Shame, Guilt, Anxiety or ALL OF THE ABOVE
Cheers, dear readers,
There are many experiences in our lives which can rock us to our very core. Make us question who we even are. How we got here. How do we move on? There is no doubt in my mind that infertility is one such malady to contend with on this front. Many of you know exactly what I’m talking about. Some of you may be here reading this blog to try to understand the plight of your dear ones that may be dealing with their unfortunate infertility status. Bless your hearts if you are.
A friend of mine, Pamela Tsigdinos – whom I met in person over a year ago at the filming of an infertility documentary (the topic of a future post, for sure) – recently wrote an article that really got me thinking. In it, she cites research that points out that emotions such as shame, guilt and anxiety can actually BLOCK us from experiencing “core” emotions such as anger, joy and sadness. Those former difficult emotions thus inhibit the healing process (via “blocking”) that infertility patients and survivors so desperately need.
As I wrote a comment on her wonderful piece, it took me back to a time when I had first met Pamela and her mission. I read her work with much interest, feeling like I had finally found “my people” – others who were openly talking about infertility, and sharing their deepest, darkest thoughts about the dirty little secret that infertility can feel like to those going through the traumatic experience. And I actually chuckled out loud as I recalled that I would not even use my real name back then as I commented on her heartfelt posts. I think I used the name “Cheryl.”
Because I was ashamed.
Ashamed of my infertile status. Ashamed that after tens of thousands of dollars, no doctor could seem to figure out how to get me pregnant – failed attempt after failed attempt of infertility treatments – and what did we have to show for it? I felt guilty that I could not give my parents grandchildren. As I write this, I realize that I did not even tell my mother – who was still alive at that time – about the unfruitful predicament of my womb… Because I was ashamed. I didn’t want to fess up and tell her that I was barren. Me, her Italian daughter, related to so many of my fertile cousins, our relatives and ancestors. I mean, my great-grandmother, who came here straight from Italy, had twelve children! Yet I was unable to have even one! I felt anxiety about how I was going to reconcile any of this with myself, with my friends, with my parents, with my husband’s parents, with my future self…
I also realize that five years later, the fact that I have “silencers” in my life – who would prefer that I would finally shut up already about the disease of infertility and its aftermath – triggers those old feelings again. In my piece, “Listening Is An Act Of Love” written here, I describe my friend who tried to silence me about infertility, very assertively…
How do you think that made me feel?
Shame? You betcha. Anger? Right on! Guilt that I wanted to talk about it at all? Absolutely! Anxiety and sadness about the state of that friendship? On the nose! And that happened only a few months ago, after I thought I had done so much healing over the last few years. But alas, negative feelings triggered. Hello, old friend.
These feelings run deep in many of us. They need to be dealt with, acknowledged, heard and healed. It is so important to remember that burying feelings such as these does not make them go away – not by any means. They fester, and come out sideways, and in unpleasant ways. The healing process needs to begin partly by identifying these feelings and expressing them – to loved ones, to therapists, to your doctors, to your family, to your spouse, to your journal if need be.
Indeed, writing about my experience has helped me to identity these feelings in myself. And I hope at the same time, my writing can help others understand themselves better or feel they have a place to turn, so that they can have a sense of belonging and kinship. Here at Slow Swimmers & Fried Eggs, you have a shoulder to lean on. We have been there, and we understand. You are always welcome to express yourself in the comments below – whether you make up a fake name or use your real one. We don’t judge. 🙂
You can read Pamela’s piece I reference here:
Please join me next week to hear more about my personal journey down the infertility path. I look forward to speaking with you. And I wish you the best on your journey.