Ovarian Cysts, Hormonal Sickness & Mental Health
It’s been awhile since I wrote a personal post. I can write “How To” blogs, or “5 Tips” for this or that all day. But the personal stuff has been challenging. I don’t know if it’s because it actually requires me to sit down, and really be with myself, my thoughts, and my feelings in a way that instructional articles simply don’t. Or, if it’s a general hesitancy to share probably a little bit of both.
Either way, I’m here now. And I’m going to do my best to share what the hell has been going on for me in the last month since our first IUI failed, and what the plan is moving forward.
If you haven’t already read my post about our failed IUI, then read that one first. That takes you through the emotional rollercoaster that I was on from the time I found out it was negative, to about a week afterwards. That’s the point from which I’ll jump off from.
What Happened When Our First IUI Failed
So, I finished my last post telling you that it turned out I just needed to feel my feelings, and then I was fine! Everything was fine. And while that felt true at the time, it turns out it wasn’t entirely.
I taught a retreat the week after I found out about the negative pregnancy test. I was determined to show up 110% for my students on my last retreat in Nicaragua for the foreseeable future. A good friend was co-teaching with me, and we had a great group of people there. But I still just felt….numb. Like there was just no spark no matter how hard I tried to find it.
As a teacher, I’m a firm believer in creating experiences for your students, rather than yourself. Yes, my retreats are all about sharing openly between students and teachers. And there’s a lot of vulnerability happening- but I still didn’t want to dump this heartbreak onto the group. It felt unfair to them, honestly. So I didn’t. I didn’t say anything to anyone on the retreat. And didn’t share about it on social media for another full week after.
I did the best I could with the energy and strength that I had, but the truth is- I felt like shit.
My body didn’t feel good from the hormones (I’ll get into all that in a minute), my mind was occupied and frazzled, and my heart hurt. Plain and simple. Because I felt like I could’ve done better for the large group at hand, then I also found myself riddled with guilt. LIke I wasn’t “enough” for them, even though I know everyone had a good time.
The only thing getting me through was knowing that I was leaving Nicaragua the day after the retreat ended, and going back to Florida to try again.
The Next Try
The thing you need to know about IUI is that you can’t just rock up to a fertility clinic when you’re ovulating, and ask to be shot up with sperm. Not only are there a variety of tests you need to do beforehand, but even once you’ve completed those tests- you’re still required to do a vaginal ultrasound sometime between day 3 – 5 of your cycle every single time before you do the insemination. They require this ultrasound to check the ovaries for cysts. As well as to check your lining to make sure it’s good to go.
Due to the timing of my cycle with my retreat, I wasn’t going to be able to make it back to Florida in the day 3 – 5 window. And I obviously couldn’t just leave the retreat early. The nurse knew how upset this made me. So she suggested that I continue to take the progesterone even though I knew I wasn’t pregnant. Progesterone thickens your lining, which can usually make your period delayed as long as you’re taking it. I needed to delay for 4 days.
I was desperate to make it work, so I did it. And I don’t want to say that I regret it, because I probably would also feel regretful if I didn’t do it. But I will say that it took an already shitty feeling I had in my body and mind, and made it a whole lot worse.
You know when you’re not super balanced, and you get really bloated and swollen and tender before your period? So when you do finally bleed it actually feels like a release. Like you’re draining a sink or something, and you can actually take a sigh of relief again? Yeah, I had that crazy build up times a million thanks to the hormones. Which meant, in a weird way, I was actually looking forward to my period. Because I thought it would be like popping a balloon and relieving some of the stress.
When I kept taking the progesterone, it only added to the horrible, overstuffed, overly tender feeling. My boobs were huge, my gut health was all thrown off, and my belly was uncomfortably bloated all the time. And mentally? I was numb, remember. Literally, felt like the walking dead just going through the motions- one foot in front of the other.
Regardless, I took the progesterone for those extra four days, because I really wanted to just move on and try again. And, if I manipulated my cycle in that month- that meant I could also try again the following month as well (if it didn’t take the second time around). To be clear, I had another retreat the following month. Which is why I wasn’t going to be able to try again with the original timing.
