BY KATE HEAL
Antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, and countless therapy appointments have filled the last three years of my life. I have a wonderful marriage, and have plenty of support in my life, but looking back, I have a hard time understanding how things got so out of control. I was never supposed to be infertile. A failed cycle of IVF and a failed attempt with a surrogate left me reeling. My life became forever changed.
I love my husband and the partnership we share, but each passing year also became a painful reminder that it was yet another I was childless. In my mind, the narrative of everyone around me was that our friends, family, and coworkers were wondering what was wrong with us. I was all too aware that most couples began to have children very shortly into their marriage. Many people I know got pregnant long before tying the knot. The choice of being a single parent is becoming more and more acceptable. I think it’s wonderful that our country is becoming more and more progressive, but a small part of me can’t help but feel resentful. After all, I did everything right. I used birth control prior to getting married to my husband. We started dating when I was seventeen, and we married six years later. Upon getting married, I threw my birth control away and really began trying to get pregnant about a year into the marriage. By unwritten societal norms, I did everything I was supposed to do. Therefore, pregnancy was meant to just occur when I wanted it to, right?
I flew through my twenties all too quickly. It seemed like everyone I knew was pregnant for the first time, or even having their second and third children. Every pregnancy announcement hit me so hard. The pain of infertility is so multifaceted. I have believed from the beginning of my infertility diagnosis that you can never really know the pain that comes with infertility unless you’re going through it. It goes so much deeper than the lack of the little pink plus sign on a stick. My body was betraying me. Each month my period either would arrive right on time or a few days late. In those few days I’d convince myself that unprotected sex was enough. That tracking my cycle and days of ovulation was all that it took. But it never was. I felt like such a complete failure each month for years of my life. Why did I even get periods if I couldn’t get pregnant? Why did so many teen girls fall pregnant accidently when I had tried and tried with no avail? And finally the worst question I had for the universe was the most painful. Am I still a woman if I can’t do what women are biologically meant to do?
I remember the day I turned 25. It was awful. I had convinced myself that I’d have a baby or at a minimum be pregnant at that age. The truth was, I started to seek medical help the year before and was getting nowhere. A few invasive tests only told me one thing; I had high FSH or (follicle stimulating hormone.) We tried everything the doctors suggested. All sorts of infertility treatments failed. One scenario involved using a surrogate to carry a donor egg. When I got the phone call that the procedure wasn’t going to work out, I fell to the floor and cried my eyes out. I had never experienced so much emotional pain in my life. That moment marked some major changes for me. In the days that followed, nothing seemed “right.” I became incredibly depressed, started to hear voices, and began to hallucinate. I was terrified. I tried so hard to hide my symptoms, thinking they would go away. That maybe everything was the result of the initial shock of not having a surrogate anymore. But they didn’t go away, and I had to tell someone.
When I reached out for professional help, I was put on medication straight away. I was also
given many different diagnoses over the last few years. Bipolar 1, Bipolar 2, and now Schizoaffective Disorder. I experience symptoms from both Bipolar and Schizophrenia. I can’t hold down a job. I can’t seem to concentrate on much of anything these days. I’ve always been an avid reader, but I’ve found it nearly impossible to read like I used to. I simply can’t remember what I’ve read long enough for the story to stick in my mind.
I’m embarrassed to say that I self-harm. Many people view selfharm as a weakness, and I have to admit I don’t feel particularly strong when I give in to temptation. I actually started very soon after I started hearing voices. Many of the voices I hear tell me to hurt myself. Mainly to burn my skin. My arms and sections of my legs are covered in blotchy burns. There are times when I’m alone in my apartment and I see shadows and figures that terrify me. I do my best to ignore them. Some days I’m successful, other days I’m not. I never would have imagined that my life would be this way. I’m on a great deal of medication that has helped me a great deal with my depression, but I have yet to see any changes in the voices and visions I experience.
For the past year I’ve been writing poetry documenting my illness day to day. Writing is not always easy for me, but it brings me a lot of relief and satisfaction. I’m proud to say that I’m being as proactive as possible. I’m going to counseling regularly, writing daily, exploring different treatments, and trying to create a better quality of life. I’m not giving up anytime soon.
Kate Heal is a Maine native writer and blogger. Her degree in Psychology gives her a unique perspective into mental health issues and support. She is passionate about writing, especially poetry and finds inspiration all around her. Kate is an avid reader and baker.