December 20, 2010 - What to do while you are waiting . . .

                Have you ever noticed how difficult it is when you are waiting for something?  Maybe it’s waiting for a time when you will be less stressed, waiting to get a better job, waiting on medical test results, waiting on the perfect romantic partner, or waiting to get pregnant.  During those times, it can be especially difficult to make sense of your situation.  Sometimes it’s hard to find meaning or purpose or even a sense of control.  The question of control is one of the hardest ones for most of us.

                So what can you do while you are struggling with feeling out of balance and not in control?  Well, it’s tough, but it requires a lot of surrendering control and at the same time, focusing on what you can control.  As you go about your day today, what can you control while you wait for life to unfold?  For several individuals I have counseled who were close to death, there was a feeling of control in the knowledge that they had time to let their loved ones know how much they cared for them.  For others struggling with infertility, it has been the knowledge that not being able to have a child provided an opportunity to care for others in a way not previously anticipated.  Still another person I worked with found joy in just being able to still breathe.

                At some point in life, we will all face an obstacle or a situation that we cannot control.  What can you do for yourself and others to come from a point of contribution and love rather than surrendering to fear?   Remember that you have the power to focus on the present moment.  Be patient with yourself, so that you can be patient with others.

April 13, 2011

              As you may have noted from the date above, it has been a while since I have last written on this blog.  I suppose this is a product of being busy.  Have you ever noticed how easy it can be to become busy?  Another thing I have noticed is how easy it is to become anxious and tense just by the thoughts that surface in our own minds.  If you struggle with anxiety, you may have noticed how easy it is to think a negative thought, which leads to another scary thought, and before you know it, your inner peace is gone.  The interesting thing is that we can generate a sense of peace by asking ourselves a few simple questions, such as 1) Is this really happening to me right now or am I just anticipating that it might happen? 2) Am I allowing myself to be caught in a pit of fear instead of thinking of things I could do to calm myself?  

           If the answer to question number 2 is yes, what things have worked in the past to bring about a sense of calm?   What skills do you have that have worked?  For some people, it's taking a walk in the sunshine, exercising at a gym, or playing with a pet.  For others, needlework, drawing, or playing music is helpful.  If you think hard enough you can probably thing of what specific skills you have that work for you.  If this starts to feel like work, you are right that it requires more effort than staying stuck.  Doing these activities may not solve the problem, but using these skills can help you focus on a problem more effectively when you are able to come back to it.    So, go ahead and take that walk or enjoy playing with a pet.  Remember to enjoy life's little pleasures.

April 28, 2011 Infertility Awareness Week

     This week is infertility awareness week, and so I'm dedicating my blog to infertility today in honor of my wonderful, brave clients who have gone through the roller coaster of infertility.  Sometimes it can be so hard to figure out why you are struggling with infertility when it appears everyone around you is pregnant or has a baby.  It's particularly difficult when one or both partners are infertile because society's never been given a script on appropriate things to say.  Questions or comments that are seemingly innocent can spark a flood of anger or tears without warning.  I thought it might be helpful today to provide some alternative responses for some of the most common comments/situations people encounter from others.

1) "When are you and your husband going to have a baby?"
     This question is particularly difficult when posed by a co-worker or a potential friend you are just meeting.  Sometimes it's helpful to provide a general response like, "Our lives are pretty full right now, but we sure do love our dogs, cats, pets, or nieces/nephews."  Another helpful response is to re-direct the question and say something like, "We are taking things one day at at time.  Do you have children?"

2) "I'm having a baby shower, and you're invited."

    Whether it's a close friend or not so close friend, it's a good idea to thank them for the invitation.  If it feels too painful to go to the shower, and the friend is someone you are close to, inform her that you are happy for her and wish her all the best but it's a difficult time for you.  It may be helpful to send her a gift certificate with your warmest wishes.  For colleagues and less close friends, you might express congratulations and just inform them that you will not be able to make the shower with a nice card or small gift that's less baby oriented (i.e., a gift certificate to a meal preparation store, etc.).  Friends who have not faced infertility may not know how to support you.  They may find it helpful if you can tell them what you would consider to be supportive.  For example, would you like them to call you after an IVF treatment to ask how it went or is it better if you go out for ice cream and talk about other things?  

3) "If you can't have a baby, you can always just adopt."  

