Self-Care; The Less Glamorous Version
Updated: Dec 18, 2020
I'm proud of this woman, because I fought pretty hard to find my way back to her. Let me tell you effortless is not in my vocabulary when it comes to self-care. It is hard work to love yourself and take actions to prioritize your worth.
Beauty comes from the inside out, right? Everyone knows the cliche, but it takes so much more than a new haircut and fashionable wardrobe to achieve that glow. It is a hard won journey, but the deep dive into hard self-care is worth every bit of work.
Often when we think about self-care, images of a face mask or a trip to the nail salon come to mind. And while those are essential parts of my routine, self-care was so much more than that for me. It was doing the hard work to self-reflect and confront your own demons. Self-reflection can often be ugly and deep and the exact opposite of pampering. I don't say that to scare you, but it is my goal to be completely transparent about this journey. Was it worth it, you ask? ABSOLUTELY!
Shortly into our infertility battle, I realized that this part of my life was about so much more than having a baby. Not only have the past two years been a physical and emotional challenge, but it truly was the catalyst for my journey or self-love and discovery as well.
With the added complication of PCOS and infertility, it often leads woman to question themselves and their worth. I was definitely one of those women. The first few months after the diagnosis, I really questioned my role in this disease. There are so many theories about what cause of infertility, the blame game is often quick to follow. It was hard not to beat myself up or wonder if I created the problem. I quickly found myself slipping back into bad habits of negative self-talk. And ain't nobody got time for that! Especially when there are big decisions to make and hormones running wild. After a couple of months of feeling very out of control about the situation, I decided it was time to prioritize myself again.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if as woman we received a manual on navigating our worth and value? It would be so nice to read a chapter about loving yourself, and then move on. But it is honestly the journey of a lifetime, filled with constant obstacles to our success. It is something personal for every individual and takes constant work to remain in a positive head space. Here are a couple of ways I began to find my way back to my worth while facing the uncertainty of an infertility diagnosis.
Do your research (but not too much):
If you're anything like me you hear the words Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and you immediately devour any and all articles, blog posts and scientific journals ever written about the subject. I think it is so important to be educated about what is going on in your body and the options available to you to help mitigate your symptoms. But I think it is equally important to listen to what that information overload is doing to your mental health as well. I found myself feeling so overwhelmed by all the different ideas about what was the "best" method. There are so many methods and sometimes the recommendations are conflicting opinions on what exactly is best. Natural vs. medical? Find a way to never encounter another toxin in your life! Eat this, no eat that...the list was honestly endless.
After a couple of months of PhD level research, I decided to put down the laptop and implement changes gradually. I found myself wanting to throw out all my make-up, cleaning supplies and food in one day and that just wasn't sustainable for me. Instead, I chose an area to focus on. I started with personal care products, specifically deodorant and toothpaste. From there I implemented some natural supplements. And then I followed up by changing some of my eating habits. I plan to dive deeper into all of these changes and purchases in an upcoming blog post, so stay tuned.
After several months of implementing these changes, we also started on Femara and created a plan with our doctor.
By allowing myself the room to research one part of this huge topic at a time and make the decisions that felt right for me, I began to feel more empowered.
Lean on your community:
This is going to be different for everyone, but for me it took some courage to really get honest about our struggles with our people. I found that sometimes those closest to us need to hear what you need when battling infertility. Often times those around you are just as uncertain about the right things to say, so it is our job to explain how they can best support us. Sometimes it is as simple as letting them know if infertility is a topic of discussion to bring up or not. Guide them with the questions that they can ask that will make you feel most comfortable. Some of the phrases that make me personally feel most supported are:
Do you want to talk about your latest doctors appointment?
How can we best support you through this "insert procedure/emotion"?
How are you handling that news?
Would you like to grab brunch and chat?
I know this week might be tough. I am holding space for whatever you might need.
Let me hold that worry for you.
And if you decide this week or month is not a time you are able to handle the conversation, let them know. I can guarantee you that those that love you most want to find ways to support you, sometimes they just need the roadmap.
