Sometimes, our very own thoughts drive us crazy. Fertility patients are very susceptible to having nagging, repetitive, “negative” thoughts. You really cannot eliminate them entirely, but you can work with them. They are yours, it’s your brain at work, and you can modify, influence, challenge, and even mostly stop the thoughts if you put your mind to it.
When I speak with patients, some useful techniques I suggest when they are feeling overtaken by thoughts that make them feel bad:
Awareness of the Thoughts
Many thoughts are not fully in our awareness, but lurk at the threshold of our consciousness. They make us feel uneasy, so that is a clue. You have to “catch your self in the act” of beating your self up mentally.
Stopping the Thoughts
You can’t permanently get rid of unwelcome thoughts, but you can put a temporary stop to them and give yourself a break. Give the thoughts a gentle mental hug and tell them you have other things to occupy your mind. Find another mental activity, like creating a shopping list or some other menial task. If you are trying to sleep, direct your attention to your breathing.
Also called reframing. “I will never be a mother” can become “I don’t know how this journey will turn out, but I am doing my best and have hope.”
Create a safe and comfortable place in your mind where you can go to escape your thoughts. A mountain meadow, a quiet beach, etc. Somewhere else you’d love to be.
Scheduled Worry Time
You need some time to mull over your problems, so why not put it in your day planner? Just not right before bedtime and make sure it is time limited.
This goes well with worry time. Write a bit each day, but again, not before bedtime. It helps to organize scary thoughts by putting them down in writing.
If you fear something that will happen in the future, try to plan for it by mentally rehearsing what you will do. For example, how can you attend the baby shower and not fall apart? Where will you be and who will be with you when you get the call about a pregnancy test?
This could be a portion of your journal. Remind yourself about what is good and what is working well in your life.
This is not about giving up or not trying, it is about accepting your situation for what it really is. You see that you are doing your best, that you cannot control a lot, and that your fertility status does not define you as a person.
Even infertility has its humorous and silly side.