Musings and Snoozes

Have the courage to be vulnerable

I’ve written about vulnerability before and for my love of Brene Brown, but it’s been playing on my mind again recently, making me think about what it means to be vulnerable in certain aspects of our life.

It’s uncomfortable and it’s scary, that much I know. But it makes me realise that it impacts every aspect of my life – work, relationships, friendships, health – and that if I don’t embrace it, I won’t fully give myself the opportunity to get what I want and what I need.

But what does that actually mean?

Well first and foremost, it involves being honest, not just with others but with yourself. If you can’t be honest with yourself then you will never be able to identify what you need to move forward. For me, this is the hardest part, I can lie to myself a hundred times over if it makes me feel better. Feeling better isn’t always making the situation better though. It’s a temporary fix, nothing more. Being honest for me usually involves writing as much as possible down – sometimes on here, sometimes in my journal, sometimes just on the nearest bit of scrap paper I can find – but one way or another getting it out of my mind and being able to “see” it in front of me. Then I can start figuring out what I’m feeling and where it’s coming from.

Then comes sharing with others. This is where I have no middle ground – I either share everything or nothing. Boundaries are not my strong point! And I worry sometimes that I share too much. I cross post a lot of my blogs to Facebook, albeit to a limited group of people who get to see it, but it includes people I work with, family, people I don’t see all that often, and I worry that it influences their view of me. But along with vulnerability comes being authentic. I have such a passion for bringing your authentic self to every situation (fueled by listening to the amazing La-Chun Lindsay at a GLTBA conference a couple of years ago!) – I honestly believe you make better and more fulfilling connections by being honest about who you are. But it can be scary to put yourself out there, you have to be vulnerable and you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Nine times out of ten though, the benefits absolutely outweigh that fear. I lose count of how many people I’ve come to know better, to build a connection with, people I’ve learned about, and mutual help and support I’ve given and received with sometimes the most unexpected people.

Finally comes asking for what you need. Quite frankly, I’m terrible at this too, but I do find that having gone through the above process, I can at least identify my needs a little easier. Sometimes it’s help, sometimes it’s reassurance, sometimes it’s someone to listen to me, to help me break things down into manageable chunks. I find it extremely hard to ask for what I need, but almost every single time I’ve managed it, I’ve felt such relief afterwards. I should add that I don’t always get what I want – asking doesn’t always mean getting – but just by articulating my needs and my feelings, it’s like a weight being lifted from my shoulders.

And so that’s where I am today – trying to remind myself that sometimes we have to be vulnerable to be heard, we have to be honest to get what we need, and we have to have the courage to speak out. It, and I, are a work in progress, but we’re getting there.

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Find your tribe and let them in

I didn’t want to leave this for days, weeks, months on end after my last post. I’m not sure how many words I can find, but I want to give it a go.

I cried. A lot. That’s the first thing to say, and oh god it was such a relief. It was also messy, and scary, and uncomfortable, and happened at about 1am, because of course it did. And you know what set it off? People being nice! I realised that maybe I’d been doing it wrong – watching all the sad puppy videos was never going to work, I needed to watch the happy puppy videos! You guys were the happy puppies, so to speak. I was so overwhelmed with the love and support I received in response to my post that I just lost it, in a good way. So thank you! You made this scared, sad, lost, girl, feel again, and I am so grateful.

Secondly, I spoke to my therapist and we have a plan of action. Just having that makes me feel a little safer and more hopeful. We started this last week by working to double my meds. I have to hope to god this works, because any higher and we’ll be out of baby safe range. So far so good. I also have emergency meds to take if and when it gets quite so bad again. So I feel like I have a bit of a net there to catch me if needed, and I’m hopeful these steps should help balance me out a bit.

Thirdly, I’ve been meaning to write about what creating and being part of a Tribe means to me for a long time now. I never quite get round to putting it into words, but if there’s one thing this last week or so has taught me, it’s the importance of having those people around. It’s about the people who come into your life and make you want to be a better person, help you grow, help you understand yourself and others around you. I am so lucky to have people in my life that do that. That I can spend time with and not just feel better in terms of being consoled, but feel better by being made to feel strong, by remembering I have people who will fight with me, whatever the universe (or my own mind) throws at me.

