The Value of Community

Given the tone of the last few posts I’ve written, this should be quite different.

I spent the weekend at a rowing regatta with my teammates. I was very nervous going in, I feared that my own issues would be transparent enough that I wouldn’t be able to interact on a basic socially acceptable level. These are all people who have only seen me on one level – my social, positive, extroverted facade. I worried about the reality of spending four days in the presence of people who don’t know any details of my life (seriously, most of them couldn’t tell you what I do for a living, what my husbands name is, or my last name), would be too stressful and my own issues would out, whether I wanted them to or not.

Don’t get me wrong – I had some bad moments. I definitely hid from them in the evenings when I was worn down and tired and unable to cope. I had the blessing of one person I do trust being there. She doesn’t know all the details (in part because I have avoided telling her) but she knows me well enough that she helped me make space when I needed it, which was… for me, given how fragile I was feeling, nothing short of amazing.

What I did not expect was the sense of belonging I found over the weekend. When I started rowing, I joked that I had finally found my people – type A, OCD, compulsive, driven, hardworking, intelligent people who are just crazy enough to wake up at 4 AM and go sit in little narrow boats, rain or shine, dark or light, year ’round. I missed, on my first assessment, the other side of these people. I missed the compassion, the kindness, the support, kinship that exists within the team. That’s what I found this weekend. I have never felt so accepted by any group of people before in my life.

Knowing that this was my first regatta, they checked in on my constantly, offered advice and suggestions, and stories of races past, where win or lose it was worth the process. As a novice rower, the realty is I am a bit of a liability in the boat – it takes a while to get the technique down to the point that you’re contributing at a level equal to the more experienced rowers. But I never felt like they saw me as dragging them down. Instead there were constant words of encouragement. When I rowed my own novice single, I could hear my whole team on the beach cheering me on. I didn’t place, I wasn’t especially happy with my row, but coming back into the beach was like getting back under a warm blanket on a cold winters day. The results didn’t matter, my time didn’t matter – all that mattered was that I’d done it, and they were proud of me.

I grew up in a small town, and I think I am inclined to take it for granted. I forget the value of having a group of people who will stand behind you and be available no matter what. I didn’t know last year, when I started rowing as a favour to a friend (they needed another female, I’m reasonably athletic and I had time) that I would find a whole new support system to be part of. The warmth and kindness that these people have shown me – regardless of if they know any additional details about me – has been one of the most wonderful experiences I can imagine. My off colour jokes, silly dances, propensity to terrible puns, and inclination to be a cheeky little shit as often as I can manage are all accepted. Welcomed, even. Despite my reluctance to share (I didn’t), and semi-antisocial tendencies over the weekend, by the time we were on the boat home, I felt safe with my teammates. Safe to be me, whatever that looks like, and that it will be ok.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I know I have a whole community of wonderful people who will help me if I need it.

-Me.

Loneliness

My husband has seemed less bothered by our current situation than I, which isn’t unusual for us in general – I tend to be more emotional and volition compared to him. However his response has boardered on blasé, which had started to make me ask questions.

It turns out that he hasn’t really accepted that we are infertile. In fairness, he didn’t have a lot of investment in the process beyond the obvious from the start.

When we started trying, at least when I got my IUD removed, he was somewhat ambivalent about the whole situation. He did not think that we were as financially secure as he would want to be in order to start trying for children, and in his head it would be a one month and we’re pregnant type of deal. As the months wore on, I don’t think he really thought about it much – having more frequent sex on specific days did not bother him, and he tends not to invest in abstract thought when there are concrete things to deal with. Around the first anniversary of my IUD removal, the shit hit the fan for us. When I pressed him to start thinking about fertility testing and investigations, he told me that the only reason he had agreed to start trying was because I had forced the issue, and that he was not in any rush for me to get pregnant, he didn’t feel ready, and he was just telling me what h thought I wanted to hear because he felt that if he were honest, we would fight about it. There was more to that conversation, on varying levels of standard couples fights, but that was the gist of it: he wasn’t on the same page, and he really didn’t care how much it was bothering me.

It took…. A while for that to stop feeling like a massive betrayal. Him not being ready, and his rational behind it, those things I could handle and understand. It was the unwillingness to be honest with me that really bothered me. It harkened back to issues we had had earlier in our relationship, ones I had thought we had put to rest, which were clearly not staying six feet under. That fight, the feeling of utter betrayal, and the ensuing distrust was the worst we have had to date, and the closest we have gotten to ending our relationship. It took a long time, and a lot of boardering on brutal honesty to move past it. Ultimately, he got testing done, as did I, and we continued. At this point he is very on board with being ready for kids, which was helped, I think, by his joining me for several of the more invasive tests, and having a better idea of exactly how unpleasant the process had been to date. We had resumed our norm as a united unit.

