Why World Mental Health Day is every day

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day… awareness is so key and I’m all for it. When I came into this work over 5 years ago there wasn’t nearly enough people talking about mental health and certainly no one was talking about it in connection to infertility.

It’s quite possibly a heavy week for some more so, as World Mental Health Day (10 October) coincides with Baby Loss Awareness week (9-15 October).

For anyone who is struggling with miscarriage or baby loss, know that it is normal for it to impact your mental health – it’s not that you can’t cope, it’s a natural response to a traumatic life event.

Going through baby loss and/or infertility is hard! Often when we meet doctors, experts or professionals it can seem very clinical, and mainly physical. Yet I think the mental and emotional impact on you is far greater than the physical. The mental and emotional scars can’t be seen but they’re there and they take far longer to heal.

Every day is different, from one day to the next we can be up and down. With World Mental Health Day, we got to throw a spotlight on the fact that it’s okay to not be okay. But that wasn’t just yesterday – that’s a message for every day.

We all have mental health and to varying degrees we will all be affected by something in our lives that will have a detrimental effect on our mental health.

Infertility without a doubt was one of the hardest things I’ve gone through. 2019 was one of the toughest years for my family that I have experienced.

I always say – no one gets through this life unscathed, but it’s not what happens to us, it’s what we do in response to what happens to us that is important.

So if you’re struggling right now, it’s okay, it will pass and it may become your pivotal experience in your life. And when you’re in the storm it’s okay to not be okay.

This mental health day and in fact this last half of 2021 my mantra is:
𝐌𝐚𝐲 𝐈 𝐚𝐜𝐜𝐞𝐩𝐭 𝐦𝐲𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐟 𝐞𝐱𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐥𝐲 𝐚𝐬 𝐈 𝐚𝐦 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐦𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭

Psychologist Carl Rogers said, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself exactly as I am, then I can change.” 

Often when we are struggling the last thing, we are is kind to ourselves. This journey to motherhood is tough, I think one of the most difficult things a person can go through – yet I know, being kind to ourselves doesn’t come easy and the question is why? We find compassion so easy for others and not for ourselves and it’s time to change that. 

It’s not always easy to accept your flaws, to accept the imperfect bits, to accept the darker, terrible bits. But they all co-exist within every one of us… the lovely and not so lovely side by side.

Today and every day learn to love all of You, learn to love the imperfections, learn to love the darkness, in the way that you so easily accept your light.

Remember without the dark, the light cannot get in

Reflect on this:
How can I accept myself exactly as I am?

Why infertility is the symptom of your emotional distress

“Who am I if I don’t have children?”

Let us consider what is happening in your psyche when you say or think things like this…

Rarely will you question your purpose, your very existence, more so than when you’re trying to conceive, considering life itself is inherently in question. Therapists call this kind of life crisis an ‘existential crisis’.  It comes with deep and profound impact on the psyche.

The obvious fear is that she cannot have children.  Yet underlying this fear may lie a fear of death.  The death of her hopes and dreams, her lineage and, therefore, herself. Who is she if she doesn’t have children?  Who are any of us if we leave nothing behind that tells others that we once existed?

This can bear host to any number of irrational and intrusive thoughts:

“I’m useless”

“I’m worthless”

“I’m nobody”

“My partner would be better off without me”

woman standing facing the sea

What we’re talking about is SHAME, and it’s deep rooted and insidious.

Shame is a powerful force with infertility. Shame is a powerful emotion on our psyche.

Shame says “I’m WRONG!” At my deepest core I am not right, I am not okay. And we don’t want people to see it, or to know it. Because we feel unworthy of love and belonging.

Shame induces you to silence, secrecy and self-judgment.

It’s more than infertility, shame says YOU are wrong, YOU are failing, YOU are bad. Not infertility… YOU.

Infertility becomes the symptom of your emotional distress – because what you say is when that is “fixed” then I will be okay, and so the fix to your shame is the fix to your infertility.

The truth is that the shame feeds off of the idea of you not being whole, of something missing from you.

I’ve been there, feeling broken, lost and worthless – and the truth was it was deeper than infertility, it was that my life felt unworthy, meaningless because I was unfulfilled, and that hole was bigger than any baby could fill. And that existed all within in my deep silence.

When you bring awareness to your shame, when you stop hiding from it, when you name it, when you face it, when you speak to it, when you shower it with love – it cannot survive.