And I don’t just want that for me. It was a huge part in finally feeling brave enough to have children (or child actually, to be more specific, but “have child” sounds awkward!). I never believed that I could be strong enough mentally or physically to raise a child, but I came to realise that I wouldn’t be doing this on my own. I wouldn’t even be doing this just with Jon. I have the most amazing support, both practically and emotionally, that if I was willing to ask for what I need and let those people help, then I could do this. I’ve always loved the old stories where the children are raised by the village, or where there are a hundred cousins and a million different aunts and uncles. Those aren’t realistic options for me, or indeed for most people these days, but that doesn’t mean I can’t create my own tribe, and that tribe can look however we choose to make it look. Families no longer look like the traditional Mum, Dad, and 2.4 children these days at the best of times, and I have never been traditional in the way I look at the world, and actually for the first time in my life, I’m excited and proud of that. I have so many incredible people around me, some who are close, some who are far away, some I see once a year, some I see almost every day, some I’ve known for my whole life, some have come crashing into my world in the last few months, but one way or another, I want each and every one of those people to be part of helping shape and influence my life and hopefully my child’s life too. I want them know, like I do, that there are so many different people to support them and guide them through life, because honestly, that freedom and that strength is invaluable 💛

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There’s a storm inside my head

So, I’m not okay. Hardest three words to say sometimes, but they need saying.

I’ve been struggling since before Christmas. I always get myself tied up in knots during December – as much as I love Christmas, it is by far the most stressful time of year for me. I then make really bad decisions and rely on unhealthy coping methods to get me through, resulting in spending January in a guilt induced haze about everything I haven’t done.

And that’s where I am now, the guilt induced haze. Depression and anxiety have kicked in at the same time, meaning not only do I have no motivation to do anything or see anyone, I then get anxious about all the things I haven’t done and all the people I haven’t seen. It’s a vicious circle and one that right now, I barely have any energy to try and break.

I’m sleeping too much, which sometimes I can put down to low spoons and my fibro kicking in, but as I lay in bed the other morning, I realised I was too scared to open my eyes. It wasn’t even about getting up and functioning, it was about not wanting to make everything real. If I keep my eyes closed and stay asleep, nothing hurts and I can stay hidden. When I hear my phone buzz with a message I want to read or I know there’ll be coffee just as soon as I’m up, and I still can’t bring myself to open my eyes, I know there’s a problem!

I don’t like feeling like this. I mean, I realise that’s probably obvious, but I’m past the point of wallowing in it and just want it to go away. Actually at this point, I’d be happy to just have a good cry. I haven’t cried in months and I’d give anything to be able to let it all out and feel better, even temporarily. But there’s nothing. Not even when watching adverts of poor, maltreated pooches, which is always the quickest way to make me blub! Still, not even a tear!

I need an out. I’m not sure what that out is yet, how I make this better, what needs to change, or what I need to do, but I will figure it out. Or at least my therapist will help me figure it out I hope. Despite all of the nothingness and the meh and guilt, I do know I have amazing people in my life, and even if they don’t know it (and even if I don’t always show it) they keep getting me out of bed in a morning, they let me be who I am and love me regardless, and for that I am eternally grateful.

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To the girl I once was, to who I am now, and to who I might become

The end of the year and the prospect of a blank page always brings about a whole raft of “what have I done this year?” and “what shall I aim for next year?” I have long since learned that I am terrible at traditional resolutions, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to try to aim for something.

This year has been…..well…..tricksy, exciting, heartbreaking, hopeful, full of love and amazing friends and family. And I won’t say I wouldn’t change it for the world, because quite clearly, there are certain parts of it I absolutely would. I’ve asked a lot of questions, of others, of the universe, of my faith and of my beliefs. Sometimes I’ve found answers, for the most part I’m still searching, and will continue to in 2019.

How I answer those questions is what I want to focus on over the next 12 months. Reflection for the sake of self indulgence is therapeutic sometimes, but I also want to try and learn from myself, my past, my experiences. And from other people too. We have such amazing stories to tell and share with each other and I want to hear each and every one.

