Anxiety and Infertility

sunset-691848_640.jpg

1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility. Infertility is a disease that carries a lot of stigma. If you are going through infertility, it is common that you may be feeling: shame, loss of control, detached from your body, sad, angry, emotional, depressed, and even anxious.

Anxiety is common when going through infertility.

In Rewiring your Anxious Brain, by Catherine M. Pittman, PHD and Elizabeth M. Karle, MILS, you learn that anxiety can come from the cortex or the amygdala. The anxiety that develops in the cortex, is the anxiety that you interpret; the “what ifs”. What if you never get pregnant? What if you never become a parent? What if you do get pregnant and lose the baby? What if infertility ruins your relationship?

In addition, these thoughts are usually accompanied by physiological symptoms. This is anxiety that comes from the amygdala. Anxiety that comes from the amygdala is the physical sensations and anxiety of past experiences. This type of anxiety contains the triggers and associations. Examples include feeling anxious every time you see a pregnancy test because it was negative before and that caused anxiety. Also, anxiety about going to the doctors office because the last time you were there you got bad news.

Anxiety symptoms can include, but are not limited to, racing thoughts, rapid heartbeat, sweaty or clammy hands, upset stomach or butterflies, tight muscles, inability to focus, feeling lightheaded, and dizziness. Everyone experiences anxiety, as it is our body’s coping mechanism for danger. It is when there is no danger and our body still goes into the fight/flight/freeze mode that it starts impacting our functioning in life and becomes an anxiety disorder.

Stress is a common trigger for anxiety. If you are going through infertility this can be a stressful time in your life. Infertility treatments can also be emotionally and physically stressful. If you are feeling anxious you do not have to let it control you.

Here are some ways to deal with your anxiety:

  1. Exercise - When you exercise you can lower the baseline for your anxiety so that it doesn’t peak every time you start to notice your symptoms of anxiety. Exercise is also great when you are feeling anxious. When your body goes into fight, flight or freeze mode your body sends energy to the parts of the body that you need to either fight or flee, when you exercise you can use up that excess energy allowing your body to get the message that you are no longer in danger.

  2. Breath - If you are feeling anxious one of the best things that you can do is start to take some deep breaths and start to notice your breath. When your body is in the fight or flight mode our breathing becomes quicker to get more oxygen into the parts of our body preparing to fight or flee. When you start to slow down your breath your body gets the message that you are no longer in danger.

  3. Take charge of what you are in control of - If you are going through infertility, it can be easy to feel out of control. Write down your anxious thoughts. In one column, put those thoughts that you have control over. In the other column, put those thoughts that you do not have control over. Take the list that you have control over and work on those things. Rip up the other list.

  4. Say no - It can be very difficult some days to be facing infertility. You do not have to go to every baby shower or every kid’s birthday party. You do not have to join in on every holiday. You get to decide what you can handle that day. You do not have to listen to people’s advice or tips on how they got pregnant. It is okay to say no and to set boundaries.

  5. Be kind to yourself - Going through infertility is not easy. It is very important that you treat yourself kindly through the process-self affirmations, self care, mediation, support groups, counseling. These are all great ways to show yourself kindness through this difficult journey.

    If you are struggling with infertility and anxiety you are not alone. Please contact Kull Counseling, LLC to learn more about coping with anxiety during infertility. 608.239.4807 or julie@kullcounselingmadison.com

The Grief of Infertility

guilt.jpg

The Mayo Clinic describes grief as: an emotion, sorrow, numbness, a natural reaction to a loss, a universal and a personal experience. When going through infertility, you may not realize you are experiencing grief. You may identify with feeling sad, worried, hopeless, or angry. Many of these emotions are part of your grief. Infertility has so many losses that are not acknowledged. Grief is a huge part of what you are going through if you are struggling with infertility.

Types of loss when going through infertility:

  1. Loss of dreams and expectations. You may have grown up playing with dolls, being told that you are a good mommy, or that someday you will make a good mommy. You might have been told that when you meet someone that you love and decide to get married then that is the right time to have children. You also might have been told to put your career or school first, and that after you accomplish your goals then you can have children. You may have the age planned out of when you would like to have children. You probably were never told you might get to be a mother or that you can decide when you want to start trying to conceive but that might not be when you get pregnant. You probably were not told when you were a little girl playing with dolls that it may take months, if not years to conceive, and that you might have to use assisted reproductive technology in order to do it. With infertility there is grief over your dreams and the realization that they may not be what you thought they would be.

