I’ve written many times about my IVF experiences and my feelings around having more children and my complete inability to let it go and accept my life the way it is. I’ve also written many times about my car accidents and my chronic pain and how I feel out of control and powerless, angry, resentful and often just plain useless. I’ve written about my deep rooted hatred for my own ‘traitorous’ body, which I feel has been stopping me from getting what I want and doing what I want, since the moment I hit adulthood. Most people only get a glimpse of the all encompassing sense of loss that I carry around with me all day every day, because while I know I could be a a cranky, short tempered bitch ALL THE TIME, I work really hard to keep most of my crap to myself.
I went to a personal development seminar this weekend… I wasn’t sure what I was going to get out of it, I only knew that having been out of the workplace for over ten years meant I hadn’t had any formal development, professional or personal, for a very long time. Sure I’ve been psychobabbled from here to eternity and back by a plethora or counsellors and psychologists and psychiatrists, and I know how to talk the talk and walk the walk in the consulting room. But none of them have ever been able to help me… they sit and talked me in circles, gave me drugs, gave me mindfulness exercises, attempted to recondition or hypnotise me or fuck knows what else. None of them have been able to fix my back pain. None of them have been able to fix my infertility. And none of them have been able to make me feel happy about being stuck in this shitty body and I don’t know why. This weekend I learned that I don’t let go of ‘stuff’.
I’m not talking about grudges against others here – people piss me off, or disrespect me or the people I love? I just cut them out of my life end of story. I don’t need any more negativity in my life – I’m pretty good at generating plenty of negativity of my own without accepting it from other people, thank you very much. And I don’t have the time, inclination or energy to waste on hating people or holding grudges (if it’s a grudge holding that can occur without the requirement to invest energy or time… that might be a different matter! 😉 ). So no, it’s not others that I’m talking about here – it’s ME. Why can’t I let go and learn to accept my limitations, accept my life, and accept my situation, and count my goddamn fucking blessings for a change instead of constantly wanting things to be different, or other than they are. Why can’t I just cherish my little family without looking at us and thinking ‘I want more’?.
I usually think of ‘personal development’ as being a bit too new agey, or a bit too touchy feely or a bit too self indulgent – so I’m not normally one to navel gaze or drink the KoolAid and get sucked into these things. I’ve been told in the past that I don’t have a ‘suggestive personality’ which I understand means I’m not easily led, not easily hypnotized, not readily reconditioned… alternately, you could just call it bloody stubborn. So I tried to go into this thing with an open mind. I reckon we were barely an hour in when the presenter, Nicky, started talking about Health and how it affects your entire life and if you have your health then you’re already well on your way to personal happiness. I’m sure without even really thinking about it, she trotted out a we need to look after our bodies, because ‘your body is a temple’ as cliched as it sounds, it is what will stick in people’s heads. At which point I interrupted asking ‘What if your temple is broken?’
Which started a discussion on how the body repairs itself and you can heal. I come back with ‘there are some things the body can’t or won’t recover from’… which led into her dragging my chronic back pain and IVF story out of me in front of 40 odd (and fuck me, but some of them were really odd!) strangers. Nicky suggests we have a chat during the break… So we do. And I got slapped upside the head like no damn psych has ever done to me before. She asked me questions that I couldn’t answer:
Who would you be if you weren’t this person in pain?
Why can’t you be happy with your family as it is?
What’s so bad with having an only child? He doesn’t know any different.
What belief systems am you hanging on to?
She flat out told me I have suffered an awful lot of loss in my life (Yes, yes I have heard this from soooo many therapists in the past so I thought I knew what was coming) – loss of physical strength, loss of control over my body, loss of freedom, loss of social identity, loss of career and work opportunities, loss children, loss of my identity as a woman, loss of my dreams… so much loss, oh you poor kitten. And here is where she smacked me – there’s been a metric fuckton of loss, but no actual grief. She looked at me and cut me to the quick… ‘You have never allowed yourself to really FEEL what has happened to you. You’ve spent years being ‘strong’ and sucking it up and soldiering on, and you’re still doing it. As a result, you’ve never really ALLOWED yourself to grieve any of these losses. And if you don’t grieve your losses, how can you move on? You’re stuck in your anger and resentment and frustration at this enormous amount of loss in your life and you’ve never let yourself really feel it.’
