Tuesday, September 24, 2013

shoulds and should nots

In case you missed it, yet another article on the emotional aspects of infertility hit the web yesterday.

I agree with many of author Jody Madeira's points about the misconceptions cast on the emotions one goes through during infertility. Anger. Desperation. Vulnerability. These are just a few of the many "feelings" we endure that are often misunderstood by the general public. Madeira counters that, "In reality, the lived experience of these emotions is highly complex and nuanced, and many purportedly 'toxic' emotions actually play positive roles and are critical to successful coping processes."

I think this is incredibly true for me and for so many others I know who have worked their way through this disease. Personally, I'm grateful for enduring these emotions. I think they helped me grow as a person and enabled me to become an advocate for myself and my disease. I also think that they allowed me to properly grieve the "loss" of my fertility, particularly when it came time for us to decide between adoption and child-free living. However, I also recognize that this doesn't speak for every person affected by infertility - and I think that we see this in the emotions displayed by the first commenter. Every single one of us has a different experience with this disease. You and I could have the exact same journey. We could go through the same medical procedures at the same time, with the same results, and resolve our journey in the exact same way. But our experiences, our feelings, could be drastically different.

Anger did spur me to action with treatment for a while, but not forever. I hit a wall after my fourth IUI, and I knew that I was emotionally taxed. I couldn't endure any more medical intervention. Even when we revisited the idea of IVF several months later, the thought of being on another RE's table made me sick to my stomach. My rage and depression DIDN'T "coexist with hopefulness, optimism, gratitude, and even apathy" for a good period of time, and I hated when people tried to convince me otherwise. It made me feel as if my emotions were completely invalid.

For all intents and purpose, I was irretrievably broken.

Eventually, I did pull myself up by my bootstraps (with the help of my RESOLVE support group and many of my family members and friends) and I moved forward. It took a long time, therapy, and medication. It's still sometimes a process, trying to reclaim myself. I think I've done a decent job at this, but I know many more who haven't been able to bounce back. They can't. For one reason or another, infertility has destroyed them. I've watched this disease break people, marriages, careers, and dreams. I've seen the beyond-the-limits desperation that this disease can inflict upon its sufferers.

What's the point I'm trying to make?

That we aren't required or predestined to come out of this a certain way. That we are all entitled to feel our own emotions and use them in whatever way that we please. That we don't have to be advocates if we don't want to be. There's no right or wrong way to cope with this. Whatever you feel, whatever emotions overcome you - they are all valid. Sometimes you can pull through them, and sometimes you can't. Sometimes you can use them as stepping stones, and sometimes they are so painful that you can't use them at all. You can only allow yourself to feel them. And that is as important, if not more so, than putting a positive spin on every negative point.

To those who've used the negativity to do something positive, kudos to you. But for those who haven't - for those who cannot embrace the desperation, like "Chewie" - that's okay, too. You don't need to be "more" or "less" anything. Just be you.


Lollipop Goldstein said...

I read that article in a very different way from the commenter. I read it as "IF women are called 'desperate.' Do IF women see themselves as 'desperate'? What does desperation look like? Is it necessarily a bad thing? Is it being used as a derogatory term? An empowering term?"

Desperate is one of those loaded terms that is flung around willy-nilly by outsiders and insiders. What do we mean when we use it? It both fits and doesn't fit at the same time.

I love this: "Sometimes you can use them as stepping stones, and sometimes they are so painful that you can't use them at all. You can only allow yourself to feel them. And that is as important, if not more so, than putting a positive spin on every negative point."

Secret Sloper said...

Looking back from the perspective of someone who considers things "resolved"--at least in some respects--I know there's a lot about my behavior that I regret and about the way that I thought of and treated people. But I'm also able to forgive myself for what I was capable and not capable of doing then, in the middle of it all. I hope I can use the lessons I gained from that experience, hard as it was, to behave more graciously now in distress--and that's all I can really do, I guess.