A few weeks ago, I took a big step towards calm and mental health and went and spoke with a counselor about our IF and how it's affecting our lives. I can't say enough good things about what talking to someone has done for my psyche. I realize it may not be for everyone, but I highly recomment at least considering it. I want to share a little of my experience with you in case there's anyone out there thinking about it. I'm not trying to talk you into anything, because it's a personal choice, but it's worked out well for me.
First, I found a great counselor. I got pretty lucky, I think. I was very worried that if I didn't find the right person, I'd be told to relax, the same way the general population of fertiles tells me to do. I used Psychotherapy Today to find a counselor in my area, then narrowed down the choices by insurance companies accepted and specialty. Mine lists her focus as family issues, with everything from LGBT parenting to IF to grief counseling as topics she works with. I emailed her and got the conversation going. She invited me to either call or come in and chat to see if I felt she was a good match for me. I liked that she emphasized how important she knew that level of comfort was. I chose to make an appointment in her office, and I'm glad I chose that over the phone option. I really was able to get a sense of her energy. I knew I liked her presence right away. I really think finding the right counselor is essential to working through anything, but especially something so personal and life-changing.
One great thing about counseling is that I go alone (though Buddy is welcome at any time and does plan to join me in a few weeks). I know that Buddy and I are in this together, but there are some emotions that are just my own. And there are some fears and other emotions that are hard to share with him. IF can be all-consuming, and I can easily see how it could tear a relationship apart over time. Something that is important and valuable to me in this is having an outlet to express the thoughts that weigh on me without having to dump them all on Buddy all the time. He feels badly enough about the MFI and low T. While I do talk to him about some things, there are just some things I don't feel I need to burden him with. Or, sometimes, there's something I want to talk to him about, but it's difficult to put into words he'll relate to or I don't know how to broach it. My therapist has been excellent at helping me put some of those more complex emotions in simpler terms so that I can bring them to Buddy and have a constructive conversation.
Something wonderful therapy has given me is some validation. While I'm thankful to be a member of a wonderfully supportive group of women also dealing with IF, no two cases are identical. We're in a stage of moving away from TTC, where most of the ladies are still going through treatments. In fact, we never did any treatment, so I can't even relate on that level. I feel very alone at times, and worry about people thinking we gave up. Buddy and I feel we made a rational decision for ourselves, considering the chances, treatment costs, and possible outcomes. My therapist has helped me work through those feelings. There are times when I don't feel like I've gone through enough to justify the sadness or grief I feel. But between my therapist and Sour Grapes, I've come to realize that there are no easy decisions in IF, and no matter what, when we hit that 12 month mark, things changed. We received damaging news in our test results. We had to face the fact that this is a crisis - dreams of parenthood were in jeopardy. Our reaction was and is normal. While our choices regarding treatment may not be typical, they are no less valid. Similarly, our pain is no less real. There's no such thing as having to "suffer" enough to justify grief in this situation.
My counselor is also working with me on tools. We've discussed things like how to answer questions. She deals with other IF couples and knew without me even having to tell her how intrustive "are you guys trying?" and "when are you having kids?" can be, especially if people don't know about our situation. She's helped me come up with some ways to both politely and snarkily (depending on the situation) shut down conversation if the topic comes up. I was recently very anxious about Buddy's aunts coming to Thanksgiving. Buddy was the first cousin to be married, and we've been asked about kids since our wedding day. While we know people ask because they're excited for us, I was worried about my Thanksgiving Day reaction when I was feeling like there was something missing from my "things I'm thankful for" list this year. Having one liners that can appropriately convey that the topic is not open for discussion was empowering for me.
Another tool we've started to touch on is dealing with the dichotomy of my fears. There are two parts of life that currently elicit great emotion: pregnancy/young childhood and end-of-life. Obviously, not getting pregnant and having a baby have caused an emotional roller coaster. For some reason, I don't feel as much grief over not having a teen or adult child as I do over not having a baby and young child. A lot of my grief is centered around visions of Buddy teaching a kid to ride a bike and celebrating Christmas with a little one with eyes full of wonder not coming to fruition. On ther other side, assuming there are never children and Buddy passes first, who will be with me? I'm terrified of being alone at the end of my days. While couples should plan for retirement and elder care while relatively young, my therapist is supportively getting the ball rolling with thinking about those things now. She recognizes that it's important to me to know in some sense what that time some 40-50 years down the road may look like for me, in addition to helping me deal with the here-and-now losses of IF as I see my peers announce pregnancies daily.
So that got kind of lengthy. I just wanted to share a few of the valuable things I've already been armed with in meeting with a counselor. There is so much to IF and the way it affects our lives, and there are issues and fears that we may not know how to deal with. Therapy is one way to help us handle it, and I wanted to share my positive experience.