The War on Negativity

I’ve decided to issue a moratorium on bitterness, resentment and fear.

I know I’m far from alone in having been subjected to these terrorizing emotions for so long, it seems they’ve taken over every waking second of our lives. I know we’ve been struggling, grappling, trying to make sense of it all and desperate to regain some sense of our former, happier, selves. Like a wounded animal, we retreat to solitary confinement as it feels like our hearts become blacker and shrink with every month, every year, that goes by without our most fervent dream becoming reality: motherhood.

I feel like I keep slipping and sliding around in the muck that my emotional, mental and physical “well-being” has become – a misnomer, at this point, because I obviously DON’T feel well. I haven’t felt well in a really long time. I don’t sleep well, I don’t eat well, I’m angry all the time. I’m jealous, bitter, resentful, sad, scared – all the time. I don’t do anything I used to enjoy doing. I don’t go anywhere. I avoid people. I avoid leaving the confines of my little cocoon of self-imposed isolation because it’s too scary “out there”. I feel trapped in a prison of my own making.

And I’m so sick and tired of feeling this way.

It’s easy for me to blame it on my circumstances, on infertility, on my ensuing isolation, on the words and actions (or lack thereof) of others. I’ve been stewing in a sense of failure, of self-loathing, for so long that I apparently stopped fighting back. At some point, it felt like everything got to be too much; my world caved in and I got buried under all the rubble. I lost my sense of self, I lost the belief that I have skills, talents, and that I’m a good person. I let the actions and words of others define who I was, who I became, because I felt like I was fighting a war on so many fronts that I just got too damn tired to swim against the stream. We have no support, no one to turn to – so I convinced myself that it was all our fault: our fault that we couldn’t get pregnant; our fault that people we put our trust in deceived us; our fault that we’re hurting, angry, sad and alone.

The truth is that I’m at a crossroads, and I have a choice to make. I can keep feeling like crap, I can keep beating myself up, I can let my inner critic convince me that it’s my fault we don’t have any children yet, it’s my fault that we might not be able to, it’s my fault this, that and the other. I can get angry at the world, angry at everyone else’s fecundity, IVF coverage, supportive relationships. I can throw in the towel and just exist in a vacuum of misery that will become a never-ending pity party. I can wait for my marriage to disintegrate because I can’t snap out of it, I can drag my husband down with me as every ounce of love is drained from my heart because everything is dark, angry and bitter – and watch him blame himself for not being able to help me, to make me feel better. I can keep beating myself up about my shortcomings and comparing myself to others with the end result that I feel bad. I can let things I have no control over make me feel like I’m weak. I can despair to the point where I stop getting out of bed altogether.

OR…

I can stop fighting with myself. I can stop pretending. I can stop lying to myself. I can stop comparing myself to others, berating myself for the choices I’ve made. I can stop thinking, and feeling, like not being perfect or not having the same way of doing something as someone else makes me worthless. I can stop hating myself for the fact that my life isn’t exactly the way I thought it would turn out. I can stop judging others just because they’re not having to walk a mile or three million in my shoes, because they haven’t had the same experiences, because they don’t care, because they don’t get it, because they’re doing/saying things that hurt me.  I can stop blaming myself for the things others say and do because, really, it’s not my fault and it’s not something I can change. At the end of the day:

“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die.”

Some days, I feel like I’m dying – both emotionally and physically. I feel raw, I feel beaten down to the point that I don’t even want to try to get up anymore. I just want to tap out. I know those feelings won’t just go away. I know I’m not suddenly going to wake up tomorrow, a reformed pessimist suddenly chipper like I’ve had a lobotomy or a Walt Disney makeover. But I realized, with strange clarity, that I’ve been playing the victim – instead of actually remembering that I’m not weak; I’m not pathetic; I’m not hopeless, hapless, stupid, or a failure.

I’m human.

A few days ago, I got really worked up about a site that I felt had a bunch of posts by women who’ve clearly never had their reproductive abilities called into question. I was so angry at what I felt was a set of completely insensitive, selfish posts that showed absolutely ZERO consideration for women who struggle to conceive. But then I thought – hold on a minute. Why am I getting so angry? This site is clearly run by women who don’t have these problems. Why should they think about infertility when it obviously hasn’t touched their lives? I mean, you don’t see me writing posts about Asperger’s, to throw out some random medical condition. It’s my choice whether or not I read these types of things – so getting angry about something that, technically, I’m not the target audience for is just plain ridiculous. It’s also pointless, because the end result is inevitably detrimental to ME.

