M., a mindfulness-based therapist I know, recently gave me a two-sided rubber bracelet that says self-compassion it inside and out. The idea is that you put it on as a white bracelet, and when you do something nice for yourself, you turn it inside out so the red side shows. Sad to say, most days I wear a white bracelet.
Lately, I can’t cry properly. Rather than it being a release, it makes me feel worse. It feels like my heart is bulging out of my chest. So, I am quiet. Sombre. I put my head down and do what I can, work-wise. I cope. I manage. I begin to believe that I’m okay, ’cause I’m better than I was. When I get into my pajamas at night, I silently congratulate myself for having made it through another day. By now, I am getting good at putting on a bright face on Facebook and most people have stopped asking how I’m doing. To them, I guess, enough time has passed. (Note to self: don’t forget to check in on friends a few months after they’ve been through something traumatic.)
They say the darkest hour is before the dawn, and I’m wondering if I am about to get to the point of accepting what’s happened. My grief is less acute, less likely to interfere with my afternoon, but my days are generally overcast. You could say there’s a rumble of thunder in the distance — oppressive with a chance of rain.
I am hypersensitive to the slightest bit of suffering — but it’s only others’ suffering that causes tears to roll down my cheeks — and my belly antennae are on full alert. I long to desensitize myself… All my life I’ve been told I’m too sensitive, and for the first time I believe my critics. So, I go onto Facebook and all I see is my friends’ swelling bellies and happy young families. Or I decide to catch up on some of my blogosphere reading and I see a post like this and I force myself to look at the pictures because I am curious to know what I would have looked like by now, even though looking might plunge me into a dry-eyed pool of despair.
And, without fail, every time I go out I see a woman who is pregnant. It makes me so terribly sad that another woman’s happiness should cause me so much sorrow. I am annoyed with myself, that her condition should remind me of my loss. I feel so resentful that my summer is, effectively, ruined because I can’t deal with seeing women who will be as pregnant as I would have been. I’m so sick of feeling like this. Maybe that’s why blog traffic has been quieter lately, because I sound like a stuck record?
Instead of feeling like I am moving forward, I am repeatedly flooded with grief and envy. I feel the surge in my chest and am paralyzed by my own being. I berate my body for not producing a period. I am so upset with my body, that I should have to return to the doctor on Monday morning for bloodwork, an ultrasound, and probably hormones to, once again, kickstart the process that my body should be able to but can’t. Is this how it’s always to be?
A friend recently wrote to me to tell me her period started that morning. For the first time, she explained, she felt relief for herself mixed in with regret and heartache for me. She wished it were me instead. It was a strange email, but so kind, and I appreciated her candour. I am very aware that right now I’ve never wanted my period so much, but yet, in a couple of months’ time, I will be desperately hoping it doesn’t come. Isn’t that odd? Come, Aunt Flo! You can come now — just please stay away in a few months’ time, but oh! for the right reason. These kind of see-saw thoughts aren’t helpful, I know. But pushing them away only makes them more insistent, so when they present themselves I study them in earnest.
I have concluded that on the one hand, I must use this barren time wisely. Process my grief. Heal my heart, and to hell with trying to be graceful or dignified about it, I’m gonna let it all hang out. Hence this blog. Hence my desperation to connect with others who understand how I’m feeling. That way, when (not if!) I am pregnant again, I will be in a better place.
On the other hand, I acknowledge the large part of me that simply states that I will not be able to put my grief past me until I am pregnant again. I try not to think about how long that will take. I try not to focus on what it will take to get to the day when I can even get back in the TTC game. And I do my best to push away the part of me inside that weeps over the loss of innocence over any subsequent pregnancies.
This past week marked the beginning of an 8-week course in mindful self-compassion that I am taking at UCSD. My first class was difficult. I am learning I am not good at giving myself a break and that the loud voices of self-loathing in my head drown out the gentler, more loving ones. As I listened to each person speak about why they were taking this course, I learned I am not alone in not being very nice to myself. How empowering and reassuring it was to be in a room full of people who, superficially at least, looked like they had their shit together but who confessed they, too, made themselves miserable. Screw the arrogance that accompanies that passé notion of self-esteem, we’re talking about being as kind to yourself as you would be to a friend in need.
I began to ease into the class, when my antennae honed in on her: a young woman with a belly. It’s too early to tell if she’s slightly chubby around the middle or at the early, puffy stages of pregnancy, so I’m trying not to make too big a deal of it. I’ll know either way by the end of the course (unless she drops out or joins my unfortunate rank). Even there, in that space that was supposed to be safe, I am forced to confront my fears in some way.
As I wrote [in Spanish] in yesterday’s Butterfly post, A life lived in fear is a life half lived. I can do anything now — except… this? I’m languishing, but determined. This must be “half-living”.
It’s a little before seven o’clock, and when I hit Publish, I’ll turn my white bracelet inside out so the red part shows. Thanks for reading.