I was at the lowest point I’d ever reached and I was now set to embark on something new, something utterly terrifying. I had made the first step in contacting a counsellor and within a few hours I had an appointment booked for the following week.
There are some shocking statistics around the impact of infertility, according to a Fertility Network UK study in 2016, 90% of people experiencing infertility reported feeling depressed, 42% experienced suicidal feelings and 70% of respondents reported detrimental impacts on their relationship. All of these applied to me. The impact ran deep and through every aspect of my life and relationships.
For those that have read my previous posts, you will know that I refused counselling each and every time it was offered and yet here I was in the throws of depression reaching out desperately hoping that this stranger would be able to help me. The day of my first appointment came. I had no intentions of backing out, something inside was telling me that I had to do this, I needed to, otherwise I would never get better. I had to travel an hour from home and I remember the journey like it was yesterday. I cried pretty much all the way, thoughts of why me, why is my life destroyed, what have I done to deserve this, running through my head. I was early so I parked up on the local supermarket car park and then the sheer panic hit. I couldn’t do it, I needed to just go back home, I would be ok, wouldn’t I? I didn’t need this, I wasn’t that much of a failure, was I? I was shaking like a leaf, just like I had been for the previous few weeks. I talked myself into going and so that’s what I did.
A cold December morning and I met the person that has truly helped me to change my life. I didn’t know that at the time and I was very unsure what it would actually be like. The session started and I just felt cold, freezing cold. The room wasn’t cold, but I was frozen to the bone. I’m not sure if it was nerves or emotion. I was very aware that I was shaking & clearly in a bad way. She has since said that when she first met me I looked grey, and I suppose that’s an accurate description. I was in such a dark place, I was a shadow of my former self and a shadow of the person I wanted to be. I hated being like this, it was time to face it, whatever that meant. After she went through her background, some formalities and I signed a form she asked me why I had come to see her. Where the hell do I start, infertility or work? I explained that I was signed off with stress and there was lots of work stress, but that I was struggling after so many years of infertility. And then I just started to talk, the infertility stuff came out first. I talked through our initial diagnosis, our treatment history & all of the investigations. The failure, the hope and yet more failure. I felt the tears coming as the enormity of what I had been through started to emerge in front of me, yet I didn’t cry. I was shaking, my voice was shaking, part of me was screaming to stop, yet I kept talking. I reached the point in our story where we were supposed to have treatment in Greece but I explained that I just couldn’t do it. That the thought of me sent me into sheer panic.
She listened as I spoke, she wrote things down, she asked questions as I talked about cycle after cycle, after all the story was quite complex and it was clear I lost her a couple of times but she stayed with me. Her tone was soft and caring and she spoke like she actually wanted to know this stuff about me, she seemed interested. Everyone else in my life seemed to switch off when I started talking about infertility, she seemed the complete opposite. When I had stopped talking she put her pen down, looked straight at me and asked me how I had survived the last few years? She commented that it was no wonder I had found myself in the position that I was now in and that it was perfectly understandable that I would be feeling the way I did. With 2 sentences my feelings were validated, my position was validated and most of all she made me feel that it was ok for me not to be ok. Why would I be ok after being through so much? In that instant I knew that she was the right counsellor for me. She was to the point and yet she seemed to get me. For the first time ever, someone seemed to understand the complexity of what I had been through and acknowledge that of course this would be having a huge impact on every aspect of my life. She didn’t brush my feelings to the side, she didn’t try to tell me I would be ok or that what was meant to be was meant to be, all of those things that those closest to me had said in the years leading up to this point. She had simply listened, she had listened to the actual words, she seemed to understand and most of all she showed compassion and empathy. For the first time in along time it felt like someone actually got me.
The hour passed and she asked if I wanted to see her again. I made another appointment. I left the appointment and I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from me. I knew I had a long way to go, but I had made that first vital step, I had asked for help and it was there. I think those around me thought that I would have 5 or 6 sessions and I would be fixed, whatever that even means. When people asked me how it had gone, I said that it had gone ok and that I was going to keep going, I needed to keep going.
The next session we talked about work, after all that was why I was there. Being off work sick had triggered me to seek help. Yet, as I talked about work, infertility stuff came into the story again. It was here again and it wasn’t going away. None of it was going away. I left that session feeling lighter but now a little scared of how long this might go on for and where it might end up taking me. A huge can of worms had truly been opened.
Christmas 2015 came and went, I remember very little about it. I was due to go back to work on Christmas Eve but another GP signed me off for a month. We were due to go to the Maldives in January. I begged the GP to write me a letter to say I was too unwell to travel so that we could cancel, she said that couldn’t be further from the truth and the holiday may do me the world of good. I suppose it just highlights the depths that depression sends you to. I lost all perspective. Who in their right mind would not want to go to the Maldives and Dubai, it was the holiday of a lifetime. And that’s exactly what it was.
I didn’t have any more counselling sessions before we went away and whilst we were away my next appointment got cancelled. I said I would re-arrange when I got back home. She could only offer a phone appointment for the next few weeks. It gave me the perfect excuse not to go back, I didn’t really like the idea of a phone appointment but maybe I was just too scared to keep going. I knew would go back when I could have a face to face appointment. We came back from the holiday, two weeks in the sunshine and I felt much better. I was due to go back to work and felt ok to go. I contacted my boss to say I was coming back and she said they were going through huge changes so it may be unsettling. I made an appointment with the GP and she signed me off for another few weeks.
So, time off work, no stress from work. The perfect time to do another IVF cycle. Writing this now I just want to scream at myself, what the hell were you thinking? But the truth was I felt ok, I felt like I could cope and of course the new approach in Greece was going to work. I wouldn’t have to wrestle with work for time off. There wasn’t going to be an embryo transfer because the drugs I was having meant I would have to be a freeze all, so I wouldn’t have to contend with a two week wait, this was just the technical part of making embryos and I was ok with that. 2016 had to be our time, didn’t it? Surely we deserved a break…surely we deserved a positive outcome. And it was done, the wheels were in motion and we embarked on an IVF cycle in Greece.
I will leave it there for now.
I know lots of my fellow fertility warriors have not been to counselling so I hope that this post gives some re-assurance that its ok to ask for help, it really does help. My first session was a really good experience. When I walked in I felt like I was at the bottom of a pit that I would never get out of. When I walked out I felt like I was at the bottom of a pit but it was no wonder I was there & I had hope that I would be ok. It was such a relief to talk to someone who wasn’t emotionally involved with us and someone for me just to talk to. That’s all I wanted to do, talk and not be made to feel like I was a burden or that the person listening wanted to give me the answers. The truth is no-one can do that. I suppose I have been lucky that my first counselling experience was very positive and I knew instantly that I had found the right one for me. If I hadn’t then I would have kept looking. I needed it and I was no longer afraid or ashamed to admit it. Yes I had a wobble after a couple of sessions but as my story continues it will become clear that counselling has truly helped me save myself.