#metoo

It’s easy to wear a smile and give a fleeting, “Fine, thanks!” when asked how we are doing. Outwardly, most of us seem to have it all together, but inside we are broken. Often it is our pasts that have left us wounded inwardly and we feel isolated and ashamed.

“Wearing a mask wears you out. Faking it is fatiguing. The most exhausting activity is pretending to be what you know you aren’t.” Rick Warren.

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The #metoo movement is being covered extensively by the media and every brave person who comes forward is taking off their mask and exposing their darkest secrets to the world. The shame is finally being squashed as the stories are brought to the light and empathetic cries of #metoo are being verbalized as we hear and acknowledge these struggles.

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Sometimes we pretend for the sake of others but we also pretend for ourselves, so we do not have to deal with difficult issues. I have realized that facing the truth takes hard work and you have to want to get well. You need to learn to love yourself again, from the inside, and remove the shame, otherwise you will eventually search for these good feelings from other sources, even if they only provide temporary relief.

This epidemic in our culture needs to be stopped and one way we can do our part is to listen, without judgement, to those who have the courage to step out and speak up. Shame is a trap that tricks us into believing that if people knew the truth, they would see us differently. Healing is painful but when you are hurting anyway, you have nothing to lose. Like I have learnt with my ultramarathon running, endurance produces joy (eventually!) Sometimes you have to push through the pain and allow it to accomplish its purpose.

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You can’t do anything about the past but nothing is wasted if you use your story to help others who find themselves in similar situations. Set your focus on a new direction and do something about your future.

It Takes Guts To Grieve

There is a lot that has been written on the stages of grief. Usually they are listed in chronological order: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Mourning, Acceptance.

This week I have had a few unexpected conversations with a variety of people about loss. This has ranged from the death of a family member, to personal belongings destroyed in a fire, to the loss of a dream as doors have been closed.

I love lists and neatly ticking boxes as I complete each task, however, I find my ‘stages’ often overlap and even go in circles (and I’m not alone!) When I think I am making progress and weeks go by without an incident or breakdown, suddenly something will trigger a memory and tears will slip down my cheeks. I often get a physical ache in my heart or stomach as the pain demands to be felt but I think this is natural and necessary and I’ve learned not to fight it and rather see it through.

“Grief is like an earthquake. The first one hits you and the world falls apart. Even after you put the world together again there are aftershocks, and you never really know when those will come.” -Unknown

About 10 years ago my infertility journey had me messed up. Properly! The loss of control, especially over the ability to predict the future, led to frustration and desperation. The compounded feelings of helplessness and the strain of treatments and even low self-esteem all contributed to bringing on depression. I recently saw my friend’s Strava profile after he had put his Garmin watch on his dog and let him run around the garden. It was a messy maze and looked like a toddler’s scribble all over the page! It’s a good illustration of my grief graph, especially in the early days when my empty womb was a heavy burden to carry.

Loneliness is a huge factor, which is why I take the risk to share my story and help others break free of the isolation by bringing these topics into the light. You feel that nobody understands. You cry, sometimes in public, but mostly in private, as you mourn the loss of your dream, until eventually you reach the point of acceptance. Although the pain never completely disappears, through my writing, running and fitness adventures, I have been able to reach others and encourage them. This has helped me gain a sense of purpose and the ache becomes more manageable. However, like I mentioned in the beginning, there are still times when an insensitive comment can trigger anger and hurt and I backslide a few ‘stages’ again.

It’s unrealistic to expect us to all follow these steps and then graduate and be done with it. I believe my tough days will never completely disappear but they do diminish, in frequency and intensity. Taking control of your negative thoughts is also vital, while maintaining an attitude of gratitude. Instead of seeing ‘acceptance’ as the goal, it’s more about adapting and coping.

“It’s okay not to be okay as long as you are not giving up.” – K. Salmansohn

How To Be A Supportive Friend To Someone Who Is Hurting

I was asked by someone today to please give them advice on how to support a family member who is struggling with infertility. As always, I am honoured that others still come to me for help and yet every time I panic. What do I say? Every situation is different and I remember my journey was incredibly hard in the beginning and nobody could say the right thing.

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This question comes up often and I have explored it over the years but I thought it was worth writing about again, immediately, not only for this family who are feeling desperate but perhaps in between the lines you can find chunks of helpful information to comfort someone you know who is also hurting, regardless of the circumstances.

Struggling with infertility is not easy because everywhere you turn, you are reminded of the hole in your heart. You are surrounded by babies, prams and pregnant bellies in the shops, at work, at church and it hurts. It makes you want to withdraw from society and at the same time, this makes it hard for your loved ones to know what to do.

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As I said in the beginning, every person is different, so it is impossible to give a blanket answer here. Being a good friend to an infertile is not easy. The situation may change from one day to the next and you have to be prepared for that. Sometimes no matter what you try, you will never get it right but a huge first step is to let them know that you acknowledge how hard it is for them. A good friend never judges. Show them empathy.

Also educate yourself about their situation (this will help avoid offering pointless advice) and don’t try cheer them up by minimizing their pain (“Want kids? You can borrow mine for the weekend!”)

NEVER SAY ‘JUST RELAX.’ (Would you tell someone who can’t see to just relax? No!) Relaxing will not change the medical diagnosis causing infertility.

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I’m a hardcore vet at this now and have gone through the intense pain of the dark years and while it is unbelievably hard, it is no longer all-consuming. However, everyone moves through stages at their own pace. It can vary from a friend who is at the early stages and is still full of hope and optimism, to the one that is heavily involved in treatment and is carrying great pain (although may not show it). When your loved one is in the dark stage and everything has the power to hurt them it is often best to offer friendship and support from a distance.

It usually has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the situation they find themselves in, as they struggle to cope with their reality. Let them know that you are here for them if they want to talk or cry or scream! But also let them know that if they don’t want to do any of those things, it is okay. You will wait and be there when they are ready. That’s the best advice I can give. If in doubt, ask them. If they don’t want to talk about it, respect that and don’t push.

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I hope this helps someone who needs to hear it today.

Thank you to all my friends who have stuck it out with me.