A certain Lovely Lady sent me the #52SmallThings self care challenge and it absolutely appeals to me and my terrible resolution making! I love The Mighty as a resource and a support network, and this is definitely one of their more inspired ideas. It also fits in around one of my goals for next year that I’d already decided on. I always want to write more, but sometimes the goal of “do more writing” or “write every day” can be too overwhelming to be effective. So over the next 365 days I’m going to write a letter to myself. It might be to the girl I am today, or to a past self or future me, but the important thing is that I tell a story that I need to tell. I haven’t decided if I’ll share the letters here, somewhere else, or if at all, but it’s going on the #52SmallThings list and I’ll be sharing that as I go.

As I stand on the edge of this year and next I’m feeling hopeful, optimistic, and a little bit nervous, but as emotions go, I think that’s a pretty good place to be.

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Reset, readjust, restart, refocus

Every now and again it’s nice to come and get lost in the city. So many people and not a single one gives a damn about who you are, what you do with your life, or who you love. It’s incredibly restorative in a way I never realise I need until I’m here.

Christmas is always harder than I admit. It’s one of my favourite times of the year and the excitement I still feel at 31 is much the same as it was when I was 5 years old. I don’t ever want to lose that. But inevitably, being an adult, particularly one with some mental health challenges, makes it a little different. The feeling of being pulled in a million different directions, of trying to fit everything in before the big day, of not feeling like I have any time to just sit and breathe and be. Throw in being an introvert and a thoroughly disorganised one at that, and really, it’s a recipe for disaster.

But I will always make it work. Despite this being the busiest weekend of the month for me, I’ve still managed to find a couple of hours to sit with a coffee, my thoughts, and my music to just reset. Even better that I’m in Central London as I do this – no one knows me, no one cares who I am, what I’m doing, or what I’ve got going on in my life. My headphones are shutting out the world, Dessa is reminding me how complicated life can be, but how I can navigate it and process in my own way.

At the bottom of my coffee cup, I’ll be ready to go back out into the world. But for now, I’ll be here, quietly resetting.

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As Autumn Turns to Winter

Blog Quote

So it’s been a while! I’ve somehow lost my words over the last few months and just haven’t been able to find them again. But I think they might be coming back slowly, and so it seems as good a time as any to try and empty my head onto metaphorical paper.

Autumn has been and gone, and now I’m in full on Christmas mode. I’ve had the first viewing of Love Actually, the Christmas Tree is up (albeit not decorated yet), and I’ve had my first mince pie of the season. I haven’t written any cards or bought many presents yet, but one step at a time, hey. Like always, it seems to have snuck up on me and I’m left wondering where Summer went and how we got here. It also makes me realise that it’s a year since #ProjectBaby began, which in turn makes me think about what a crazy year it’s been.

Things are……ok at the moment. I still feel as though I’m wading through treacle a little, but I think I have to accept that this will be the reality for a while yet. Although it can feel like hard work, I’d still happily take this over the previous numbness any day. When something good happens, I can still feel it and still appreciate it for what it is, even if to feel the good, I have to feel the meh and the bad too. Being horribly sick over the last week or so hasn’t helped – I have a tendency to mope and hide away when this happens, but there have been some awesome bright spots to keep my head above water, including, but not limited to, winning the Hamilton Lottery and getting to see it for a second time. That alone has kept me on a high for days!

#ProjectBaby is still ongoing. I’m being seen at the Fertility Clinic now, so I’m right in the middle of being poked and prodded and tested for things I never knew existed. I’ve had to wait until 12 weeks from the last miscarriage and to be honest, it’s felt like a horrible limbo. Not being able to move forward, but not being able to close the last chapter either – it’s been hard to focus. But so far everything has come back as clear, which is great, even if it doesn’t actually tell me what the problem is yet. I don’t know which I’m more afraid of – finding something wrong, or not finding anything at all. But I’m still remaining positive, I still believe it’ll work out, and I still have faith that we’ll get there. I have to be back at the hospital again tomorrow morning, and then I get 8 weeks of trying not to think about it every second of every day! Thank god for Christmas music, mince pies, decorations, and Christmas jumpers to keep me occupied! January will just have to wait for now.

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Self care is how you take your power back

My relationship with my body has always been complicated. From my teenage years of hating the way it looked, knowing that my immune system is attacking itself on a regular basis, and feeling like it’s battered and broken, to sometimes embracing my curves, and being grateful for everything my body *can* do, all things considered. But the last few months have given me a newfound respect for my body and what it can do.