  2. Loss of identity. Many of you grew up wanting to be a mother and probably felt it was always part of your narrative. For many of you it is part of your identity even before you ever start trying to conceive, knowing that one day you will be a mother. You may wonder if I am not a mother than who am I?

  3. Loss of relationships. When you are going through infertility it can be extremely difficult to watch friends or family get pregnant when you are also trying to conceive. You may feel disconnected, such that if someone invites you to a party you may not want to go because everyone will be there with their children or will be talking about their children. If you are not invited because you do not have children it is equally as painful. If you are going through infertility your relationships may be changing, weakening, dissolving and even ending. Even if your relationship with someone does not completely end you may feel a loss of what your relationship had been with the person.

  4. Loss of body function. When you are suffering from infertility it can be because one of your reproductive organs is not working. There is a loss when you feel like a part of your body does not work or is broken.

  5. Loss of youth. If you are going through infertility you might have heard the term, “advanced maternal age”. You also might have been told that you are too old to go through assisted reproductive technology, which may leave you grieving for your youth.

  6. Loss of control. You may be feeling a loss of control. This can look a like a loss of control of emotions. You may feel like you are on a rollercoaster of emotions, one day feeling hopeful, to the next day feeling like you cannot get out of bed. You may also feel a loss of control over your body. Even if you are timing everything perfectly, following your medical advice on how to conceive it still might not be working for you. You may also be feeling a loss of control over the fact that you do not have as much control as you thought. You might have thought that when the time is right that you would get pregnant, that you could decide when you were ready to be a mother and coming to terms that you do not have that kind of control can be a loss and need to be grieved.

  7. Loss of not being pregnant. For most of you every time you only see one line on a pregnancy test or get your period every month there is a loss of not conceiving. You may need to process your grief every month after this happens.

    Grief is an emotion that many of you are feeling during the infertility process but may not have acknowledged was there. Acknowledge it, name it, feel it, observe it. There are ways to process this grief.

    For more information on grief during infertility contact Julie@kullcounselingmadison.com or 608.239.4807.


Setting an intention for 2019

intention anxiety counseling madison

Only a few more days and 2018 will be at a close. For many people this is a welcome change. The start of a new year signals beginnings, and provides an opportunity for change and growth. What do we want from this new year? How will it be different than last year? What do we wish was different in our life? What needs to change this year for us? While I am not big on New Year’s resolutions, I do like setting intentions and working to achieve goals.

According to Mind Body Green, “Intentions are the fuel to manifesting your goals and visions.” There are many different ways to set an intention, but this year I challenge you to set a one-word intention. Think of one word that will help guide you in the next year to get you closer to your goals or visions. When we create a long list of goals or resolutions, it can be difficult to stick with. Focusing on one word can provide focus on your intention and more obtainable goals.

My intention this year is GROWTH.

Ways to use Intentions:

  • Create a mantra around it that you can repeat to yourself or just say the word.

  • Post the word somewhere you can see it - on your bathroom mirror, your daily planner or set your phone screen with a picture of your intention.

  • Journal about how your intention is being incorporated into your life.

  • Meditate on this word.

  • Share your word, ask friends close to you to set an intention and discuss how this word is showing up in your life.

  • Create a collage with your intention in the middle and see what develops.


What will your intention be this year?

To learn more about setting intentions and growth check out www.kullcounselingmadison.com

#miscarriage matters...my story

heart.jpg

October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. I hope that sharing my story may help someone else find comfort and strength.

This Thanksgiving will mark 4 years since I said goodbye to one of the men that I respected most in this world, my grandfather. As the priest mentioned later at his funeral, it was so fitting that he died on Thanksgiving because he was the most thankful and giving man despite facing many challenges in his life. It was difficult to say goodbye to him, and bittersweet, as I had a secret that only my sisters knew, I was pregnant with my second child.