I literally had flashbacks of college when we used to purposely fuck up our birth control pills so that we wouldn’t get our periods for big pool parties, or some crazy Vegas weekend. The difference was, at that time I had no idea how bad it was for my body to manipulate its natural cycles with hormones I really didn’t need. And this time, I did know, but I did it anyway.
We left Nicaragua the day after my retreat, which was a Sunday. I had an appointment at the fertility clinic first thing Monday morning, which was also day 5 of my cycle. I made it just in the knick of time for the vaginal ultrasound before the insemination.
Going into it, I had a gut feeling that it wasn’t going to work. I even told Alix that I knew it wasn’t going to work the second time around. But I still wanted to keep the wheels in motion and keep trying. Plus, I’d read that the build up of hormones in your system increases your chances each time. So, the more months I’m trying, the more hormones are pulsing through me. Great.
When they started the ultrasound, they had furrowed brows, and made these hmmm sounds under their breath in a way that they didn’t the first time.
“You didn’t have a cyst on your ovary last time did you?” He asked, even though I’m pretty sure he already knew the answer was no.
“No,” I said anyway.
“Well, you have one now,” he said while sliding the wand out of me, and patting my knee as an indication it was done, and I could sit up.
“Okay….” I said, a little confused. “What did this mean?”
“This just means we won’t be able to go through with IUI this round. But it’s totally normal, many women get cysts because of the hormones. You’ll just come in again next month, and we’ll check to make sure it’s gone before trying again,” the nurse said as cheerfully as possible.
Immediately, the sinking grief feeling was back and my eyes filled with tears.
Anyone who’s gone through the process of making babies, whether in a clinic or at home, will know that the waiting part is the worst. Even though it’s only two weeks from the time to try to the point in which you can take your first blood pregnancy test, those two weeks crawl by at a snail’s pace. Plus, you get the constant looping thoughts: Am I pregnant?
My waiting time had now doubled from two weeks, to one month. And, there was no guarantee that the cyst would even be gone the following cycle- which would make the wait even longer. I also had a freaking cyst on my ovary now. Which can cause a lot of pain during periods and ovulation.
It felt like it was all for nothing. Like I did all these things that I didn’t want to do to myself and to my body. Because I thought there would be this outcome that would make it all “worth it,” and it just….wasn’t. Not at all.
I think the thing that got me through my initial grief period of the failed round of IUI was knowing that I just needed to get through the retreat. And then I’d be back in Florida and trying again in no time. It took the edge of the pain, knowing that I could just keep plowing through.
When I found out about the cyst, it kind of felt like I was kicked when I was already down. The wind was completely taken out of my sails, because that little ray of hope I had was suddenly gone. I couldn’t try, even if I wanted to. And there was no saying when for sure I could do it again.
I tried the same method I did before of feeling my feelings, but I was past the point of feeling much at all. It was like I left Oz, and suddenly I was just seeing black and white again. Everything was dull. Meaningless, even.
Mental health struggles are often hard for me to describe, especially when I’m still in it.
But the best way I can explain it is equating depression to a weighted blanket. I feel heavy, unmotivated, and sleepy all the time. There’s this weird element of coziness that comes from laying in the nothingness. Because it’s a lot easier to do that than to move, and breathe, and feel. I lose all sense of desire for everything from food, to sex, to work, and friends.
I barely picked up my phone for 10 days, not even to voice note people back, which is one of my favorite activities in the world. And I just couldn’t deal with anything other than that heavy weighted blanket on my shoulders. I had nothing to say, and no fucks to muster up in pretending to care about anything else.
This went on for a few weeks. Somehow, I managed to write, to post, and to respond to emails. But it was like I did it through this haze that erased my memory along the way.
How I Healed After Failed IUI
I needed to heal my physical body and my mind after our first failed IUI. On a physical level, I was still throwing up every day for two weeks after the negative pregnancy. I had extreme nausea, and couldn’t eat anything without a churning stomach and painful bloating.
My gut health was all thrown off, which is unusual for me, because usually my digestion is strong. But, like I’ve said before, hormones are the puppermasters of our lives- so I’m not surprised that it impacted my gut health just as much as my mental health.
