Pity

I hate being the object of pity. I’m not much happier with sympathy, I can sometimes handle empathy… But I hate pity.

I raced at Regionals this weekend, and although all of my four races felt good, and my team came together and performed well, I did not win any medals. Which was disappointing – every other person on my team won in one of their other races, I seemed to be the common denominator among losing boats. I thought I had made more improvements over the last year than I had, but apparently it’s going to take a lot more work to compete at an international level and win.

One of my coaches, who is an ex national team athlete (he was headed for the olympics until an injury forced early retirement), decided to race a single scull, and unsurprisingly he won. He felt like it was unfair, because despite having followed the letter of the law, it is somewhat unsportsmanlike for an athlete of his caliber to compete at a masters level. So this is where the pity comes in: At the end of the regatta, once the boats were packed back on the trailer and we were ready to make the 4+ hour drive back to the ferry, he called everyone together for a team meeting/end of regatta wind down chat. It started out nicely enough, he made some nice comments about learning a lot from adult athletes and how much he enjoyed coaching us…

Then he brought up a new thing. The “spirit” award. Citing the idea that this person had been positive and complained the least throughout the weekend, he called on me, and gave me his gold. And I just wanted to crawl under a rock and die. It I felt that I had earned that award, maybe it wouldn’t have felt so shitty, but I don’t think I did – There was another member of the team who had been far more helpful, positive, and proactive than I had been all weekend, which means they selected me because they felt bad for me. Because I alone had not medaled. I can handle my own disappointment, but knowing that I was the object of my coach’s pity just … It just sucks.

I held it together until I got into the car to drive home and then let the tears come. The ladies I was carpooling with were worried about me, and agreed that it was a poor choice and pretty transparently a consolation prize… and they were lovely. Half an hour into our drive home we were giggling about other things.

I have no desire to have anyone pity me. A large part of why I keep the details of my infertility largely private is because I have no interest in being the object of that attention. And I work my ass off at rowing, i’m just not performing at a high enough level to win yet. Having my coach think that that action was appropriate just… Makes me want to quit. Having it happen in front of all of my peers, and drawing attention to my failure, not to mention making me a lightning rod for their pity as well? FML.

I know that he thought he was doing something nice, and that makes the whole thing somehow worse. If he were just being an ass hole, I would write it off and dismiss it, but he genuinely thought that he was being kind. And there isn’t really a way to give it back without being an ass hole in return.

I’m aware that three days of racing in 35+ degree (celsius) weather, plus <5 hours a night of sleep for five days, plus 7+ hours of travel time on either end it making me more emotional than normal. I’m aware that once I am well rested and a few days have passed I will feel less miserable about this. But right now I don’t want to get back on the water, I don’t want to deal with anyone from that arena, I just want to hide, give up, oh, and starve myself to boot, because when I hate myself, I feel all the old body image issues resurfacing.

I have to go for a training shift at my new job today. I am overtired, have a slight heat exhaustion hangover, and my brain feels like fuzzy mush. Not ideal training circumstances, so here’s hoping I can get through it with some shred of dignity intact.

Fuck pity.

-Me

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A Weird Conundrum

So, something I am noticing that I am struggling with: I am starting to get on with my life. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I am getting over not being able to get pregnant – that remains a nice little black cloud in my psyche, but I am starting to see it more as a distant storm instead of an ever present shadow. As I am able to actually focus on the good things in my life, I have a weird sensation like i’m cheating on my unconceived, unborn child. Like somehow being able to build other positive things in my life is doing a disservice to the dream of having a biological child. I think it’s associated with the general grief experience, but it’s an interesting aspect. It’s like somehow if I can move on, if I can build a positive and fulfilling life without having imprinted my DNA on the next generation, I never really wanted it that badly.

I know that’s a load of crap. If I woke up tomorrow, or next week, or next year, and took a pregnancy test and it were positive, I…. I don’t have the words to express how happy I would be. I have dreams where it happens, and the disappointment I feel on waking and finding out it isn’t real is almost heartbreaking.

