19 March, 2012

Why me?

This is a commonly asked question by infertility patients.  We feel separate and alone.  “Other” as Mel wrote abouttoday.  When it happened to me, I couldn’t believe I was in this position.  And like so many women before me, and after me too, I asked “Why me?”  But then I heard a cancer patient say, about her own situation, “why not me?”  And those three words stopped me in my tracks.  Why not me indeed?  I had no answer. And therefore no option but to accept.

This last week I’ve been suffering from a second attack of trigeminal neuralgia.  I wrote about my first attack – vaguely, as I have struggled to “come out” about it – on A Separate Life here.  Interesting that I feel more comfortable talking about it here, where many of us have had unfortunately medical diagnoses..  I had been hopeful that my attack two years ago was a one-off.  My neurologist said that was possible.  But no, it apparently isn’t.  The pain is overwhelming, the drugs that deal with the pain take a while to kick in, make me feel dreadful, and now I’m suffering from chills.  Ironically, we had one of the best, warmest, finest weekends of our pathetic summer the last two days.  And there I was, huddled under two blankets shivering on the couch.  Ridiculous!

And so I’m feeling a bit “other” and have a bit of a “why me?” attack.  After all, is it fair to have had three rare conditions in my adult life?  First, dengue fever.  Then infertility – and a cornual ectopic pregnancy that is very rare – and now, as I was trying to get my life in order, trigeminal neuralgia, otherwise nicely known as the Suicide Disease.  I’ve looked on-line for support groups, but they’re just terrifying.  I'm not ready for them.

And I thought about Mel’s “otherness” post.  Reading it, it felt self-indulgent, a bit “woe is me we’re infertile.”  When it could be so much worse.  I thought of Guiliana Rancic and a friend of mine – infertility and cancer.  I thought of another dear friend of mine – infertility and fibromyalgia and lives with pain constantly.  I thought of a child who is very dear to me with cystic fibrosis (and her parents dealing with it).  I thought of a friend coping with her fathers’ Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.  And I thought of all those people dealing with conditions or life problems that make them “other.”  And I thought, we’re really not that different, none of us.  Then I got to Mel's last paragraph.  I should have trusted her (but it’s 3 am and I’m full of drugs and my brain isn’t working very well and I’m exhausted).  She wrote, “They had no idea how deeply I felt my otherness, just as I had no idea looking at them how deeply they felt their own othernesses.”  It expressed my feelings exactly after a horrible week.  And it struck me that the one thing that binds so many of us in this world is our “otherness.”  I wish we could recognise that, and appreciate that, rather than just look for the similarities. 

PS.  I am aware that a 3 am blog post may not be the wisest thing, so come tomorrow in the light of day, and hopefully after some more, peaceful, sleep I may decide to delete.


  1. No, don't delete.

    First and foremost, I am so sorry that you are writing this in physical pain. I think all pain brings a layer of otherness from back spasms to post-chemo because it's a reminder of how much we're tied to our bodies. It's one of those things we can't quit, can't walk away from in a world where we deal with so much discomfort by walking away.

    I think emotional pain does the same thing.

    I disagree about the idea of being okay with your pain just because someone out there has it "so much worse" because where does that oneupmanship stop? Who gets to be the only person in emotional or physical pain in this world who is entitled to their emotional or physical pain?

    Because always with that emotional or physical pain is the backstory -- what are our coping mechanisms? What else have we gone through at another point that is baggage now? How can we really weigh out what is worse?

    1. I agree with you but I didn't express it very well. I think I started the last paragraph with the thought that it was "so much worse" and then as I worked through it (that's the way I think, especially at 3 am!), I realised that what we all share is that emotional pain - whether it comes from infertility, or physical pain, or other health problems, or the pain or illness of a loved one. That's what we have in common. Not the differences of our pain.

      That said, if I never have another neuralgia attack in my life, I will feel lucky. But it doesn't mean I won't have moments when I feel sad and "other" about my no kidding life, or that these moments won't be totally legitimate.

  2. SO SORRY to hear about your pain...I looked it up online and was shocked when reading about the symptoms and the pain. Dear goodness...I hope the medicine is effective for you and I hope that in the future they come up with better medicine/treatment options for any kind of disease.

