Wednesday, 8 April 2015

A message to those who are hurting (themselves)

It is very hard for us to exercise self-compassion when we are hurting. But so often, what hurts most are our own views on a subject, and the very cruel judgements we make about ourselves. I know I do it - sometimes to feel that I am prepared for the worst case scenario in a particular situation, sometimes just out of habit.

When we are going through infertility or coming to terms with the idea of living without children, it is so very common to feel that we are not “real” women or men, that there is something wrong with us, that we are less of a person, and that we are not strong enough. In short, we beat ourselves up. We’re much harsher to ourselves than are (usually) any of our family or friends or colleagues.

And we can’t escape ourselves, we can’t get any respite from those negative thoughts. Daily we torture ourselves, daily we give ourselves the message that things will never get better, that we’ll never be happy, unless we get the “holy grail.” Daily messages dictate how we feel, how we think, and how we behave. When they are as destructive as this, as narrow-minded as this, as cruel as this, they need to change.

“But I can’t stop!” I hear you cry. “How can I not think these things?”

Imagine that your best friend or most beloved family member was in a similar situation, struggling with infertility, or at the end of their journey, unable to ever have children, to be parent. Would you stand over them, telling them to “get over it” or say cruelly, “you’re not a real woman (man)!” Would you say “you’re so weak, you’re not important enough to pass on your genes/parent a vulnerable child?” Would you tell them they were “less of a person?” Would you tell them it was their fault? Would you tell them they were worthless? Would you tell them “your life doesn’t matter because you’ve never had children?” And would you tell them “you’ll never be happy. Ever! Your life is over because you can’t have children?”

Can you imagine the pain that would cause to someone else? Would you ever say that to someone you loved? Would you say that to me? Or to any of those of us without children? Would you say it and believe it, if it wasn’t about you? Would you even think it? No. You wouldn’t. Of course not. You’d probably hold them (us) close, and surround them (us) with your love.

So why do you say these things to yourself? Don’t you deserve to be treated better than that? Don’t you deserve the same compassion that you would show someone else? Don't you deserve the intellect and logic that disputes all these stereotypes? And don’t you deserve to be held and loved and comforted?

The answer is yes. You do deserve it. I deserve it. We all deserve it. Giving that to myself was a gift. Recognising that I deserved this, accepting it, believing it, exercising it, helped me begin to heal. I hope with all my heart that it will help you too.

15 comments:

  1. Great post. So very true!
    Thank you for it.

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  2. I'll be honest, I slip into this line of thinking every so often (though this probably isn't uncommon). My strategy is to redirect myself when I get like this. Basically I set out to prove to myself that I am good at something. Like improve my mile time. Or cook something I've never cooked before. Basically anything that I can do that I know I have a good chance of being successful at.

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    1. That's an excellent idea as it reminds you that you are so much more than just your fertility.

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  3. Great post, but I have to add a thought. After years of struggling with the guilt, I was finally able to come to terms. But now its like others can't accept that. They tell me I can't truly be happy. That my life has no meaning. The list goes on and on. I just tell them they are wrong and try to brush it off. But sometimes, it gets under my skin and makes me start to question myself again. That's why I'm trying to prove to them that a person can be happy, even if they are childless.

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    1. I know that might be true in the infertility community - they're scared of us and can't believe we might be truly happy. But I've never come across it in real life. (Or at least, not to my face). How frustrating to feel we have to prove we can be happy!

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    2. This is why I loathe pity. Because when people's reaction to my not having children is one of pity, it is as though they are telling me, I can't be happy.

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    3. Iris, I think for the first time you've articulated for me why I don't like pity, yet I want empathy and an attempt at understanding. Thank you!

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  4. I've unfortunately had someone I loved stand over me saying all the awful things you mentioned here. It backed up my feelings of unworthiness and less than. It wasn't until I learned this wasn't okay that I find relief. Still, it was horrible and still affects me to this day.

    You're absolutely right about beating yourself up, particularly over things out of our control. Infertility is a terrible enough thing.

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    1. Cristy, that's truly awful. I'm not surprised it affects you to this day. You're right though - it is NOT okay, and I'm glad you found relief in learning that and believing it.

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  5. I struggle with this too, I think it is human nature. I love this post and I try and remember that my body can still do amazing things, they might not be the things I wanted it to do.....but it is healed and stronger now than before.
    I had just seen a social experiment where researchers asked women to write down thoughts they had about themselves in a journal, every thought....in the end the researchers took the journals and invited the women to a coffee shop. The women didn't know that the researchers gave the journals to actresses to act out at a table next to them. When the women overheard how these ladies were talking to each other they were appalled...why talk to yourself in such a hurtful way when you wouldn't to someone else.
    Great reminder to love yourself....or at least be gentler

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  6. The issue that comes up for me is that all my life I've dealt with self esteem issues. Infertility or any significant life changing event will bring up the deepest darkest things in our past. So while what you are saying is true that you wouldn't say this to someone else it's hard not to think these things when you questioned yourself even w/out infertility.

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    1. I think you're making the rather unreasonable assumption that none of us have ever had self esteem issues either.

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  7. Great post. I am coming to terms with loving my body, which was really hard to do especially at the tail end of our fertility treatment journey. How could I love something that was so mean to me, denying me the experiences I craved most? I did all kinds of mean self-talk about my body, despite the fact that it has kept me alive for nearly 40 years. I'm kind of training myself the opposite, and thoughts like yours about talking to anyone else the way you talk to yourself has been eye-opening. Thank you for this post, I think it will be incredibly helpful to so many! It's a good reminder for me.

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  8. Thank you for this. Oddly enough, even though I am parenting through adoption, I've had similar thoughts, about not being woman enough, not deserving enough. I've hated my body for so long, for not being attractive enough (had it been I would have gotten pregnant), strong enough (I would have been able to carry my son around on my back), young enough (I could have more time)....some days it's hard to believe we are all Buddhas and worthy of compassion and kindness.

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  9. AMEN. Such such a good post! It an be hard to change our mindset, but I think it's important to work toward being much, much kinder to ourselves every day.

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