Processing Infertility Rage
I’ve been uncharacteristically angry lately. Waves of rage that keep rising to the surface at unexpected times. Sometimes it’s the things that people say or the events happening around me or the sense of injustice I feel – so many things seem to trigger my anger. I’m aware that the hormonal fluctuations and disappointing outcomes of my fertility treatment are most probably the main contributing factors to the emotional reactions I am experiencing at the moment. It doesn’t feel good. I’ve been able to work through anxiety and grief, but anger is still one emotion that I struggle with and tend to avoid having to deal with. Many of us were raised with the belief that anger is an ugly emotion and that ‘good girls’ are meant to suppress these unbecoming feelings. So, when we are overcome with strong emotions like anger or rage, we don’t know exactly how to process what we’re feeling. We judge our feelings as wrong and may even berate ourselves for not having better control over our emotions. Of course, the feelings of anger are also followed by a deep sense of shame and guilt too.
I’ve been reminding myself that in order to process my anger and whatever other underlying emotions are bubbling beneath the surface, it is important for me to acknowledge and accept that these feelings exist, regardless of how uncomfortable they may feel. When we bottle up and ignore our emotions, they only intensify. We become reactive, easily triggered and caught off guard by our unexpected eruptions. It has been necessary for me to acknowledge that I am human. This means that, yes, I feel hurt when my hopes are dashed, I feel frustrated and angry when my longing is not fulfilled, and feeling this way is okay. As Helen Adrienne, the author of On Fertile Ground:Healing Infertility, said in a Psychology Today article:
“When dreams are thwarted, it’s normal to feel angry. And dreaming about having a family is not just any dream. It is central to what makes us human.”
While acknowledgement is the first step to addressing the root of my anger, the next step has involved giving myself the time and space to work through it, so that I don’t stay stuck in it and keep feeding this quiet rage. This can be the harder part, especially on days when you feel confused, like your emotions are out of control and you just don’t have the energy to confront it. However, if there is one approach that has always rung true in moments of overwhelm, it is to break things up into smaller more manageable steps and to simply do one thing at a time. My husband is amazing at reminding me of this when guiding me back to calm.
“Take a deep breath in, and just let it all out as you exhale,” He always says.
Writing it Out
When I am grounded, aware of what I am feeling and conscious of where these feelings stem from, I can then focus on finding ways to release my anger. Journaling tends to be my first port of call. Several years ago, I did a beautiful healing writing course with life coach and author, Veronica Crestrow, in which she introduced us to a journaling technique used to purge negative emotions. This was very different to the ‘morning pages’ from The Artist’s Way that I mentioned in a previous blog post about journaling through infertility, as this technique involved writing out all your frustrations every morning for a period of 21 days and then doing a meditation to release it all at the end of each writing session. I felt my emotional burdens dissolving after each session. As the 21 days progressed, I felt lighter and lighter. I was amazed at how much of a transformation I felt at the end of the course, and also at how this process also helped me find useful solutions to the challenges that I was facing.
Release through movement
Movement is also another form of emotional release for me. I find it cathartic to shift my energy by moving my body. Although our aerial yoga studio is currently closed due to lockdown, my husband and I have been able to go walking at our favourite nature park. Even in winter, it feels good to feel the wind against my skin and to feel my blood pumping. I tend to visualize releasing my negative emotions and the things that make me feel stuck as I walk. I visualize walking towards my goals, dreams and fulfilling experiences that make me happy. At the end of our walk, I feel free, de-stressed and energized.
One practice that I learned from Gabrielle Bernstein, the author of The Universe Has Your Back and The Judgement Detox, is to choose again. Bernstein encourages you to become present with your emotions, accept them without judgement, be willing to forgive yourself or the situation and then to choose again. The affirmation I use when applying this anger release process goes something like this:
“I acknowledge my anger. I know that my anger stems from fear. I forgive myself for my anger. I release my anger and my fear. I choose to feel love instead.”
The ability to shift my energy by choosing again comes in handy when I don’t have time to journal or am unable to get out in nature and move my body.
There are various other methods of processing and releasing anger. Things like breathing exercises, calming visualizations and talking to someone (a friend, counsellor or therapist) to help you to express what you are feeling in healthy ways, are all useful approaches. Apps like Calm or Insight Time have numerous meditations to help with anger. Some find that keeping a gratitude practice is a good way for them to let go of their frustrations and shift their attention to what they feel good about. Has infertility triggered your anger? What helps you work through these hard emotions? How do you let go of underlying rage?