Monday, April 23, 2012

Don't Ignore: Your Feelings

Today HAWMC (Day 23) says we can write about whatever we like!  Most excellent!

(You can start at HAWMC Day 1 here)

Today I'd like to focus on this year's theme for National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW): Don't Ignore Infertility.  Since I'm a therapist, I naturally think in terms of self care and the psychosocial effects inherent in experiencing this emotionally-crushing disease.

Sometimes I'm struck by fellow infertiles who feel ashamed and embarrassed by their emotional reactions to the struggle to have a baby.  It's so normal to feel that way!  And yet, I am sometimes still stunned.

Just today I received a phone call from a wonderful friend of mine who is going for her first IVF consultation tomorrow (In vitro fertilization; Yes, another acronym.  The infertility world is replete with them!).  Over the last couple of years, she's had plenty of other things in her life to take care of, and making a baby went lower on the list; even though she diligently paid attention to her fertility health via diet, etc.  So, going for an IVF consultation obviously brings the whole baby thing back to the forefront of her mind.

And on the top of her emotional list.

She described a scenario where she recently went to dinner with her husband and several of their close friends (couples).  All of the other women there either had children or were pregnant, and as one can imagine, the ladies' topic of conversation leaned heavily on the whole being-a-mom thing.  To make matters worse, the way the table was set up, she wasn't even sitting next to her husband!

Within a few minutes, my beautiful friend found herself excusing herself to have a good cry in the restroom.  "I felt like such an a__hole!" she said.  "It's so silly!"

But, it's not.

It's not silly at all.  Can you relate?

I can't tell you how many people I've run in to over the years who felt like their intense reaction to others' conversations was silly; they feel as if they should not be reacting that way at all.  They blame the hormones.

(Okay, hormones can play a part in it at times, too, but not always.)

Whether or not hormones are a part of the picture, one is still very much entitled to intense emotional reactions to all things baby when dealing with the inability to have that very basic thing that everyone else seems to have.

Even worse: It's taboo.  People feel ashamed, embarrassed, and isolated, because they can't talk about it.  They fear being pitied or told "just relax," or "go on vacation."  They fear not being understood.  They fear their inability to contribute to such conversations makes them appear rude or inconsiderate.  Not only are they attempting to conceal their own agony, they are trying to make sure everyone else is okay by not having to console them or stop their conversation.  They fear making the other person feel bad.  When the agony becomes too much, they leave the conversation.  They go to the restroom and cry.

So, in line with this year's theme, I'm going to say: Don't Ignore Your Intense Emotional Reactions to Infertility.  Your feelings.  They're important, and so are you.

You're not silly.

You're not a jerk.

You're not a loser.

You're not crazy.

You're not abnormal.

In fact you are the opposite of all of these things, and you deserve to feel your feelings just like anyone else.

So first, acknowledge those feelings.  Write them down.  Blog them!  What are they?  Here are a few I can suggest:  Hurt, brokenness, anguish, jealousy, envy, shame, bewilderment, anger, depression, feeling lost, confusion, frustration, anxiety.

Second, Remind yourself that it's okay to feel absolutely everything you're feeling.  Look at those feelings, and know they are transient.  You will smile again (even before you have your baby or decide to live childfree). 

Lastly, nurture yourself.  Imagine that your baby is sitting in front of you feeling those feelings.  Imaging him/her at 5 years old hurting just the way you're hurting.  What would you do?  Hug her?  Take him for a bike ride?  Go get some ice cream?  Color?  Dance?  Whatever it is....Do. That. Thing.

Don't ignore your (valid, real, normal) feelings.

Acknowledge them (write them down).  Embrace them (take them for ice cream).  Then let them go (smile again). 

You can learn all about infertility through the excellent resources given by RESOLVE, The National Infertility Association.  Here are a couple of links to get you started:

What is Infertility?
National Infertility Awareness Week


Until next time...

Be Well,
~M

21 comments:

  1. I have been in the exact situation your friend has...had to make the same trip to the bathroom to shed tears. I think this is one of the more difficult parts of journeying through infertility...figuring how to deal with your evolving, disruptive, at times explosive emotions! Great post!!

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    1. Me too! It's awful. I completely agree the emotional journey is one of the most difficult aspects of infertility...I'll be writing more about that for sure.

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  2. I really love the idea of taking care of ourselves and our emotions the way we would our children, because I have trouble giving myself permission to take care of myself like that. Thinking about it that way helps.

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    1. So many people have that same trouble. I'm so glad you can give yourself that permission now. :)

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  3. Beautifully said! The bit about ending up consoling others, so true! Have had to counsel my mother about MY IF and it drains me. Also love the bit about taking our feelings for icecream!!
    Happy ICLW!

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    1. Very draining, indeed. I hope she understands a little bit more now. And, according to the fertility diet (www.fertilitydiet.com), full fat dairy is fertility-enhancing. So have at it! ;-) Happy ICLW to you as well.

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  4. Great post. I think we all ignore our own feelings and emotions at at times. I'm very protective of myself and who we "hang out" with at different points in my cycles. It's hard. I think that we may begin counseling soon as we embark on IVF. We've talked a LOT with our pastors at church and they've been great to help. It's just nice to have a safe platform to talk.

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    1. You're so right...we all ignore them at times. Sooo happy that you have your pastors to talk to...and a fertility therapist will add even more to the support. I wish you much luck in your upcoming IVF cycle.

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  5. Hello! I'm here from ICLW, and I am glad I came across this post. I really appreciated it. I just finished my first course of Clomid and my hormones went berserk, as did my emotions. However, I tried to honor my feelings because they were/are real. It was quite the ride. Thanks for your voice!

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    1. Ah, Clomid....so *not* a lovely drug. I'm so glad for you that you're off that ride and that you were able to honor your feelings. :)

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  6. After dealing with RPL, I've found it almost impossible to handle conversations with 'normal' pregnant women and mothers. In my experience, most of the infertile women I have encountered know volumes more about reproductive health, cycles, the latest technology, but sometimes, and I'm sure it's not intentional, mother's develop this very clicky "we know it all, we're moms" thing and it's heartbreaking for those of us on the outside.

    Thank you for sharing this.

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    1. Couldn't have said it better myself...there's definitely a club vibe going on with moms sometimes. May you be on the "inside" soon.

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  7. this is such a great take on the NIAW theme! you are SO right! we all get so caught up in not wanting to be pitied or making others feel awkward that we push our feelings aside. i'm certainly guilty of it. i needed this reminder, so thank you!

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    1. So glad I could help remind you to take care of yourself. :)

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  8. Great post! I totally owned and let my feelings hang way out this past Sunday. It was during a convo with my MIL. It's a long story but I had been feeling like she had no appreciation/understanding of what we had been going through. So I decided it was time to let it out and told her exactly how I was feeling and even let myself get emotional. It felt good and now I don't feel like its such an elephant in the room.

    Thank you for this post and for your wonderful encouragement through words! I appreciate it very much.

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    1. YAY!! Congratulations on letting it all out, girl! :D Buh-bye, elephant. ;-)

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  9. Know I said it before but i love this Don't ignore post. I have given you a blog award! come check it out on my blog. :)

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  10. Thanks for sharing with us :)

    Perusing your blog via ICLW (#86)

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Thanks! You've grown a few more brain cells by commenting. No really...you have.