pasta (rather than spelt). Crisps used to make me feel uncomfortably bloated and thus I would still avoid them even at parties when they were laid out as nibbles. The last time I actually ATE a regular breakfast, rather than drinking a protein shake, or smoothie only, (and after running 3/5/7 miles), I was about 10 years old.

So yes, it’s a lot of carbs. Yes, I’ve gained a lot of weight, no, I am not thrilled about it: in fact if I could take scissors to my thighs to cut off the extra chub, I would. But I don’t think I am massively complaining about it – yes I’m calling myself “fat”, a “beached whale”; that’s how I feel right now, but I say it in jest! I am not going to do anything about it whilst I am carrying our miracle baby. I am not entirely stupid – enough so to think for a second all of this weight will just “fall off” the second the baby pops out. I will have to work at it, hard – but does anyone honestly think this is something I’m not prepared to do? Someone who, when working full time would get up at 5/5.30/6am to run, and spent most days ensuring she exercised twice? Someone who is known to have got up during worst bouts of insomnia and run for 5+ miles at 1am?? I am not prepared to risk something we have wanted, and tried for, for so long. I tried to run to keep off some weight, but it’s not for me – not this time, this pregnancy anyway; it’s too late, too hard and therefore too much of a worry to me to keep trying until the baby has arrived. I have never craved, or eaten, carbs like I am doing now, and so, I believe there must be a reason for this, and for once in my life, I am not going to deny what my body – our baby – is asking for.

I have said time and time again that unless you have physically experienced a mental health issue, you will never fully understand – no matter how much training you have had. I had two incredible (NHS) therapists providing me CBT and CAT over the last few years but for both of them I always felt (particularly the first) that you just don’t really get it until you’ve had it – and I wouldn’t wish anyone to have mental health illness. We all have mental health – some of us are just lucky enough not to have mental health illness.

HOW is it, that 23 years ago – yes, you read that right, TWENTY THREE – the incredible Princess Diana opened up and spoke about her mental health – her eating disorder, and yet here we still are in 2018 with still so much stigma, a distinct lack of understanding, and with idiotic products on the market promising suppressed appetites and “miracle” weight loss to those vulnerable and desperate enough to believe them?

Bigger arms, bigger thighs, bigger bum and bigger boobs. But a beautiful, beautiful, healthy baby bump. Oh, and my “appetite suppressant” lollipop.. which as it happens I’ve just finished… time for crisps!

ALSO:

  • Rufus
  • My husband
  • My health
  • My friends and family

xxx

EDIT – to add the below screen grabs that I’ve had saved on my phone since forever, because they make such valid points! Thanks to AliceLiveing for the words!

Thank you, BCRM x

We will never be able to thank the amazing team at BCRM enough for what they have achieved for us. If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be pregnant with what felt like the impossible – our first little miracle IVF baby – and we wouldn’t have four potential siblings frozen for future.

But sure – any fertility clinic can likely get you pregnant and achieve the seemingly impossible, right?

I actually only chose Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine over slightly-closer-to-us Exeter Fertility, because my best friend and godchildren live in Bristol; so I figured after any major stress or upset I could nip in on them and have a hug and make it all better…

Except that was never the case, because the team at BCRM really, genuinely care for you. Yes, there is a therapist available for [mental health] support – let’s face it, battling infertility isn’t easy – but, stubborn old me was done with talking to therapists. However, I never needed to see her anyway, because they take the time to find out about you, care for you, and if you need a hug, they’ll give you one. And in my simple opinion – a hug fixes everything! The nurses and HCA’s there are some of my favourite people on Earth now.. I hope they never change and the team stays the same forevermore…! They’ve got tonnes of patients to see but they won’t let you out that door if they feel like something is up with you – they’ll coax it out and you’ll feel better for it…

I am so glad we were squeezed in before the NHS funding was removed from BCRM, as I really didn’t want to move clinics and have a potentially less supportive team!

Extra special thanks to Jane our “named nurse”, Carrie who impregnated us (😂) Anne, Lydia, Jackie and Sue.

All the flowers, cake and words in the world will never be enough, but thank you BCRM, and I hope that you do all know – really know – how amazing you all are xx

I.V.F

Quickly – I think I have done this before; but a quick reminder of the differences between IUI and IVF.