Because his response to three+ years of trying and ultimately the decision to stop all intervention didn’t make sense to me, last week I queried him on it: basically, he thinks it will just happen at some point, so he’s not inclined to worry about it. Which is nice, in some ways: he’s not stressed about anything, which means he is able to function on a much better level compared to me. However, it makes me feel even more alone in this process. It also makes me wonder if, when he finally does accept that children are not in our future, if he will still want to be tied to me. There’s nothing wrong with him, he could quite easily find someone else and have biological children, which is what he wants. And I know he loves me. But … But there is a but.

I don’t share most – or any, really, of this with the majority of my friends. Partially I don’t want to be a burden, partially I find it massively hard to talk about, partially I feel guilty feeling as bad as I do about something that … That is inevitable and not unusual. And partially I feel crappy that I am unwilling to pursue other avenues, to look into IVF or IUI, and like I should try those before giving up. But honestly, I don’t think I am emotionally prepared to open that Pandora’s box right now – I won’t say never, I’m not getting a histerectomy, but the idea of investing more time and energy into that is … I just can’t. I am having to prioritize getting through each day in turn without losing my shit in public. The depression and feeling of isolation is getting worse, so I just focus on my work, and the priorities I’ve set, and any areas where I can see my value. Because I am having a lot of trouble seeing my intrinsic value right now.

I know this sounds ridiculous – I know I have value beyond my ability to procreate or the value I provide other people, but right now I don’t feel it. I wish I could, but mostly I just want to hide. I’m at a regatta for the weekend with two dozen other rowers from my club, and my major goal is just to get through the days without letting on exactly how lousy I feel.

At some point I am going to need to find a way back up, but right now I just need to find a way to cope.

-Me

Another day

image

My doodle pretty much sums up how I’m feeling.  Today is an off day. Not for any particular reason, it just is.

I’ve tried distracting myself – my house is wonderfully clean, I’ve practiced the piano, sung to myself, played with the pets, spent extra time at the boathouse and with my rowing peers prepping for the regatta next week, and binge watched a combination of Doctor Who and Torchwood (I’ve decided that I want to see them in the timeline they were meant to be watched originally – so season one of Torchwood in time with the second series of the Doctor Who reboot – yes, I am that big of a nerd, and it is excellent). But today is an off day.

Something happened when I realized we had to stop trying. Part of it was simply that I recognized that I was unravelling, and that I couldn’t sustain the hope any longer. Part of it has come in recognizing that the last ten plus years of shaping a life that could support having children in it have ended.

I vividly remember turning to my then boyfriend, now husband, when I was 19, and telling him that I knew I wanted to have kids with him. As he was 22 at the time, he looked slightly uncomfortable and brushed it off. But that was the moment I realized that I was sure I wanted to have children, and that I wanted him to be my coparent. Fast forward to now – eleven years later, I suppose, as I’m 30 now.

I think what I struggle with most is letting go of all of the planning that went into our plan to have children. Building stable careers over taking risks, education over travel, monogamy over exploration. By most standards I, we, did everything right: We got married young, but not so young that we rushed into anything. I finished my degree before we even started trying to conceive, and found a stable job. He built his own business and made safe choices. We chose stability and long term goals over immediate gratification. And I’m bitter, if i’m honest. I’m bitter that I invested my 20’s in a life plan that isn’t going to happen. I am massively envious of those individuals who make no such plans or sacrifices, and get pregnant first try, whoop-de-do.

It’s causing me to re-evaluate my life choices. I love my husband, but without children to help cement our bond, I worry that we will continue to drift apart, as we have to some extent over our 14 years together – I towards an academic, professional and athletic world he finds neither interesting nor has any desire to participate in, him to running a business and becoming a much more cynical person than he had been, in large part due to the constant undercurrent of trying to avoid being taken advantage of that is a large part of working as a contractor. People change a lot in 14 years, and the last three have been… lets say trying as an understatement.

I don’t actually know what the next step is, and I don’t want to do anything emotional and rash – I somewhat question my own judgement just now. I just feel full of resentment, and bitterness, and that nasty bile-like feeling of jealousy. I am hoping that time will help, and it will start to feel less raw. Maybe once this giant wound has started to scab, I will be better able to see how to prevent it from getting infected. Mostly I just want to absent myself from my life. Just check out and start fresh with other things. I’m aware that running away from this won’t change anything. This is mine to process and deal with, and it will go with me wherever I am. So one way or the other, I need to find a way through. My own personal labyrinth in my brain.

I like puzzles, generally, so maybe this one has a solution.

-Me.

Victim Blaming

I was listening to CBC this morning, and they were reporting on the prevalence of sexual result, and in particular the under reporting of said assaults. Among the discussion was the acknowledgement of victim blaming, and a discussion of how the Vanadian legal system has treated those who came forward in the recent past.

Then a thought popped into my head: “What the Manager did to me happened partially because of how I looked.”

Apparently I victim blame myself. Academically I reject the thought – I KNOW it’s not fact. Emotionally I think it was my fault. Conditioned misogyny is an interesting thing.