I had my third miscarriage a couple of weeks ago. The magic number 3 that now allows me to get referred to the Fertility Clinic to try and find out what’s going on. Emotionally I’m doing okay, although a little deflated in general, but physically, it’s starting to take its toll a little. The body is an amazing thing when it comes to pregnancy, not just in how it grows a mini hooman, or how something so big comes out of something so small (*shudder*), but all the tiny, subtle changes it makes from the very beginning. Consequently, three cycles of conception to miscarriage can feel like hard work, even in the few short weeks it lasts. There’s a reason that even the NHS website lists “mother’s intuition” as a symptom of both early pregnancy and early miscarriage – while I’m sure many women wouldn’t necessarily feel every little change, it seems I’m prone to *all* the symptoms in the first few weeks, and therefore know I’m pregnant a good 7-10 days before I can even take a pregnancy test. The constant nausea is the first sign, this time round followed by throwing up a couple of times, and then the absolute exhaustion kicks in. I’m used to fatigue – it’s a daily part of my autoimmune life – but this is very different, pure weariness and sleepiness, rather than physical exhaustion. Next comes the peeing every five minutes, which I always thought didn’t happen until you had an actual baby pressing on your bladder, but no, hormones do this apparently. Talking of which, the influx of hormones when you become pregnant and the subsequent loss of said hormones when you miscarry – I thought my PMS was bad, but this has been a whole new experience!

And all of this in the space of a few short weeks. It’s exhausting. But it’s also awe-inspiring. You wouldn’t think it was possible for so much to go on in such a short space of time, but the body is a very clever thing and does everything it possibly can to prepare for growing a new hooman. In an equally clever, although obviously heartbreaking way, the body is also clever enough to know when this one won’t work out, and therefore miscarries. I cannot comprehend what that would feel like at 10 weeks, at 25 weeks, at 30 weeks, and I hope I never have to experience the body’s cleverness that far along, but at this point, I am grateful for it figuring it out so quickly.

Focussing on my body is helping me through this more than I ever thought it could. Not just focussing on it making it a baby, but focussing on looking after it and being as kind as I can to it. Don’t get me wrong, this kindness includes a good hearty slab of chocolate cake every now and again (it consisted of a lot of this right after the last miscarriage), but it’s balancing that with getting moving, with exercising, with keeping an eye on what I eat and drink. With this having happened three times now, I decided it was stupid to keep cutting out caffeine or alcohol, only to then go back to it after miscarrying, and then to do it all again the next time, so I’m sticking to decaf, I’ve stopped drinking (not that I drank a lot to begin with), and I’m trying to balance my diet a bit better. I’ve gone back to the gym on a regular basis, joined a dance class, and done the one thing neither I, nor anyone who knows me, would have ever believed – started running.

And it feels amazing. Not because I’m particularly good at any of these things, but because it gives me such a sense of control amidst all the physical and mental chaos. I still run to a constant dialogue of “I’m going to die. This is bloody torture”, and I still feel like my legs might give out on me at any moment at the gym, but when I get back home and see what I’ve done and the progress I’m making, it’s worth every moment. I’m a very visual person, and if it weren’t for Fitbit, Strava, virtual races, and running groups, I can safely say I wouldn’t have even bothered starting, but aiming for goals – be it a medal, a t-shirt, or just a longer distance – works perfectly for me. Plus I’ve come across and spoken to so many people who are in my situation, or very similar, which is a big help in reminding me I’m not on my own and a great source of support when I need it.

So that’s where I am. I have an appointment at the the Fertility Clinic next month, which is keeping me positive, and in the meantime I will continue running, dancing, and sweating my way along.

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Things my body is teaching me

I’m umming and ahhing about whether it’s too soon to write about this, but I think for my own sake, I should try. Plus I found the below comic and it couldn’t be more apt if it tried.

I found out I was pregnant last week, but I’ve since miscarried. Again. All of the same things I wrote in my last post apply – I haven’t lost a baby, it was just a bunch of cells, it was very early on, and thank god it wasn’t 3 or 4 months down the line etc, but the difference this time round is I knew I was pregnant before it happened. I can’t even begin to explain what a difference that makes – even though it was just a few days, for those few days I knew I had something growing inside me, and the inevitable thoughts towards the next 9 months filled my mind. And then it’s gone. Friday I was hopeful. Saturday I was unsure. Sunday I knew.

