It wasn’t so long ago, well January this year actually, that I was sitting at my Mac, questioning why I’d decided to throw my life up in the air. I’d left employment with after 16 years, I wasn’t earning and I just had this feeling that I was talking to myself. You know, no-one was at the other end of what I was doing. I was getting some searching questions from people about whether I thought I’d made a mistake. It was a deeply unpleasant feeling, that took me back to ‘that place’.
When I talk about ‘that place’, I’m talking about somewhere that I’ve visited periodically and that’s usually after something has happened to utterly shake my world to its foundations. And doubtless you won’t be surprised to learn the three things that have shaken me like this are all connected to my fertility journey (my miscarriage, being told I can’t have children and after the hysterectomy). But this realisation only came when I keyed into the interior monologue that played in my head after my hysterectomy.
I’m not for one minute saying that you shouldn’t fall into depression when something doesn’t go the way you planned. No, that’s a normal and natural process, and it would be less natural if you didn’t or tried to repress all of those emotions. That’s a one way track to your own emotional ruin. But for me I noticed I have a sound track that plays in my mind that keeps me in that place far longer than perhaps I should be. It prevents me from being able to explore my emotions and to pick things apart, until in the end I’m carrying a ridiculous amount of other people’s expectations and shit.
And I guess that’s my trigger for falling into ‘that place’ time and again. It all stems from a little voice that tells me I’m not good enough, I don’t deserve to succeed and that I’m letting people down by acting the way I do. Those are the exact things I was telling myself when I miscarried my baby, when I was told there wouldn’t be any children, because I had Endometriosis. But it really upped the anti, when I had to have a hysterectomy – I really couldn’t have felt more fucking useless if I’d tried at that point.
But the thing that really disturbed and upset me was when I realised that the soundtrack in my head was playing on full volume and it was all downright nasty. There wasn’t one single word of consolation or reassurance. How and when did I learn to hate myself so much? That twisted little anti-cheerleader flashed up all of my failings before me in glorious technicolour, all the time. ‘Look at this’ it would say ‘you’re not good enough to be a mum’. It would then replay my miscarriage. ‘Ha! You’re not woman enough to get pregnant’ and then it would replay the 10 minute conversation with the consultant telling me that it won’t be possible for me to have children. ‘It’s your own fault that you had to have a hysterectomy. You’ve let so many people down’ – culminating in me replaying the moment I first saw my scar from the op and broke down in tears.
As you can imagine it’s a fucking hard place to be and so contemplating even a remote possibility of being there again, frankly scares the shit out of me. But, I’m starting to realise from talking to people that are childless-not-by-choice and seeing people posting on forums that we all know ‘that place’ well. I’m not the only one that feels the burden of other people’s expectations and then feeling as though I’ve let people down. I see it all the time.
But, we can break that pattern and the miserable soundtrack that we play in our heads. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t and won’t guarantee that you’ll be able to switch that voice off entirely, because it’s something that we all have developed, honed and toned over many years. And once you start to rummage behind the mask to try and get to grips with who you are, that voice will really start up with renewed vigour.
But, I can share my own experiences to help you get there sooner than I did. And, the first thing to do is become aware of what you’re telling yourself. Yep, it will be painful, but it’s like ripping a plaster off fast, it brings relief quicker, rather than slowly peeling it back and feeling each individual hair being slowly pulled out. Tune in to that voice and see what it’s telling you – what themes are coming through (hint: not being good enough, is a favourite). Have a look at what and when the last trigger was that really made the voice up the persistence.
For me realising that I was carrying so much weight from the expectations of me from other people was a relief. I mean some of them are fine and reasonable, while others are unquestioningly unhelpful. None more so than the trickle-down effect that everyone is expected to have children. I think even those that are childfree (childless-by-choice) can understand this one.
I’m now aware of the little voice, because I have managed to turn down the volume and get myself a different film of my successes to shut that little bugger up (he’s called Nobby by the way…short for. Yeah you guessed it). But every now and again it does come back and I have to pick apart what’s going on – to see what’s my shit and what’s other people’s. And you can do that too.
Right, I’m off for a lay down because this was a bloody hard blog to write.
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