Find a good therapist:
I am so thankful to live in an era where therapy and self-reflection is becoming more celebrated. There is nothing taboo about unpacking your "stuff" and getting comfortable in your own skin. In fact, some of the strongest people I know go to therapy and are comfortable leaning into the experience.
Let me just say, therapy has made all the difference for me. If you were to ask any of my closest friends and family, they would tell you that therapy has been my biggest tool over the past couple of years. The work has been really difficult at times, but finding the right fit in a therapist has been a game changer. I urge you to find someone that makes you feel comfortable and helps you lower your walls. At times, I love my therapist so much I wish I knew her under other circumstances to we could actually be friends. She is a safe space for me and has helped me to understand my emotions about infertility and so many other subjects. She also has given me countless tools to manage my anxiety along this journey.
Do your research and don't be afraid to shop around when looking for the right fit. Find someone close by to the office or on your way home, so that it doesn't feel out of the way to attend sessions.
Don't be ashamed to ask for what you need from your therapist either. After all, you are paying them. If you prefer a sound machine or essential oils during your session to relax, ask for it. I love dark chocolate and my therapist always has a stash right next to the couch near the tissue box. Let's just say I never leave without one.
I also found it very helpful to keep a consistent schedule. I know constant therapy appointments can get expensive. But if you can afford it, I assure you the peace of mind is worth every single penny. I started by seeing her once a week and now go two to three weeks between sessions. I would urge you even when you are feeling good, to continue your schedule of therapy. I found that often times when I start to feel better and go longer between sessions the anxiety starts creeping back in.
Create a system for your doctors appointments:
Just keeping up with all the doctors appointments, paperwork and scheduling of treatments can be overwhelming. I found that having my husband help in that area was a huge stress reliever. We keep a shared Google Calendar and update it with all the latest information. We even add my cycle schedule and the days of medication. It keeps us on the same page about appointments and allows me not to feel alone in planning.
I sometimes find myself putting off making the appointments because I know they can be painful, both physically and emotionally. Plus, they can be downright overwhelming. This is an easy area for your spouse to help out. By having a system of support in place, my husband can make the appointments, call and check on our insurance coverages and we can communicate about our emotional health going into the appointments. You don't have to do it alone. I would bet your partner would love to help in any way with your journey. Let them help by filling out the paperwork or have them keep track of your cycle schedule and medication. It's hard to ask for help, but it is a huge part in prioritizing your self-care.
Crack the spine on a good book:
I love to read and when I start to feel myself getting anxious, it is a perfect outlet for me. I would urge you to find a genre that sparks your passions and get some books on the shelves.
With my focus on self-discovery, I have been on a "self-help" book kick. I know, SELF HELP?! I can imagine you rolling your eyes already. But the latest trend in the genre has been attention getting and truly entertaining. Two words, BRENE BROWN. Need I say more? Grab one that speaks to your soul and curl up with a hot cup of tea, I can promise you will close the book closer to yourself.
Want to feel even better, call your best friends and tell them all about what you just learned. This has quickly become one of my absolute favorite self-care routines.
Give yourself some grace:
This is a huge one! It is easy to get caught up in the infertility journey and forget about all the other big and beautiful things in your life. Sometimes the best remedy is just allowing yourself to step back from the infertility cycle. There have been many months when we chose to take a break from trying because the emotional sacrifice was just too high. Don't get so caught up in wanting to have a baby, that you forget all the other facets of what makes you whole. For me that has been annual girls trips, making room for my passions and continuing to prioritize our marriage. Don't forget all the amazing parts of your life that still exist and lean into them as often as you can.
It may not look like a Lush bath bomb or new outfit, but this type of self care is crucial (don't worry I have a post coming up with all the fun ways I have implemented more glamorous self-care, too). But for now these are just a few of the steps I am taking to prioritize my mental health along our journey. Just looking back at myself in photos from two years ago, I can see the glow that has emerged by really diving into my own self-discovery. I can't wait to see what a little work can do for you!