IUI – Intra-Uterine Insemination

With IUI, the women stimulates her ovaries (in my case I injected Gonal-F) to grow follicles (sacs which contain the eggs). Ideally no more than 3 follicles will be stimulated, or treatment will be cancelled and re-attempted the following cycle. This is because if 3 eggs mature and ovulate, and then all 3 fertilise and implant, you have yourself some non-identical triplets… If any (or all!) of those fertilised eggs then split… you got yourself a lot of babies and a potentially high risk and dangerous pregnancy for Mum and babes. A split egg (identical multiples) can happen to anyone, any pregnancy, whereas non-identical multiples are likely to be either a result of fertility treatment, or is something which genetically runs through the female side of a family. Once follicles are stimulated to the right size, a trigger is done to conduct ovulation, at which point you will then be invited back to be “inseminated” with sperm directly into your womb. The idea being the sperm will meet the egg(s) almost immediately in the womb, ready to fertilise and implant. I believe the success rates are around 16-21%. It obviously didn’t work for us, however I do follow a lady on twitter who it has worked for – so some faith is restored! IUI – I believe – is not used for couples where the “problem” is Male Factor Infertility (MFI), as its likely then that sperm have poor mobility and still won’t fertilise an egg.

IVF – In-Vitro Fertilisation

IVF is different in that, in a way, you are stimulating your ovaries with the intent to make them produce as many eggs as possible… within reason..! For us, I wanted a lot so we didn’t have to go through the stimulation part again, yet too many means discomfort, pain, potentially dangerous {OHSS} and may also mean you cannot proceed with a fresh transfer… for those going through the painstaking hell of infertility – any delay is bad! At school you are constantly told if you have sex you’ll get pregnant – & I’d have been in major trouble with my parents as a teen mum (not that I would have wanted to have potentially had children with different Fathers!). However, I have been with now husband 10 years, I wish I’d known contraception was a waste of time – I might then of been a mum already 😰 but I guess everything happens for a reason..!

After completely shutting down ( including inducing a fake menopause!) and having the IVF “take control” of your cycle, you once again stimulate your ovaries (in my case I used Menopur) and are again monitored for quantity and growth, before moving onto Egg Collection. After egg collection your eggs are then fertilised in a dish (!) and watched daily for development. Just a little side note here – if your infertility stems from MFI, then your eggs will probably be fertilised using ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) where basically the sperm is injected into the egg directly, rather than them meeting together in the dish and fertilising on their own. This wasn’t used for us, as we all know my husband is Mr. Perfect and has such top quality sperm seemingly everyone loves it!! Either way, the best sperm are selected to either be injected or placed in the dish with your eggs. From what I have seen, some people have a 3 day embryo transfer, but the ideal stage is to develop your “babies” to blastocyst stage and have a 5 day blastocyst transfer. NOTE; not all collected eggs will fertilise/not all fertilised eggs will develop properly.  Now, if less than 20 eggs have been collected, and you’ve had any develop to the right stages, you will likely proceed with what is called a “Fresh” Transfer, within 5 days of egg collection. This happened for us. If more than 20 are collected, it is likely you will have a “freeze all” approach until the risks of OHSS have reduced….. I think that is enough for now.. If anyone has any questions though feel free to ask if you haven’t quite made it to the “experts” stage (by this I mean the actual trained infertility doctors/nurse/embryologists/HCA’s ETC!)…

Apparently I bruise easily!! Cannula bruise 6 days after it was removed!!