I’m doing ok. Physically, I’m almost through it, emotionally, I’ve a little way to go. I’m trying hard to focus on the positives and remind myself that this is so early on in the grand scheme of trying for children. I’m trying to let myself feel it though too. I know if I don’t, I’ll bottle it up and it’ll come out at such an inappropriate moment otherwise, and so I’m doing my best to remember that it’s ok to be upset, to be sad, to cry over what could have been. I keep seeing the quote from The Velveteen Rabbit – “Once you become real, you can’t become unreal again” and that’s exactly it, just the knowing is what’s making it harder this time – once I’d felt pregnant, I couldn’t unfeel it.

But that is also giving me a bit of a kick up the backside, and making sure I try and learn something in the process. I’ve been making a semi conscious effort to address diet and exercise recently, but with house moving and holiday (and not having a fridge or freezer in the new house), shockingly it’s not gone all that well! But for those few days that I was growing a hooman, all I wanted to do was look after myself, and I can’t lose that feeling. I know my weight puts me at risk of miscarriage (although I’m pretty sure not enough for two in a row), but given that I have enough health issues that are out of my control, the very least I can do is do something about the ones I can control. And god knows, if there was ever an incentive to do it, this is it.

So that’s where I am at the moment. I can’t say it’s an ideal place to be, and I’m pretty sure I can expect to burst into tears at least once a day for the next week or so, but I could not have more amazing people around me and checking in on me, so I have no doubt I, will get through this one way or another 🙂

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Remember the Reason You’re Doing This

Well Project Baby (as it seems to have been named) has been quite the up and down over the last few weeks, so much so that writing has gone to the bottom of the list!

When I decided to start including Project Baby in my blog (as opposed to keeping it between close family and friends), I did it because I wanted to put in writing everything that it entailed – that it wasn’t just going to be a case of “ok, I want a baby now” (even if that’s how it seemed to poor Husband when I sprung it on him) and as if by magic, baby occurs. I knew from the start it was going to be complicated by my autoimmune problems, my fibromyalgia, my medication, my anxiety, and my depression. Plus all the other bits and pieces that crop up along any “normal” person’s journey too. So I have a lot to catch up on and process from the last few weeks. I’m pleased to say the general trend is still positive, I’m still going in the right direction, and all the weird and wonderful ups and downs are still very much worth it. So here’s where we are.

Medication

This was going so well and then we hit a road block. A few weeks ago I had the worst period of depression I’ve had for a while (probably since I was in my early 20s, if not before) and it was quite the shock to the system. With having been on Duloxetine for the past 6 years, it made me realise how well it had been working at keeping the depression at bay, and so it was a bit of a wake up call to remember what a depressive episode feels like. On the plus side, with the help of people around me and as much as I hate to admit it, a huge help from the “how does that make you feel?” therapist, I got through it and got back to a level playing field after a couple of weeks. As a consequence, I agreed with the nice, pragmatic, drugs therapist, that increasing my dosage of Imipranine would be best. We’re still in baby safe range, and there was little point me fighting each day, when it could be eased by upping the dosage. So that’s what we did.

At the same time as all this, I’ve been having real problems with managing my body temperature. I’ve always been bad at this, from the rashes I used to get as a teenager when I got too cold, to passing out by the swimming pool when I was 16, to getting it confirmed that it was a common part of having an autoimmune illness a couple of years ago. More recently I’ve been overheating very suddenly, going dizzy, and sometimes fainting. Which is less fun. Having seen my GP about this and having had an ECG, it’s been confirmed that my heart rate is running too high, which is contributing to increasing my temperature and passing out, and that it’s a likely side effect of the Imipramine. So guess what? We can’t increase the dosage after all, and I’ve had to go back down to the previous dosage. It’s incredibly hard not to feel like 2 steps forward and 3 steps back, but I’m doing okay for now on the lower dosage, even if some days feel a bit like wading through treacle. I’m back to see the nice Psychiatrist later this week, so we’ll see where we go from here.

