New Options, Hard Choices

On Thursday I met with a Doctor who has agreed to take me on as a patient, and will now be my family Doctor. This may not seem like a big deal, but where I live, there is a significant shortage of family Doctors, and although I have been in the market for a decade, I have been unable to find one who is taking on new patients since leaving my hometown (and my previous doctor). This means that throughout our fun with infertility, we have been relying entirely on walk in clinics and have had to re-explain our story each time we meet someone new.

I had started to accept that I wouldn’t be getting pregnant ever, so at this point getting a family doctor was more about having consistent care going forward than is was about fertility.

As it turns out, this woman I met who has taken me on as a patient has a special interest in women’s health and fertility – Which is great, since I value that focus. She also offered ideas as to options that I was not previously aware of in terms of trying to get pregnant, specifically the Creighton Model of family planning. It sounds much more like something I can imagine working with, as it works with my body instead of just forcing hyper-ovulation and hoping for the best, and in some ways I wish I had met this Doctor years ago.

The thing is, trying to accept that I won’t get pregnant has been… well, kind of awful. And I had, in the last few weeks, just started to feel like myself again. I was having fewer days where I just felt like hiding my head under a rock and disappearing, and actually being able to enjoy my life, my friends, my social interactions, sex, etc, and not that I was just going through the motions. And although I want to have a baby, I want to raise a child, and if i’m totally honest, I want it to be mine, ours, our genetics, our own little weirdo with our physical attributes… I’m terrified of going back to the place I was in when I started to accept that that wasn’t going to happen. I’ve had other depressive episodes in my life, been burnt out (a full time undergraduate degree while planning a wedding a and working full time is a slight recipe for disaster – I don’t recommend it), and felt terrible about myself before… but nothing had compared to the utter lack of self worth I felt in thinking that I won’t be able to have a baby. I don’t want to die, I didn’t want to die… But I can understand why depression results in people wanting to die.

So I am hesitant to re-enter this forum. I am slightly terrified of my own potential reactions, or the charged emotional situation, and of letting myself get my hopes up.

I don’t have a final thought here – this is very much just… I don’t know what to do.

-Me.

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Stop Fighting Yourself

As I have started to feel less like I am drowning in the negative feelings surrounding infertility, I have started feeling able to reach out. Last week I made an appointment with a therapist who I had spoken with briefly before our appointment at the fertility clinic. I saw him this afternoon, and I know I made the right decision as to who I wanted to see.

The first time I met him last year, I was pleased to meet someone who, although clearly intelligent, educated, and a leader in his field, also actually listens to his patients and treats them like people. My initial impression was vindicated today: For the duration of our session, I actually felt like I was talking to someone who wanted to help me to help myself – not someone who wanted another client on their patient list to flesh out their accounting. It was reassuring to talk through my grief process with him, and to discuss the various coping mechanisms I have employed.

As far as the grief was concerned, he made a valid but somewhat disturbing point in that I remain in a grey area: as long as I am of child bearing age, there is always the potential to change my mind, explore further options, follow through with a fertility specialist I actually respect, etc. Basically, as a 30 year old woman, I have another 10-15 years of wondering if it’s possible before I can ultimately lay this whole business to rest. So although I feel intense grief and sorrow at the loss of our potential child, the lingering affects are likely to continue for much longer. I’m glad he pointed that out… although less glad that I can expect to feel some variation of this pain for the foreseeable future. He also managed to point out that time will help to make this feel better without sounding like a cliché. He’s a skilled therapist.

Unfortunately (fortunately?!?) I already have the basic coping mechanisms covered: Self care, physical activity, meaningful employment, social resources/support, diet/sleep/lifestyle choices. Through my own work, I am very aware of what any individual needs to focus on to perform as best they can regardless of other circumstances. The areas I lack are meaning in life, i.e. where am I going. And he pointed out that I should probably stop fighting with myself.

He has a valid point. I have spent a significant amount of energy in my life getting in my own way, almost intentionally making things harder for myself. In this situation I don’t really feel like there is an option other than accepting that this is my reality. That I can’t get pregnant, and that I will be sad about that. Fighting that thought won’t change the facts, but it will cause my feelings to fester and burst out at inappropriate intervals. So  he had a point. I will have to stop fighting with myself and find some variation of harmony.

We also briefly touched on my fear of being rejected by my friends for being too needy. I like a straightforward person who can ask “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” and render all my balled up weird and haywire anxiety into a simple form. The reality is that people who care about you don’t abandon you simply because you are unhappy and need support. They may need to take breaks, they may need time away, but they won’t simply stop caring because you’re going through a hard time. I needed that reminder quite badly. This is the calmest my brain has felt in a long time. I am not expecting it to stay this way, but I think I can find my way back here at least occasionally.

-Me.

Feeling Needed and Rambles

imageI have spent a fairly significant portion of my life putting on a strong surface and avoiding sharing how I feel with anyone. This remains true even when I trust someone – to the point that I fear that trust, because if I actually let them in, if they really get to know me, then when they inevitably (in my head) reject me, they will actually be rejecting me. Not the facade I’ve spent ages cultivating, but the real, deep, dark, complicated, secret me. So instead I spend a great deal of time making sure that I am who any given one of the people I care about needs me to be, while trying desperately to hide myself from them lest they see something they don’t like. With, ultimately, the net result of pushing the people I care about away and being super socially awkward.

It’s funny: I can happily stand in front of a room full of strangers, talk, give a speech, take them through a training protocol, present a new concept, and banter – and I don’t care what they think of me. I don’t give a flying fuck what strangers think of my silly antics and shenanigans – which makes it very easy for me to appear as if I am a social butterfly and to integrate into social groups. And I can maintain that in the long term.