Acupuncture and Herbs
First things first, I booked in at the acupuncturist once a week for the four weeks I was going to be in Florida. More importantly, I changed acupuncturists. This was something I wanted to do for awhile, but it was complicated because my first acupuncturist is also a friend. Without going into detail, I’ll just say that I needed the level of care I was receiving to change, and it wasn’t.
Something just switched in me after the failed IUI, and then the cyst- where I had this “fuck it” attitude that allowed me to really put myself first. I had no hard feelings towards this person, but I also wasn’t going to keep going to someone for that kind of intimate care if I wasn’t getting what I needed out of it. I wasn’t going to stay with someone to make them feel comfortable, even if it made me feel really uncomfortable.
So, I switched. And the first session I had with the new person confirmed I made the right choice in every way. She treated me for two hours- with an extensive intake conversion, body work, massage, somatic relief, and needless acupuncture work, followed by custom herbs to take home.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber
If you know me, then you know the hyperbaric oxygen chamber is one of my favorite wellness tools to take advantage of when I’m in a place where I actually have access to one. Read my post about the benefits of the hyperbaric oxygen chamber to find out more about it.
I loved this time in the chamber to read or to sleep. I released the pressure to work, and allowed myself time to rest- focusing on reducing inflammation, and trying to reduce the size of this damn cyst.
I’m not a fan of cleanses anymore. And I swore off juice cleansing and fasting a long time ago. However, I’m still a fan of a good ‘ole kitchari cleanse when my gut health needs a reset. Check out my kitchari recipe to hop on the kitchari bandwagon.
Let me be clear in saying I didn’t only eat kitchari. But the first 3 days, I did primarily eat kitchari until my digestion regulated a bit. I was also sure to include more fiber in my diet (yay berry season!) to get things moving and grooving right along. I also love to include Arrae bloat capsules for more immediate relief.
I allowed myself a lot of downtime. This meant a lot of couch time, TV, reading, and just laying around. This isn’t easy for me. But it was definitely needed.
The good news is that the weather in Florida was pretty reflective of these cozy vibes, as we’re entering into the rainy season here- which gives sunny mornings for beach walks, and cloudy rainy days for snuggly time.
Yoga is a staple in my daily life. And I’m all about daily yoga practice. Yes, daily. Even if it’s only 5 minutes, I made sure to get on my mat every damn day.
I’m not usually drawn to studio classes anymore, because it’s hard to find a style or space that I really resonate with. But I knew that I needed to get out of the house during this time, too. Like I said, there was a lot of laying around. Plus, I work from home. So, I figured why not switch it up with a new student pass at a studio while I’m here.
One of my good friends teaches at a place down the road that I wanted to check in, so I got the new student pass (which was valid for two weeks), and managed to make about 3 – 4 classes a week in the studio. The rest were at home. Although I can’t say I had the best experience with every class I went to, I did manage to find a few incredible teachers. And, the time out of the house was much needed.
It’s also nice to shake up your own practice from time to time, because it’s really easy to get repetitive and stuck in your own little comfort zone of movement if you’re not mindful about it.
Key word about socializing for me is selective. I’m an introvert. I can’t just spread my energy around everywhere, because I’m pretty easily drained by others. Funnily enough, I work in hospitality and teaching, which means I need to hoard up a whole lot of energy in order to hold space for groups of 20 people traveling abroad. So, when I’m not working, I like to spend most of my time by myself in order to recharge.
What I have noticed over the years as my hermitness increases, is that when I’m surrounded by the right people- then I don’t feel as drained. Go figure.
Because I was in such a sensitive place these last few weeks, my inclination is to hibernate. To hide. But I also know that I actually do feel better when I can connect to others, so long as they’re people I actually want to connect with. People who I actually want to open up to.
Rather than saying yes to everything while I was back in Florida, I decided to be even more selective than usual about my socializing.
I said no to the things that I knew wouldn’t contribute to my recovery process. But more importantly, I said no without guilt.
This was kind of the same as the whole switching acupuncturists thing I mentioned before. I don’t want to hurt people, obviously. And I definitely don’t want to hurt people that I actually like. This can lead me to doing something over and over that I don’t want to do, because I don’t want to “be a bad person,” instead of just trusting that I quite clearly am not.