So as I actually feel like I am building a different life, and a good one… I find the feeling of being unfaithful to my original plan very interesting.

I think my Husband and I will take a very serious look at adoption sometime in the next three years. I think we will look at children who are in the foster system, not infants… and I think we will be parents. We will have a child, or children, and we will parent together. But in the meantime, I need to not feel guilty for trying to build a good life without my dream baby.

-Me

Apparently it’s time for a change?

Soooooooo, its been an eventful few weeks – on top of quitting my job last week, I got a call that my surgery date is much, much sooner than I expected. Initially they called me Monday to tell me that it would be June 27th. I rearranged my entire schedule around that with less than 6 hours notice, and tried to come to terms with the idea of being slightly incapacitated starting a new job.

Then on Tuesday I got a call from the bookings people that they had neglected to check the surgeons availability, and that the 27th wasn’t actually an option. So instead it’s been postponed to July 25th. Six weeks seems like a reasonable amount of time to prepare…

I will still need to take some time off quite early in my new job, but I will at least have a month to settle in.

In some ways having a breast reduction is another step in my acceptance of not being fertile. I had been waiting to see about the surgery until I had children, since breast feeding is apparently more difficult post surgery. Choosing to do so now is again admitting that it isn’t going to happen. I waffle back and forth between weird last minute hope and being accepting of the reality.

The limbo is waning. It won’t go away, it won’t be gone, and I will grieve on some level… but I am starting to concretely move on.

-Me

All of the things, and yet still the same.

You never know exactly when the next wave will hit. The moment that you are reminded, yet again, that you won’t ever hear a munchkin call out for Mum and be calling for you.

In other news, I quit my job on Friday. I’ve been frustrated by working for an internationally publicly traded company whose focus is the bottom line… For three and a half years. However much I love WHAT I do, the company for which I do it has been nothing short of disappointing. There is a significant amount of lip service paid to the value of teamwork, collaboration, supporting their employees, yadayadayada, but the reality differs. I have been repeatedly informed that I am not worth paying more than the minimum, and that I am replaceable. So it is slightly satisfying to see the look of panic on my managers face when he now has to try to replace me. I do have another job to go to. I’ll be working for the municipality where I live, and it will be much more community focused, which I think will be a good fit for me. What is terrifying is the fact that I will be taking a huge risk in terms of hours – this new job is based entirely on my ability to build and maintain a client base. And I think I can – I have done so before. But it is venturing out into unknown territory without a safety net, and I am unsettled.

I will also have significantly more free time than I am used to, and that is also unsettling. I am used to being so busy I don’t have time to think, and that is at least in part by design – if I’m busy, I can’t focus on the things that upset me, because there is no time. Now I will have time. my first impulse is to try to fill it – with anything: work, school, choir auditions, exercise, etc. I know I need time to slow down and regroup, and that it will be good, but my crocodile brain doesn’t want to give anything the opportunity to catch up.

Since quitting I have felt lighter than I have in a very long time. I know I made the right decision, I know that this will be the best in the long run, and the more time since I sent in my resignation the more sure I am that it was a good idea. I feel alive in a way I have not for a few years.

I need to believe in myself and my own professional abilities, I need to remember that I can, and have, in fact done this before. But the self doubt creeps in, and its insidious tendrils wrap around my heart and drag…

It will be ok. I will make this work. And worse case scenario, I can always find another job….

And in the meantime, I will continue to avoid thinking about that voice that will never call for me in the night.

-Me.

Birth

A beautiful baby boy came into the world this morning. Very good friends of ours, they were best man and maid of honour at our wedding, welcomed their first child this morning. A few weeks earlier than planned, but he and his mother and healthy, and his father is overjoyed. Their joy is wonderful, and I believe that they will do everything in their power to be amazing and caring parents, and to raise a happy and well rounded child.

