One More Shot – Documentary Review

I just finished watching the documentary, “One More Shot”, on Netflix.

Guess what?

I am still crying.

This film is so real. So truthful, so heart wrenching, so me. In 90 minutes this movie managed to completely transport me back in time and to accurately explain the roller coaster of emotions we went through just over two years ago.

ONE. MORE. SHOT.

A perfect title that can be interpreted in many ways. One more shot of medication. One more blow to your heart after another negative pregnancy test. One more attempt at conceiving. One more shot of tequila to numb the pain. Or, one more chance at a miracle.

The story follows a couple in their early thirties as they try to expand their family and navigate the uncharted waters that are infertility. They aren’t a glamorous Hollywood couple. They aren’t doctors or scientists who know all about infertility. They are the couple down the street that stop over on Thursday night for a glass of wine. The couple you pass in the grocery store while looking for a ripe watermelon (how DO you know if a watermelon is good??). And they are the couple that sits across from you at the fertility clinic, wondering how long you have been trying, if you were already pregnant, or if you had just suffered another loss. The ones whose eyes you meet before heading back for your consultation who can tell you with just one look that they understand.

There were several moments in the film that I could identify with, but there were also several that I could not. This couple suffered longer than we did, and more loses. But, some points that really hit home for me, were:

 

The fear of the unknown.

As an OCD, control freak, I spend every spare moment planning, making lists and setting goals. Infertility was something I knew nothing about, and treatment had no guarantees. Yes, there were dozens of options for starting a family, but nothing was guaranteed. I often thought to myself “I would go through this 10 times, spend $100k if someone, somewhere could promise me that it would all end with a baby in my arms.” But the truth of the matter is, they can’t. And the fact that I had no control over the outcome was debilitating.

 

Feeling broken.

Nick checked out OK. Borderline for sperm morphology but otherwise, good for baby making. This made me feel like it was all MY fault. That I was broken. I couldn’t do the thing women were SUPPOSED to do – make babies. I feared this would break our marriage, and I feared it would break me.

 

The shots hurt.

Those shot were NOT a walk in the park. They hurt like a b*tch! They left me sore, bruised and hormonal.

 

Punishment.

Was I being punished for sneaking out of the house in high school? Or for that time I swiped some beer mugs from a college bar? Or for all of the things I have taken for granted or selfishly just assumed would happen?

 

IVF is the ultimate “treatment”.

When we started at our clinic, we were given a less than 1% chance of conceiving naturally. So we jumped straight into IVF. And we were positive it would work. When it didn’t work the first time, it was an even bigger blow. The miracle treatment we had just shelled out $15k for was a bust. It’s hard to pick up the pieces after that.

 

Obsession.

The sheer obsession of all of it. I think infertility made me a hypochondriac/Google genius. I spent all of my free time Googling symptoms, or lack thereof, grants, adoption, embryo donation. I needed to constantly feel like I was being proactive.

 

The comfort of knowing I was not alone.

From the moment I made my blog public, it was like the heaviest weight was lifted off my shoulders. The out-pour of love and well wishes we received was amazing. But what was even more amazing was the number of women who messaged me and said, I understand. I too, am suffering from infertility. I too, find it hard to be happy for my friends having babies. I too, am scared.

 

This documentary was everything I never knew that I always needed. I think it is something that every struggling family should watch. And all of their friends and family. And everyone else. It is relatable, funny when it needed to be, and informative. I highly recommend that you check it out now on Netflix. You won’t regret it. The only thing you might regret is forgetting the tissues, or that you didn’t watch it sooner.

And for all of the women, men and couples out there trying to grow your families, find hope and comfort in the fact that you are not alone. Infertility is hard. It will push you, it will test you, and it will break you. But there is a light at the end of that tunnel. There is always another option – maybe it’s another crack at IVF. Or maybe it’s a surrogate. Perhaps it is coming to terms with never being parents. Or maybe it’s adoption. Whatever it is, make sure it is YOUR decision. Not anyone else’s. And let that decision be the one that puts you back together again.

Sleep is for the birds

The past two weeks have been rough for me. I haven’t slept well at all, and my days have been filled with mini panic attacks, headaches, hot flashes and more. I lie awake at night, extremely exhausted yet extremely alert. My days feel normal but as soon as my head hits the pillow I can’t seem to turn my mind off. I’m not sure I am thinking of any one thing specifically, I just know that I am thinking. My mind races and as soon as I feel myself drifting off I seem to catch myself and subconsciously say “hey look, you weren’t thinking, that’s not allowed!” and I jolt awake with a racing heart pumping adrenaline throughout my body. One of the main purposes of adrenaline is to keep us alert. It is that “Fight or Flight” defense mechanism that kicks in and I can’t seem to control it for the life of me.

This goes on for hours, until I either finally drift off, drink a glass of wine to help calm my nerves, or I get out of bed and just do things. So many people have told me that a glass of wine to help me sleep is no big deal, but I am so afraid of becoming dependent on that! Which adds to my anxiety. I am also starting my meds for our FET this week and I do not want to drink on them, I want to give them the best chance to work. So now I’m sitting here, anxious about not sleeping, anxious about starting my meds, anxious that by not sleeping I will ruin my chances of this cycle working, anxious that I am failing. It’s no wonder that I can’t sleep at night!

I’m not sure what triggered these feelings exactly, I was sleeping like a baby for most of December. I think it was a combination of the Lupron Depot shot I was given on 12/18 (apparently side effects include headaches, hot flashes, potential worsening of anxiety/depression) which lasts about a month, the influx of pregnancy announcements over the holidays, and the fact that the holidays are now over (I no longer have a distraction or anything to look forward to before treatment begins). All I know is that my emotions are heightened and I wish I could pop a Xanax every few hours. It’s not fun and it is definitely not how I wanted to be feeling going into my FET.