I feel like having a family should be considered an inalienable, constitutional right – and that, consequently, all 50 states should be required to carry mandatory IVF insurance. However, the fact that this isn’t actually the case and that the current state of affairs makes me angry does absolutely nothing to change MY situation. I don’t live in a state that has IVF insurance, nor is IVF covered by our medical insurance – not even a portion of it, no cap, nada. But this doesn’t make my situation unique at all – I know there are many others who are in exactly the same boat. It also doesn’t mean that I should get angry at other IFers who do have IVF coverage – it’s not their fault that, apparently, our society considers it more important for a guy to be able to have a boner than for a woman to be able to get pregnant. 

I realized, these past couple of days, that I am so incredibly lucky to have had some wonderful experiences in my life, to have choices and freedoms, to have a roof over my head. I have a husband who loves me to the end of the earth. My life is far from perfect, and I myself am definitely a work in progress. But I know I’m not alone – even if it feels like it. I know that there’s hope, somewhere, out there, for all of us. We can’t know which bend in the road will lead to the next chapter in our lives, but I’m tired of feeling consumed with negativity. I’m tired of getting worked up, seething silently and letting all this crap fester as it chips away at my very soul.

So I’m just going to keep working on ME and try to change my perception of the world around me. I’m going to try to remind myself that I have a choice of how I’m going to receive information and how I’m going to deal with it. Instead of focusing on all the things that make me unhappy, I’m going to focus on the things that make me happy – and work on finding more positive ways to deal with the things I struggle with. Because, at the end of the day, I don’t want to end up being a mother who can’t find the good in small things, the sunshine in spite of the rain, the proverbial silver lining.

Carpe Diem, my friends!!

PS: It goes without saying that reserve the right to occasionally think that someone is a total a$$hat and deserves to be poked in the eye with a really hot french fry rolled in ghost peppers. I’m not bucking for sainthood.

The Ghosts of Yesteryear

This seems to be the year of epiphanies for me – lately they seem to keep tumbling around my head like bales of hay, suddenly so obvious and unavoidable that it begs the question: what took me so long to realize this?

I had a late night. I didn’t sleep well. I stumbled out of bed much later than I’d planned and just about managed not to break any appendages in search of coffee – before which you might as well not even talk to me because I will most likely eat you alive. Once my brain cells appeared alert enough to be entrusted with operating heavy machinery (aka driving), I made a brief dash out into the real world to run some errands. I kept zapping through my playlist because nothing quite seemed to fit right – I wasn’t feeling melancholic (yay!), wasn’t in the mood for country, didn’t “feel” the overwhelming ooomph of techno. I finally stopped on a completely unlikely selection for a bright, sunny Saturday morning: Happy Phantom by Tori Amos. It’s on the only album of hers that I own called Little Earthquakes, which I’ve owned and “abused” since I was a college student and an incurable insomniac in my dorm introduced me to her music. (At least I think it was her – I really can’t remember who it was. Who can remember all the people they met in college dorms? They don’t even have name tags!)

The important thing is that, usually, when I play Tori Amos, it’s a bad sign. It’s my personal soundtrack for break-ups, heartache, disappointments of a magnitude so excessive that their tremors couldn’t be measured on the seismic scale. I’ve had moments where I’ve played the same song probably a dozen times in a row because the semi-melodious and somewhat discordant strings of notes combined with lyrics that are open to interpretation (and beg the question of just how much alcohol and/or narcotics were involved in their creation) have always been perfect for my most morose moods. I don’t like to cry in public or even in front of people I know if I an avoid it and I figure that it’s better than drowning my sorrows in a more destructive way. Sometimes music just helps hone in on the epicenter of the pain, which you can then excavate after lamenting on your misfortune, cursing whoever or whatever it to blame (since, obviously, you’re completely without fault – duh). 

Happy Phantom, though, is a “kicky” little tune – it really seems to skip and hop around so that you can almost imagine someone’s fingers dancing across the keys of the piano…which, as I was listening to it in the car today, coincided with passing a pond, on the outskirts of which a duck or other fowl was surrounded by a whole smattering of tiny, downy little chicks. Awwwww!