Firstly – obviously no one ever thinks the process of infertility and all that goes with it is going to be easy, I’m sure. But never for a second did even I think it was going to be this HARD. For someone that struggles severely with mental health issues I thought I could handle this a bit better after everything else, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The sheer anxiety is there every step of the way – they collected 15 eggs? Cool but what if none fertilise? 12 fertilised? Great! But what if none develop? 11 developed? So happy! But what if they don’t develop enough! We finished with an incredible 5 great quality blastocysts (so yes, I am *technically* a mum of 5..!) – the best of the best of which was transferred, the other 4 are frozen for future (hopefully siblings, not because we’ve failed) – but oh! It means nothing whatsoever if they don’t stick and become your healthy, happy baby! And what then if you miscarry? Or get further but then have a stillbirth? And what if, that tiny thought that you daren’t think about – but what if your baby survives everything – against seemingly all the odds – and makes it? Your dreams come true and then you keep worrying some more for the entirety of your life for every single step of the way!  I’ve been writing this blog as we’ve gone through the process, because as I said after our first IUI fail, I just couldn’t keep posting live information… despite the fact that if anyone asks me anything then I’ve provided full honest updates.. so basically all my friends and family knew exactly what is going on, when. I’m posting it now, because I do think it’s important to share. Not everyone feels they can be or even wants to be open about what they’re going through, for whatever reasons, and sometimes coming across someone else’s story can just… help… I found solace in interacting with strangers on twitter some days, and others with “old” friends who have been through IVF – “openly” (some friends I didn’t know about until they contacted me off the back of seeing one of my blogs..) or not.. IVF, infertility is NOT an easy process. It is long, and painful and hard to remain positive, and much like everything else in this world, unless you have physically experienced the heartache of something, you’ll never truly know how it feels.

15 soon became 12…

12 soon became 8…

And 8 soon ended up as 5 (hopefully dad doesn’t get eliminated too?! 😂)

It is quite a long blog, but then we were also undergoing “long process” IVF.. I hope you will stick with it and read it through…

I feel like I should add a caviat that I’m not sure my mental health was great.. November appears to be a notoriously bad month for me (3rd year running). I had not had a proper, decent, unbroken nights sleep since we had been on safari in SEPTEMBER, and even then, I didn’t get a long enough sleep. This is the longest in one go I think I have struggled with insomnia. A mix of being unable to fall asleep (in fact, the bulk beginnings of this blog, was started off the back of a 4 hour sleep night, I was exhausted but couldn’t stop writing down all the thoughts in my head – because if I didn’t, I wasn’t sleeping..!), or having entirely insane dreams/nightmares meant I was waking multiple times throughout the night. Or some nights, I’d have the joy of experiencing both in one night. Sleeping tablets don’t always work – in me if I start taking them too regularly then they stop working, so I tried to only take them on nights when I really needed to be “on form” the next day. Fortunately, as I don’t work, that wasn’t often.. at best, the ones I have only seem to knock me out for 5/6 hours at a time. Some people survive off that, but I can’t.. particularly within a long period of time of a mass lack of sleep. I was consistently exhausted and feeling run down, but I do think the medication heightened all that.

I also was convinced that it wasn’t going to work. Despite one lovely dream that I was pregnant – on the same night my best friend had the same dream – with 3(!!), healthy babies, I just could not see myself getting a positive result. I couldn’t imagine being happy or celebrating because I honestly believe it isn’t going to work – after all, the ovulation induction/IUI didn’t..

After a slight hiccup with our hospital, (as we needed to start treatment the NHS funding was removed from BCRM and in true lack of consistency in care, it looked like we were going to be transferred out elsewhere… but, very gratefully, it was sorted by one of THE BEST nurses on earth which relieved a lot of extra stress and anxiety) we were slotted in and began our IVF treatment. I started with Norithisterone tablets on day 19 of my cycle to induce a period. On day 21 I started the Buserelin nasal spray. I’d heard from others, and our nurse did state that it really affects your mood in the second week.. she did mention that as my mental health is such a disaster (NOT in those words!!) that perhaps it would have the opposite affect and make me happier… safe to say that DID NOT happen, and bang on time (although I only noticed in hindsight a day later), I became extra crazy. Easily irritable, emotional about being emotional, in tears for no reason… followed by two days where I was high as a kite, before going back to easily irritable. Up and down up and down.. not entirely dissimilar to my mood on the norm but it did feel faster and more rapid in its changes.. having said that, in an attempt to start weaning myself off citalopram at the same time, I completely lost track of when I had and hadn’t taken it and ended up doing 5 days without. I may only be on a mild dose, but I do feel me missing it so drastically all of a sudden (I had been generally managing to take it every other day, and was easing into every third) made me extra insane in my irritability..