Anxiety

My anxiety has been relatively quiet, which has been a pleasant relief. With the Imipramine, my head actually shuts up at night and so I’m sleeping amazingly. The downside of course is that I’d like to continue sleeping at 7/8/9/10am in the morning, but hey, I’ll take what I can get. I’m now finding that the anxiety is attackng for short, sudden, brief spells instead, and is more irrational than ever. This last week’s cause for sudden attacks has been animals dying. Not even my own animal, just animals in general. I see a bird, a cat, a dog, and immediately think about what if someone hurt them and they were suffering and they couldn’t tell anyone and……..and then I have to physically tell myself to shut up. Which is fine when I’m on my own, less so when there are other people around and I need to shout “pack it in!” to myself. None of this was helped by Bella being sick in the middle of all this, though suffice to say she is not dying, and has instead decided after 4 days of being on hunger strike, that actually she’s quite hungry and will get over it now. Anyway, I’m doing ok, with the help of Diazepam for when it all gets too much (and the promise to my Psychiatrist that I won’t go selling them on the street for copious amounts of money).

Moving House

For anyone who’s spent even 5 minutes with me recently, you will know that I am thoroughly sick of packing, of boxes, of trips to the tip, of living in chaos. But, we are so nearly there! We start moving on Friday evening and oh good lord, it can’t come soon enough. Except it can, because obviously there is still a hell of a lot to pack, throw away, sort etc in the current house, which is exactly why I’m sitting here in Starbucks, writing a mammoth blog post. Obviously. But I am incredibly excited – to be moving back to a small village, to a cottage, to having a flat garden, not to mention the village itself being flat – I cannot wait! Almost everything important is in walking distance from the house, including the park, the pub(s), the doctors surgery, AND the COFFEE AND BOOKSHOP!!!! Seriously, it’s like this place was made for me. Anyway, 6 more days of packing, throwing, sorting, followed by 3-4 days of moving, followed by weeks of unpacking, scowling, chaos, and remembering all the people we need to notify that we’ve moved, and it’ll all be done!

And so to Baby

Don’t get too excited, there is no baby yet. But there almost was, which I am taking to be the most positive news so far. On Tuesday morning, while sat in Starbucks (obviously) I started bleeding. I assumed it was my period, albeit a week early, but by the following day I realised this probably wasn’t just a normal period. After 20 years, you learn what your period should and shouldn’t look like each month, and this was nothing like I was used to – the cramps, the pain in my back, the sheer amount and colour of the blood (I make no apologies for TMI here, either read or don’t!) – I’m the kind of girl who has almighty PMS (just ask my poor Mum about the steel boned corset incident), but apart from the first day, I actually don’t notice too much when my period is here, so to have to go to the bathroom every hour to check I hadn’t bled all over my clothes was definitely not normal. Anyway, bottom line is, it wasn’t normal and I’ve had a very early miscarriage.

Miscarriage is a very emotive word. I’ve learned that with the few people I’ve told over the last couple of days. And quite honestly, I feel a bit guilty about even using the word, even though medically it’s accurate. So first off, let me say, I’m fine. I feel icky, I physically feel a bit like someone has kicked me in the stomach, but emotionally, I’m ok. Everyone is different, so I absolutely won’t take away from anyone else’s reactions to this happening to them, but for me this is purely a biological thing. When people hear miscarriage, they think of losing a baby. That’s not what this is for me – I didn’t even know I was pregnant, there was no emotional attachment to my broken egg that didn’t work right and so had to come out, and so while of course it’s not a pleasant experience, it is just “one of those things”. And actually I don’t say that lightly – I have been shocked to find just how normal this is, and how many women don’t even realise it’s happened to them. For me it was a relatively easy spot, but for someone who is used to really heavy and cramp-ridden periods, I doubt you’d necessarily notice it was happening. And what’s more, statistically it has absoltely zero bearing on getting pregnant in the future – you are no more prone to miscarriage than anyone else if this happens, it is purely an egg that didn’t quite do what it was supposed to do, and that’s that. So I am absoluely taking the positive in that. More importantly for me, this is a massive sign that at least my body can produce an egg and that theoretically I *can* get pregnant. Up until now I haven’t known how my body works or even if it works, so I am calling this progress.

So there we go, that’s pretty much where we’re at now. It’s been quite the disruptive rollercoaster of a time the last few weeks or so, but I haven’t once questioned or regretted what I’m doing, and that to me was the point of writing all this. I want to know when it all becomes too much, when I’m putting myself at too much risk doing this, and when I have to make the decision to try other options. If I don’t take time to reflect then I will carry on regardless, so it feels good to check in and to know that, despite all the chaos described above, we’re still on the right track, still heading in the right direction, and still getting one step closer to Project Baby.

