I realize that the blogging campaign for National Infertility Awareness Week typically aims to shine a light on our community for outsiders. But I think that this year's theme gives us an opportunity to focus some of that light on ourselves.
We spend a good deal of time trying to determine how to stop others from ignoring us. We beg the doctor to listen to us when we're hurting or when we don't agree with a suggested method of treatment. "Don't ignore my pain," we say. "Don't ignore my concerns." We ask our friends and our family members not to ignore the importance or significance of what we're going through. "Don't ignore our disease," we insist. "And yes, it is a disease." We ask that our government leaders don't ignore our need for equal medical care and insurance. "It's not elective," we say. "None of us CHOSE to be infertile."
But while we spend so much energy trying to reach others, we often end up ignoring the person who matters most in all of this:
It's easy to do when you're forced to be your own advocate. No one else is going to stand up for you, so you stand up for yourself: to your doctor, your friends, your family, and to other who make important decisions that could ultimately effect your treatment plan. Yet the process is so exhausting that, at the end of the day, you leave yourself very little time for you. I know. I've been there, and it still happens to me. My husband calls it "stretching myself thin." We all do it. And we all need to stop.
Now is the time to stop ignoring ourselves.
Don't ignore your emotions. If you aren't up to something, don't do it. This can range from something small like going to the grocery store to something big like attending a baby shower. Despite the differences, either can be damaging - depending on your state of mind. Remember that your feelings are valid, and they deserve protection. Take a moment to listen to them. Odds are, they are telling you something important. That intuition might save you from an emotional breakdown that you could have avoided. (Not that I'm writing from experience or anything . . .)
In the same sense, don't ignore your body's warning signs to stop. Your body sometimes knows more than your mind. Pay attention to its signals. Don't brush them off. If you're exhausted and you can't bear the thought of doing a cycle this month, it might be time to step back and reevaluate for a month or two. If you don't take care of yourself physically, you are only hurting yourself. Your health should be #1, because in most cases, you're trying to make a baby. That baby needs a healthy place to live for the next nine months. You have the power to make sure it stays healthy.
And, most importantly, don't ignore other aspects of your life. You are NOT infertility. This disease does not define you. Take time out of your day to remind yourself of this. If you don't, the disease will overwhelm you. I know this from experience. I can't count the number of times in the last four years when I've forgotten who I am because of this disease. I used to think of life only before and after: before the diagnosis and after learning about infertility. Don't think like me. Think about what you loved in life before all of this, and what you will love in life after this. Focus on those things. It's easier said than done, I realize. But you won't regret trying.
This isn't something original. I'm not calling for something that's groundbreaking. I'm simply saying, "Take care of yourself."
You deserve it.