-Me

Even Eeyore loves thistles

I’ve been struggling a lot in the last month with finding my own value. To some extent I feel like my body has betrayed me. I am having a hard time with the fact that this is beyond my control, and that something in my own body, namely the Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), is likely to be the cause.

Unfortunately, although the reason I found out that I have PCOS is my inability to conceive a child, it comes with a host of other issues as well. Not the least of which is the excess of androgens which result in some seriously large breasts, among other secondary sexual characteristics. PCOS also makes weight regulation exceptionally difficult. I have mentioned before that I can probably best be described as a viking woman – I’m strong, 5’6″, broad shouldered, blond, and Rubenesque. I have struggled on occasion with disordered eating habits, most significantly as a teenager, when I was bordering on anorexic – I lost a lot of weight very quickly, only changing my eating habits when my hair started to fall out. I’m pretty vain about my hair. I stayed pretty level at a conventionally healthy weight for a few years, then gained a lot, quickly, when I went on the pill. I do not respond well to hormonal supplements. That is probably when everything really started to go haywire. I was an emotional wreck without any cause, I felt lousy, and realized that I wasn’t going to be able to use the pill as a form of contraceptive.

I stopped taking the pill, my mood levelled off, but the weight stayed. I have gained and lost a few pounds here and there over the last decade or so, but I have found that, short on starving myself, I have significant difficulty loosing weight. In light of the PCOS diagnosis, it is less surprising to me than it once was. However, as I shift the considerable amount of attention I have been focussing on getting pregnant to other aspects of my life, my weight and fitness level comes into view.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m quite fit. I row 6 days a week at a high intensity, keeping my heart rate between 140-170bpm for over an hour at a time. I also work as a Kinesiologist in active rehabilitation, so I spend my day up and down from my desk, in the pool and gym with my patients, with little time to sit on my butt. Besides that I hike with my dog frequently. My health markers, i.e. blood pressure, resting heart rate, general stamina, are all well within a healthy range. My legs are actually kind of awesome looking., Unfortunately, I carry my weight around my stomach, and in my breast tissue – so I have a somewhat square midsection with a nod to Dolly Parton.

It’s frustrating, because I do track my caloric intake, and my exercise, and I consistently have a negative caloric balance. Yet still this lovely chub keeps hanging around. Which also feels like my body is letting me down.

Which brings us to the self worth thought process. I am aware that my appearance is not a measure of my worth. I am also aware that not being able to procreate doesn’t make me less of a person, however much it feels like it right now. I am struggling quite a lot to see my own value right now. I am academically aware that I have more to offer than what my body can produce or looks like, but emotionally I feel quite lost. I also have felt myself withdrawing due to the depression I’m experiencing surrounding my infertility, so I feel lesser than as a friend, a colleague, a therapist, a wife, a sister, a daughter. I feel massively needy, and not like I am able to offer anything in return.

I had an interesting conversation with my Dad today, where I suggested that I feel like Eeyore, a peripheral downer. Among other things he pointed out that even Eeyore still loves thistles. Basically he said that: a) I need to give myself the space to feel how I feel, and not keep trying to shut myself out. b) Being sad doesn’t preclude experiencing joy, and may even enhance the experience by comparison. c) I need to consider treating myself with the same compassion I would treat a friend who was going through the same experiences.

I think he’s right, and I needed to hear it… and I think I needed to hear it from him, because it has been said to me from other sources, and I haven’t been able to hear it.

I don’t know how I will go about giving myself space, but I will start with trying to give myself the same grace that I would a friend who I knew was hurting.

-Me.

The dubious joy of hitting the “Fuck it!” point

I have hit the point of fuck it on several levels this week. On Friday, I was with a good friend and all of the fun stress and pain and everything came out, thanks in part to a significant amount of wine. Along with a lot of tears, and a significant amount of my pent up stress. And “Fuck it!” was pretty much my major thought process. I was in a safe space, and once it started there was no turning back. And I do feel better having had it out. I needed to just let go, cry, and be honest about how much pain I’ve been in.

They were lovely. I am very lucky to have found really wonderful people for friends who, despite my inclinations to hide everything, have the patience to get to know me and wait for me to admit things they frequently already know.

Also, I’ve hit that point on my neurotic friend level – I am tired of being a neurotic ball of stress. I can’t sustain it in the long term, and the simple reality is that I quite like me. I’m flawed, i’m neurotic, I care way to much about things that don’t matter (i.e. stick people decals on the back of cars, I hate them – I have no idea why, I just do. The zombie ones are worse.) And yet have trouble expressing myself about the issues in my life that are valid and present. But I like me. I know I’m a good person at my core, and frankly, fuck it.

It’s oddly liberating. It may not last – I’ve felt this before and  know it’s transient. But for now, and thanks in large part to the catharsis of having let all the pain out, however briefly, I can be calm.

-Me.