  3. I had not heard of trigeminal neuralgia until I just read your post, and had to go look it up. I am so sorry that you have to deal with this pain.
    I just read Stirrup Queens post on otherness and then came to your blog to read your post. I think both are a good reminder for me to put things in better prospective and something I needed to hear today.
    Thanks - Heather

  4. I'm so sorry about the trieminal neuralgia - I'm familiar with it only because my MotherInLaw is a hypochondriac and decided that she had that recently. There is no way she does (she never complained about the symptoms until a doctor told her about it), but it sounded just horrible and my deepest sympathies for anyone having to suffer with it.

    It really is an eye opener to realize that there is no rhyme or reason to life - "why not me" is a perfectly reasonable thing to ask. It still sucks to win the crap lottery so many times, but it's nothing you did or didn't do to deserve it.

  5. A friend who died of cancer a few years ago was in the "Why not me?" camp. I miss him.

    I think it's helpful for all of us to have you writing about this. First, it educates us that this disease exists. Second, it helps us know you better, which, on some level, is why I read the blogs I do. Third, I am forever impressed by and grateful for your insightfulness.

    Thanks for including: "She wrote, 'They had no idea how deeply I felt my otherness, just as I had no idea looking at them how deeply they felt their own othernesses.'” I remember becoming aware of this feeling when I was briefly in a meditation group—a sudden understanding of everyone's individual suffering.

    And it's too early in the morning for me to even be attempting a response. Still, I'll hit publish.

  6. No..please don't delete. I resonate a lot with this post. I still remember the first month of TTC, and the first "failure". The feeling I got when we "failed" for the 9th time, then the 13th time, the 28th time...it was just failure after failure and I couldn't help thinking "why me." I guess this was partly because I am the type of person who subconsciously believe I will get whatever I want in life if only I work hard enough, diligently enough to get it. Boy, was I wrong when it came to having a child.

    I just found out about Giuliana Rancic (I know about her reality show but never watched it. As you mentioned cancer, I googled her name + cancer, and whoa). Again, I am now thinking about the whys.

    I love your last two sentences. Will definitely recognize and appreciate "otherness". Thank you for the beautiful post.

    PS: sending you many soothing vibes. Hope you're no longer in pain and there will never ever be another attack of the trigeminal neuralgia.

  7. Definitely don't delete. Sending you lots of (((hugs))) & hopes that you never have another attack. :(

  8. Don't delete. I hope your neuralgia is better today - one of my friends had it a couple of years ago and it was very painful. Hopefully you're out enjoying the sunshine.

  9. Was also thinking: don't delete!

    I have worked with people with a wide range of health conditions. I can't guarantee that I have been 100% understanding with them (as I have my own Otherness!) but I have always tried to put myself in their shoes and see where they are coming from.
    With the infertility/miscarriage stuff, its developed interestingly: I feel like I have much more understanding for the internal struggles be it infertility, stroke, pain, whatever, but I know that to truly 'get' something you have to go through it. Nevertheless there are transferable parts of it I think.
    Conversely, and this does not feel good to admit, I can feel less sympathetic for certain people (sounds a bit Pain Olympicky?) and have a snse of perspective that their stuff "isn't that bad" (I'm not talking about anything blogworldy) - thats not everyone, but I have noticed a much lower saturation point too. Which is completely polar, right?!!

    I wish for you that your pain recedes - I don't know much about prognoses for TN, I can only half imagine how shitty nerve pain can be and I'm sorry you are dealing with this

  10. I'm so glad you didn't delete this. "One thing that binds so many of us in this world is our “otherness.” What a beautiful, comforting insight.

  11. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I was more like 'Why not me?' But after my hysterectomy I definitely had a phase of "Why me?" But now, I am back to the "Why Not Me?" camp. These traumatic things of cancer and infertility are becoming part of my story in the life I have, for however long I have it. After a certain point, I think there has to be acceptance and I have found power in that. It gives me strength, owning all the things that occurred to me and still being able to be happy and fine.

    I think it is best to allow ourselves to feel "Why me?" for a time. So feel that when you need too. This condition you have sounds painful and awful. I can see exactly why you'd have "why me?" moments. Those feelings are totally valid. I am so sorry you've been feeling bad but I hope you are doing better now and that you never have to have another attack. And if you do, I really hope it is many, many years away from now. Hugs to you.