And I feel joy for them. I feel it as strongly as I feel my own sadness. The four of us have been friends for over a decade, planned our lives together, joked about how we as mothers would sit in the shade with glasses of wine and get the fathers to run around after the little heel raisers we were bound to produce. So I feel joy that my friends are experiencing parenthood. And profound loss that we won’t be there with them. We can still drink wine in the shade, but no little melange of my Husbands and my genetics will be there to run around with their son. Somehow this birth is harder, largely because we had planned a life together with them, and they are inevitably leaving us behind. I will be a fabulous aunty. I will dote on that little monkey and be there for his milestones. And although I feel the grief that sits behind me every day, I will not allow it to darken every interaction.

The guilt I feel in not having been able to provide my Husband with progeny is huge – not because he’s put it on me, he emphatically hasn’t. But because children were always in our life plan, the one we agreed to in the years before we got married, and the one we planned on after. As we approach a decade and a half together, I appreciate that he has been, and continues to be a loving and supportive partner, and that he does not seem to resent my inability to conceive.

Infertility makes me feel lonely. That is, to some degree, my own fault – I hide my personal details from most of the people who see me often. Those who know all of them live far away, and we only discuss things occasionally, but then in detail. I want to reach out for support, but those who might offer what I want are either unavailable or unable to respond. And what could they possibly say? There really isn’t anything to say.

-Me.

sleeplessness

I have to be up and out of the house in six and a half hours, and instead of letting me sleep my brain is treating me to a parade of my self perceived failings and flaws in a seemingly endless loop. I’m tired, my Husband is out of town for work, and I didn’t work out today, so I’m less physically spent than normal, so my body is not winning the war with my brain and letting me rest.

I don’t know if this is true insomnia – chances are, once I close my iPad, turn on a book on tape, and try to let my mind drift off into the story, I will fall asleep sometime in the next two hours. Thankfully I function well on <5 hours of sleep, and make up will take care of the dark circles, so no one need be the wiser.

The endless parade of situations where I’ve decided I wasn’t good enough, should have known better, shouldn’t have said that, could have made a better decision… it keeps going in the back of my head even as I write. Nights like this I realize how much I rely on being physically exhausted in order to sleep. Tomorrow I will get up, go rowing, and probably walk with a friend then erg in the evening, so that, coupled with my likely minimal sleep tonight, should result in my brain shutting off as my head hits the pillow. But tonight, despite working nine hours and attending an AGM after, I didn’t do enough physically to trump my brains need to self evaluate and find myself wanting.

The CBT helps – I can at least push the negative spiral away far enough to recognize, objectively, that it comes from my depression and is not representative of how I actually am… but that requires focus, and me being awake enough to give it that focus, so using the tools at my disposal is not conducive to sleep.

I’m almost tempted to get up and work out, just so that my body is forced to stop, but then I realize that I need at least an hour to wind down post workout, so it’s unlikely to actually make anything better, and very likely to result in a shitty row tomorrow morning. Logic prevails.

So instead, I try to make some sense of the spirals, then push them away, while insulating myself as much as I can. For every “you’re worthless” I counter with “what I do has value”, and “you’re unlovable” with “I am loved”. I struggle to counter “you don’t deserve love/attention/affection/support”… I don’t have really a response to that one, and it is currently the loudest. I desperately want to reach out to my support systems, but I also know I can’t handle a rejection right now. So I have a choice between staying inside my own spiral, alone, or trying to reach out to be pulled out, and risking having my reaching hand slapped instead of held.

Tonight, it is late, and I need to at least try to sleep. Tomorrow, I need to start working on learning to deserve that which I willingly give those I love.