I have to say that I’m pretty proud of the way I handled this portion of the healing. Over the years, I’ve got a lot better about being selective and saying no. But I still struggle with the guilty aftermath. This time around, I told that guilt to F right off, and allowed myself to just be.
What’s Our New Fertility Plan?
It’s almost been a month since our last visit, so you might be wondering if we’re about to try again, and if that’s why I’m writing this post.
The answer is no, we’re not.
I decided I didn’t want to try again before my Peru retreat, because I didn’t want to be wrecked all over again should it be negative. This is my last retreat…maybe ever- so I’m just going to wait until I’m officially done with this chapter of my life, before I move on.
I was also already feeling a little stressed about the travel to Peru, and going down a Google rabbithole of miscarriages and high altitude rates. Of course I know that’s not healthy or helpful and blah blah blah- but I also know that if anything did happen, I would feel this regret for not just waiting. Just to take one more risk away if I can.
So, we’re not trying again this month. Which means I get to wait TWO months before trying again. At first, the thought of waiting two months sounded legitimately impossible. And now, I’m really happy with this decision. This was life’s way of forcing me to pause, to sit in the shit, and to feel- rather than moving forward rapidly, and not addressing all the shit brewing under the surface.
New Fertility Clinic
The same way I switched acupuncturists, I also made the decision to change fertility clinics. Maybe one day I’ll write and expose all of the horrible shit this place said and did to me, but also maybe not. Who wants to revisit those feelings? Right?
I was very decisive in my decision to switch, and I vowed that I wouldn’t go back there- even though it was going to make our lives a little harder, and mean even more new appointments elsewhere. I was done. And I didn’t want our baby conceived in that place.
We’re also headed to California for the summer, so we’ll be in a brand new state to start completely fresh come July or August. Although this move has been planned for ages, there’s something about the timing of it that just feels right.
Trying At Home
I haven’t actually met anyone at the new clinic yet, because we’re on the other side of the country. I’m going to be very clear and honest with myself about how I feel under their care, and if my gut is telling me no again- this time I won’t ignore it. Sure, we might check out a few other clinics in the area, but otherwise we plan on trying at home.
We still haven’t decided 100% if we’ll try at home, but if we do- I’ll obviously share all about it, so you can know how it works, and what to do in case you’re also seeking that method.
Healing Physical and Mental Health
Phew, this month has been all about healing for me. And, I’ll be honest, I’m still not there. I’ve made leaps and bounds forward from the point in which I started when I arrived back here from Nica. But I’m still not there yet. Wherever that is.
The thing I’m still working on is reconnecting back to my body, because I’ve totally checked out of it recently. Of course all of the methods I described above help that a lot- but mostly it’s my meditation practice that’s beena saving grace. Especially if I keep my hands somewhere on my body while I do it.
I’m working on getting back to that place I was in before our first try, that you can read all about in this post.
I can go through the motions, but it’s hard for me to feel connected to the process the same way I was before.
Part of that is just getting all these damn hormones out of my system, and recalibrating back to myself again- which is happening slowly but surely. But part of that is also from this place of being a little more guarded this time. Like I’m bracing myself for a hard fall. Clenchy, ya know?
The thing is, I love how open I was before. There was a sweet naivete to it that was just…pure, I guess. I’m trying to get back to that place, while also bringing this new level of understanding with me. The understanding that it might take months for it to work. And the understanding of just how deeply this impacts my mood, and my productivity.
Above all else, I have to look at this process as a way in which I’ve been able to get to know myself a little deeper. Because, all in all, I was honestly shocked that I was as upset as I was. I truly didn’t think this process would hit some unseen nerve that all mamas have. I thought I was above it, or something. And, the truth is, I’m not.
It’s been a challenging month for me. Sharing anything has felt like pulling teeth. There hasn’t been an ounce of inspiration or creativity running through me. Even just getting these words out is seeming to take twice as long as usual. But it’s okay, because I know I’m on the way home- back to myself. In a way that I’ve never really been before.
Here’s to feeling safe enough to be open.
Ready for this new chapter to begin.