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“And how does that make you feel?”

Amongst my collection of general medical people, I have two different types of Psych doctors; a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist. My Psychiatrist is my favourite – he’s funny, clearly slightly fascinated by my life choices, and I enjoy our discussions on why Bisexuality and Borderline Personality Disorder seem to be intrinsically linked. I also like him because we discuss concrete, controllable things like my medication, their side-effects, and what we can do about them.

And then on the other side we have my Psychologist. Despite her never actually having uttered the phrase in four months, I insist on calling her my “And how does that make you feel?” doctor, complete with soft, patronising voice. She’s neither of these things, but her whole purpose is to get me to talk about my feelings, which in stark comparison to dosage and medicinal components, is incredibly bloody difficult. Thus she is not my favourite doctor.

She is however, incredibly good at her job. She lets my sentences linger, rather than jumping in or guessing what I might be about to say. She has absolutely no problem with an awkward silence, knowing full well that I’ll fill it by continuing to talk and that when I do, that will be the most important part of the conversation, not whatever I was rambling on about previously. Today she asked me a question that resulted initially in an “I don’t know” response. It was genuine, I really didn’t have an answer for her, despite desperately trying to find one. Five minutes later I’ve said something else, probably to justify the aforementioned “I don’t know” and hey presto, we’ve just found not only the problem, but the solution, or at least the coping method. Witch, I tell you….

So while she can’t cure me, and she can’t make the problems disappear or fix my slightly wonky brain, she does have an incredible knack for giving me renewed confidence and a sense that I can have control over what feels like the uncontrollable. It’s not always an easy control, there’s still a considerable amount of “but I don’t want to, this is easier”, but it inevitably reminds me that there very much is a light, if not at the end of, then *in* the tunnel, if I’d only bloody take it.

So here’s this week’s light. Number one is telling people what I need. Not how I feel, or what I want, or an apology for not feeling great, but what I actually need, with a view to helping all of us! I categorically cannot make a decision right now, not even the simplest of ones (level A decisions as we called them) and that’s partly what’s fuelling the anxiety and the resulting depression. Every day I wake up and know I have things to do (we’re literally talking shower, get dressed, brush teeth here) and the overwhelmingness of even deciding what to wear or if I should wash my hair that day or not is stopping me from doing anything else, including getting out of bed some days. So given that I’m struggling to make those basic decisions, it’s no wonder I can’t get my mind to focus on what I should pack first or what I need to go through, and consequently I’m giving up, not doing it, and going back to hide under my blanket! So where I can, I need to communicate that I need someone to narrow the decision down for me, to make it an Option A or Option B type decision, rather than a pick a letter out of the sky type of decision.

Secondly I need to set limits/make baby steps. I’ve done a lot of either cancelling plans completely or being uncomfortable longer than I’d like recently and I need to find a middle ground. Making plans is positively terrifying at the moment, and this one’s tricky because the problem isn’t that I don’t want to see people or spend time with them, I absolutely do, the problem is my mind being too scared to be away from my so called Safe Space for too long. So if I know I’m going out somewhere for several hours, be it dinner, over to a friend’s place, out for a drink etc, that’s too long for my mind to cope with, so it just panics and I give up and cancel completely. What I need to do is find a compromise – go out and see people for a set amount of time instead, maybe just a couple of hours at a time, and then tell my mind it can come back to its Safe Space after that. If I’m doing ok and I want to stay longer, then that’s ok too, but it gives my mind a time frame to focus on, which along with the Hour by Hour way of coping, really helps. I used this (without really realising it) a couple of months back when I worked reduced hours for a bit – just starting my day knowing there was an “escape” time made each day a little more manageable. Some days I stayed past my alloted time because I was doing ok, but it was about having that fixed time in my head at the beginning of the day.

It’s crazy, quite literally mental, but the mind is a funny thing and there sure as hell isn’t any rationale to how it works, so I’ve just got to work with it! The first person I ever spoke to about my anxiety told me I should name it, to picture it as a person or a creature, and this feels similar, only in this case my mind is a crying toddler who doesn’t want to be without its blankie. All I can hope is that if I can learn to tame and pacify my mind, then the long term goal of what would be a toddler in a few years time should be a piece of cake, right……right?!

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