-Me

Sensory Overload

I overextended my energy resources this week. It was a bit of an intense week at work, and I had a lot of clients who needed to draw on my emotional resources, which is fine, the psychological component is a huge one for my job. And then I had a date night with my Husband, which was actually really lovely. Except that I realized that I have built up some serious walls even where he’s concerned. Namely that I didn’t realize until last night that I have never fully elaborated on exactly what I do at work – I have never actually explained to him the types of patients I work with, the magnitude of the job, or what it actually requires from an energy/focus perspective. I think i’ve started to take for granted the effort that badly injured, emotionally fragile patents take, and I forget that that’s not necessarily something that is readily apparent to most people. On the surface, my job is quite simple: Identify the area(s) of injury, and build a reconditioning program to address them. And that part, although it requires some creativity, is pretty easy.

The more interesting and difficult part of my job are the social/mental components. My patients are going through the worst time in their life: They are injured, and some of them are not going to recover completely, and often they know that… or need to be able to accept that. There are brain injuries, loss of function, and a loss of  sense of self. Not to mention that often they may have just faced their first real experience with their mortality. Add to that that the rest of their life doesn’t simply stop to allow them time to recover – relationships go on, or die. Children still need attention, parents develop dementia, and work wants you to just do the job required. So my patients are under a host of stressors, some emotional, some financial, and all important. My job becomes trying to find a way to get them invested in their own recovery treatment while adapting their program to fit the life they actually live, not the one I would want for them.

I don’t talk a lot about my job at home. Some of that is because of confidentiality – This area is not so big that it would be hard to connect a set of circumstances to an individual if enough details were disclosed. Also, sometimes it’s nice to have an apparent mental separation between work and home. It’s not that I don’t think about my patients when I’m at home, but not talking about them allows me some space to leave work at work, and be present at home. But my work is a huge part of my life, so not including my Husband in any part of the discussion, thought process, or at least the depth of what I do means that I’ve been unintentionally shutting him away from myself for years.  Last night, without giving him personal details, I outlined the depth of what I actually do. It might be the first time that he has understood why some days I get home and ask him to leave me alone for a while to decompress and talk to the pets. Unfortunately, the act of actually letting him into that part of my life was, in itself, taxing. And since my week with my patients had already plumbed the depth of my resources a lot, I didn’t have a lot left.

Then, today, I had agreed to meet a friend of mine to help promote some rowing stuff – something I was excited to do, and was actually really fun. However, it took place in a large gym space with a sporting event happening in the middle of things as the main draw, so it was loud, and there were a lot of people, and …. oh wow, did I not have a lot left. We got to introduce rowing as an option to a bunch of totally awesome kids ages 12 and under, which was really cool – including a bunch of really neat little girls who were eager to participate in conversations about how girls can work hard, and be muscular, and not take shit from anyone – and I am so glad that I went and helped where I could. However, it took pretty much everything I had left to deal with the crowd, and the noise, and by the time I made my excuses and left, I was done.

I sat in my car and cried, and then cried most of the way home. I don’t even totally understand why – I just know that I was emotionally and physically done. Thankfully my Husband is having dinner out, so I get the house to myself, to snuggle with the furballs, write, and regroup. Some of the issue is that my Husband just wants me to be ok. So badly. He know’s i’m hurting, and he knows that I am struggling a lot right now, and he wants me to feel better. Unfortunately, however unfair it is, I just feel his worry as additional pressure to perform. Whether it’s part of my insecurity, or just a basic part of my personality, or all of the above, I do not like to take my emotional shit out on the people around me, or to be an energy suck for them. Along with this making me quite unwilling to reach out and ask for help, it also means that when I see someone who cares about me affected by my issues, I will do everything in my power to shield them from me. It makes it easier to talk to my therapist, or frankly to any stranger (or to vent in an anonymous online forum) because I don’t see the aftermath, or feel like i’m forcing myself and my baggage onto anyone.

I have all day tomorrow without any expectations on my time. I think i’m going to take my dog and go somewhere alone for a few hours. Once I’ve been out and about and alone for a day, I think that will be enough to make me feel like I can get through another week.

-Me