I started my Clomid last night, and today I was a bit of a wreck. I don’t have any physical side effects but after H’s less-than-subtle comments last cycle I’m was alert for mood changes. I had a rough day at work today, and to be fair I can’t really blame that on the Clomid, but it does seem to impede my ability to cope. Sometimes today, in an endeavour to distract myself from tears, I imagined Clomid as a balaclava-clad criminal who had hand-cuffed and hog-tied my usually resilient coping skills before locking them in the trunk of an abandoned car. I wanted to cry. I wanted to yell. I wanted a nap. And, dammit, I wanted the keys to that trunk!!
It’s not really the Clomid at fault though. To be truthful, it’s been a rough week at work. It’s busy, and we just don’t seem to be able to get on top of our workload. But that is only part of the problem.
At the moment I work on a psychiatric ward. Challenging work at best, and occasionally distressing. But this week I have found it difficult for a new reason. We have a patient on the ward who has been very unwell but who is thankfully getting better. I have been involved in several in-depth discussions with her this week. Just like all of us, she has many problems. One of her major issues is that she has been through 10 years of IVF treatment. She does have one child, but she has also suffered numerous failed attempts, side effects, and miscarriages. She’s undergone two laparoscopies. And recently, when it became clear that at 48 years old there would be no more pregnancies, she had to make the decision to destroy the last of her frozen embryos. She sobbed as she told me this. To her, these embryos were her child’s brothers and sisters.
I don’t want to suggest that infertility or IVF are the reason this woman is unwell. She had mental health problems for some years before she began fertility treatments. But it was clear listening to her that the whole experience has been hugely traumatic. She refused any blood tests when she was admitted to hospital because after so many blood tests and injections during IVF she now has a needle phobia. She has so much scar tissue in her abdomen from laparoscopies and a caesarean section that she developed a sub-acute bowel obstruction this week. Her marriage has slowly disintegrated while she focussed all her energy on IVF and her husband withdrew emotionally to avoid the pain and disappointment. They gave up on sex years before they finally gave up on IVF.
As if this story was not already too close to home, I soon discovered another commonality. She too had been diagnosed with a pituitary adenoma. She was treated with the exact same medication I was due to start before my Prolactin levels mysteriously normalised, much to my Endocrinologist’s amazement. This medication, Bromocriptine, seriously messes with the Dopamine levels in your brain and one of it’s more serious side-effects is psychosis. When my doctor discussed this drug he told H that he would need to be vigilant about monitoring my mental state. H, ever the jester, postulated aloud that Psychotic Tio probably wouldn’t be all that different from Everyday Tio. It might seem like a cheeky comment to make in a doctor’s office, but it made me smile. This comment reminded me that my darling H wouldn’t let me take things too seriously, and it told me that he wasn’t scared to face whatever might lie ahead.
But this woman, who already suffers from psychosis, needed to take a medication that causes psychosis in order to have a chance at conceiving. How much scarier can it get?
I tried to remind myself that to some degree, her story is one of success. She has a child that she adores. But I just couldn’t shake the horrible feeling that to some degree, this woman will never recover from the trauma of IVF.
It was confronting to sit and listen to this story. I wanted to reach out and hug this woman, but I could not. I wanted to cry, but I could not. I wanted to excuse myself from the room, run from the building, drive desperately home and give H a great big hug. But I could not.
I have had a sobering reminder this week of just how destructive infertility can be. I am going to have to carefully assess my emotional state tomorrow before I decide if I can walk back into that interview room.