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Monday, September 10, 2012

How to acquire emotional resiliency in order to cope with the IVF roller coaster ride?- Part II

You can read the first part here.

9)      Stay connected

Many people tend to do this mistake – they start shrinking within their shell because of infertility. They tend to avoid social gatherings. They even avoid meeting their close friends and relatives. This kind of social isolation can only do you more harm than good. While you believe that you are protecting yourself from emotional assaults, long term social isolation can cause chronic depression, increased stress levels and impaired decision making. Being isolated can give rise to a variety of negative emotions. All these can cause significant harm to your mental strength when undergoing IVF journey.

10)   Be kind to yourself!

Be empathetic, kind and compassionate to yourself! Infertility can make you feel worthless, defective, and unloved. There are women who lose all the interest in life’s day-to-day activities and brood on their misfortune. Actually, the common misconception is infertility medicines will make you to gain weight. But the truth is that the stress and depression you are going through causes you to eat more and exercise less and it is this which causes you to put on weight. Infertility is not your fault. An IVF failure is not your fault. Stop blaming yourself and start living! Cultivate healthy food habits. Turn to good books. Take care of your mind and body. Learn something new. Engage in something which will make you feel worthy and important. Only when you love yourself will you respect and nurture your mind and body, so that it is prepared for the struggles you may have to go through. When you are kind to yourself, you will feel physically and mentally strong. This will make you resilient enough to face the IVF journey.

11)   Be Philosophical

Being philosophical helps you to find positive meaning in life, even when faced with difficult or traumatic events. When you start to analyze and interpret the happenings in your life rationally, you will start to view things differently. You will develop resilience when you start thinking better. Remember, it’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. The way you think determines how you react to a situation!  This IVF journey has helped me to understand certain philosophies of life which I wouldn’t have learned in such a short time period, and at such a young age!

  •                I have learned that creating a life which is perfect in every way is not easy. I myself am a miracle and I should learn to appreciate and respect the life I was given and be grateful for my blessings!

  •                I have learned that being good doesn’t guarantee a struggle free life but good people learn to handle their struggles in a better way without becoming bitter!

  •              I have understood that even the most difficult times cannot take away the happiness from you unless you yourself decide to let it go!

  •                 I have learned that struggle is what makes you and keeps you human!

  •             I have learned that infertility doesn’t kill you; it only serves to make you stronger, if you don’t allow it to weaken you.

  •              I have learned that it is only the everyday small happinesses in life which matter - nothing else does!

  •            I have learned that a failure teaches you many more valuable lessons in life than success does.

  •  .            I have learned that if you enjoy the best times of your life, you are also bound to accept the hard times too!

Developing these positive philosophies in your mind despite your difficult situation will help you to be cool-headed. This in turn will help you to tackle the other hard times you are sure to encounter in your life! Treat your IVF journey as a learning experience, which will teach you to become a better human being!

12)   Turn to spirituality

Being spiritual helps us to accept life as it is. When you have faith in a higher power, you tend to let things happen, rather than strive futilely to make things happen. This removes the stress from your mind and you become more philosophical in your thoughts. You will realise that a lot of what happens in your life is not in your hands; and you learn to wait patiently, so that it will happen in its own time. When you stress yourself by assuming that the only acceptable outcome of an IVF cycle should be a baby, then you are prone to suffer if the cycle fails. Instead, if you believe that God will give you a baby when the time is ripe, you are much more likely to bounce back from the depression of a failed IVF cycle. Spirituality also keeps you connected with other people, because you go to religious places, meet people, and exchange your beliefs, happiness and struggle. This in turn increases your coping skills. When you are spiritual, you aim to live a life filled with love, compassion, forgiveness, hope and inner-peace. Spirituality is usually connected to God or religion but you can lead a spiritual life without depending on these concepts, because spiritualist has to be internal! However, do remember that while spirituality can greatly enhance your emotional resilience , there are certain religious practices which end up instilling guilt, self-pity and unnatural expectations! This can destroy your peace of mind and self-confidence. So beware of the dangers in your religious practises as well!

13)   Help others

Helping others is the best way to help yourself, and is also the best way to build your emotional resilience! Extending a helping hand to people going through infertility has helped me a lot with my personal infertility struggle. Through this blog, I frequently hear from people who are kind enough to say that my writings give them hope and strength. When I talk to them, hear their struggles and heartbreaks, hopes and aspiration I get a lot of strength, because I realise that I am not alone. When I use the knowledge I have gained during my IVF journey to guide them through the infertility maze, I get a lot of personal satisfaction. This gives me a high which provides me with a boost to help me cope better with my daily tribulations. When I was confronted with infertility soon after our marriage, I was ignorant about everything. There was no one to give me sorely needed information and hope. I was afraid to talk about it to anyone. There were days I felt gloomy and fearful. There were times when I used to think, ‘How nice it would be, if there is someone who could sit and talk with me, and guide me through this’. Because of all the suffering I went through, I know that people experiencing the crisis of infertility need emotional and intellectual support. When I provide it to people who are in a similar situation like mine, I feel I am helping myself! I have learned to help, not because I know a lot but because I know exactly how it feels to have no knowledge about infertility! When I guide others I feel I am doing something worthwhile and it increases my self-esteem several fold. It also shifts my mind from thinking and obsessing about my own infertility. I feel more confident and my ability to cope with infertility related stresses have increased because of this. Everyone can help someone else! Share what you have (money, knowledge, and kindness) with people who need them the most. The best help you can do to someone is to spend some of your valuable time and to lend an ear to their sufferings. When you help others your own miseries take a back seat in your mind and your self-esteem increases. A high self-esteem is necessary for a good mental health and a healthy mind can cope with the adversities of an IVF cycle much better!

