So much of the stress of ART is not based around specific events where things have gone wrong. Rather, it's a background stress - the not knowing how things are going to turn out in the end, and the wondering what bizarre and unexpected twist is going to derail it all next. Good, I can see you nodding along.

What I've noticed, and what I don't know how to deal with, are the flash points. The predictable meltdowns that punctuate a cycle. It's taken me four FETs to identify the pattern, and though I imagine it's not the same for everyone, I also suspect I'm far from unique.

Two days before the next test or procedure. That's when it happens.

Two days before the next blood test, ultrasound, or transfer, you can find me crying, hyperventilating, snapping irritably, unable to sleep properly, having difficulty getting through my day to day life, and feeling generally overwhelmed. On these days it reaches a point where having children becomes a secondary priority, eclipsed by the desire to just make it all stop. Of course, after a few hours, I am back on track. But while it lasts, it's horrible, just horrible.

I suppose identifying the pattern is the first step. Well I've done that. Good for me. But now what? Tell me - I'm not the only one, am I? So having been there, dealt with that, what advice can you pass on?

I'm going to throw out the first suggestion. Try to arrange things so I'm not facing additional stress on that day. Turn down the invitation to that social event. Arrange my work so I'm not doing the shift that causes me the most anxiety.

There's a balance to be struck between giving myself permission to opt out on that day, and keeping myself busy and distracted. But I think I'm working out how to strike that balance. Example: getting a haircut and having coffee with a good friend would be a good idea. Working a long and hectic shift followed by dinner with nosy relatives who can't stop talking about who's had which baby and when am I going to follow - bad idea. Sitting at home with nothing to do but twiddle my thumbs and consult Dr Google - another bad idea. You get the picture. Still working on how to arrange my life so this is possible, but that's another post. Let's work with theories for the moment, and forget the practicalities.

What else?


Lut said...

I clearly haven't done enough cycles yet to see a pattern emerge. But I'm working on it.
My meltdowns are more related to social situations. Sitting through a baptism for instance, listening to baby news at work, ... These situations are hard to control. Relaxation exercises help take the edge off, but it's not easy.

Bea said...

What sort of relaxation exercises do you use? Which ones work best?


Meri-ann said...

Hmmm... not sure. I think we all do it differently, I do thrive on the high-stress stuff at work- for me it manages to keep me distracted constantly so I don't have to think about it. The cycles where I've had too much me-time I've probably been a bit more obsessive.

Definitely yoga and meditation are good for me, not just for ivf related stuff but just to help me strike the balance. I somehow manage to do the baby things with other people now, but I honestly do think that a part of me has shut down. It hurts like hell, but I don't let myself feel it.

Bea said...

I'm going with the theory that everyone has a different "just busy enough" point below and above which everything falls apart. I think my "just busy enough" point is actually quite low, or maybe I'm just in the wrong job - on which, more in good time.

Or maybe it is a different processing technique, as you suggest. A colleague said she preferred to distract herself from personal stress by throwing herself into work, but I can't seem to concentrate on my work until I've processed the stress, which makes me worry I'm being incompetent, and it tends to spiral. But then perhaps this only happens because I'm in the wrong job - on which, more later.

Yoga and meditation - must remember to do more Tai Chi. That does seem to work.

And that good old standby, emotional shutdown. I think I could become better at this.

What does everyone think about the effect of music?


Ellen K. said...

I'm a fan of the 4/7/8 relaxation exercise. Inhale for 4 counts, hold it for 7 counts, exhale for 8 counts. I feel more serene, or perhaps just dizzy, after a few of these.

serenity said...

I have the SAME cycles of emotion, Bea. The exact same ones. My anxiety peaks just a couple of days before my beta, when my "symptoms" are at an apex.

I REALLY like Bellaruth Naparstek's relaxation guided imagery - you can find it on Whenever I felt my anxiety rise, I snuck away for 15 minutes with my i.pod. I also tried acupuncture at my clinic, my last cycle, and it relaxed me very well.

Personally, I have found classical music to be VERY soothing as well. I have a favorite classical CD which I play during my work stress times. This last FET I tried it, and it seemed to help me relax and focus only on work.

Ultimately, I felt a lot less unglued this past FET.

Hope this helps!

Bea said...

I knew I wasn't the only one!

Note to self - take iPod more places.

And the breathing exercises sound good, and very portable too - no batteries required! (Although someone with a first aid certificate might come in handy if I ever overdo it.)


steph said...

Personally, I'm a keep busy person. I spend a lot of time browsing and commenting on the blogs to give my mind something else to think about. Reading about what other people are doing and thinking keeps me from focusing too much on myself. I do avoid people because my IF treatments were no big secret, and when stressed I don't want to talk about them. Others can't help but ask, thus, avoidance works best there.
Relaxation tapes and yoga are nice, but I find all that internalizing and quiet makes me think even more. I opt for loud music and the treadmill. Of course, that's not often because I am a total lazy ass, so mostly sit on my butt and visit blogland (0:

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