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Feel like you need to cry? You're not alone, by far. Coping with infertility is exceedingly difficult, with research finding that the emotional pain felt by women experiencing infertility is comparable to the emotional pain felt by women facing cancer, HIV, and chronic pain. To make things even more intense, many fertility drugs bring on mood swings, further exasperating our delicate emotional balance.
Unfortunately, we are often discouraged from acknowledging our sadness. People may insist that we look at all the blessings and goodness we have in our lives, or they may preach that if we would just "be optimistic" enough, we'd get pregnant with the snap of our fingers.
Don't Hold Back The Tears
Putting on a false smile isn't going to create a miracle. And feeling sadness over the loss and frustration that infertility brings does not negate the goodness in our lives. You can be thankful for what you have, and still feel sadness over what you don't. These aren't contradictions.
When you need to cry, it's important to let yourself do so. Holding in sadness doesn't make it go away. Instead, it eats up the emotional energy you have to cope with and face your daily life. Tears find their way to sneak out, sometimes at the worst moments. Sometimes, sadness that is held in may present itself as anxiety or panic.
On the other hand, you don't want the sadness eating away at your life. When things are really difficult, it can help to choose a contained period of time to let the tears out. It may seem strange -- scheduling in some time to cry. But it's surprisingly effective and freeing.
Creating a Safe Place and Time For Tears
The first step is to choose a day and time. If reading this has you tearing up, perhaps that time should be sooner than later. You might set aside just 15 minutes, or a few hours. As long as you will be able to be alone and feel free to cry and express yourself during that time frame.
It's important that you set a start and an end time. This isn't to say that you are not allowed to feel sad after the time limit, of course not. But it can feel safer to know that you won't cry forever once you start. Plus, if you do find the sadness creeping in all day, this can provide a way to express the sadness, but keep it from taking over completely.
The next step is to choose a place where you'll feel safe enough to let go. That place may be at home, or it may be in a wood near your office. If you're at work, and really need 10 minutes to cry to get through the day, you might decide to drive to an empty parking lot.
Once you have a day, time, and place, you might want to use music, writing, art, or a movie to help you get the tears going. When you've been holding back for a long time, the tears can get stuck. When I'm feeling the need to cry, my movies of choice are Forrest Gump and It's A Wonderful Life. As for music, I have on my iPod playlists by mood. Crying music, comfort music, happy music... Seriously: It helps.
Another trick I've used is to write myself a letter, saying all those things I'd say to someone else in my situation. (Isn't it funny how forgiving and kind we can be to others, yet remain so judgmental of ourselves?)
It's also a good idea to offer yourself plenty of self-comfort. This might mean drinking a hot cup of herbal tea, or wrapping yourself up in a blanket or towel just out of the drier. Do whatever you need to do to feel cared and loved. You might even rock yourself back and forth gently. Rocking soothes the nervous system.
Don't feel like you have to cry. If you can't cry, that's also ok. Any time spent taking care of your emotional self is time well spent.
When the time is up, choose an ending or transitional activity. Maybe some upbeat music, or a brisk walk outside. Something to signal to your emotional self that you've listened, you've acknowledged the sadness, and now, it's time to get back into your life.
Schedule these moments whenever you need, whether it's once a week, once every few weeks, or even 15 minutes every day, during a really difficult time.
If you feel that the sadness is taking over your life, and these short moments aren't enough, seriously consider finding a professional therapist to speak with. I cannot express how much therapy has helped me cope with my miscarriages and infertility.
At first, it can feel scary to stop holding back the tears, and it might feel like you'll never stop crying. But you'll see, while it hurts when you're in the moment, afterwards, your heart will feel a little bit lighter.
More on coping while trying to conceive:
- Quiz: Are You Depressed?
- How to Cope When Trying to Conceive Overwhelms You
- 10 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself
- How TTC Affects Your Sex Life
- How to Cope During the Two Week Wait
- Emotional Impact of Infertility
- Coping with Fertility Test Anxiety
- How to Have a Baby When You've Been Trying for Awhile
- Take a Fertility Quiz
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Michelle P. Lukse and Nicholas A. Vacc. "Grief, Depression, and Coping in Women Undergoing Infertility Treatment." Obstetrics & Gynecology 1999 93:245-251. Accessed January 30, 2008.