Happy New Year to you! I hope you can look back at your Christmas and New Year and feel positive about it remembering the times of peace and joy. These moments can be often lost in the busy-ness, stress and not to mention it being a difficult time of year for those on the infertility journey. I found Christmas the most difficult time of the year second to Mothers Day.
I want to build on my email before Christmas which was encouraging you to accept some of the painful reality of infertility and the enormous stress it can bring.
I was recently reminded of the ‘Human Givens’ model of therapy where they list a number of ‘givens’ or emotional needs humans have. If any of these needs are not met then it impacts our emotional wellbeing and can lead to stress, anxiety and disharmony in our life.
This is not specifically related to fertility however when I looked at these needs again it struck me as to why infertility can be so stressful, lonely and such an emotionally exhausting journey.
The Human Given’s approach asks you to rate how well the following emotional needs are being met in your life right now, on a scale of one to seven (where 1 means not met at all and 7 means being very well met):
- Do you feel secure in all major areas of your life? For instance, in your home life, work life or environment?
- Do you feel you receive enough attention?
- Do you think you give other people enough attention?
- Do you feel in control of your life most of the time?
- Do you feel part of the wider community?
- Can you obtain privacy when you need to?
- Do you have at least one close friend?
- Do you have an intimate relationship in you life? (i.e. you are totally accepted physically and emotionally accepted for who you are by at least one person?)
- Do you feel an emotional connection to others?
- Do you have a status in life (whatever it may be) that you value and that is acknowledged?
- Are you achieving things in your life that you are proud of?
- Do you feel competent in at least one major area of you life?
- Are you mentally and/or physically stretched in ways which give you a sense of meaning and purpose?
The Human Givens approach says if you scored any need 3 or less it is likely to be a major cause of stress in your life. I suspect you may have scored pretty low in a number of them! I know I can look back on our fertility journey and see how these needs were not being met in me.
- It can be hard to feel secure when the things you want and plan for do not happen and you feel you have very little control over it. The stress of infertility can impact all areas of your life whether relationships or work which again can affect the sense of security. Will my partner stay with me if we cannot have children? All sorts of doubts and insecurities can creep in.
- Infertility can affect our relationships with our friends. Even the closest of friends can find it hard to understand and therefore not feeling completely understood (and perhaps accepted) can create a barrier between you and friends. Most people cannot understand the depth of pain and loss you can feel and the level of stress it can bring unless they have experienced it. Therefore do you have a close friend who you can be completely honest with and trust they will seek to truly understand you?
- Infertility can also affect your relationship with your partner. Just when you need the depth of unity and sense of journeying together both of you can be under considerable stress, on your own roller-coaster of emotions and processing/dealing with it in very different ways (or not at all). This can affect your intimacy and emotional connection. I know I spent a lot of time in my cave, thinking me sharing how I felt would add an additional burden on to my wife. I thought it would be better to be the ‘strong one’. Thankfully I learnt that is the opposite of what she wanted. She wanted me to be real and connect with her emotionally so we feel united and in the journey together.
- Achieving things you are proud of? Feel competent? It is easy to feel a failure when your body cannot do what is supposed to do and what others do without a thought. The only thing you want to achieve in your life feels like it is not in your control.
So according to this measure of emotional wellbeing I suspect you score pretty low which is very understandable. So, next time someone tells you ‘just to relax’ you have permission tell them where to go!!
The good news is you can begin to have these needs met, even in the midst of infertility. The first step is the accept it is difficult. Accept that perhaps you and your partner need some more focussed time together, meeting your needs and to really share what is going on. I found writing these down easier for me to identify what is going on inside which then enabled me to share it with my wife.
So I want your goal for 2012 to be to look after yourself, your emotional needs and your relationship with your partner. You can then begin to see a shift in your stress levels and sense of wellbeing. I’ll be sharing some practical tips on how you can do this over the coming weeks.