    This comment is one that people generally say in an effort to cover up discomfort at not knowing what to say.  When you hear someone make this statement, it can be really tempting to say any number of sarcastic remarks.  If it's a person who is able to take feedback and is close to you, you might say something along the lines of, "I know that you probably don't know what to say to support me right now.  Although your comment is well intentioned, it would be most helpful to me if I could just share my sadness with you.  You don't have to find a solution.  All I need is for you to listen."  

I hope you find those comments to be helpful!  As frustrating as it can be to hear them, most people can be ignorant of how difficult it can be to cope with infertility.  By educating them, you can empower yourself through setting boundaries with others. 

July 11, 2011

As you can see it's been a while since I have written on my blog.  Have you ever noticed how quickly life can get away from you before you know it?  I think that makes it all the more important to focus on the things that are most important to us.  Recently I've been reading a wonderful book called "The Anti-Cancer Diet" by David Servan-Schrieber, MD, PhD.  One of the wonderful things I love about the book is it's focus on the importance of living each moment in way that's healthy in all the ways that are important for having a good life. He makes suggestions for how to prevent cancer and in some cases, slow it's progress by simply changing lifestyle patterns to focus on a healthy diet, exercise, strong relationships, and spirituality. 

I believe those things are all important to live a life that's in balance.  If you are like most of us, it's a constant challenge in today's busy world.  Most of us have many commitments that may include a spouse or partner, children, a job, church, friends, pets, extended family, and what seems like a thousand other obligations.  This is not a bad thing, because all of the differents roles in our lives can bring us meaning.  However, sometimes it can be difficult to have some many different parts of yourself.  So for today, your mission, if you choose to accept it is to find one small piece of your day for a bit of restorative time for yourself.  You'll be amazed at how much you can give back to others if you take care of your own health. 
September 28, 2011

I started reading a wonderful book lately through a book club I participate in every month. The book is called "Delivering Hope" by Pamela MacPhee, and it's written from the perspective of a woman is acting as a surrogate mother for a family member.  Few books in the field of infertility are written from the surrogate's perspective.  I thought this book might be helpful to women who are currently surrogates.

Infertility is experienced by an estimated 6 million couples in the United States. There are so many complexities that arise with infertility, and these occur from a variety of perspectives.  From the intended or recipient parent's perspective, the impact of infertility can cause strain on relationships with friends, family, and spouses.  From the surrogate's perspective, recent literature suggests that surrogates experience a significant feeling of sadness following birth similar to a parent who is giving a child up for adoption.  Then, there is there is the perspective of the child who was created through the process of in-vitro fertilization.

It is no wonder that the process is a challenging, emotional one for everyone involved.  In my practice, I have been lucky enough to work with egg donors, surrogates, intended parents, and recipient parents.  The world of the surrogate is one that is often hard to understand for most people, and there is little in the way of research regarding the impact of surrogacy on a woman's mental health.  Maybe this book will give you another insight into the complex process as you read it.  At any rate, I think it's worth reading for it's unique perspective.

April 17, 2012

As you can see, it's been a long time since I've written.  Things have been really busy lately, and there are a lot interesting things to share.  Today I'm going to write about the courage it takes to be emotionally open in therapy.  I'm always struck by the bravery it takes for someone to even pick up the phone and make the first initial appointment.  It's scary not to know what to expect and to even be sure of whether you want to be that open before you've even heard the person's voice that you will be talking to on a weekly basis. 

Most of us have our own ideas of what therapy should be like in our minds.  Should the therapist be young or old?  Will they be competent enough to help with my particular problem?  Are they male or female?  What if I don't feel comfortable with them?  Does therapy actually work and how is this therapist diffferent than the ones I have seen before?  People come with different expectations, with some folks preferring to see a therapist who provides them with validation and rarely speaks and others desiring to have a therapist that speaks more and is more directive.  Sometimes the therapist is seen as an authority figure or as a person who would be a friend if they had been met in a different context. 

For all of these different perspectives on what therapy should be, it's best to work toward finding your fit.  Sometimes it helps to think outside the box a little and, for example, stray outside your comfort zone with someone young when you have in your mind to work with someone old.  Our perspectives all come from life experiences, and the fun, often challenging, part of therapy is exploring those life experiences in a place that should be safe.  Therapy takes a lot of guts and it's hard to place yourself out there with a new person.  Just think of all the things you can learn with someone new. . .


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