By Candace Wohl
Galentine’s Day. Is it really a thing and more importantly, what is it?
Are there any Parks and Recreation fans out there? If you happen to be a fan, then you probably know all about this glorious day. What was a fictional holiday created in one of the episodes of the popular sitcom show that starred Amy Poehler, has now become a day that is celebrated among lady-friends, single, coupled, near and far. Galantine’s Day, notably observed on February 13th, is like any sensible post-fictional holiday. It is often hailed with girlfriends gushing over-marketed merch, mimosas and waffles. Because what’s better than brunching with gal-pals? Nothing.
“Every February 13, my lady-friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas.” -Leslie Knope, Parks and Recreation
It took nearly a decade of fertility treatment and family building pursuits to become a mother. In that period of my life, I lost friends, I isolated myself, I was overwhelmed with the uncertainty of my future. Infertility can be insidious. It creeps into every aspect of your life, relationships included. As the baby shower invites and announcements seemed to chip away at my joy for others, so did my ability to maintain those relationships.
As fast as I lost friends, I gained a different set of women in my life. Those that were like me, infertile, bent but not broken. Although our stories and circumstances were starkly different, we had a commonplace of empathy for the complicated feelings that we were familiarly experiencing together. Some of these women lived close by, while others were scattered across the US.
“It is important to make sure you are spending time with people who support (not judge or give you unwanted advise) you,” adds licensed clinical social worker Lisa Schuman of The Center for Family Building. “Those people can help you increase your joy and decrease your sadness and anxiety. Even if you do not feel like going out with a friend to a movie or an activity, having a pleasurable distraction from your stress can give your body the break from stress it so desperately deserves.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, friendships not only enrich your life, but they can also improve your health. Wait, what? Who knew that being social could be good for your overall health? Some of the added benefits of strong friendships (but not limited to) can be:
- Reduced stress levels
- Increased happiness
- The support to help you with trauma and life-crisis
- Improved feelings of self-worth and confidence
- Lower blood pressure
Most importantly, adults that have a strong network of support have been shown to have a decreased risk of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. “Your body is not meant to be in a heightened state of tension for a prolonged time,” Schuman notes. “Our bodies are designed for flight or flight. We need to react to threatening situations (as we did as cavemen and run from the bears) but not to remain in that state of hypervigilance or to go to that place again and again.”
In my humble opinion, infertility is already bad enough, add in depression and it feels like a sinkhole of despair. Enter in friendships. Being an adult, doing adult-ish things like working full-time and paying bills sometimes can get prioritized over making new relationships or nurturing the friendships you may already have in place. It takes effort, and well, life is busy.
“This prolonged or repeated stress can cause all sorts of medical issues, including weight gain and high blood pressure,” adds Schuman. “So give your heart and body a break and make a plan with a supportive friend.”
I found my people in weird places. For any certain amount of change to take place, you must get uncomfortable, and sometimes vulnerable. I explored the black hole of the internet finding online forums, blogs, and social media accounts –just do me a favor would you? Stay away from Dr. Google, stick with FertilityAnswers when it comes to the infinite question asking. Trust me on this one. From there, I discovered resources and in-person support groups, eventually leading one of my own. I found joy in volunteering and advocacy, making some beautiful friendships along the way. The point is, there are friendships to be made and Galentine’s near and dear to be celebrated. Although I am a big fan of waffles and mimosas, the bigger emphasis of this day should truly be on taking time to support your fellow “her.” It’s taking a day to recognize the importance of friendships, support, and honoring some of the most important relationships in our lives. So, go forth sister, find your tribe and love them hard. It’s good for your health.
Happy Galentine’s Day!
Candace Wohl is a free-lance content marketer, writer, infertility advocate, public speaker, mother through surrogacy and co-author of the blog, Our Misconception . Candace and her husband were also featured on MTV’s True Life, “I’m Desperate to Have a Baby,” a documentary on couples who struggle with infertility and MTV’s Check Ups and Check Ins. You can find her featured in Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, POPSUGAR, Google Blog and many other national outlets. Follow their antics on Instagram @Ourmisconception, Facebook or Twitter @rmisconception.