I have often jokingly said that I don’t know how to have the nervous breakdown I feel I so richly deserve! Turns out I might be right. I don’t know how to let myself just feel all the shit that has happened. I never really grieved my physical incapacities, I have just spent two decades gritting my teeth and fighting them. I never really grieved any of my five miscarriages, I barely acknowledged they happened and moved on – I certainly never allowed myself to think of them as five little babies that didn’t survive (in fact, I remember seeing a woman once with some three little children charms hanging around her neck and commented on them – she said they were her ‘angels’, her three little babies that didn’t make it, which at the time I thought was a fucking creepy thing to be carrying around with your everyday, but maybe it’s healthy?). I never even allowed myself to grieve my disappointments with each failed IVF cycle… the longer we were at it, the less and less my expressions of disappointment would be. It got to the point where I’d have another failed cycle and wouldn’t even tell Mr K about it in person, I’d just leave the (-)ve stick in the bathroom for him to see when he got up and go about my day. He’d give me a cuddle in the kitchen and say ‘I’m sorry.’ and we’d keep on going… with over forty failed cycles that were sending us broke, who has the fucking energy to grieve every one of them? Truth be told, I don’t think I grieved for any of them – I didn’t allow myself to think of them as little babies that didn’t make it, it was just another failed treatment.
I walked away from the deeply upset. I had reluctantly acknowledged an awful truth. That without my painful persona that I have obviously been living for decades, I am nothing – I have built no other identity for myself. I don’t know who I am, or who I would be if I wasn’t in pain all day. I have made my pain and infertility my entire life story. It’s who I am – an infertile, chronic pain sufferer. And I haven’t been able to move past it to define myself any further. It’s not like I have chosen to wallow in in, in fact it’s the complete opposite. I spend most of my energy trying to ignore it… and trying not to acknowledge it, trying not to let people in – because being in here sucks arse! I don’t want people to know how fucking horrible and hollow I feel deep down inside. I am just one tightly wound, short blonde bundle of anger, resentment, frustration and jealousy… and that’s all there is in here! I don’t love myself or my body. I don’t love my life or my situation – which is completely shit because I have so much to be grateful for. I have spent my life being angry and focused on all the negative shit surrounding me, and it has very likely hindered me from truly enjoying the good and positive things in my life.
I came home after the seminar and spent the night trying to figure out WHY? Why can’t I fully acknowledge and grieve the losses in my life? How come I don’t know HOW to grieve? So other more recognizable and common senses of loss came to the fore: My father’s death. I didn’t really grieve that loss either – I went off to training for a new job the very day after he passed away convinced that is what he would want me to do. My grandmother’s death. Went to the funeral, I got a speeding ticket while playing loud music and not paying attention to the road conditions on the way home – nope, no real grief there. The death of three of my cousins on Anzac Day in 1988 – still makes me sad, but did I actually grieve for them when they drowned? Not really. But then I poked around in that for a bit…
I didn’t grieve for the loss of my three cousins as an impressionable young teenager because I wasn’t ALLOWED to. If you read the link above about how they died, you’ll see I gloss over some very important facts. Yes, I mentioned that on Anzac Day in 1988 that my cousins had drowned as a result of the huge floods that were sweeping western Queensland at the time and the poor little kids didn’t know how to swim. I mentioned that the whole thing didn’t seem ‘real’ to me until I saw it in the newspaper the following day at the school library. What I don’t mention is that I became really emotionally upset by the death of these beautiful little children… the Librarian called for the Principal and that school sent me home for the day. So what?
Well, later that evening I got in trouble. My father sat me down and told me that I hardly ever saw these kids but a few times each year, that I barely even knew these kids because they were so young and had no cause to be feeling all upset at their death and that there definitely wasn’t any cause for missing school for the day. So my father, whose good opinion I respected and actively courted my entire life, taught me that when bad things happen we don’t feel them, we suck them up, keep working and move on. I always thought he was just very practical and pragmatic and not very demonstrative and that wasn’t a bad way to be. But now I think he taught me that grieving loss, any loss, is unacceptable. I’m sure that isn’t what he wanted to teach me – to bottle up my emotions and never allow myself to ‘feel’ anything… but I am starting to think that is the lesson that I came away with it from. I have never really grieved anything since. Not the my miscarriages, not the death of my gorgeous little dog companion Caesar who was my constant friend for nearly 15 years, not even my own father’s death! I don’t know how to grieve. He taught me it was self indulgent to do so and now I seriously don’t know how to.
So now I feel like I’m blocked, or bogged down or drowning in my inability to let myself feel things. Like I need to somehow truly grieve the losses in my past in some tangible, physical or cathartic way, that allows me to actually ‘feel’ the horrible things that have happened and hopefully allows me to finally let go of some or all of the emotional baggage, rather than bottling it all up and carrying it around with me everyday.
Only problem is… I have no idea how that is accomplished.