Last summer, I hit a wall. Not a literal one- it was more metaphysical and felt like an emotional blockage. I was unclear of whether I was causing myself to be unhappy or letting what happened in my life consume me. All I knew was that I was not in control- it felt like life was happening to me. I couldn’t control the spiral, that much I knew. I was grumpy all the time, snapping at our children. I was irritable and edgy, especially if I saw someone with a baby or wonderfully swollen with pregnancy. And I couldn’t shake it either- workouts, wine, concerts, trips… we had joyful experiences but they felt occasionally fleeting or that they couldn’t shift me back to myself.
I’d rise each day, attempt a meditation and fail… my mind immediately sensing irritability. Fat was comfortably stored on my hips and my darling acupuncturist said my qi was virtually null. I worked a lot as well, dedicated and proud of my role and what I’d accomplished, yet the joy it usually brought me was missing. HR felt harder than ever, I felt everyone’s everything and couldn’t shut off the daily swell of emotions relating to work upon returning home. I was not owning my own life.
I wasn’t owning the pain and depression that riddled my body after the losses- the miscarriages, the chemical pregnancies, my guilt for having stressed out and damaged eggs. I was going so far as to be so angry at who I was in my first marriage- a young girl wracked with resentment and anger and too afraid to stand up for myself, too afraid to say… I like myself too much for this to keep happening.. or for us both to act like this. I thought often that if I’d stood up for myself back then, remembered who I was and where my backbone was located that possibly I’d be here in this phase of my life with some semblance of normal fertility hopes. Stress destroys eggs, they told me, and it’s not hard to recall all the story lines of stress coursing through my life’s story.
Fertility doctors left me sobbing in parking lots, and my lost hope was not just about getting pregnant but truly in feeling like myself. I’d spent years not loving myself then rebuilding that love. I felt I like was moving backwards. What an unbelievably unhealthy internal home I had created… no wonder no eggs could sustain themselves.
So I made a decision. One floated by my amazing therapist months before action. I made a startling choice to leave my job for months or who knows… and focus on healing. In order to truly look inward and explore the sadness, the situational depression… I had to walk away from trying to constantly solve other people’s struggles. I had to stop giving myself to a job that fed my workaholic tendencies. I chose to walk away from a career 16 years in the making. Terrifying stuff I tell you, yet the only choice if I wanted to actually be happy.
What’s shocking is how bad it felt to choose myself.. I was in denial that my email inbox didn’t need me more than my own body’s healing process did. I learned that the unknown would feel uncomfortable much like facing fears and pain in therapy would. I had to accept it and dive in, for myself, my family, my friends and then my career. I had to accept that this career might look very different in the future… and to find excitement instead of trepidation. For someone who likes safety, like steady paychecks and to check off boxes on lists… this felt overwhelmingly risky. But it’s what I had to do… I knew it in my gut.
The leave began the week of my birthday. It felt perfect somehow … to try to rebuild at a typical time of reflection. I would spend the next few months stripping away that which wasn’t working or helping me or I was tired of- fertility specialists, 30 vitamins a day, urgent and frequent working out. Instead I chose loads of therapy from two people and more acupuncture. The hardest yet most important part was working toward releasing pressure to get pregnant. I had to find a way to completely and utterly accept and love that our family of four might not grow and it was not just okay… it would be filled with pure joy.
It’s important to point out that this leave of absence worked for me- to treat my specific sadness. It doesn’t work for everyone and not everyone can make this choice. I felt particularly loved and lucky to have the kind of supportive husband that would tell me that I must come first. The risk of job security couldn’t be the deciding factor. We enjoyed birthdays, holidays and one of the most miraculous trips of our lives. My eye stopped twitching. Sleep became my friend and naps were regularly enjoyed. Instead of the list of things I’d do all over town, I found comfort in my home. Being quiet, reading, watching my favorite shows. Working out when I felt like it and mainly on my yoga mat. Happiness became easier to locate and I started to throw myself into cooking and art. Small joys, old joys that I’d lost. The help was helping and I was proud to continue to ask for more of it.
Coming out of the holidays I began to make plans for returning to work. I knew that boundaries were the only way I could maintain this balance… to continue to be able to feel this thing I’d found called happiness. Less hours, maybe more than one client but less hours. I was the only one who could set the terms and stick to them. I had to locate one of the hardest words for most women… “no”.
I am not saying that I’m “healed” or that nothing will bring me down again. But this past winter marks a huge leap forward for me personally. Choosing myself so I can be there for others… has made all the difference in the world.
If you are struggling now, if the balance and the pain of your fertility struggle is consuming you… I see you, I hear you. I stand with you.
Onward dear friends… toward choosing happiness and ourselves.