The problem comes in when I meet someone who I think more of – someone who strikes a chord,  who I admire, who I click with. Then I am possessed by a burning desire to pour my heart and soul out, extract all of their personal details, and perform some kind of messed up mind meld symbiosis that results in us being bonded forever in blissful friendship. Needless to say, this can be quite overwhelming for me, and were I to let it out, I suspect that it would be comparably overwhelming for the individuals who are the targets of my attentions.So instead I am careful, and I keep my shit to myself. It comes out eventually, over time, in a somewhat more normal progression as the friendship builds, and thus I manage to actually form real friendships with people who are actually kind of awesome.

Which brings me to the other end of things – there’s this thing called imposter syndrome – it’s very common among academics, since in the ivory tower, it’s almost the purpose of the institution to make those learning within it feel insecure and off balance. Basically it’s the sensation that you only find yourself in whatever positive circumstances by accident, and because you have somehow managed to delude/bamboozle/stumble your way into the situation, not that you earned your place there.

I get it with regard to my friends – I am generally slightly surprised at how many really wonderful people who choose to spend time with me. I am frequently slightly in awe of their intelligence, drive, accomplishments, how well travelled they are, well read, professionally and athletically accomplished, etc. Seriously, I don’t know how I got so lucky to have so many people who have tolerated my awkwardness long enough for me to get over myself and let them in. Since I think too much of them to think I have somehow successfully fooled them into being around me, I have to conclude that they are also getting something out of our relationship, despite my neurotic weirdnesses. But I frequently feel somewhat like one wrong move and that will all come crumbling down.

In fairness, I have had a few of those deep friendships end, frequently without my knowing why, or if it was something I did, or if it was something beyond my control. Given that I am a control freak, I want for it to be something I could control, but I am aware that it likely was not. At least two had more to do with the person’s significant other/change in relationship status… Actually, now that I think about it, so did the third. I am still in contact with all of these people, but the closeness is gone. I suppose the fact that the contact still exists is good, and maybe indicative of my lack of involvement in the change of friendship – but each time it happened, it hurt enough that I worry it might happen again.

We, as a society, are very open to discussing the end of romantic relationships, and the trauma that comes with that, but somehow when friendships end, there isn’t an expectation that either party should feel the void left by the others absence. There is no expectation of grief, or loss, just the idea that you will go softly into the rest of your life without looking back or regretting things unsaid, plans not followed through on, or the fact that someone you once cared about is not part of your life anymore.

Really, basically, all of this is a long involved ramble to say that I feel like I have to keep my guard up constantly to protect myself, because I worry that if I let people in, they won’t like who I really am.

The funny thing is, I know who I am, and I actually like me… despite my insecurities, flaws, neuroses, I like who I am at my core. It just takes me a very long time to let anyone past those layers to see what lies within.

-Me

Compassion

I’ve been pondering the idea of familiarity breeding contempt, and I disagree. I think that familiarity breeds compassion. I think that knowing where a person comes from, what gives them hope, what makes them sad, and where they find joy, and love, and fear… It opens your eyes to their world and gives you space to understand, or at least try to, the complexity that is another human being. There are few things I value more in this world more than the moment that another individual lets me into their world, even for a moment. That trust, that window to their soul, is the most rewarding part of my work and private life. I treasure that feeling above all else.

Something I struggle to find is any kind of compassion for myself, or any expectation that others may react to my trust as I do to theirs. It makes me somewhat hypocritical, in that I value that trust, but I don’t expect others to value it from me. I tend to feel like i’m burdening others by letting them into my world – especially right now, when it’s somewhat of a dark place.

And I think that there are people who see any kind of emotional outpouring as weakness, and in those people, it will result in contempt. I hope ultimately to their detriment, but that’s out of my hands. It becomes a question of what matters more to you: A real, human, honest connection with those who will value it for what it has to offer, or shutting yourself off, protecting the vulnerable aspects of yourself, but missing out on the depth of knowing that could exist. I waffle between the two frequently, and make the decision on a moment by moment, case by case basis.

-Me

Good Days and Bad Days

Eight days ago I felt actually happy, just inside of myself, for the first time in several months. It was intensely reassuring to know that I am still capable of feeling like that, and the afterglow lasted for several days, allowing me to manage more social stimuli than I’ve been able to in ages. I even managed to go to a BBQ and games night without incident, and get through a very unwanted family reunion of sorts.

Today was less good, and the afterglow faded to nothing. I met up with a good friend today. She started trying to get pregnant about six months after I did. Her daughter is now 14 months old. She is well aware of where I’m at, she had issues with conception, and is intimately acquainted with the frustration and sorrow associated with infertility. I am genuinely happy for her, for her daughter, for the life she has been able to build with her husband. I am also somewhat crippled by jealousy, and seeing her and her daughter was a vivid reminder of what I feel I’ve lost.

So today was a bad day.

It’s funny, I have a whole spiel I use with patients with regard to pain during recovery. The gist of it is that as they get better, they will have good days – the good days may be few and far between, and are likely to be followed by more bad days, but they will exist. And over time, there will be more frequent good days, and eventually they will be more common than the bad ones. Until eventually the good days are far and away the majority, and the bad ones are just blips on the screen.

I suspect that I can apply the same rational to myself with regard to the grief I feel. Now that I know I CAN experience good days, I have to believe that they will happen more often… And that the emotional pain will follow a similar path to physical pain.

This will get better. I need to believe this will get better.

-Me