Fast forward 5 days later and I was sitting at the doctor’s office with my husband and one year old waiting for our 8 week ultrasound. I remember thinking how lucky I felt and how it almost did not feel real. I could not wait to show our daughter that she had a sibling on the way.

The doctor’s office confirmed my pregnancy with a blood test, so it was on to the ultrasound. As the tech started to move the wand around she was silent. I looked at the screen and knew immediately that something was wrong. I had seen what a 8 week ultrasound looked like with my first child and I knew this baby did not have a heartbeat. What happened next is a blur of talking with the doctor, crying, and feeling so empty. I will never forget the nurse that sat me down to go over my options with me telling me how sorry she was and that she had had 4 miscarriages. In that moment, hearing her story gave me strength to get through that day.

I decided to wait hoping that the baby would come out naturally on its own. I spent the next few weeks trying to heal and also let go. I went to my grandfather’s funeral, showing little emotion, fearing that any emotion would lead to a breakdown or trigger the miscarriage.

The baby did not come out on its own. The miscarriage took an entire month to complete. It was a month filled with pain, bleeding, and doctor’s appointments.

After the physical symptoms had subsided, the emotional ones had kicked in. Every person that has had a miscarriage is different and everyone reacts differently. I was embarrassed, ashamed and heart broken. I felt like my body had one job in life and it failed. I told a few people in my support circle. Some people were great, some people had a hard time relating. Support came from surprising places. Even with this support I felt really lonely. I looked for resources in the community and nothing was the right fit. Based on the challenges I had finding help in the community, I made a promise to myself that when I was at a place to help others with pregnancy loss that I would. In 2016 I started taking trainings and doing research on psychotherapy and pregnancy loss. In October of 2017 I started offering a support group for miscarriage.

Having a miscarriage can make someone feel so alone. If you or someone that you love has had an early pregnancy loss please share this resource with them. No one should have to go through this alone.

For more information on pregnancy loss or to sign up for the free monthly support group please contact julie@kullcounselingmadison.com or 608.239.4807.

The importance of self care

beach sunset.JPG

Self care. Do you feel like you are hearing those two words everywhere? Have you ever wondered what self care is and how to do it? Self care is defined as any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health according to  Psychology Today.

Self care is not just exercise or meditation but it certainly does include these things. Self care includes all the different areas in your life: Physical, Spiritual, Social, Cognitive/Mental. 

Physical- How can we physically take care of our bodies? One way is through movement. Exercise is a great form of self care. Examples include: Running, Walking, yoga, pilates, tai chi, stretching, dance, cleaning, hiking, kayaking, swimming, bicycling, getting a massage, and gardening are a few examples. The second physical way that we take care of our body is how we nourish it. What food are you putting into your body? Are you eating a balanced diet? How are you eating? Do you rush through your meals? Do you rely heavily on meal replacements? Are you cooking your meals? Or if you cook often can you take a break to eat at a restaurant? Self care and nutrition can look different depending on your dietary needs.

Spiritual- Are you nourishing your spiritual side? For some that may mean organized religion, for others that may be more spiritual or even philosophical. Examples include: going to church, volunteering within your religious community, taking time to be in nature, connecting to your spiritual side, taking a day of rest, prayer, meditation, or devotions.

Social- Self care for our social side can include social activities and social support. Social activities can include taking a class with others, going to a movie, going out to dinner, playing a sport together, going for a walk or joining a club, volunteering, joining a board, and hanging out with friends to name a few. Social support can include: friends, family, neighbors, religious community, colleagues, 

Cognitive/Mental- Cognitive self care involves stimulating your mind. This can include: reading, learning a new skill, taking a class, learning about something new. This also includes getting enough sleep. Mental self care is nourishing our emotional health. Examples of this include: mindfulness, meditation, journaling, painting, drawing, listening to music, playing an instrument, seeing a psychotherapist, and practicing relaxation exercises.

There are many ways to care for your self and self care will look different for each person. Many of these examples cross over to other categories. It is important to care for yourself in many different aspects of your life. Self care is important to your overall wellbeing. It does not need to take long but even incorporating a few minutes a day or trying one or two examples from above can make a big difference. 

For more ideas on adding self care into your life contact Kull Counseling at 608.239.4807 or julie@kullcounselingmadison.com.