Team IVF Stronger Together 💕

Then I started Menopur. I have only ever heard or read bad things about Menopur, and that, coupled with it feeling like absolutely ages since I had last injected myself (negative IUI was early September, started injecting Menopur late November) left me super anxious and dreading it. I had heard it bloated you, was painful and burned when you injected and left small bruises all over your tummy at the injection sight, but I was lucky to have no bruising or bloating (in fact, I actually felt like my stomach was slimmer and flatter, which for someone who constantly feels fat is saying something!). Our lovely nurse had made it look super easy in our personal planning meeting to open the glass vial of liquid, but we seemed to struggle every night. For the first three nights we shattered the lid into the liquid which only added to my anxiety of potentially a tiny bit of glass also being sucked up into the syringe and then injected into me (yes, I am that paranoid/mental/anxious to essentially imagine absurd scenarios). On the fourth night, I managed to get the lid clean off after much force… only to shred 3.5 of my fingers on my left hand when the force of my right arm pushed the raw glass edge of the lid right across them.. it wasn’t pretty, and was very painful.. and meant the entire vial was wasted spilt all over myself..

However, as at day 5 of injecting, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I’d heard. I had no needle entry-site bruises on my tummy, and had found the injecting itself quite similar to Cetrotide or Gonal-f (but without it being a pre-filled pen). I felt a slight light burn at the injection site once the needle is pulled out and I start moving around, but it soon passes.

It’s hard to say what is what, especially as my mental health is quite erratic anyway, but I’d say I had only a few mild side effects. I noticed I had a light headache that wouldn’t properly shift and kept returning for a few days, and I felt like when I washed my hair a lot more was coming out than “normal”. At one point I felt like I had diahrrea – but again, is it the meds or did I just eat something funny? My head insists that I have an intolerance to some foods which make me feel uncomfortable, bloated and have diahrrea so who knows if it was just that?! I also noticed both arms felt like I had done some serious weightlifting (I really should!!) for a couple of days, which I later read aching muscles can be a side effect – but again, I’m unsure if that was from doing a bit of painting of a unit, or because I’d had blood taken from both arms after the first refused to give any out on my day 21 bloods, or if it was truly a side effect.. I did also notice I was having to “stretch” and contort my limbs/body a fair bit trying to get comfy in bed, and I found myself with a fair few bruises on my thighs and no clue where they’ve come from (which isn’t unlike me to forget but there seemed to be a lot?!)

The last, but biggest side effect is the additional knock on to my mental health. I have read somewhere before that those with anxiety and depression have a tendency to really feel – more so than those that don’t suffer, and I’d say that was entirely true for me. The simplest of things can overwhelm me and have me in tears – tiny bits of kindness from strangers (I recall an incident when I was signed off sick when still working where a couple gave me the extra 25p I needed to park to walk Rufus, and it both sliced through me and made my day). On the flip side something – that I even acknowledge as being fickle – as an unfollow or unfriend from someone I considered a friend or just generally felt a connection with, also hit me hard – harder I would say, whilst on the meds. There were days when age-old suicidal thoughts returned, alongside some self harm, and I questioned if I even wanted to bring a child into this hideous world with an absolutely insane mother who frequently, literally lost the will to live.. I finally recognised that the restriction and tightness in my chest I had noticed a couple of weeks previously, was indeed the return of panic attacks and nothing to do with my asthma.

I find myself quite often struggling to distinguish between dream and reality, but there seemed to be many more times whilst on meds that this seemed to be happening. With the buserelin nasal spray, you have to take it every four hours (twice at bedtime), one morning, 40 minutes after I *think* I took it, I had no recollection whatsoever if I had or hadn’t.. in part I blame the extra exhaustion. I figured it was better to potentially take too much and took the dose at 8.40, rather than have missed that dosage entirely..

It is safe to say the meds made me crazy. Crazier. I lay awake one night unable to sleep thinking about everything and nothing, in tears, then not in tears, feeling fat and disgusting and telling myself I was not to eat any longer, to find my mind telling me I needed to run. At midnight, after I’d taken a sleeping tablet [which failed to work]. It had been a long time since I felt the need to run like that, at that time of the night/early morning.. nevertheless, by 1am I gave up and found myself outside in the pitch dark of the night, under clear skies and not quite feeling as cold as the 6 degrees it was, running 5 miles. It was so peaceful, so oddly calming and beautiful, that eventually it cleared my head, and I found myself back home at 2am stripping my running gear off, throwing my pjs back on, and falling straight to sleep… I guess I need to listen more to what my body is telling me, because although I doubt anyone wants me running at that time of day, it worked. I’m 30 and I still can’t just trust myself.. I may have got an extra hours sleep if I’d just got up and gone at midnight rather than 1am!!

