Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Different Kind of Trigger

I have had the hardest time figuring out how to write about PTSD and trauma as it relates to Infertility and my experience.  There is this article I read, that really stuck with me.  Please, do read it before you read on in this post.  It's short and simple and it's the start of all of this.  That was almost enough.  Acknowledging it as and calling it trauma has done a lot for me in terms of beginning to heal, and move forward.  It has helped me make healthier decisions about what I am willing to go through or not go through.

Almost enough, I said, but not quite enough.  Because there is the fact that I can no longer read my favorite gossip magazines, making for sad airplane journeys without them, because the covers all look like this and make me feel like crap:

There was the point where I decided I needed to stop avoiding things that were triggers, and to let myself feel a little more in hopes that feel would = heal.  There was some crying that I actually let happen, while reading books, watching television commercials, listening to songs, reading notes from friends.  None of this, though, seemed like enough to explain what it feels like to roam through the day afraid that something unexpected would result in a flurry of bad emotion.

Then on Friday I went to see Dr. Norrell, my beloved Ob/Gyn.  I have been looking forward to this appointment for months (which is how long it takes to see her instead of someone else in her office) and the last time I saw her was when she referred me to UCSF for fertility stuff, so I was long overdue for my annual appointment.  She has been my doctor the whole time I have lived in SF and she is a fucking good one.  I have talked with her about so many issues in my life, and I just needed to talk to her about where I am right now. I couldn't wait, in fact.

What I didn't think about ahead of time was how being in her office might make me feel.  To be honest, "feel" isn't even the right word, because what happened was so different than how I feel when I see those magazine covers I posted above.  I walked in full of excitement, and what happened when I was sitting in the waiting room of that office was a physical reaction that I could not control.  It is the only time I have broken down in public during this whole ordeal, and it was not stoppable.  My body started shaking.  My heart started pounding.  I started crying.  I couldn't look up, had to use my hair to block my face.  I was just focusing on breathing as best I could until I got called out of the waiting room and into the exam room (where I was able to use all my cognitive behavioral techniques to calm my body down).  I felt so out of control, and it was scary.

That, my friends, is PTSD and Infertility.  It isn't something I can prepare for, or think away, because it exists somewhere very different from my thinking brain.  I couldn't even tell you what "trigger" I was reacting to.  The pregnant women everywhere looking happy with their friends and partners?  The way the staff was familiar with them?  The baby photos on the wall?  The breastfeeding positive signs?  The flyers listing classes for new moms?  Or just the fact that this is a place I always pictured next walking into excited and pregnant?

PTSD isn't the same thing as feeling sad.  It is a physical reaction that comes on when triggered by things that bring up past trauma and that can not always be expected.  Do I have this?  I don't know.  Sure feels something like that, though.  Dr. Norrell, on the plus side, was as amazing as I'd hoped, and part of this was her comfort and support when I brought up this idea.  She didn't blow it off as unreasonable.  Quite the opposite, in fact, she agreed completely that this process can equate to trauma and she accepted and acknowledged what I have been through.  She also offered me a variety of actually useful help, including information about her own experience as an adult adoptee, which I had no idea she was.  I asked her if she was willing to serve as my official doctor for any home study paperwork, and in fact, the reality is that she offered before I could really quite get the question fully out.

This all also makes me realize what an amazing job the UCSF Women's Center does of being a trigger-free environment.  I've always appreciated their clear policy about not bringing children into that space, but I'd never thought beyond that to what else is missing that is present in most doctor's offices.  I guess they are smart enough to know how to avoid a room full of panicked crying women, barely able to breath.

So, where to go with this from here?  I don't really know.  I have already decided that I'm near the end of the physical treatments.  I think that when I get through this last transfer, I will be able to really work on healing emotionally, and if I need help, I will get it.   I don't think this will go away right away, though.  I don't think that this last cycle working, even, would heal these wounds.  I don't think becoming a mother will heal these wounds.  I think I am just, now, wounded and I have to find a way for that to be OK with me.

1 comment:

  1. A powerful post, Sharon, and one that I am so glad you shared. I have heard PTSD tossed around as if it were something that everyone gets after something bad happens. In this case, the evidence is clear and I hope that that knowledge helps as you make decisions moving forward.