They were so incredibly cute that I almost stopped to admire them – but thankfully had the presence of mind to remember that (a) it probably wasn’t the best idea to suddenly brake and swerve to admire this display of the Animal Kingdom version of universal fecundity from which I continue to be excluded; (b) I really didn’t want to give Mama Duck/Goose or whatever feathered friend a heart attack while trying to snap her head around in a 360 degree rotation like the Exorcist, trying to make sure all dozen or so chicks were accounted for before the Crazy Woman careened too close for comfort and turned them all into pate.

And there it was – BAM! Another epiphany. (Sidebar: I finally understand Emeril Lagasse’s need for vocal expressiveness. I bet after the 3rd or 4th time when he thought of some genius way to spice up a boring old baked chicken thigh, he realized that this kind of repetitive epiphany was deserving of a loud exclamation.)

In watching the cute little chicks against the song I was listening to – all too familiar, I’m afraid – I suddenly realized that I felt like a ghost. It was the most curious feeling – not like an out of body experience, of course, but it was like I finally found the right way to express what I’ve been feeling for such a long time. For far too long now, I’ve been feeling like a bystander – in my own life, but also in life in general. I feel like I’m standing still while the world around me moves on – without me. I bemoan the life I once had, the dreams I still refuse to give up on (I’m stubborn that way) but that I sometimes wonder, in the dark when it’s just me and my own thoughts: am I just deluding myself? Am I in denial, refusing to accept the inevitable conclusion that it’s just not going to happen for us – or maybe not meant to? I feel, for lack of a better way to express it, like a ghost of the woman I used to be. I feel invisible – and not the good kind where you can sneak around and pinch people or flick someone who annoyed you. (I may have smirked briefly while contemplating the potential. But I’m thinking? Ghosts probably can’t drink coffee or eat ice cream, and that’s a non-starter for me.)

And then, of course, by the time the sun started to turn orange much later in the day, the Happy Phantom started feeling a little less perky. It may have had something to do with trolling through other blog posts – one of which almost caused an instant heart attack when I read on a fellow DOR blogger’s post that menopause is expected within 2-3 years of a primary ovarian insufficiency diagnosis. I tried very hard not to panic because (a) I don’t actually know if diminished ovarian reserve and primary ovarian insufficiency are the same (although writing it now, they sure sound the same to me – nerts!), (b) there’s really nothing I can do about that RIGHT. NOW. You know, other than freak out and scream WHY THE HELL DID NOBODY TELL ME THAT???

So my choices at the moment are:

1. Freak out, start bawling, contemplate life as a barren woman before I even hit 40 – at which point I’ll have such a huge midlife crisis that it’ll make RuPaul look like a Soccer Mom.

2. Panic and start dialing. Oh, wait. Who do you call? This clearly isn’t a case for Ghostbusters (hah, I just realized I could’ve made a totally pithy connection with the whole Happy Phantom thing – but can’t think, must panic!) and I don’t exactly have an RE on speed dial. Did I already mention that before. WE DON’T HAVE AN RE! I AM FREAKING OUT NOW! THIS IS ME FREAKING OUT!!!

3. Take a deep breath and look for the Valium. Oh wait, that’s right – I’m not actually a pharmacy. Or a doctor with a prescription pad. Double Nerts!

4. Take another deep breath, tell myself that drugs aren’t the answer – alcohol is! (Which should be an indication of the level of desperation I’m experiencing, since my alcohol intake is roughly 1 drink per YEAR. (What? I’m going to waste money on booze when I could buy new shoes? Me thinks not!)

5. Attempt to calm down and not hyperventilate while reminding myself that NEITHER drugs NOR alcohol are the solution to any of life’s problems – especially since neither are going to do anything for those shriveled raisinettes masquerading as my ovaries. (I should come clean here and admit that I have absolutely no clue what my ovaries actually look like.)

6. Start crying because there’s no ice cream.

7. Sober up and think about an action plan.

8. Go back to crying because there’s no ice cream. Or chocolate. Contemplate eating the baking chocolate before remembering that it tastes like coal bricks might. (I have no way of proving this, btw.)

9. Play Tori Amos for the rest of the evening and curl up in a fetal position, trying not to think about the irony of twisting my body into a pretzel in a replication of something that I’m trying to accomplish inside my body, not with it. I’m not installation art – although if it’s going to sell enough tickets to pay for IVF, I might just consider it at this point…

10. Take a breath. Sigh. Cry. Curse. Cry some more. Write about it. Think about it. Cry even more.

And make a damn decision, once and for all.

So we’ve come full circle to playing Tori Amos and hating doctors who fail to fully inform us of all the ramifications of our conditions – and once again establishing that, in MY house, chocolate isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity!