MicroblogMondays: A Sort of Celebration

Last week I had a week off from therapy.  Before we ended our session the previous week, my therapist assigned me homework.  She noticed progress that I have made; changing some of the beliefs that I had for a long time, being able to let go of some of my fears.  She said that it is all worth celebrating. She wanted me to find a way to document this milestone.  It is some sort of a celebration to mark this point in my journey of becoming mentally and emotionally well.  She said it could be journaling, or going to a place that brings me peace.  It could even be another drawing that shows what I am learning or how I am growing.  It could be with or without Ursula, my inner critic.

Since I had two weeks to think about this, I decided to take my time in thinking about how to do it.  I eventually chose to draw it out.  It took one week to form an image in my head about what to draw.  Slowly but surely, a picture emerged in my mind and continued to take shape throughout the week.  I sat down after the kids went down for the night on Saturday and went to work. I got to say I thoroughly enjoyed this process and thought that maybe I should really pick up my coloring pencils and markers more frequently.  This is the finished product:

This is me and Ursula sitting outside of a cafe having a cup of coffee, a piece of pastry, and reading our own books quietly. I love coffee and I love books.  My inner critic and I are peacefully enjoying a quiet afternoon together doing something I love.  We don’t necessarily have to talk but it feels like we have a mutual understanding, like old friends.  This is how I feel, that I don’t have to fight what my inner critic is telling me.  I can still thank her for telling me things that I have to pay attention to and have a peaceful talk with her about how to approach these subjects.  This is how I feel lately, being able to have a dialogue with my inner critic in a healthy way.  I can’t wait to show my therapist this picture and see what she has to say.

MicroblogMondays: Inner Critic

My therapist told me that everybody has an inner critic.  This inner critic tells us things that we may not want to hear, like “You are an inadequate mother” or “You should have done better”.  You may want your inner critic to be gone but he/she is here to stay.  My therapist asked me to create an image for this inner critic, give her a name, and even think about what she may look like.  She wants me to befriend my inner critic because that will help with working on my anxiety.  She also asked me to thank my inner critic in my gratitude meditation exercises so that I can move towards living peacefully with her.  I have named my inner critic “Ursula”.  A long time ago when I was still trying to make some embryos to transfer into myself, I had recurring ovarian cysts.  My dear friend Jane Allen named one of my cysts “Ursula”.  When my therapist asked for a name, the name “Ursula” immediately popped in my head.  Her assignment for me this week was to create an image for Ursula.  Since I like drawing (but haven’t even done any since the babies were born), I decided to draw her.  This is the final product:

Doesn’t she look like a mean school teacher?

It was fun for me to draw her.  Now I have an image to look at, I wonder how that is going to help me on my journey to live with inner peace and harmony.

MicroblogMondays: Deepest Fears

I cried during my therapy session last Friday.  It was a soul-cleansing cry that was so unexpected but at the same time so good for me.

My therapist and I have been working on finding the cause(s) of my panic attacks or anxiety symptoms, such as heart palpitations and lightheadedness.  She suggested a book for me to read.  In that book there is a tool called a Daily Mood Log.  I have been using the daily mood log to document any upsetting events, my emotions surrounding them, and my negative thoughts about them.  After I write them all down, I am supposed to come up with neutral thoughts that are true 100% of the time to replace the negative thoughts.  (Instead of positive thoughts as stated in the log, my therapist suggested neutral thoughts because positive thoughts are not always 100% true.) So the last few weeks I have been finishing up two to three of these logs each week in order to understand more about my thoughts and feelings.  I noticed that the first couple of weeks most of the mood logs were about Okra’s tantrums.  Since his extreme tantrums have dwindled down, I find myself focusing more on the aches and pains I feel on my body and my negative thoughts and feelings surrounding that.  It is almost like because I don’t have to focus on Okra anymore, I have more room in my head to look for something else to worry about.  Last week all of my anxiety or worries had to do with any physical symptoms that I felt: throat irritation, phlegm, blocked nostril, gum irritation, skin irritation, muscle pains.  My mind would go really far and I would wonder if I had cancer or COVID.  Especially now that the COVID numbers have gone up in the last few weeks and with the new variant showing up in my area, I find myself having anxious thoughts even going grocery shopping.  After going grocery shopping last Tuesday, I panicked for a few second wondering if I caught COVID afterwards.  The following were the negative thoughts I wrote down: “I have COVID despite being careful”, “It is easy to catch COVID even if I wear a mask”, “I will get COVID no matter what I do, “I will get COVID even just grocery shopping”, and “I will die of COVID”.  I am also supposed to write down how much I believe each thought.  For these thoughts, I wrote down a range between 50% to 70% for each.

In the book that my therapist recommended, the chapter after the daily mood log is called “Uncovering Your Self-Defeating Beliefs”.  These are beliefs that are either about what you believe you need to be or do in order to be a worthwhile human, or about what you believe your relationship with others need to be like.  In the book, it explained that your self-defeating beliefs are always present, but negative thoughts only come when you are upset.  You use what the author calls “Downward Arrow Technique” to ask yourself that if a negative thought were true, “Why would it be upsetting to me? What would it mean to me?”  Once you come up with another negative thought, you ask the same questions.  You repeat this process until you eventually come up with your self-defeating beliefs.  When I first read that chapter, I just started doing my daily mood logs and felt overwhelmed by this process of “Downward Arrow Technique”.  My therapist told me to just get myself familiar with writing my daily mood logs first and not to worry about the next step.  Last Friday during my session, my therapist and I went over my negative thoughts regarding COVID.  After we talked about them, she asked me if I was ready to talk about finding my self-defeating beliefs.  I was like, well okay let’s try it.  She told me to pick a negative thought.  So I picked this one:

“I will catch COVID despite being careful”

She asked, “If that were true, why would it be upsetting to you?”

