Thursday, April 23, 2015

You Are Not Alone NIAW 2015

Every month, a group of women from all over Westchester County gather together and talk about infertility in a safe space. During this monthly RESOLVE support group meeting, women show up and talk about the challenges, heartbreaks and devastations that infertility inflicts. If the group is going as it should, as the leader, I usually sit back and let the women talk amongst themselves and take ownership of the group, taking it where it needs to be for that evening. By the end of the meeting, group members who initially felt all alone before coming to the group are now exchanging phone numbers with veteran group members. A supportive safety net develops.
I always bring my group members chocolate and potato chips.

As a mental health provider to infertility patients, I am often the first person that a patient will talk to, outside of her partner or doctor, about her struggle with infertility. I also am often the only other person she has ever spoken to that has also struggled with recurrent pregnancy loss, infertility or endometriosis. Usually, before the patient and I even start to address the anxiety or depression that often accompanies infertility, I initially spend time with my patient validating her experiences and feelings. I assure her she is not “crazy” and that she is truly in crisis and that this is a traumatic time for her.

 Most patients who come to me feel completely isolated from their family, friends, co-workers and really from society at large. Infertility is not yet understood or recognized as the devastating mental and physical health crisis that it truly is. The fertile world has yet to learn how to respond compassionately to the 1 in 8 struggling with infertility, either ignoring patient’s realities or saying hurtful and ignorant things to those already struggling. Patients are left to suffer in silence, alone, which only deepens the sense of loss that a patient is already feeling.  

I always make sure to send patients resources to get them connected and invested in the infertility community. I encourage patients to follow me on twitter and I introduce them around to the infertility community there. I tell them to look at the RESOLVE website and find a support group in their area. I encourage patients to participate in RESOLVE Advocacy Day and meet other patients from across the country who have been deeply impacted by infertility.  If she is an endometriosis patient as well as an infertility patient, I send her other helpful resources to find support and understanding. Connecting to others and reaching out during this time of crisis has a positive impact on mental health. It is much harder to feel alone when you are connected to others that get it and empowered.

As a health care provider in the infertility world, my job essentially is to try and be a net that holds patients in a protective space while they are struggling. My job is to connect patients with resources that will help lift their spirits during this difficult time. I cannot make patients feel less scared or more certain about their future, because I have learned that infertility is unpredictable to its’ very core. I cannot control the outcomes of patients’ family building journeys, although I wish with all my might  that I could. But, what I can do is help patients feel less alone by not only my individual work with them, but more importantly, by connecting them with others who are in the trenches struggling with infertility on a daily basis.

Proud to be blogging as a part of RESOLVE's Bloggers Unite during National Infertility Awareness Week. For more information about infertility please check out:
  •  (Basic understanding of the disease of infertility.)
  • (About NIAW)
  •  Also if you are an infertility and/or endo patient please check out my documentary which I hope will make you feel less alone.

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