I’m going to focus on sadness in this blog, but this wasn’t where I intended to start until recording the podcast at the weekend. It would’ve been far easier for me to start with anger, because that is most definitely my ‘go-to’ emotion when I’m under pressure. Sadness, on the other hand, is the one that I struggle with the most, despite it seeming to be the one that comes up more and more often for me.
As I mentioned on Monday, for me the difficulty with sadness is that I struggle to really embrace it. I hate crying in public and that includes in front of my family. It’s something I have always seen as being weak and I hate myself when I feel my own tears start to prickle at my eyes because something has affected me so intensely that the mask slips. But, the funny thing is I don’t have a problem with other people crying – in fact I empathise with them and don’t mind when I have tears coming of my own for them.
However, the older I get I find that tears seem to come more readily. I think some of this relates to me just not having the reserves of strength or the want to not feel my own emotions anymore. The twenty-something year old me, would be very disappointed and perhaps even ashamed of the readiness with which I cry now. But I no longer have the energy to invest in not feeling my emotions. And, of course, that all relates to my infertility, my health problems and with me dealing with my accumulated backstory and the associated shit. I know it still affects my husband when I cry, because it’s not something I’ve always done and so it takes a bit of getting used to.
However, I want to talk about the time before I last cried, which was a couple of weeks ago when I opened up to my male counsellor about my childlessness. Even in that space I found it intensely difficult to cope with crying in front of someone else. And, the reason for the crying was because for once I was talking about how sad I found my backstory. Sound a bit self-pitying? Maybe, but I think we all need to be able to look back at what’s happened, or didn’t happen, in order to start to engage with the emotions. But, it’s fucking hard, when really all you want to do it just move on, because it would be great to just bypass all this shit and just feel acceptance wouldn’t it?
For me sadness has always been one of the emotions that I’ve pushed away, because of my fears about crying in front of other people and also because I’ve never really known what to do with it when it comes up. I mean what does crying achieve? It doesn’t stop my childlessness nor does it grow me back a womb or help me reverse the miscarriage. It doesn’t solve anything…or so I thought.
What surprised me about engaging with the sadness, was that when I stopped to draw a breath and looked at my counsellor I noticed he too was crying. Something in that sadness and the way I had been able to express it, without self-editing and without being self-conscious, had enabled us to connect. He understood what I was saying and he was able to relate to the emotions I showed. I mean tears alone speak volumes, but when you add words, it’s bloody powerful stuff.
And I understand that you can’t expect that everyone can support you in this way. You might be sitting there feeling cynical about the whole process, but let me tell you, I’ve not had this reaction from another counsellor and I wonder whether that’s because this is the first time I engaged with the sadness. Was it that I was able to explain in words how I truly felt? Or is it that I’ve been able to find a counsellor that gets me…it doesn’t matter, because the message I took from this encounter was that it’s OK to be sad.
Nothing bad happens because I feel sad. I mean what was I expecting? I won’t suddenly find myself with a physical injury as a result or have someone take the piss out of me because I’m sad, upset or crying (and if they did, I can very quickly switch to angry…0 to banshee in nano-seconds). It told me that sadness can be used to help process emotions, because not only are tears a release valve for us, they also show that we’re human and we feel our emotions, which means we can understand tears, sadness and crying in other people.
So, yes for me being sad is hard and it’s tough to be vulnerable, but unlike other emotions it can connect us on a deeper level. We’re able to communicate with ourselves, bringing meaning to a painful past and finding the vocabulary that allows us to really embrace and experience those emotions rather than suppressing them or avoiding them altogether.
Sadness also means we can empathise and share with people from our community, connecting over shared emotions, even if we’ve come to this community in different ways. We did this as we recorded the latest episode about mental health – we all cried, as experiences were shared and we watched each other struggle. While we all have different back stories, the one thing for sure is that we all get the emotions that go with being in this club…
Once we can start communicating in our own community, we can also inform people outside this section of community how it really feels to be childless-not-by-choice. We can dispel the myths around who we are and what we bring to society. Does the prospect of crying in front of people outside the community scare me? Yep, because I could well get goldfish eyes as a result, because contrary to many a meme, some parents don’t have empathy. It’s not their fault, that’s just the way it is, but we can only hope they’ll understand a bit more about it if we are brave enough to share.
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