When I went through my ectopics, I
would struggle to sleep. I’d feel exhausted, from all the emotions, but when I
would put my head down on the pillow to try to sleep, it would all churn around
and around in my head. The what-happeneds as well as the what-ifs kept me awake.
My second ectopic in particular took a long time to resolve with multiple
hospitalisations and procedures, and trying to keep track of those, and so many
blood tests and results and appointments, made it hard for me to let my brain stop
thinking about it all. I had this tremendous need to remember it all. The same
thing happened during IVF, and later as I began living with the definitive
knowledge that I would never have children. Although there can often be relief
from this decision, the grief and the what-might-have-beens and should-I-have-done-mores
can be overwhelming. My brain did not find it relaxing!
During my ectopics, I discovered
that simply writing down the details of my appointments and results and what
was said or what happened that day helped relieve me of the need to remember.
Later, I found that just emptying my thoughts onto paper – or computer screen –
helped me to breathe out, and relax. Many people are very private, so writing
(or maybe even just talking into your phone to record your thoughts) is
something they only want to do for themselves. Others – like me, back in the
early 2000s – find message boards or Fbk groups where we can share our experiences
and fears with others who know what we’re going through. The ability to do that
anonymously is also helpful for those who are nervous about having a public
presence. Talking to others, helping those who might be a few weeks or months
or years behind us, helps us feel less alone, and helps us help others. Being
able to do that feels good, and I needed that. We all need that.
Later, as I began volunteering, and
then eventually began blogging here, I found that responding to a question or issue
someone else raised often helped me figure out what I thought. And by writing
it down, I didn’t have to hold onto it. Being able to have relief from intense
emotions or feelings of loss or failure is really important for our recovery
and mental health. Being able to put those thoughts away for a while, or being
able to figure out what we think, and what is important to us, really helps. I
found that learning to understand myself and my emotions helped me regain
control over them. All of this helped me fully re-enter society after loss,
find my new normal, and embrace my life as it is.
Writing – or more accurately,
recording, or perhaps expressing yourself (choose which fits best for you) – might start as simply as jotting some test results down. Or listing
frustrations, or things that people have said to us that we want to remember,
but don’t want to go over and over in our heads. It might stay at that level, and
if it works for you, that’s great. Or maybe just venting once to a good friend
might be all you need to sort things out, or to express hurt or frustration. Or
maybe you might find other ways to heal, through craft or art or music or
dance, for example. Perhaps you’ll follow a progression, as I have. Perhaps you’ll
go further – some people have turned it into a calling, with articles published
in major newspapers, or turn it into a business or career, turning loss into
purpose. It’s different for all of us. But I do think it’s important to have an
outlet, even if it is just a scrap of paper with a list.
I write about other areas of my
life too. It stops me going over and over events, to myself, or – quite often –
to my husband! If I can get something down on paper, it stops me fuming quite as
much as I might otherwise. Last week, my 2020 Blogging with Friends project
asked me to write an advance eulogy or note of appreciation to someone who is
still living. I wrote about my father-in-law, but found it difficult. As I would
write about something nice, I would remember things that had hurt or frustrated
or confused me. I fumed and decided I wouldn’t write about him at all. But at
least I had it all written down in draft, and I could let it go. By the next morning,
I knew I could edit most of the negative stuff out, and focus on the positive.
It was, as I wrote here on A Separate Life, a lesson in kindness, if not
understanding. And you know what? I feel better about it – and him – now.
So it’s a lesson I keep learning. I
have a number of draft posts written, about a whole range of issues – about childlessness
and not about that at all – that I might never post. But the act of writing
them, of really developing and articulating my thoughts, feelings and beliefs, almost always helps. I highly recommend