Everyone says to be kind to yourself, but no one thinks running is being kind to me and would rather I didn’t, but at the end of the day, you need to listen to your own body. Running when I needed to was – is – being kind to me. There is no evidence either way to say running is good or bad when trying to conceive, although I do agree too much (for me at least) isn’t conducive, and I had continually said I would stop in the two week wait (tww), but up until then if I needed to, I needed to. I think it is important to remember that being kind to yourself isn’t atypical and “same size fits all”, it isn’t just spa days and sleeping in and watching all the TV and films and eating everything and anything you fancy – being kind is listening to yourself and what you need. Sometimes I needed a lie in, sometimes I needed a (ok all!) the doughnuts, and sometimes I needed to run at 1am. Although, I will say that I didn’t realise *quite* how dangerous that could have been running with mild OHSS, AFTER egg collection – I stopped when I felt serious pain, but essentially ran right up to our transfer day…!

And what about James, I hear you ask?! I can’t even begin to describe how much of a rock he was throughout all of this.. give or take the odd fuck-up-morning alarm situations/inability to have a clue what was going on despite being at the same meetings as me (#men 🙄😂) – I am the “expert patient” after all…!! I know I am lucky to have him, and he is a true gent always, but throughout all of this he was incredible. He worked so hard to try and “keep the peace” – to keep me calm and sane. He cooked, he cleaned, he worked, he shopped. He was quite consistently in touch with me and checking in. He prepped meds or injected me when I couldn’t. He walked Rufus, and literally held my hand all the way, figuratively as well as literally. He made me laugh, and cracked me up with coining terms (alongside an IVF friend) like “Dildo Cam”/”Fanny Vision”/Uterus-tube/Womb-with-a-view for the transvaginal ultrasound you are subjected to as a woman throughout fertility treatment. I think this stolen image best sums up his part in it all (& quite literally how I am with him after!!) – seriously these illustrations are a perfect sum up of it all!

And so, we did indeed go through with a 5 day transfer with a top quality blastocyst…. there is another blog to come on the outcome (this one is already long enough!) but what I will say, is that, IVF, just like any other fertility treatment we have tried, I felt had failed straight away. As soon as I trigger ovulation my boobs get sore, literally straight away, like they do about 2 weeks before I have a period. The evening of our transfer I had some cramping, and the following day I had some huge cramping just trying to walk the dog and I was constantly light headed. About 4 days after transfer I awoke in the early hours to horrible agonising lightening bolt like cramps flashing across my tummy. Was this implantation cramping? I hadn’t expected as much pain for that – and who knows even now what it was!

Work

I was faced today, with a question I think about quite a lot. As usual, it (along with most subjects!!) peaked some emotion… and got me thinking. Got me thinking because the answer I gave, didn’t entirely match with the zillions of thoughts flying around in my head when asked the question (and still now, several hours and distractions later);

Do I miss work?

Yes, is the short answer. But I never do short answers, do I?! I think that would surprise some, given the black hole of a person that I was at the time I finally quit. Given the seemingly careless “life of Riley” I mostly get to lead now (☺️😉😂)!

Yes, I miss work. Despite the nightmares and agony, I was faced with for [almost] a year whilst in my final job pre “retirement”, I still miss it. I had multiple daily panic attacks, I couldn’t think, eat, exercise or function straight. I was constantly terrified, increasingly isolated and always self-punishing, one hideous way or another… one of the final straws saw me collapse – and I am forever grateful to the GP that essentially saved my life and got me out of there as early as he could…

But, I still miss work.

I miss the routine. I miss the fast pace where I seemingly (used to) function at my best (Ok, this came more with Primark than Clarks!!) and the fashion, the retail and the numbers, the analysing and the forecasting and the sense of achievement when you cracked it. I miss the conversations with like-minded adults (even if we ever have kids, I had hoped to return part time). I miss the banter that at one point I had with my colleagues; the brother/sisterly relationship I had with a previous line manager, and I miss that if I needed a hug, one desk away was a so-called “best friend”… I miss being the heart, life and soul of the team {that’s not me being big-headed – far from it, (I don’t have that kind of self-confidence or belief) I was actually told this by my boss… as an almost-but-not-quite 🙄-sandwich style “compliment”; that ended with essentially the statement that my mental health was also now ripping the entire team apart (yeah, I know.. he was never a great people person!). At 25, when I’d joined a team that had been in existence for who-knows-how long, I was the one that brought it together. And at 27/28 when I was crippled with anxiety and depression, I alone “ripped” it apart}.

