Mental Health Awareness Week 2018

To mark the start of Mental Health Awareness Week I want to share my story of living with Depression & Anxiety.

I’m rolling it back to early 2017, I was at my lowest & I felt this wave of anxiety & depression take over me. I had previously struggled with both but this time it creeped up on me without any warning & smothered me.

I was lost, miserable & angry. The anger stemmed from my frustration of a Three Year battle to conceive. Infertility Appointments which made me feel like a failure. The Specialists had no answers as to why I couldn’t have a Baby which added to my miserable state. Unexplained Infertility.

I struggled to deal with the situation I was in, I pushed people away, I lashed out & I hated myself.

A dark cloud was over me all the time, I tried to shrug it off or ignore it but I just couldn’t. My actions spiralled out of control as I couldn’t see a way out of the situation. I turned to painkillers to help me manage. Of course, they didn’t help but I had to take them.

One day I broke down to my Husband, he could see that I was in a bad place & had noticed I was hiding painkillers from him. He always reassured me that the Infertility issues were our problems, not just mine & we could find a solution to any problem. He encouraged me to reach out to my GP & seek help & that’s exactly what I did.

The hardest part was opening up & telling someone how I felt without covering it up with “but it’s fine, I’ll be okay” or “I’ll deal with it, I just have to”. I came off painkillers, spoke to my husband more about my inner battles & I acknowledged my anger & worked to change it into something positive.

A year on, I still choke up at the thought of what would have happened if I continued down the road I was on because I was desperately looking for a road out.

I opened up. I told someone how I really felt. I got help. Here I am, a year on, 37 weeks pregnant with our little miracle. I’m extremely lucky & thankful & I continue to battle my demons but I’m not alone.

Don’t suffer in silence. Reach out. My door is always open to others who want to talk.

The following links have useful info & support:

Fertility Support: How to Plan & Prepare

My husband & I went down this route after two years of trying & struggling to conceive. My periods were irregular because of medication I was on for my Arthritis & Fibromyalgia. So it was difficult to track when I was ovulating & we were very much in need of the support from the infertility service.

I had to get a referral from my GP to the consultant at the hospital but this wasn’t a straight forward process. I was 25 at the time & I remember vividly the GP commenting on my age & how I had the rest of my life in front of me. She uttered the words “You’re 25, not 35.. plenty of time for a family” & I quickly chipped in to remind her that it was my choice. I never did get a referral from that GP but that didn’t stop me. I went to another GP, explained my circumstances & the referral was made.

After a 6 months wait, I was seen by a Gynaecologist who examined me & discussed the issues I had been having. I remember telling her the main reason I was there was because I was looking for answers. Her response stays with me to this day & at the time I didn’t understand what she meant. She told me not to look for answers because they might not be there, I might never get the answers I need. It soon made sense to me that this would be the case.

The first appointment with the infertility service was with a Nurse who took our medical history, performed blood tests, ultrasound & a further appointment was arranged. The appointment focussed on do you drink alcohol? Do you smoke? Do you take drugs? The line of questioning changed to weight & the dreaded Body Mass Index (BMI). I’ll be honest my weight and BMI fluctuates; managing chronic conditions & trying to be active is difficult & this was reflected by my weight.

Don’t search for those answers; what if they do remain unanswered. Most couples who receive fertility support are classed as “unexplained fertility” & we fell into this bracket. I hated that it was out-with my control but so many things remained in my control. I stopped drinking alcohol & I altered my diet for it to be more healthy & found a meat free diet was much more beneficial for me.

The best advice I would give you if you are about to embark on your journey is to prepare, support each other & aim for a healthy lifestyle. If you get the opportunity I would recommend pre pregnancy counselling, it’s especially useful if you have chronic conditions & are on medication.

Still to this day, I remain in the unexplained category but with changes made to my lifestyle I’ve been lucky enough to conceive without any support. Those questions still remain unanswered and I feel very lucky to have conceived before starting the IVF journey.

We’re Having A Baby!

I’m delighted to share with you our fantastic news & our little bundle of joy is due in June. The past few months have been overwhelming yet they’ve flown in. I’m almost 22 weeks & recently had our 20 week scan which showed a healthy baby wriggling away & hiding from the camera.

We were due to start the next stage of the infertility process & suddenly, out of the blue, this little miracle happens. Feeling content & blessed & taking each day as it comes.

Our family of 3 with our Chewie the Collie is about to become a 4 ❤️.

*Of course our baby reveal photo would be of a Celtic top 🍀*

Planning to have a baby when you have a Chronic illness

I have Arthritis & Fibromyalgia & thankfully my Rheumatologist has been supportive with helping me plan for a baby. I first spoke with her 3 years ago & at the time I was on methotrexate, painkillers, anti-inflammatories & steroids. In order to start trying for a baby I had to come off methotrexate for at least 3 months but to be on the safe side I gave it 6 months.

Coming off medication wasn’t an easy decision but I knew it was necessary if I wanted to start a family. Methotrexate was a little easier to come off, it made me feel sick for days after taking it & I couldn’t wait to come off it. I didn’t realise at the time how much I needed it & failed to grasp that it was stopping my Arthritis from progressing. Having said that, I coped well with coming off it but I did depend on painkillers & steroids.

I have a love hate relationship with steroids. I love that they give me relief but I hate that I gain weight & my anxiety increases. Unfortunately for me, the steroids suppressed my pituitary gland which set my periods off & in turn it was difficult to monitor if I ovulated. I understood the risks of steroids & being on & off them for so long I knew it would have some sort of impact on my body.

I’m now 2 years free from methotrexate, 18 months from steroids & only 4 months free from painkillers. Has it been easy? Certainly not. It’s been challenging & I have been tested both physically, mentally & emotionally. However, it has been worth it.

If your thinking of trying for a baby with a chronic illness here’s some things to think about:

1. Speak to your GP or Consultant.

2. Make a plan for reducing & coming off medication with the supervision of Health Professionals.

3. Consider alternative ways to manage; physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, yoga or massages.

4. Reduce working hours to cope with pain management.

5. Referral to Fertility Specialists.

I’ve experienced mix opinions since starting this journey including Doctors trying to put me off starting a family. If you have a good supportive network with your partner & health professionals then it is certainly achievable.

There’s a little bit of hope at the end of the rainbow.

When you’re asked that question….

“Do you want to have a  baby?”

You’d be forgiven for thinking the question was asked by my husband. It’s not the first time I’ve been asked the question by a stranger, friends or family. Nothing can prepare you for the rush of emotions you experience as you hear it and the sharp chest pain as you try and think of a short answer to this apparently simple question.

It may seem like a normal question to be asked; I’m 28, married with a career so kids come next, right? Of course, the dream is to have a baby but people don’t understand the impact that question can have on someone.

What people don’t see is the panic and the pain I experience when the question is asked. The rushing of thoughts in my head as I try to say “Yes, of course I do” for the next question to be “So, why don’t you have any children then?”.

Do I tell them the edited version of my journey? Yes, my Husband and I would love to have children and we are attending an infertility clinic to help us achieve this. The lump in my throat suggests I wouldn’t be able to get that sentence out.

Think before you ask the question. Don’t assume that because of age or relationship status that asking the question is any more acceptable. It’s an intrusive question and I fully understand that you don’t know the back story before asking but I would kindly ask people to think before they ask.

I am always open about our fertility journey and even my husband has experienced the same question and felt uncomfortable at answering. I am open to anyone that is genuinely asking and I hope by sharing my story other women in my position can relate and know that they are not alone.