I’ve been through a lot in my thirty-four years. Overcoming trauma is a part of who I am. I’m molded by it. My mind and body are well oiled to overcome basic life traumas. But infertility treatments haven’t been basic trauma… they have been something much worse. Fertility treatments are torture disguised as hope. And it is insurmountably debilitating.
Content Warning: This post contains information about self-harm, miscarriage, pregnancy, medications, and depression that could be upsetting for some readers.
This has been a long road. We started trying to conceive naturally years ago. We quit alcohol and changed our lifestyles. Finally, we got pregnant. That pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. It was physically and emotionally debilitating for me, and absolutely heartbreaking for my husband. After that we tried three grueling rounds of IUI that were all unsuccessful. Now we’ve moved onto IVF.
I’ve taken hundreds of fertility pills, given myself dozens of injections in the stomach, and even administered some medications vaginally. I’ve been to bunches of appointments and had multiple tests weekly for the past 5 month. I’ve been poked and prodded. I’ve been in pain and more pain.
The fertility drugs alter my mental state to an extreme level. Fertility drugs are tough. When you have autism, fertility drugs are atrociously vicious. I become someone I am incapable of recognizing. At times, I feel like I’m stuck in a room with no windows or doors. I’ll call this version of my mind “The Room”.
The only things that exist are the things I can see inside The Room. I’m incapable of imagining anything outside of The Room. Or what life will be like if I step out of The Room. As far as I’m concerned, there is only The Room. And The Room is never a good place to be. The Room changes daily or even hourly. It can play tricks on my mind.
During my first three rounds of IUI The Room was mainly filled with pharmaceutical-induced-rage and selfishness. For three solid months I consistently alienated, offended, and was relentlessly mean to the people who love me. And I truly believed the things my mind told me. It was dark and horrendous.
Occasionally I would have moments of normalcy. These would come after negative pregnancy tests at the end of unsuccessful IUI cycles. The fertility hormones would leave my body, and for just a moment the sky would clear and I would step out of The Room.
You’d think this would be a relief, but it was the exact opposite. The sky would clear just long enough for two things to happen; (1) I would take a test and realize I wasn’t pregnant, again. (2) And I could think clearly just long enough to remember how I’d behaved. And that’s a devastating realization. Looking back and realizing how I’d treated others is always torture.
At times I can be extremely resentful and jealous. These are negative emotions that I’m not used to coping with. My mind literally doesn’t know how to feel these things. Normally, when something good happens to someone else I’m filled with happiness and excitement. I’ve always said, I’m happiest when the people I love are happy. But on fertility hormones I feel overwhelming resentment and jealousy when someone else has good news. This even applies to my husband. The man I’m going through all this with. In The Room there is only darkness, and misery, and pain. How dare my husband go off and have a good life outside of fertility treatments? It’s ugly. I get it. This resentment seems terrible, but it becomes worse when I have a moment of clarity and remember that I’ve behaved like a Batman villain. The shame and guilt is startling.
Sometimes The Room is dark and cold, and I’m completely alone. And I’m not sure if that will ever change.
My drive to the hospital
Mixing autism with fertility drugs took my mind to dark places. It made self-harm seem like a viable option. During my first round of IUI my mind was like a runaway train. My mind would cling onto an unhealthy idea, and keep throwing coal on it. My insecurities and unhealthy ideas would burn bright with an unfiltered rage.
One day, I convinced myself that I was an inconvenience to everyone, I didn’t deserve a baby, and I also didn’t deserve to be alive. In that moment, I didn’t want to exist anymore. I also believed that no one would notice or care if I ceased to exist. I believed all of this with every single fiber of my heart.
I drove myself to the emergency department at the closest hospital, put on my face mask, turned off the car, and opened the door. Before my foot hit the parking lot I stopped myself. I knew this wasn’t me. I knew I didn’t want to hurt myself. I wanted to have a baby. But I also knew that I needed help. I sat there, with the door open, for what felt like a very long time. I didn’t go in.
I know I should have gone in. But, honestly, I was absolutely terrified that I’d need to adopt someday, and wouldn’t be able to if that was on my medical records. I also knew that it wasn’t the real me operating my brain. I knew the real me didn’t want to hurt myself. I knew it was the fertility drugs. But I should have gone in. If I had it too do over, I’d go in. Because things only got worse.
What if I take all these hormones to create a life, but accidentally end my own life in the process?
On that particular day, I got lucky. I immediately FaceTimed my husband and shared how I was feeling. My support system closed ranks, and I was surrounded by love and support. I realize things could have gone differently, and that haunts me. I should have gone in. And if this happens to you, I hope you go in. Get the help you need, please. You deserve it. Go in.
Mental exhaustion doesn’t become me
This has felt like the world’s longest job interview. Every month I reapply for my dream job as a stay-at-home-mum, wait a few weeks, then find out I didn’t get the job. It’s rough. Every moment is consumed by this. Even when I try to distract myself. Occasionally I can fall into a comic book or video game and for the slightest second I forget what I’m going through. But it only ever lasts for a second. Then the grief, shame, and burden all come rushing back like a tidal wave. It’s strong enough to knock me down.
“Life is an endless series of train wrecks with only brief, commercial-like breaks of happiness.”Deadpool, 2016
My husband and I thought we went into the infertility process prepared. We had a spectacular support system surrounding us. We read all the books and researched all the things that would happen. But nothing could have prepared us for the road ahead. If someone had told me what how much I would change, psychologically and physically, I wouldn’t have believed them.
Infertility is a lonely road. Other people want to help, but they don’t get it. And I haven’t had the energy to explain it to them. I also know they wouldn’t fully understand. I did all the research before starting, and I’m still caught off guard by things that happen. It’s a very solitary and introspective struggle.
Physically I’d give it a 0/10. Do not recommend.
And the medications. So many drugs. So many shots. So many needles.
So much bruising. So much weight gain. And the acne!! It’s a lot. It’s a heavy burden to accept. And I wasn’t prepared for this much weight gain. I often look in the mirror and hate who I see. I look in the mirror and I see fat, and acne, and exhaustion. I see dry skin, rashes, and bruising from my fertility shots. I don’t see a strong woman who is capable of being a mother. I see a broken human who is an absolute disaster.
The immediate future
Next week is a big one. I’m having my first egg retrieval surgery. I’m nervous and excited. If we get a lot of good eggs, we might get a lot of good embryos. Which means a better chance of getting a baby! Everything has looked super promising so far! The odds seem to be in our favor, hopefully the embryos will be too.
Sincerely, Elizabeth Banks — Uncustomary Housewife
Mental Health Resources
Crisis Text Line
The Crisis Text Line is free, 24/7 support for those in crisis.
United States and Canada: Text HOME to 741741
United Kingdom: Text HOME to 85258
Ireland: Text HOME to 50808
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
If you or someone you know is in crisis, whether they are considering suicide or not, please call the toll-free Lifeline to speak with a trained Crisis Counselor 24/7.
Call: 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)
Uncustomary Housewife Mental Health Directory
In this blog post you’ll find two lists; a list of Crisis and Help Lines and a list of Supportive Communities.
Web: Uncustomary Housewife Mental Health Directory