I miss the confidence I had – the knowledge that I knew what I was doing and that I was good at it. I was once good at my job. I fell into my career knowing I’d love it – and I did. I miss that I was “sparkly” karen. I had independence, a decent salary and didn’t constantly rely heavily on my husband – for everything. For money, for the mortgage, some days just for a conversation, for help to answer questions because I can’t just be asked a straight question anymore without often looking to him when I answer, rather than looking the person who asked straight in the eye (including today’s question). I don’t trust myself still to get the words out that I mean [largely why I write this blog!] without jumbling them up and making little to no sense (which often happens; I confuse myself!) Don’t get me wrong – James doesn’t begrudge me a single thing, he never has and never would, he’s happy I’m happy, and alive, and almost ~ sometimes ~ back to normal.

I miss it – I often wonder, if I could turn back the clock, could I have changed things? Could I have fought harder, persevered? Continued to make myself more and more ill? After all – who knows if the infertility is something I was born with, or due to the 20 odd years of on/off ongoing anorexia, or, simply, due to that one nightmare year when I crumbled into barely even a shell of my former self? And the struggles I still face with that now.

I thought leaving was my choice, finally, after several months of encouragement from my husband, my family, friends, and even my GP, I thought I had finally made my mind up… but just over a year on, I looked back and realised I was bullied out; rumours rife about me started by the most-evil of line managers I was unfortunately dumped with at a critical time, meant no one talked to me. I drove in, alone, often having panic attacks and our-of-body experiences whilst driving, unable for weeks to even walk into the building without her (line manager) walking me. I did what I could manage to focus on, keeping quiet and hidden, and forgotten. And I drove home again, with more panic attacks ensuing. I couldn’t eat at work, I couldn’t/didn’t before work, and I ran through my lunch breaks as well as before/after work.

Could I have remained bleak, despondent and that ill – with the occasional “I like it when you laugh again” comment from my long-suffering husband, who tried so, so hard, and yet those comments were so, so rare, and incredibly devastating to hear – all he wanted – all we all wanted and needed – was the “old” karen back. The one who “shone” and sparkled and who was constantly organising fun and keeping busy. The one who never missed out on trying anything once, who lived hard, because life is all too short.

So yes. I miss work. And I guess I miss it more because it wasn’t, really, entirely my choice to leave. Yes, I was the one that quietly went in as late as possible one day to hand in my notice and accompanying sick note for the notice period (to minimise the amount of people that would be around), wordlessly emptying my draws of personal belongings two nights before, so no-one would know, or suspect or be around; but I was left with no choice – I didn’t have another job to move into, and I still can’t now imagine going through an interview process ever again. I can barely focus enough some days to watch a TV programme that I WANT to watch, or read a book, let alone seriously considering the further studying (in almost literally EVERYTHING) I’d love to do, because I don’t have the concentration span, memory or functionality anymore… my previous employer stripped me of that, and I can’t ever see myself getting it back.

I still miss work, but I also know how incredibly fortunate I am that I could leave – that financially we could remain stable and not *need* my income. There aren’t many people lucky enough to be in that situation, and who have to battle through – and I guess I’m sorry to my family that I didn’t take it up sooner, instead leaving them crushed and completely at a loss as to how to help. Not a day goes by where I don’t feel lazy. Particularly with all the fertility hell – I wonder what on earth I can possibly be here, on this earth for? I don’t work and I’m not a Mother..

Clarks stripped me of my confidence that even the mere thought of a job interview fills me with dread. In the midst of my second breakdown I was attending job interviews left, right and centre but absolutely making myself look like an idiot that had never done the job before – I struggled to understand or answer questions or even think straight. My concentration remains poor at times. My vocabulary regressed and I find myself convinced I am stupid on many days. But, there are glimmers – we’ve shedded the friends-who-aren’t-really-friends, made new ones, and we help and support each other as much as possible.. I never thought we’d see the “old karen” again, but occasionally, I realise.. she’s right here.

💛