And it’s not that the infertility has changed. It’s that YOU have changed.

It’s that you recognise your worthiness is not dependant on whether you become a mother or not.

You are worthy… period.

My book, Flipping the Script on Infertility, talks more about this and I share with you how I moved through this into my wholeness and fulfilment, you can get your copy here.

Why it’s not enough to just focus on your body when TTC

Your mind plays a part too…

Did you know around three hundred years ago, virtually every system of medicine throughout the world treated the mind and body as a whole?

In fact, during the 17th century, the Western world began to view the mind and body as two distinct entities whereby the body was regarded as a machine, complete with replaceable, independent parts, with no connection whatsoever to the mind.

This perspective definitely reaped considerable benefit as it became the foundation for advances in surgery, trauma care, pharmaceuticals, and other areas of medicine.  However, it also greatly reduced scientific inquiry into the emotional and spiritual life of humans.

In the 20th century, this view began to change. Researchers began to study the mind-body connection and to demonstrate, scientifically, the myriad complex links between body and mind.  Many mind-body therapies, including yoga, meditation techniques, hypnosis, and creative arts therapies, focus on us becoming more conscious of our mental states and using this awareness to guide our thoughts in healthier and less destructive directions.

woman meditating

Why is this important to know? And what is the connection to your fertility?

This…

Neurological pathways connect the parts of the brain which process emotions with the spinal cord, muscles, cardiovascular system, and digestive tract. This is why major life events, stressors, or emotions can trigger physical symptoms, like the butterflies we may feel in our stomachs when we feel nervous.

These inter-related systems establish the mind-body connection which influences the maintenance of health or the development of disease. Emotions like anxiety can trigger increased levels of stress hormones, and this, in turn, may suppress our immune systems and increase the risk of our susceptibility to infections.

What we do to our physical bodies (what we eat, how much we exercise, even how much attention we pay to our posture) can impact our mental state either positively or negatively. Fertility/infertility exists within, and is influenced by, this complex interrelationship between our minds and our bodies.

It’s a fact that your body responds to the ways in which you think, feel, and act. Your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes can affect, positively or negatively, your biological functioning. In short, your mind affects how healthy your body is – your fertility.

What if, by failing to treat the mind, you are reducing the effectiveness of fertility treatment outcomes?

Our fertility issues may not just lie in our wombs #foodforthought

This is why I love mindset work when it comes to fertility and our lives, it puts you back in the driving seat, it connects you to the bits of yourself you’ve forgotten, you go from incomplete and broken, to wholeness and healing.

Why the thought of getting pregnant fills you with anxiety?

Even though that’s what you want right…

It sounds strange doesn’t it… to be fearful of what might happen. But you’ve been doing this over and over again. What you don’t realise is that you are reliving the same experiences, so you are creating a predictable future.

Anticipatory anxiety” is a term for when you feel overwhelmed by a fear of what might happen, even if it’s the kind of success we crave, like becoming pregnant. Our minds jump ahead to anticipate all of the things that could go wrong.

You do this by projecting the past – the past failures, the past BFNs, the lost embryos, the losses, onto the future. You don’t let go of the past. We expect or anticipate the poor outcome. We do this when we say, “I just know it’s not my month” or “It will be a BFN, I know it!”

It’s not your fault because this is what the brain is hard-wired to do, to predict the outcomes, the future based on what you know. Our neurological wiring favours what we knowso that we can respond swiftly and efficiently to any (real or perceived) threat.

The more we step into the unfamiliar, the more we feel fear and worry.

That’s why it’s so important to break the cycle of repeated patterns and repeated negative thinking because if you don’t know matter what treatment you try, what “fix” or “hack” you attempt, the outcome will be the same as the past.

It’s time to do something different.

This is about healing the past so you can move forward into a new future.

How I hear you ask!

It’s about healing and coming to terms with what’s happened, sitting with those feelings and reflecting on what was needed that you didn’t get. So, you learn what is needed in the future. Forgiving and letting go of what cannot be changed. Accepting what was and what is.

Then you need to become aware of the negative thought patterns. The more aware you are, the more you can disrupt it with the rational thoughts, for instance, “what if it is positive?”, or “what if this month is different?”

You want to start thinking about the possibilities and telling yourself if everything goes well what would I need to be the mother I want to be – if it’s suport, then you can think about what kind, who from and where to get it.

Anticipate the good things that can happen…