The following are the negative thoughts that I came up with after asking that question repeatedly with the “Downward Arrow Technique”:

“I will get very sick”

“I will die”

“My kids won’t get the care that will get from me because I am dead”

“My kids will grow up without me”

“My kids will be miserable growing up without their mom”

“My kids will be miserable, unhappy adults, and not be able to life a fulfilling life without me being around”

……

When I got to that point, I started tearing up.  I tried to hold back my tears but the more I wanted to, the more I felt like crying.  I ended up sobbing uncontrollably for a few minutes.  Why?  I asked myself.  I felt this deep pain inside of me when I dug deeper and deeper into my fears: me being dead and not be able to watch my kids grow up.  I was ugly crying while trying to catch my breath so I could talk.  I was crying and talking and crying and talking.  I told my therapist that mortality had been on my mind because I really want to live to see my kids be adults and want to be with them every step of the way.  It is not that I don’t trust my husband.  I do.  I am sure that the children would grow up to be happy, healthy adults even without my presence.  BUT, I so want to be here to witness it and be an integral part of their lives.  The thought of not being around for that really pains me.  I told my therapist that this probably has everything to do with me bringing them into this world after all these years of infertility.  I feel a tremendous responsibility to be healthy and alive in order to take good care of the two human beings that I so desperately tried to bring into this world.  I tried so hard to have children early on but infertility happened and I was already 43 when they were born.  When they grow up, if I am still alive, I will be in my 60s.  I have this fear that I won’t live to see them get married and have kids.  It hurts my heart to even think about leaving them behind.  This is why every time I think about my health, I go into this deep fear of something really wrong with me.  I am afraid that my kids, who were conceived with the help of an egg donor, would grow up hating me for bringing them into this world without me being around to protect them.  I was so surprised by these tears.  I did not even know that I had these fears.  I wonder if I didn’t have any fertility challenges, if these kids were made with my own eggs, or if I had them in my 30s, I would still have these fears.

My therapist is so good.  She waited for me to cry and to finish my thoughts while looking at me with so much compassion and empathy.  She then said to me, “You must have been carrying a lot of pains all these years.”  She suggested that I be kind to myself and practice self love by writing myself a letter about all the fears that I have. She also suggested I write the grownup version of the kids a letter, telling them things that I want them to know if they were to grow up without their mom. Before we parted, she kindly said, “Take good care of yourself this week.”

After we ended our session, I just sat there and was in awe of all that was uncovered.  Therapy is powerful.  This tool is powerful.  I didn’t know that infertility and the pain associated with it still haunt me.  Now that we have uncovered my fears, maybe this is the light at the end of the tunnel for reducing and eventually eliminating my anxiety symptoms?  I sure hope so, but I know there is a lot of work ahead of me in order to reach that place of wellness.

MicroblogMondays: Self Care

Microblog_Mondays

Last Friday marked the day after we confirmed that our 5th transfer has failed.  The feeling is so familiar yet different.  We are used to failure.  It is a sad thing to say, but we are.  We know how to handle ourselves when it comes to failed transfers.  We know that we will be sad and devastated for a bit and we will be over it.  And we will move forward again.  But then, this time is also so different.  We have given this transfer the best embryo with the best grade and score and the best uterus that we could provide ever.  It was supposed to be a foolproof formula.

But it wasn’t.

I can’t begin to express my gratitude for having Jesus in my heart.  Without Jesus, I don’t know where my hope would lie.  But like one of my readers said, it is okay to be sad.  And I was sad.  At one point, I had fear and doubt in my head and my heart.  December is the end of the 5th year of our journey.  It was highly possible and probable that by the end of the year, we would be expecting a miracle in 2017.  Except that it didn’t happen.  And I was wondering if this is God’s message to me that a child is not in our future.  But I decided to once again not jump to conclusion as God is the only one who knows His plan.  This is the time for me and Bob to exercise our trust and faith in Him, knowing that regardless of the outcome of our quest, He is going to provide for us.

With that understanding, I tried what I could to take care of myself.

Fortunately, Friday was Veteran’s day.  It was a day off for me.  I opened my eyes with peace in my heart.  I am always thankful for the peace and strength that God gives me, as it is not a given and is not something that I take for granted.  In my pajamas, I made south Indian filtered coffee, sat there, and wrote my last blog post without even brushing my teeth or washing my face.  I just needed that quiet, alone space to feel and to let everything sink in.  Order in my life always makes me feel better.  After a couple of hours of chores cleaning the floor, changing the bedsheets, and tidying up any mess, I felt more control about the situation again.  That evening, Bob and I spent time with some of our best friends.  Their kids are our favorite kids.  Just enjoying the time with them brought about tremendous healing.

This is what self care is all about.  Being aware of what makes you happy and doing it.

I just started watching the show “Parenthood” on Netf.lix.  In one of the episodes, the younger brother, a playboy, just discovered that he had a son with an old fling.  He went to seek the advice from his older brother who happened to be a family man with two children.  He asked his older brother about having children,

“What makes all of it worth it?”

His brother said, “What makes it worth it is the connection.  It’s a bond you feel.  They are yours, you know.  You are part of them.”

I so long for this connection, this bond that I will have with my future child.  Regardless of the genetic links or who is going to carry the baby, my child is going to be mine.  He/she is going to be part of me and I am going to be a part of him/her.

It is all going to be worth it.