14)   Ask for help! 

Along with helping others, getting help from others will also help in building your emotional strength when going through an IVF cycle. When you are in fear and pain, every small problem you face appears to be big and unsolvable. Talking to someone who has gone through what you are going through helps a lot. When starting an IVF cycle, everything appears like a puzzle. You will be scared about all the injections you take and the medical procedures you go through. You will be scared of your doctor and all the medical jargon he uses when talking to you. You will be petrified that your IVF cycle may fail. You will also have several questions in your mind-what to eat, what not to eat, how long should I rest after embryo transfer, will not taking rest affect my chances of success, will stress cause my embryos not to implant  and so many more. The best way to feel better and stronger emotionally is to talk to someone who knows the procedure well. This will put your mind at peace. Your doctor may well be the best person to talk to, but unfortunately doctors do not have time to answer all your questions. Infertility bulletin boards are full of knowledgeable ladies who will help you with all the questions and fears you have. If you write to me, I will be happy to help you as much as I can.When going through an IVF cycle do not hesitate to ask for help. Remember, when you take help from someone else, you are helping that person too!

15)   Start with a clean slate

Have a clear mind and clear thinking - this is the most important requisite to keep you strong and sane when doing IVF. By the time you start IVF, you would have been tormented enough with your infertility struggles. This might have turned you into a very different person (bitter and suspicious). You might have lost faith in almost all the medical procedures used to treat infertility - and may not trust doctors either. When you start an IVF procedure, you should have faith in that medical procedure, you should have faith in your doctor, and you should have faith in yourself! But most people start the procedure with many uncertainties in their mind, and the scientific complexity combined with the enormous cost of the IVF procedure magnifies their doubts. Instead of thinking - I am going through a procedure which will give me the best chance of having my deeply longed for baby, many start thinking – is this doctor doing his job right? Will he steal my eggs or embryos and sell them? What if this doctor causes my cycle to fail because he is careless? Is he crooked? What if he doesn’t transfer the embryos, because he wants to make me come again and again for money? I have failed so many times in my attempt to conceive a baby, will this IVF cycle ever work? etc. If you are a person who is prone to think like this, the entire IVF procedure will be like a torture for you. When you carry an aura of negative energy around you, you tend to repel all the people who are important for your mental and physical well-being. To add to the insult, if your IVF cycle fails, you tend to blame everyone and everything for your failure. You will not be able to accept the failure with a strong and calm mind. The end result will be depression, disbelief, anger, and self-pity. When going through an IVF cycle, forget your past bitter experiences with infertility. Do your homework sincerely, so you can select a competent clinic. Select a good doctor. Once you do so start your IVF procedure with a clean slate and happy mindset, do not allow your mind to play games with you.  It is OK to doubt, but do so only when you have solid proof.  It is wise to believe than to live in disbelief!

16)   ABC model of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy

Recently I was introduced to a book called ‘A Guide to Rational Living’ by Dr.Malpani. It teaches readers to recognise the impact of their thought processes and beliefs on their emotional well-being. The fundamental concept of the book is that our emotions are the result of how we respond to an adverse event, and not the event itself. If we can change our beliefs, we can change the way we feel about the event too! Albert Ellis, a trained clinical psychologist and the author, proposed the ABC model of REBT. This model helps us to make sense of our problem and deal with it effectively. For example, what kind of beliefs do we accumulate when an IVF cycle fails and how does this affect us? And how can we change the way we think, so that we feel better?

Adverse eventIVF failure

Beliefs I am a total failure. I will never have a baby. While everyone around me gets pregnant easily, I am cursed to suffer like this.

Consequence Depression, poor self-esteem, lack of self-confidence

But if you train your mind to think in the following way after an IVF failure, you will feel much better and will gain the ability to bounce back quicker and stronger.

Adverse eventIVF failure

BeliefsA failed IVF cycle is painful but it is not my personal failure. I have done my level best and I should be proud of myself for going through this difficult procedure. The success rate per IVF cycle is only 40%. If this cycle doesn’t work it doesn’t mean I will never be able to conceive using IVF. There are many women who have succeeded after many IVF failures. I still have bright chances to get pregnant in my next cycle. It is true that many women around me get pregnant easily, but everyone has their own suffering to go through. Is there anyone in this world without suffering?  My challenge in my life now is to conceive a baby. I will go through this struggle and try my level best to succeed in my quest.

ConsequenceEmotional resilience, renewed hope, confidence and increased self-esteem.

So, try changing the way you think about an IVF failure. This will help you to gain immense emotional strength!

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