Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Therapy #1: "TELL People How to be Supportive"

Well I went to my first therapy session last night. Ever. Of my whole life. I totally expected to go in and immediately start sobbing and try to choke out occasional words and/or phrases between hiccups and nose blowing.

It didn't go exactly like that. There were tears, but I held it together for the most part. My voice was a little higher-pitched than usual because I was restraining tears, but it was not an hour-long sob fest like I expected. I consider that a small victory. Especially because telling my story for the first time to someone (anyone) is always more emotional for me than talking about it to people who are already familiar with it.

I really liked my lady. She was EXACTLY how I imagined a modern-day therapist - very kind-looking, soothing, gentle voice, and glasses. I told her why I was there - difficulty coping with infertility, feeling depressed, stressed, etc - and what's going on with my condition (she didn't know much about Premature Ovarian Failure). And she asked me about how I've tried to cope and who my support system was and that kind of thing. I realized I have tried a LOT of avenues in my coping. I've joined an infertility support group. I've done extensive research and built a solid foundation of knowledge. I've thrown myself into my running and ran a marathon. I started this blog. I've told friends and family about my condition and expanded my support group. I've distracted myself with reading. And I've created a tentative back up plan if Hubs and I don't get knocked up in the next year.

But I've still been SO DOWN at times. Not all the time, but way more than I'm comfortable with. So I told her that.

And she got from me that I use people for support quite a bit, which is good, except that sometimes people don't know how to be supportive. Sometimes they say the absolute wrong thing (see examples here and here). Sometimes they don't want to "remind me" that I'm infertile, so they avoid the subject at all costs. And she said it's  up to me to educate people on how to support me and Hubs through this whole ordeal. My homework for next week is to make a list of ways people can be supportive, of things that have helped me so far and things I think will be helpful in the future.

So I'm asking for a little help here, because my brain only works so well on the day before a holiday. Here's my list of ways friends and family have helped so far:

1.Checking in on me every few weeks. I don't want to talk about it every time I'm with you, but it feels weird to NEVER talk about it. It's nice to just ask "So how has the fertility stuff been going?" in a comfortable, private setting. Asking doesn't "remind" me. Trust me, I'm already thinking about it.

2.Listening. Sometimes I just need to vent. The only thing you need to say is "that SUCKS." You don't need to offer advice, or tell me how you JUST KNOW I'll be a mother (because no. You don't.), or tell me about your sister's friend's cousin who tried for YEARS and then gave up and then had a dozen babies.

3. Thinking about me. Praying for me is good too, but it's even more helpful for me to know you've thought about me. I have one friend who's so good about this - she's sent me a couple of cards, completely out of the blue, saying stuff like "hang in there" and "I'm thinking about you" that happened to come at times when I was feeling really down. They cheered me up a little. And my aunt gave me a St. Girard charm and a prayer book. A friend gave me an "Expect a Miracle" necklace. Another aunt brought over a St. Girard statue. Another aunt (sheesh, I have some supportive aunts!) mailed me a book about thyroid issues. These tokens are very meaningful, and they let me know that people are thinking about us even when we're not talking about it.

4. Leaving "God's Plan" out of it. I like to think of my situation as just stupid shitty luck and not a plot by the man upstairs, trying to teach me a lesson or make me stronger or whatever. If this is God's plan, I am not down with it. It also implies that God could change my condition and just has decided not to. Maybe that's true, but I don't need to hear it as it just pisses me off.

5. Understanding that I am going through a hard time. I am having lots of conflicting emotions. I will be happy for you during baby showers and kids' birthday parties, but I will also feel a smidgeon of jealousy and resentment and sadness for myself. Sometimes more than a smidgeon. Being around pregnant people and babies/kids is hard. It helps if you don't complain TO ME about your babies/kids/ pregnancy symptoms. Because that really sucks. And be sensitive about announcing pregnancies! A private phone call is best for me.

So those are the things I've come up with so far. Now I'm supposed to remember these and be able to talk to friends and family about how I need to be supported (if I feel I need to). How have people been supportive to you? Do you have anything to add to my list? I'm sure I'm missing some stuff!


  1. I like the list.

    For me, it was important that people dont ignore us because they dont know what to say. Please dont let me sit in my shit! Please help me think of something other than this!

    Please dont continue to ask me questions like... "do you need a hysterectomy?" I appreciate that by asking questions you think you are showing me you care, however by asking me the same stupid questions 16 times, shows me that you dont care, and havent researched or done anything on your own to even be in a position to be supportive. If you dont/cant understand, accept that this may be out of your area of expertise and let's just talk about the weather! :)

    I'm glad therapy went well. I'm not a touchy feely person, and I was shocked that I found it helpful.

    1. Yes! That's so frustrating and I totally agree - when I have to explain the same thing over and over to the same person, it's like "were you not listening the first twelve times???"

  2. Well done on going! you should be dead proud of yourself :) I love the list. I would maybe add sometimes people need to censor themself: they shud think - I ddefo don't need to see that bump picture that will make me cry in the shower for a week, I don't need to hear about what an utter joy/pain in the arse pregnancy is. Etc!

    1. Yeah, I struggle with that a lot too... I want to be a good friend to my pregnant friends and friends with kids, but they also need to show a little compassion and understand that what they say (and ESPECIALLY complain about) affects me!

  3. It's a great list. :)

    The one thing I find that helps me is to tell my core group of supporters about upcoming appointments and treatments. The ones that really "get it" will remember and check in with me about how the appointment went. It's not a huge thing, but it means so much to me to have people show that kind of support and caring because every appointment is stressful and nerve-wracking.

    1. That has helped me a lot too, as long as I was prepared to talk about it right away after those appointments.

  4. I LOVE your list, especially #1 and #6! Telling people how to be supportive would be hard for me, but your list is awesome. Are you planning on sending out a mass email to those closest to you? Too bad it isn't close to Christmas...otherwise you could send one of those Christmas letters explaining your situation and including this list (some people find those letters cheesy lol but it could work in this situation).

    The thing I hate is when people tell me "enjoy your time now because you won't have any when kids come." I don't care about my time, give me a baby! I don't know if the people in your life are like this, but you know the ones that are always suggesting alternative ways to have children...like "just adopt." As if it's that easy! Maybe you could add to your list something about how you and your husband have thought through all your options and that anything someone else might suggest has most likely already been considered and you would appreciate people not making suggestions on things to try. Unless you like people's suggestions :) I don't mind suggestions, but I dislike when the same person suggests the same thing over and over again lol.

    Anyway, I'm glad you like your counselor. We missed you at Resolve though :)

    1. I don't think I'll send an e-mail or anything out to my friends - more like, I'm going to try to remember these and work them into conversations when I think it's appropriate. I already did this a little yesterday, when I told my mom that her telling me "she just knows" it's going to happen isn't helpful. I was pretty tactful about it (I think) but it's tough to talk about!

      I'm totally with you on the suggestions - "just adopt" or "you can always do donor eggs!" ... UGH!!! I want to scream that it's just not. that. simple!

      I realized I am also going to miss next month's meeting of Resolve, b/c I'll be flying home from San Diego during the meeting time. Bummer!