But this is the hand I was dealt and I need to make the most of it. I am going to try to stay as relaxed as possible when awake, and make the most out of my time lying in bed. I will try to think positive thoughts, or better yet, not think at all. I know this phase will pass. Maybe not today or tomorrow, or even next week, but it will pass. That is what I keep reminding myself…normalcy will return and be welcomed with open arms.

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Anxiously waiting

I have mentioned before how much I hate waiting, have I not? And I think I have brushed on the topic of how anxious it makes me. Well, now I would like to share a bit more about that with you. I am a sufferer of generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder (self-diagnosed with the latter). This is not a condition I have dealt with all my life. It comes and goes and usually I have no symptoms. However, the pressure of TTC has caused it to worsen over the past year.

People often chose to dance around the subject of mental illness. And I actually hate to describe what I have as a mental illness. But it is what it is. And it is so very common with approximately 18% of the population suffering from some form of anxiety disorder. Actually, a good handful of my friends are as anxious as I am (I still think we should start a club)! It is nothing to be ashamed of, and is very treatable! Like infertility, there is a stigma around mental illness that needs to be addressed. I hope by sharing my story I can encourage others to get help, because that is the most important thing!

anxiety

For as long as I can remember I have been a perfectionist (perhaps not in cleaning my room, my parents will attest that it was always a mess) in the areas of school, sports, games, etc. I strived to be the best at everything, and if I was not, or if I was not properly recognized for my talents (take soccer for instance) I would quit so that I would not have that “less than perfection” on my record. Anything less than an ‘A’ in a class angered me. My clothes are all organized by color and categorized by style (short sleeves, organized by color; long sleeves, organized by color; skirts, organized by color; I think you get the picture). I make lists on top of lists on top of lists so that I never forget anything. I often check to make sure the door is locked several times, or that my heater in my office is off (even though I am positive I turned it off and checked it three times already). That may all seem silly to you but to me that is life! Thus I am pretty sure I have OCD.

My OCD feeds my anxiety. I have always felt nervous before taking a test, or performing a gymnastics routine in front of the judges, but that is pretty normal. It was not until my sophomore year in college that I truly began to feel anxious. I blame it all on my Precision Language course. This is a course at OU (in the Scripps College of Journalism) that students dread. I was told before the first day that it was one of the most difficult courses on campus. I psyched myself out before even looking at the syllabus. And all because of a grammar course. I began to feel panicky before exams, which lead to me not being able to eat or sleep for long periods of time. I had also recently broken up with my boyfriend, so that didn’t help either. I was miserable.

Finally I couldn’t take it anymore and went home for the weekend and visited a doctor who diagnosed me with anxiety disorder. In fact, my cortisol levels were through the roof! I was prescribed Celexa and visited a psychiatrist a couple of times. The psychiatrist kept trying to blame my anxiety on my parents and the pressure they put on me, which was not the case. Needless to say I went to two appointments and then quit. All I wanted was to pass this damn class!

The Celexa really helped. I was back to my old self in about a month. There was a warning sign on the bottle that alcohol could increase the effects of the drug, but being a Bobcat I didn’t let that stop me from going out on the weekends (or weekdays)! I became a lightweight and attribute a lot of confusing mornings and headaches to the mixture. But that was all worth it to finally feel free again. And guess what? I received an ‘A-‘ in the class! So all of that anxiety was for nothing….right?

I stayed on my Celexa throughout the rest of college, because I knew my course load was only going to get larger and the pressure would continue. After graduating I weaned myself off the meds and felt great. It would be another 6 years before the real anxiety hit again.

Cue the summer of 2014. I began a new job (which I love) and we also began trying to conceive. It wasn’t long before I began waking up in the middle of the night and couldn’t fall asleep. Eventually I couldn’t sleep at all, because I couldn’t turn off my brain! There were weeks where I would go three full days without sleep, and sometimes I would drink a couple glasses of wine before bed just to knock myself out. What I thought was insomnia for over a month (I tried melatonin, velarian root, lavender, Benadryl – which had the opposite effect – meditation, sleep hygiene, etc. Nothing worked.) before visiting my doctor again and realizing it was the anxiety returned. I went back on my Celexa.

Celexa takes about a month to start feeling the effect of the drug, and in the meantime I suffered my first panic attack triggered by someone close to me revealing they were pregnant. I now knew what my trigger was. Now, every time I find out a new person is pregnant I seem to have an attack. They have gotten fewer and smaller since the Celexa has kicked in, but as you can see TTC is very stressful.

Celexa is a Pregnancy Category C drug, meaning that it could pose a potential risk on a fetus but not enough studies have been done. I have chosen to continue taking my Celexa because the benefit outweighs the risk right now. I am not pregnant and had I not taken the medicine for the past year I would be in really bad shape. I need to be at my healthiest to carry a child, and for me, right now, my healthiest is when I am on my Celexa. I plan to go off of the medication as soon as I see a positive test, although several women have continued taking throughout their pregnancy and had healthy children. I just don’t want to risk that right now.

In addition to the Celexa, I have seen a counselor and tried yoga. Both have helped a bit. What has helped the most is trying to focus on the positives in my life and keeping myself busy. I couldn’t do this without the love and support of my husband, family and friends.

We all fight our own battles, and we should not be ashamed of that. I encourage anyone with anxiety to please get help, you CAN feel better.

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